I’m six months away from being a father, but already I’m cycling through a brand new range of anxieties.
My wife and I are expecting our first child in June. From the beginning, a lot of what we’ve heard from doctors and nurses has been worrisome.
”Because of your age, you are at increased risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome.”
”Because your great-uncle on your mother’s side died of lung cancer, you should be screened for 1,096 other potentially gruesome diseases.”
The first few days of euphoria of being pregnant faded under the lights of helpful people warning us of the myriad things that could go wrong.
Last week, at a genetics screening session, we mapped out a family tree and answered a Nurembergesque string of questions regarding ancestral deaths in gory detail. Merry Christmas!
Ever since the possibility of having a Down Syndrome baby was mentioned, I’ve dwelled on the ramifications and responsibilities if that happened. I know a few people who care for Down Syndrome children, and I know how loving and special such kids can be. I also know the work and commitment such a situation demands. My thinking is that child rearing is going to be challenging under the best of circumstances; what quality of life issues am I prepared to sacrifice, for the child and myself? Am I prepared for the extra difficulties? Am I ready for the demands and necessary adjustments? What does it say about me that I’m not sure I am? Am I a selfish, undeserving parent-to-be for not wanting that experience?
My wife and I agreed that we would not terminate the pregnancy if we did discover the worst, but the screening session was not an academic exercise; knowing early would allow us to learn, prepare and have the required support network in place.
So we answered questions, gave blood and endured a suspenseful ultrasound session, in which the doctor measured the thickness of the neck tissue looking for signs of Down’s syndrome.
We saw 10 fingers, 10 toes, both halves of the brain, the stomach, the heart (no sex yet, but if it’s a boy, my boy, we’d know by now), and absolutely zero indications of anything abnormal.
Whew. My first reaction was relief, followed by guilt for feeling relieved, followed by consternation at feeling guilty.
This parenting gig is tough.
Later that day, I discovered how tough. For Christmas, friends gave us a book, ”Baby 411,” a compact encyclopedia of how-to knowledge. Flipping through the book, I stopped at a page in the diaper section, and read that children can be in diapers for nearly four years.
I thought it was a 12-16 month stage. As the only childless couple in the tri-state area, my wife and I are designated babysitters for many people, so I’ve changed more than a few diapers, and I’ll describe it, with all the eloquence I can muster: yuck.
Thousands of years of evolution and the best we can do is four years in diapers? I can instant message anyone on the planet, I can chose from 6,000 satellite TV stations, I can step on a plane in Toledo and be in Miami in three hours, but it’s going to take us almost four years to teach a perfectly fine human being to use the toilet?
So much to think about, with six months left before the baby even arrives.
Maybe I’ll raise him/her in the bathtub for the first 1,500 days.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. He may be contacted at (419) 241-1700 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.