In case you are TL;dr about the last post, here is a quick summary: I have been stressed and frustrated, which has caused me to ramp up my unhealthy lifestyle. This caused me to start really feeling like dirt, forcing me to go to the doctor. Among other things, I found out that I am prediabetic. I am attempting to have this situation “corrected,” eating healthy and exercising for the sake of Zelda and my family. In sum, I want to shine. But it’s not always easy to do that.
I started to eat healthier. I started to run. I started to take care of myself. It felt good, for the most part. That didn’t mean there weren’t temptations, cravings, and pitfalls. The longer and harder I worked at trying to reverse the path I was heading down, the harder it got.
When I broke and got something semi-bad (i.e. Wendy’s Chili), I started to hear the voices in my head, telling me to eat some salad or go for a long walk or run. Of course, eating Wendy’s chili had its own side effects.
I mean, it’s high in fiber and has a relatively low-calorie count, right? It can’t be too bad. But that’s what a junkie keeps saying as they slowly kill themselves with drugs and alcohol. I was never into drugs, and I figured out that I only need alcohol sparingly. My addiction was/is food. Thankfully, you can’t inject a Big Mac into your veins….yet.
I knew my past addiction would get bad. I didn’t want it to get the best of me. I cursed myself when I thought of the bad food. I cursed myself at the thought of doing anything but exercising. When I drifted off to sleep, the thoughts became more vivid. It was like I transported to another world. Like a movie.
I stand near the counter. A man greets me. I am beginning to lick my lips.
MATT (to himself)
God, I’d give anything for some fast food. Maybe fried chicken.
MATT sits down and puts his hands up to his face.
My goddam soul, just a piece of fried chicken.
A little slow tonight, isn’t it?
Yes, it is, Mr. Eng.
What’ll it be?
Now I’m awfully glad you asked me that, Colonel, because I just happen to have two tens and two fives right here in my wallet. I was afraid they were going to be there until next April, wasted on some bland Panera salad. So here’s what: you slip me a bucket of chicken, a side of mashed potatoes. You can do that, can’t you, Colonel? You’re not too busy, are you?
No, sir. I’m not busy at all.
THE COLONEL turns away to buckets of chicken.
THE COLONEL turns with a bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes, and biscuit to counter.
You fry them up, and I’ll knock them back, Colonel, one by one.
CUT TO: MATT sitting at the counter. COLONEL puts food down. COLONEL dollops mashed potatoes next to a thigh and wing. Gravy is involved.
Fat man’s burden, Colonel my man. Fat man’s burden.
MATT looks at his wallet then at THE COLONEL.
Say, Colonel, it seems I’m temporarily light. Is this a combo? Can I use a coupon?
How’s my credit in this joint anyway?
CUT TO: COLONEL
Your credit’s fine, Mr. Eng. No coupon required.
CUT TO: MATT
That’s swell. I like you, Colonel. I always liked you. You were always the best of the chain fast food joints. Best goddamned fast food fried chicken from Timbuctoo to Portland Maine – Portland Oregon for that matter.
Thank you for saying so.
MATT looks at his tub of fried chicken.
Here’s to five miserable weeks on the salad wagon and all the good it’s caused me.
He bites into the chicken and lowers his hand – then looks at the Colonel. It has taken over now. No turning back.
So it wasn’t completely like that, but you get my point right? I think like anybody that is addicted to something; the addiction will always be there. I just have to find ways to control it, keep exercising and keep my eyes on the prize.
I am going to get healthy. Not for myself. Not even for my Angela. It’s all for Zelda.
As it turns out, I have already had an injury related to my exercising: something my dad (the doctor) calls a Pes Anserine Bursitis. Basically, my left knee is messed up quite a bit. So for now, I’ll just hobble around like this. No axe required.
PART I: All Food and No Exercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy
Jack Torrance: Mr. Grady, you were the caretaker here.
Delbert Grady: I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know sir. I’ve always been here.
So. Where did I leave off last?
I know that most of my posts here on this blog sound like I am complaining. For more info, see Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Most of those dad issues and dad problems were my personal struggle with handing having a kid. I thought the feeling was getting better. It did, but silently, I was getting worse in other ways.
As it turns out, I was handling the stress of being a new dad and a busy summer work schedule with bad food and beer. I sought my personal release in the opening and subsequently emptying bag after bag of chips. I drank cup after cup of coffee. If I could sit on the couch, I would without a thought. I took my Fitbit off months ago because I was tired of seeing myself only get 2,500 steps a day. Among other things, that completed my holy trinity of bad living: stress, bad eating, and no exercise.
I remember coming home after a particularly rough day at work in late August. We were up most of the night with Zelda, and I was jonesing for some coffee. I must have had 8-10 cups of coffee that day. Zero water. I came home with a bag of McDonald’s in hand and ate it all within five minutes. I had a diet coke, which meant it was about 2:00 pm without a single drop of water that wasn’t either steeped with Arabica or doused in caramel coloring and aspartame. Around four that afternoon, I was getting ready to pick Angela up at the metro when I began to feel funny. I was flush and pale. My stomach ached. Could it have been the McDonald’s? My muscles tensed, and I could feel the chunks rise to release. After throwing up a few times, I tried downing as much water as I could in the 20 minutes I had before Angela would be waiting for me at the King Street station in Alexandria.
Unfortunately, all that did was make me throw up more. I had felt dehydrated before, but this time was terrible. The worst part was that I didn’t learn from my lesson. After I had got over it after a night of eating a half cup of soup and drinking 3-4 Gatorades, I was back to my holy trinity of bad living. Bring on the stress, the McDoubles, and the Malibu pipeline of couch surfing (As a bonus, I can say that I am all caught up on several shows, including watching the entire Game of Thrones series in just under a week and a half).
A few weeks later, I began to wake to a tingling sensation in my tips of my fingers and toes. My fingers on my right hand also felt cold. I also felt drained and was peeing all the time, at least more than usual. I also felt dizzy and had trouble concentrating on my vision on several occasions. It was odd, to say the least. I remember the conversation I had in bed with Angela as we sipped our morning coffee and played with Zelda:
Me: Hey Ang, I am feeling super weird. My body’s extremities are on pins and needles, and my right hand feels cold. Plus all this other stuff is getting to me with my body. Super odd.
Angela: That is very weird. Do you need to go to the doctor?
Me: No. I don’t think so.
Angela: Okay. But whatever you do, don’t look up your symptoms online.
The first thing I did was look up my symptoms online. Based on the symptoms I had, WebMD told me I had one of the following:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Type 2 Diabetes
I didn’t think it was carpal tunnel syndrome and having multiple sclerosis seemed way too far-fetched. But diabetes? That one seemed plausible. Everything began to add up: the stress, the bad eating, the lack of exercise. All of it had taken a toll on my body.
I immediately began to accept that a. I had diabetes or something worse and b. that I was dying. After that, the paranoia enveloped me. I envisioned Zelda growing up without me. I imagined losing my foot or worse. I imagined being too overweight to play with her. Worst of all, I envisioned two beautiful women staring down at my grave. One was Angela, the other Zelda. Zelda couldn’t have been out of high school yet, but I remember in the dream that I could clearly see them, but they could not see me. It was like a two-way mirror. I pounded my fist against my grave, screaming that I loved them. I woke up that night fully drenched in sweat and panting. When I got to work the next morning, I made the call to a general practitioner for a physical and bloodwork. I had to know. Was I doomed to become Wilfred Brimley shortly before my untimely death?
Enough was enough. I couldn’t handle not knowing what the fuck was going on with me. I couldn’t handle having that dream again. Two days later I had my answers.
First off: I gained over twenty pounds since April. The doctor looked at me skeptical of my belief that I had diabetes. I was half right. Alongside some pre-hypertension, I was prediabetic. “Unless you change your lifestyle drastically,” she said, “you will develop diabetes within a few years…maybe sooner.” She gave me no medicine, but quite a few bitter pills to swallow:
Eat a diet of heart healthy foods
Reduce caffeine consumption
Prediabetic isn’t a death sentence. It’s a wake-up call. I could thankfully pull myself out of that grave and live a bit longer with Zelda and Angela, provided I did something about it. All of my previous attempts to get healthy had failed. Let’s discuss some of my greatest hits:
2003: Attempting to lose weight from the Freshman 15 I gained eating Dhall food at JMU, I tried to run. Everywhere at JMU had hills. It didn’t last long. I chose beer pong instead.
2007: Stress from grad school forced me to cut back on the caffeine. I also attempted to channel some creative energy back into playing music again. Both failed. By the end of the semester, I was pounding 4-5 Red Bulls a day and speedballing Coke Black to keep the edge off.
2009: My roommate and I, realizing we had become a bit pudgy, attempted to eat “nothing but fruit” for a month. We went to the grocery store and bought about $75 worth of fruit. If you don’t know what that looks like, tell a cashier at the bank to give you $75 in ones and spread it out on a table. So much fruit. By the end of the first week, we were both permanently glued to our toilet seats. It took me about a year to eat a banana again. The catch: we both gained weight.
This time would be different. I had something to keep me going: Zelda. I plan to be around for a lot longer, and I want to be there for Zelda every step of the way. The way things were going, I could feel myself getting closer and closer to that horrible dream I once had. I needed to find a way to do all of these things and improve my life.
I checked myself into a “mental Hotel” as fall approached. I was the caretaker of my body. I had a goal to lose 30-40 pounds by the first day of May. Why? Because I had to. For the first time, I wanted to.
So I began to eat better. I choked down salads I didn’t want to eat and counted calories. I downloaded an app for the “couch to 5k” with the intention to begin running. I started running but had to abandon that effort (more on that later).
I would go to the store to pick up food for dinner. I began to see visions as I found myself staring at the junk food aisle. Visions that still haunt me today.
But I couldn’t. This was all for Zelda. A war raged in my mind. I felt myself unraveling like so many times in the past. No. I had to do my best. I had to shine. My determination was the only weapon I had to my innermost thoughts.
Did I ever have a single moment’s thought about my responsibility to Zelda to be healthier? Did I ever think for a single solitary moment about my responsibility to my family?! Did it ever occur to me that I have agreed to get in shape by May the 1st of next year? Did it matter to me AT ALL that my family has placed their complete confidence and trust in me, and I have signed an unspoken contract – a contract – in which I have accepted that responsibility? Do I have the slightest idea what moral and ethical principles I would wrestle with along the way DO I? Has it ever occurred to me what would happen to my future if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities Has it ever occurred to me? HAS IT?
All Food and No Exercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy.
All Food and NoExercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy.
All Food and No Exercisr Makes Matta Fat Boi.
All Food and No Exercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy.
All Food and No Exercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy.
AllFood and Noexercise Makes Matt a Fat Boy.
Angela will be the first to tell you that. These issues are not simple “daddy didn’t love me” ones, either. My dad loves me dearly. My parents love me, and for that I am truly blessed. I have a lot to live up to be my father, and I have always looked up to him as a role model. Watching the show from the front row seat was so much easier. I am not sure if it was whitewashed or not. Either way, I saw the best out of him. Maybe it’s because they do that I have these creeping feelings of inadequacy all the time, especially since Zelda’s birth. You always hear from parents talking about how they “got through it” and the “tough times” they went through in the first years. I always shrugged statements like that off. I never thought I would be a father in the first place, even if I always wanted to be. Then I got my wish: I became a dad. And it felt like it was in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, I am that person going through the tough times. I am trying to “get through it.” And I want to be honest: I haven’t handled it well.
Zelda was born on 9 February. Less than a week later, I was teleworking and attempting to put in 8 hour days at home. That was rough. That first week was hell. She had her nights and days mixed up, and I swore she would never stop crying from 11:30pm to about 4:30am. One of the days that I did go in that week, I had stayed up with Zelda all night rocking her back and forth until 3:30am. I had to get up for work for a meeting that day. I’ll let the Facebook post I wrote for this page do the talking:
Since then, I have lived in that “tired, but not tired” state of mind. Don’t get me wrong – Zelda has been an overall fantastic baby. She is basically sleeping through the night. She smiles and laughs with me sometimes. I fall in love with her more every day.
That’s the condensed version of my life lately. I would call it the “Facebook friendly” version. Facebook life is not real life, even if you use it as much as I do. It’s picturesque, right? Zelda sleeping through the night. Angela and I get along all the time. Time, albeit precious, is well spent with the entire family.
Then reality sets in. Things like the sleeping incident at work become more frequent. The stress gets to me more and more each day. All the while, I am wondering what my own father would do in each situation I get myself into. Thankfully for that time period in the very beginning, we had the help of our parents. As tired as I was that day I fell asleep on the john, I would have suffered a much worse fate those first few weeks had it not been for the parents, especially my mother-in-law Anne.
For a while after my mom and Angela’s parents left in the mid-March, things were okay. I thought things were getting better. Facebook life started to look like real life. It was a fantastic couple of days. It did not last. Like I said before: I haven’t handled it well. So naturally, things got much much worse. Work began to pile up. Deadlines were set and I needed to make them. When you work for a small non-profit, events and things need to get done. I was the only person that could do them. So you swallow your stress and work through it. Soon the Facebook life moves away from real life.
I guess I could say that it all started to get to me. The job. The feeding schedules. The lack of sleep. The feelings of inadequacy and the worrying about worrying from worrying. I started to notice some of my hair coming out in the shower towards the middle of March. My acne started coming back. The brave face I put on for Angela and the baby slowly faded away. I was getting angrier and angrier. I was mad at work. I was mad at Angela. Hell, I was even mad at the dog because of her ongoing issues. I was mad at everyone but myself. It’s the most selfish I have ever been. But that would change soon enough. What happened in the end to the boy who kept crying wolf?
And then there were the fights. I noticed in the days after we were on our own that I would catch myself raising my voice for no reason at all. I could count on one hand the amount of fights we had before having the baby. We started to get in a few spats here and there. What it really boiled down to was my obsession with work. My obsession with deadlines. Angela and I were a team and I was putting ghostrunners on base. If there was something she told me to do, I would somehow find a way to not do it. The worst of those was taking time to rest. I had a period of time around a major work event last month where I was drinking one to two Red Bulls a day. Actually, I am lying. I wasn’t telling anyone, but I was drinking 48oz. of high energy Red Bull a day for three or four straight days.
It all came to a head about a week and a half ago.
For a few days last week, my life flashed in segments and frames, like a television antenna that can’t quite get the channel clearly. It was hard to process all of it. Do you ever swim in your thoughts, semi-conscious in a state of drowsiness, hoping to God that the next time you blink the scenery will change?
I’m driving to work. I’m counting the hours away from my family before I have to attempt to put on a brave face.
Text message. My mother. She is asking me why I am not sleeping and when I will get a “day off.” I tell her not anytime soon and hang up, frustrated.
We are arguing again. I look down. The baby is in my arms and I can’t get her to stop crying. I don’t know who I am more mad at: the baby or Angela.
I can’t manage to look at a mirror because I don’t want to see the face staring back. So much anger. I’m also internally upset at how much weight I’ve gained in the last year, despite my best efforts to lose through diet and exercise. Nothing works. But that’s why the mirror is your best friend and worst enemy. There’s people that think they are overweight and are, and those that are skinny and are overweight in their mind. I’m the former.
I am staring blankly at the wall. Angela is asking me when we should eat. I act like I don’t hear her. I just want a few moments of silence, even if its just in my own head.
It’s Monday evening. I’m watching episodes of House Hunters in a half daze. Angela and I were fresh of our morning fight about something or another. The bills in the kitchen were piling up, which I continued to stare at in blank fascination. How do pieces of paper hold so much of our lives together? Is it worth arguing over like we had? All the while, I am stressed with no sign of relief. I haven’t had sex in a long time, but I am really trying to respect the wishes of Angela and wait. It frustrates me to no end, but I am trying to be the “good guy.” Meanwhile, my stress gets so much that I have to sit and think at night, eyes open, about how long I have to be the “good guy,” and more importantly, what would make me a “bad guy.” I wonder if I’ve crossed that line already.
So, we’re sitting watching House Hunters, pretending to be civil and loving our child. She starts to cry. We look at each other and play the silent mental game of “who is going to check her diaper.” I go to check her diaper. I look visibly frustrated in doing so, and the conversation goes from silent to deadly within minutes. There goes the stress. There goes any thought of sleeping. Now work comes back into play. Get the popcorn and kick back.
“It’s all you ever think about,” Angela says. “We have sacrificed so much so you can do your work at night.” The worst part is, she wasn’t wrong. You know that part in Ghostbusters II when the judge is building his anger level and the pink slime keeps rising and rising. That’s been me for the last two months. And at that point, I had just hit the point when the “Scoleri Brothers” jumped out into the courtroom.
And then I snapped. I yelled at my kid to be quiet.
Let me first say three facts.
I immediately regretted it.
I immediately apologized to both her and Angela.
I am completely less of a person for doing so. Do not convince me otherwise.
The baby begins to wail. I feel like a complete asshole. I am. At that moment, I am hugging her close and whispering in her ear how sorry I am. Tears are streaming down my face as I begin to contemplate how the fuck I got to that point. I want to hit myself. I want to choke the life out of me for it, but I can’t. I have to be there for her. I have to be there for Angela.
This is very honest and heartbreaking to admit. I yelled at Zelda because of my own petty frustrations. If you’ve never done it, I salute you. If you have, and don’t want to admit it, I also salute you. It’s not easy to admit. But we set out to do this blog back in August of last year to be as real and honest as possible. So here I am, telling you that I was so stressed out that I took it out on my two-month old daughter, helpless and crying.
It took a long time to convince Angela I wasn’t a monster, and thankful I haven’t done it since. I don’t know if this is PPD or my own selfish frustrations. Some websites call it “sad dad” or “dad blue.” Whatever it is, it’s out there because life after having a baby is also hard on the father. Sure, I am not feeding her with my breasts, and I didn’t birth her from my genitals. I give Angela mad props for that. What I do do, is try to make up for my mistakes and be the best father I can be. If I can manage to be a decent husband at some point along the way….even better.
If you are a new dad and have struggles like I do from time to time, I am here to help. I can’t say I am back to 100%, because I’m not. Not even close. But I’m working on it. I made a mistake that I am trying to fix. If you are in the same situation, let’s talk. Let’s all be great dads, better partners, and better people.
I have an email. I have contact information. If you want to talk, let’s do so.
It’s Friday. I am really tired. I forewent a shower this morning. I decided to take extra time to take a shit in silence and just wash my face and shave instead. I got to work at 5:30am and have been staring at a blank Adobe Illustrator document. In a few short hours, my bosses will come to me expecting that the Illustrator document will be filled with dazzling text and images. They will critique it and tell me to do it again, even if I think it’s perfect. That’s okay. That is work. My bleary eyes will undoubtedly help me through the day while I bounce from one meeting to another. I will act alert and nod in approval, even if I have no idea what my colleagues are talking about. Smile for the camera. Don’t ruin the shot.
I’ll get there. Not just because I want to, but because I have to.
At the end of the work day, I will go home and see my family. I will see my daughter. She is the reason I am so tired. I will kiss her forehead and tell her that I love her. I’ll call her silly names and bounce her on my knee. The tiredness will go away, because as much as she is the source of my aching body pains and constant headaches, she is undoubtedly the main reason it is more than worth it.
Life is going to keep throwing obstacles. Angela and I won’t get the dream house we want for many years. Shit, we won’t even be able to afford a starter house for many years. But we are blessed with beautiful friends and family, and are living where it’s safe and warm. That is all I can ask for. I feel selfish writing that.
We aren’t the perfect family. Angela and I find ourselves short fused and arguing over the most mundane minutia of our lives. It comes in waves. I’ve broke down in tears more than Angela has. It makes me feel terrible because Angela referred to me once as her “emotional rock.” I fail at that all at the time. I often find myself spending the short hours of sleep I have before going back to work reflecting on my emotional and physical failings. Physically, I am not in good shape and know I could be better and look better, but the thought of getting out and exercising is nauseating. It’s a lot easier to stuff cheeseburgers down my face and feel content until the stomach cramps hit. Although I feel my share of responsibility is minuscule compared to hers, I struggle to do certain tasks with a smile on my face. I work twice as hard to maintain that smile for her, as we are a team that acknowledges we could use more batting practice and could improve on our short game. That’s okay. We have been blessed with our parents who are more than excellent coaches. I want to do good by them and show them they did “okay” with me. I hope they see that. I hope the feeling is mutual.
This is a process completely unknown to both of us. I’ve stared into darker holes before in my life. But those were all alone. I have a family now, which helps to make sure the darkness never envelops me. I have an overwhelming urge for Angela to have it all and feel ok about our situation and our life together. The daycare, the student loans, the bills – they continue to build stress in a body still recovering from Zelda’s birth. know it’s going to get better and worse at the same time. I know I don’t make that easy sometimes. I wonder if she knows her brave face she puts on is far better than my own. But she is stronger than me. Zelda is stronger. I can’t be Atlas and carry my own weight of the world on my shoulders. Our little girl helps me understand that. She knows that I am trying. And even though she can’t speak she sees the undying love in my eyes. I love that connection. It brings every bit of my withering emotions not to break down and weep for that love. It’s pure and eternal and I love how it makes me feel. It’s the only drug that’s mattered in my life.
I’ll be a better husband. I’ll find a way to be stronger. Not just because I want to, but because I have to.
I wanted to write a witty post reflecting on Zelda’s 1+ month on earth. I failed at that. I have continued to stare at that blank page of that post for a week and a half now. I’ll casually sit down and tell Angela that I am “totally going to write something tonight” and soon get distracted or fall asleep on the couch with my hands in my pants snoring away. I want to do it all – I want the great lifestyle and the white picket fence. I look at the over-privelaged and affluent assholes walking their kids around DC and feel a twinge of jealousy from time to time.I see them coming down their row houses in Capitol Hill and scoff at their lifestyle, only wishing it were mine. I hate myself for that sometimes. If we continue to work as a team, I know those realities (may) come true. It won’t be perfect, but it will feel perfect. In the meantime, I’ll go back to being tired, feeling small at times, and anxiously watch election news hoping for the best of all possible worlds for our growing girl. Candide indeed.
I guess a small yet significant part of my life is spent staring at a blank screen, waiting for my own mind to populate it. Zelda’s life is the same way. Her slate is clean, but our love for her is slowly filling in the corners of the page. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
We’ll get there. Not just because we want to, but because we have to.
Here’s to the blank page and the joy of life that helps to fill it. I’ve filled up a page on a word document and feel better already.
Welcome. I am Dr. Marvin Candle, and this is the orientation film for station 1 of the Eng Dynasty Initiative, the Newborn. Every 108 minutes, your baby must be fed. From the moment she starts crying, you will have 4 minutes to insert milk in either breast or bottle form into the micro-human. It is highly recommended that you and your partner take alternating shifts. In this manner you will both stay as fresh and alert as possible. It is of the utmost importance, that when the baby cries, the milk must be given correctly and in a timely fashion.
During that 108 minutes, you will develop a rhythm around these six specific things:
4: The number of actual minutes you sleep every 108-minute period.
8: The number of times you fantasize about your partner telling you “I got this” when the baby starts crying again.
15: The amount of times you say you are “going to the bathroom,” but in reality are just closing your eyes for four to five minutes of peace on the toilet seat.
16: Equal to two 8 oz. cups of coffee, which is the minimum amount you will need to survive each 3-hour period.
23: Michael Jordan’s uniform number. He had so many illegitimate children. Did he care for any of them? Is there any way you can “be like Mike?”
42: The number of years it will likely take to recover from the sleep you lost during the newborn phase.
4 18 15 16 23 42
Let’s flash sideways six years ago. St. Louis, Missouri.
I was at a conference half way around the country. This woman comes up to me. Her name is Angela Harrison. She is beautiful and weird. I remember that I wanted to kiss her after talking to her for five minutes. So I do the bold thing and ask her out. She agrees and we eat empanadas and drink mojitos at a restaurant down the street. That was it. It was soon a “race” for her heart. I was “lost” in love. We started to date and got married two years later.
Flash forward. 2012-2013
We bought a dog and a cat and started our small family. Angela said that we could save the world together. So we did, and that was lovely. But we needed more. We moved away from our comfort zone in Hampton Roads to start a new life in the Washington, D.C., metro area. It was time. We needed somebody else to inhabit our island. So we started to try to get pregnant with no result. I wanted to give up, but she kept telling me to “not tell her what she couldn’t do.” She was adamant that it would happen. Months later, it finally did.
We went through the pregnancy. Even if I felt like an “other” from time to time, we got through it, even if the ride was a bit bumpy. Some days it felt like we had survived a plane crash. As such, the birth was far from smooth sailing. Within the first day after our daughter Zelda was born at the hospital, we wondered where our normal lives went. We had to go back.
We came home and settled into our new station. We saw the orientation films online. We read the documents and prepared ourselves. We were told to react to our child every 108 minutes. It’s what our parents said; it’s what most of the books and documents stated ad nauseam. Approximately every 2-3 hours, something had to be done in the form of changing and, most importantly, feeding. This is of course more of a burden for Angela as it is for me because I lack the necessary equipment. The clock counts down, and a “code” must be entered. After a while, we started into a routine. Every 108 minutes.
It all starts with the crying.
Our eyes open. Four minutes to go before a complete meltdown. We wake up, wipe away what minimal sleep was in our eyes, and go straight to the child. She is hungry. The “code” must be entered – she needs to feed. For fear of triggering an electro-magnetic pulse of crying, we ready for the task at hand with military precision.
So we enter the “code:” mother’s milk. Down the hatch. The warm substance enters the test subject. The crisis is averted and the countdown begins again…for now. 108 more minutes to go. What to do now? When sleep does not come, we occupy ourselves with other tasks.
It starts with music. If it’s very early in the morning, we try to go for something catchy that will keep us awake. Not exactly Mama Cass, but not heavy metal either. Soothing is the key.
The routine continues to kick in. Now two weeks into a routine, much of what we do runs on auto-pilot. After nearly 40 minutes of running around and feeding our daughter, less than two hours remain. Time speeds up and slows at the same time. With the music playing softly in the background, we go into our nightly montage:
Pick up empty bottles, used burp cloths, pacifiers, etc. and wash accordingly.
Empty the Diaper Genie and throw away used diaper bags. It is also beneficial to take out a few diapers for the next emergency/emergencies (as they can come in waves).
Take a shower. It is always invigorating to wash the stink of the day and/or my daughter’s poo and spit up off my skin.
Do the laundry. Although the quantity of laundry differs on any given day, it is guaranteed that our 7.5 lb. little girl generates at least a load of clothes a day. Newborn life is serious business.
Food and drink. Most of the time, we skip the food and go straight to the coffee. Although I do recall standing in the kitchen in my underwear last week at 3:45am eating leftover wonton strips. During the first few days at home, I was averaging 3 cups of coffee in each 108-minute period. I may have a problem.
With the time left (and there isn’t much by then), a strategy is devised for the next round. By then, the crying alarm sounds once again, and it is once again time to save the world together. One step at a time…even when we feel at times, for the lack of a better word, lost.
Holy shit. I am tired. I’m not the kind of tired that you tell your friends about when you chat at a bar the following day (even though we just know you were watching Netflix until 4am). This is a restless kind of tired – the kind where you can’t sleep when you want to even if you tried.
It’s not very often that one compares the film The Deer Hunter to having a baby, but these last few days have made it incredibly apt. Our nightly routine is truly like playing Russian Roulette. Every time we put her down to bed, it’s like loading a bullet into the chamber of a gun. You have to ask yourself if doing so is worth the next two to three hours trying to calm her down. When you step away and the trigger is pulled, will you come out alive? It’s been almost a week of repeating this process, and I can’t tell if I’d rather be in a Vietnamese tiger cage with Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken. Want to sleep a few hours? You gotta play with a few more bullets.
Every moment is an “oh shit” moment as we struggle to find a rhythm. As a former drummer, I would hope that I’d be able to strike a beat with Zelda. Wrong. The great philosopher Gloria Estefan once said that this “rhythm” would inevitably “get you tonight.” She ain’t lying. Although we haven’t exactly got it down pat, this is pretty much how it’s gone so far:
11pm: The grandparent(s) go to sleep. Zelda is mostly quiet at this point, as she is still feeling the warmth of granddad and/or grandma. Both Angela and I are semi-awake and alert to the realities ahead of us. The storm gathers.
12am: By now, Zelda has been changed and breastfed. She is either dead sleep or completely awake and crying. Thankfully, I have developed “the touch” for getting her to calm down. The problem is that it never lasts. When I am able to settle her down, I feel super human. And tired. But mostly super human. I have the touch. I have the power (yeah!). I’m a winner.
2am: Four alarm crying. It’s like she has “transformed” into something completely different. That angelic beam of light that sleeps so soundly during the day has now turned into a 7 lb. fog horn that loves to exercise her new lungs. “The Touch” will not save us now. Stan Bush himself couldn’t help at this point.
4am: Still. Awake. Four in the morning used to be the “witching hour” back when I was in college and graduate school. I always felt that if I could make it to 4am, I could be good for the rest of the evening. I hate that it still rings true as a new father. When she is wide awake, I am ironically wide awake as well. My patience with her, however, slowly wears thin. Four straight hours of crying has not dampened her spirits in the least. I find other things to occupy the time. I keep playing the “did she poop/pee in her diaper” guessing game and lose just about every time. It’s a long, long night. But the night is darkest just before the dawn.
6am: Dawn. She is finally asleep. I am too tired to sleep. I HATE that feeling. I have just enough time to rest my eyes before she wakes up screaming to start the process all over again. The hard part is, once the day starts, you are still required to be a fully functioning adult. I don’t know how other parents do it, but I am very thankful that we have some time to figure out how to get into the groove.
Cry Baby/Cry, Baby
I used to get really upset when I heard a baby cry, mostly in public places. How dare that little shit interrupt my meal? I’m paying good money, here, right? How dare those parents bring an infant into a movie theater to sit and view a film that I AM watching. When I hear my child cry now, the only thing I feel is worry.
Does her crying mean that she needs something? Not always. Every time I hear her cry, I go through the same mental checklist in my head. By the time I figure out that she is just acting like a newborn baby, she has already started a new round of screams and tears.
Despite her incessant cries, she is a constant reminder that I am truly blessed. It’s still so amazing. I helped create something so perfect. ME – the guy who sharted during a GHIST 101 test in my freshman year of college and had to keep going and finish because bathroom breaks weren’t allowed.
On our first night home this past Thursday, we got zero sleep. ZERO. CERO. ZILCH. NIL. NADA. She cried straight from 1am to 7am. My mind raced around about everything I thought I needed to do to prepare for the next cry attack. On top of that, I have developed a hefty dose of anxiety about all of the work I need to do that I am simply not doing. I tend to do that WITHOUT a baby. How the hell am I going to handle it now that I have something living and breathing to care for? For all of you that do it without blinking: I salute you. I don’t want to let anyone down, especially my coworkers who have given me so much leeway these past few weeks. It’s like a fresh wound. I just need air and time to heal. And sleep. So much sleep. But this is still all very new, and I still have to honestly pick and choose what I have time for while my daughter reenacts an Edvard Munch painting. I don’t think Fugazi wrote “I’m So Tired” about me, but the song speaks to me in ways I cannot describe. I am constantly feeling “sick but not sick” due to the lack of sleep and the constant moving around at night from hot to cold.
Next Level Tired
She may be less than a week old, but I am pretty sure she knows EXACTLY what she is doing. She can be an absolute joy for grandparents and visitors during the day. The minute it is just the three of us for the night, it’s like BOOM: TINY FUCKING TERROR – complete with all the tears to make you constantly ask yourself, “what the hell am I doing wrong?”
We aren’t doing anything wrong. We just haven’t found out what it takes to get it just right yet. And that is okay.
Despite how tired I constantly feel, I find that I always get a huge burst of energy the minute I hold her. It is still a rush for me, and the excitement of a newborn certainly supersedes my own feeling.
Zelda brings all of it out of me. All of these feels bring about a new form of tiredness. I’ve thought about it a lot lately. In case you didn’t know, there are five different kinds of tiredness most of us have felt at one point throughout our lives:
Drunk Tired: The feeling of wanting to go to sleep anywhere possible, as fast as possible. Drunk tiredness is brought about by too much alcohol in one sitting.
Symptoms include: Loss of motor skills, dignity, and self-control.
Work Tired: The feeling of drowsiness brought on by several overlapping projects at work.
Symptoms include: Irritability and the desire to get drunk tired as soon as possible.
Fun Tired: The euphoric feeling brought on by a long succession of activities and interests of a given individual.
Symptoms include: The need to rehash how awesome the process was to get to “fun tired” on social media.
Not Fun Tired: The feeling of angst after experiencing something unpleasant, unwanted, or generally hated.
Symptoms include: Extreme irritability and a general “stabby” feeling. Overconsumption of alcohol may ensue.
Baby Tired: A new and visceral sensation; a combination of all four forms listed above.
Symptoms include: Vomiting, diarrhea, overconsumption of coffee/wishing it was alcohol.
Well, it’s almost that magic hour. Time to load the gun with bullets and pull the trigger. The coffee is brewed and the kid is working up to a good cry. Here’s to Zelda: the only girl who can make me smile and feel complete love and general simultaneous stabbiness.
“I got over 100 hours in a T-38, plus demo flights in an F-14, F-15, and F-22. Well, what do think I’ve been doing since L.A.? Semper Paratus, right? The world is ending, Fin. You need to be prepared.”
– Nova Clarke, Sharknado 3
Don’t call it a comeback. I said I was going to not post anything more before Zelda was born. But in the words of Bennet in Commando: “I lied.”
Here is the problem: I thought Zelda would be here by now. I thought we would hit the jackpot right around the due date, and have our bundle of joy home with us. No such luck. As it turns out, our trip to the doctor on Friday revealed that Angela was NOT dilated yet and will likely need to be induced Tuesday evening. At least that is finite, although we would love for it to come naturally. So what do we do in the meantime? Wait, wait, wait, and more waiting.
I wanted to clean today to distract myself, so I cleaned. I also took Angela to Tyson’s Corner mall to walk around and grab some lunch. It was a great way to keep Angela distracted and my mind occupied, but it only lasted into the early afternoon. There are only so many times you can look at American Girl dolls, although I am sure I will be much more familiar with them in the coming years (grumble grumble). I think Zelda will enjoy my story of how Kit Kittredge is a metaphor for the white American elite thriving during the Great Depression under Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives. Yes, I think I will like being a parent. I hope she is as weird as I was. More on that later.
We came home from the mall, relaxed, and did a little more work. Angela took a nap and I did a little more cleaning. I think I am taking all of her nesting instinct, which is crazy if you ever saw what a shit hole my college apartment was. Spaghetti stains were always a great reason to get a rug. Unfortunately, I can’t get away with that anymore. I need my house to be allergy free, wiped, swept, vacuumed, and steam cleaned. This has all been almost impossible given that the recent snow melt has made our back yard look like Swamp Thing’s taint.
The cleaning was over. So again we waited. More waiting. Tuesday seems like an age away, and I am getting more and more nervous. It doesn’t help that one of our doctor used the words “past due date” and “stillborn” together. I was not happy about that. Yes, there is a possibility of that happening as you get farther and farther from your due date. But we are talking three or four days at this point, not weeks. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, “how rude!”
After I made dinner (which I ate alone because, at 9.2 months in, Angela still doesn’t have an appetite), I suggested we watch a movie. I wanted something light and fluffy to keep her mind off of everything. We decided on Charlie’s Angels. I was okay with it because I always had a thing for Drew Barrymore and the movie was just dumb enough to keep both of us entertained.
The movie ended with little fanfare. We had to go deeper. It was only 7pm and I didn’t want to go to sleep yet. We had to go dumber. We decided to go as dumb as possible for the next film. We chose Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
I can’t say it was the stupidest movie I have ever seen, but it is certainly close. Admittedly, it was fun to see the Sharks topple all of the recognizable monuments now that we live fairly close to Washington, D.C. I would tell you about the premise, but if you are a regular consumer of popular culture within the last two or three years you know about it: water tornados filled with man-eating sharks. I usually shut movies like this off within the first ten minutes, but I somehow stuck with this one. Color me surprised. Of all the crap that happened during the movie, my biggest gripe is that both Michelle Bachman and Anne Coulter are in the movie and do not die immediately. I mean, come on. Even the kid from Malcolm and the Middle, albeit insufferable, had a fairly gruesome death turning into the Black Knight from Monty Python.
There was quite a bit of symbolism in the film for being such a stupid movie, especially when it came to pregnancy. Towards the end of the movie, Tara Reid’s character April, both pregnant and sporting an Ash-like axe on her left arm, gives birth to her child INSIDE of a dead shark that fell from space. This comes just seconds after 90210 alum Ian Ziering worms his way out of the mouth of a shark (also fallen from space, surviving a trip through the atmosphere) like a baby straight out of the womb. It was almost poetic. Angela thought I was crying when I saw this. Admittedly, my eyes were watering. But they were watering because I haven’t taken my allergy medication in a few days (I am allergic to my cat, who happens to rub her fur on me constantly) The film was ridiculous, but I almost found the allusion to birth comforting. I don’t think I want Angela to bring Zelda into the world clutching a Louisiana license plate, but it is a fun thought. It was distraction, and I am ending the day with less anxiety than I began with thanks to that stupid ass movie. You have my vote, Fin Shepard. I look forward to Sharknado 4 coming out this year.
Maybe this movie is just a metaphor for my life right now. Am I the tornado and my anxiousness and anxiety the sharks swirling around? Should I be mindful for life’s other complications as they fall from the sky and try to bite my head off? I don’t know. All I know is that I am armed with a double chainsaw of expectations for the next few days.
I think I am reading too much into this. Maybe I need sleep more than anything else.
This is likely the last post I will make before Zelda is born. This is just me laying it all out there like an exposed wire along the interstate. Read Part I.
Capable and Culpable
If you think about the idea or concept of “pregnancy,” the first thing that comes to mind is likely the mother. You can close your eyes and envision the beautiful female figure and her expanding womb. Picture the child growing inside of her. Picture the growing hands swimming in fluid, waiting to be held delicately for the first time. You may even think about the ridiculous pain of childbirth (I can only assume). One of the last things you would think of is the father.
This will probably not be a popular statement, but there were times when I felt like I was a silent partner in all of this. I felt shut off and isolated. To be honest, I can’t think of many pregnancy blogs out there like this that have the father actively writing about their experiences? If there is one, it’s usually some affluent photographer or media mogul who takes pictures of his kids and gets reblogged on Buzzfeed. I’m not that guy. I’m just a normal dude who listened to Cursive and Bright Eyes too much as a teenager and am acting it out as a thirty-something.
What about my needs? What is the acceptable level of male sacrifice for a pregnancy? Can I keep my penis? If this were the government, I would be the non-essential personnel that gets to stay home every time snow falls on the ground. Like I said in the previous post, keeping a relationship 50/50 is super easy when you are dating, engaged, or recently married. Young love has a way of making everything in the world seem simple. You will enjoy picking up tampons for your lady love when you are dating because their purchase meant you dodged a bullet for another month. Once you throw a pregnancy into the mix, however, keeping everything balanced is damn near impossible. Everything that was once capable turns into culpable.
There were times when I wanted to tell Angela that any sign of negativity I gave on my end was not necessarily an open invitation for criticism. We were both guilty of that. Sometimes it was hard to stay positive, even if the most positive thing that has ever happened to me was right in front of my face. When could I say I was tired or “over it” without getting the third degree? Can I ever say it without looking like an asshole?
Part of the frustration came with this blog. It is a literal fact that my posts are read 75% less than Angela’s. The numbers don’t lie, and I can’t dispute it. Blame it on the day job, I guess. It’s a completely vain and shallow thing to feel, and I have worked very hard to get rid of those thoughts every time I stare at a blank word document. I cannot deny that this is partly why I have been feeling like a side dish to the main course of pregnancy. I should just chalk it up to A. Angela is a much better writer (truth) B. Her content actually speaks to a larger demographic for women and C. She gets to the point about the issues that matter.
Not that this doesn’t matter – I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think so. I think, dear reader, you get what I mean. I have attempted to provide “real talk” on the blog several times, but most of those posts received little interaction. This one is about as real as I am going to get. I’m pushing hard on the gas, but my foot isn’t exactly on the floor. Nobody needs to hear or experience that.
I am merely just a young dad-to-be who also happens to be over-stressed, under-sexed, under stimulated, and overworked. Plain and simple. I should be allowed to say these things without any blowback. I think Angela knows and understands these feelings. She can’t process them at the moment. I agree. It’s a lot to take in, especially when her own issues need to be addressed as well, and they are more pressing to the health and happiness of our future daughter. Advantage: Angela.
I put on a persona of somebody who likes to push comedy and jokes as a defense mechanism. It has always been that way. I think I’m so fucking clever when I throw in quips during my lectures or class discussions. In reality, I am just trying to buy some time to figure out what the hell I am really trying to say. When it matters, I am very serious. I shamefully struggled to be serious with Angela these past few months. My defense mechanism kept kicking in, and she often found the humor as my way of showing her immaturity and a lack of preparation. She would tell me “Matt, you don’t sound excited…change your attitude,” or “please take this seriously.” That was my cue to metaphorically shut down. I WAS excited. I AM excited. Believe me, I think it’s so rad that I am about to begin the new “Eng dynasty.” I just have different ways of showing it. Here’s hoping I am more straightforward in the future.
I’m a motherfucking onion, man. Only a few people I know have ever peeled all of these layers.
Having a Shit Time
We had a lot of difficulties with communication. There were issues with anger on both sides. Angela’s anger was a clear cut result of the pregnancy, which she addressed with acupuncture. It worked really well. I do have to give credit to my Chinese ancestry for some pretty beneficial ching chong homeopathic stuff. I, for the most part, felt the need to bottle it up. As I am writing this, I am realizing how stupid and unnecessary it was/is. The problem with cramming all of it in a bottle is the potential for overflow. I’m not sure where I put all of it. Most of it is still bottled up, although writing this now is an exercise of release that I am most thankful for.
The metaphor for bottling up is also a literal thing for me. All the fear and anxiety had to go somewhere eventually. I usually find myself ending up in the bathroom when the stress gets too high. I’m a fearful public pooper, which adds to the anxiety. Some people stress eat or stress drink (I do both). My main source of release: poop. So all of the jokes and bathroom humor (once again) was just another defense mechanism of humor to explain a real problem. I find myself sometimes going to the bathroom five to six times a day. I didn’t eat chili or Taco Bell on those days, either (I SWEAR!). That’s not normal for a healthy 31-year old. I used to think I had IBS. As it turns out, I was just high on stress and anxiety and needed to get it out of my system. TMI, I know. But now the secret is out. I seriously took three dumps during the Lost finale. I had to go back.
There were times when I was frustrated and wanted to call Angela out on it. I wanted to let her know that I had doubts that would upset her. I wanted to tell her that I often found myself questioning if I really wanted the baby. Was the stress worth it? Was my wanting to be a father a product of my own “daddy issues,” or was it truly genuine? We honestly had given up trying to think about having a kid before it happened. Thanks to an open bar at a work event – EXPECTO PATERNUM. When conversations got tense, I wanted to call her unreasonable or even worse. But I didn’t. After a while, you find its much easier to do hurt to yourself than to someone you love. It’s much easier to put in the hurt early on. If you don’t, I’d avoid the pain and frustration when all the chips are on the table.
I’m not sure if any mother or father has felt this way before with those feelings of doubt, but I damn sure did on multiple occasions.
Ugh. Be right back. I have to head to the bathroom.
Temple of the Doghouse
I know I annoy the shit out of Angela, pregnancy or no pregnancy. I already mentioned about my defense mechanisms. There was a good two-week period in the late summer of last year where I did nothing but sing “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. That would annoy anybody (besides myself). I’m sure if you are friends with me or know something about me, you have been annoyed by something I did. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m long winded (obviously) and can avoid confrontation in social situations like the plague.
The problem with pregnancy is that everything is confrontation. I got a daily dose of mom and daughter-to-be every day. I felt that I had to be “on” all the time. I can’t do that. I mean, what do celebrities do when their Instagram feed is down and the smiling stops?
Every day is opposite day during a pregnancy. Things that were funny before were soon spiteful and terrible. Things that are horrible were suddenly “ok” and “fine.” I could sometimes get a “whatever” out of her. Those were the salad days. This is the kind of dramatic emotional shell game we often played. It made me feel like a scumbag most of the time. I could repress the self hate, drink some, poop some, and go to sleep hoping the smile on my face looked genuine enough when I woke up. Don’t get me wrong: the smile was sincere and real most of the time. But there were days when I needed a knife to cut a smile into my face.
The question is: do I accept all of this angst that I have written about? Does it make me less of a man or a father, or completely human? I don’t know if all fathers went through these exercises throughout their term? How long should I remain a lame duck before I raise my hand and swear the oath? After all, I’m in it for the long haul, scumbag or not.
Maybe the media is to blame. Television and movies have preconditioned would-be dads about their failure. Take a look at some of the more popular films about pregnancy, and you will find a long list of scumbags, assholes, flight risks, and douches. I mean seriously – look at these films. What is the percentage of time the father figure is a douche canoe?
Maybe I am a scumbag. Maybe there are regrets and admissions. Is it bad to miss the things I used to do? I miss playing music. I wanted to travel much more than I did before (or after) getting married. I keep saying that I don’t want a Ph.D., but secretly I would love to be called “Dr. Eng” to please my father (dem Daddy Issues are creeping).
This pregnancy has been hard for me, but not in the conventional way you may see it. I lost my grandmother last summer, whom I loved dearly and wanted so desperately to meet Zelda. But she couldn’t hold on. She had to be rid of the pain. I do not blame her in the least, but it does make me upset.
I had a few close(ish) individuals skip out on the friendship thing. It first came in drips, but eventually I noticed my friend list shrinking considerably. I am not sure if the pregnancy and our “unfriending” is completely related, but we are nonetheless not on “speaking terms.” It’s really a shame. I hope we can be friends again one day. Maybe that’s on me.
According to one of theses friends (who isn’t my friend anymore), I was whining too much about everything I had to do: balancing life, work, the pregnancy, and the preparation of the coming of Zelda – basically this entire post. She was sick of hearing it. Maybe other people are too. I know it’s pathetic. I want to be John Wayne so hard sometimes, but find myself acting like John Bobbitt instead. But IT IS honest, which is a fucking rarity nowadays. If you’ve stuck along this far and don’t think less of me, I salute you.
I don’t need to hear about the bullshit of working hard and “having it all,” because I don’t believe that. You can’t have it all. You have to make sacrifices. I am confident that the hard work will pay off in my career and family. I will eventually find a rhythm to get back to those things that I used to do or wanted to do. But for now, all of that means nothing. Everything is for Zelda. Everything is for her. This isn’t about me anymore.
I think it’s much healthier to focus on what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be selfish to my child. I don’t want to look to possessions as my gold standard for living. I never want to tell her the price of something (within reason) or make her go to sleep on an empty stomach. I don’t want to see her cry because I skipped out on something for my own selfish reasons. I don’t want to tell her I am disappointed without meaning it. I don’t want to forget to tell her how much I love her everyday. I don’t want her to ever forget how much of a gift she is to Angela and I.
So that’s it. I’m in man. I’m fucking in. No turning back. We are way beyond the tip. This is me whipping it out and slapping it on the table.
So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers – all false. The truth is that I may be a bad person. But that’s gonna change. I’m going to change. These are the last days of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and moving closer to her due date, thinking clearly and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already. I’m gonna be just like you. The job, the family, the fucking big flat screen television. The front loading washing machine, the smart car, the Bluetooth speaker and electric kettle, good healthcare plan, glucose free diet, dental copay, mortgage, unaffordable starter home, handmade dresses, matching bloomers, Kohl’s jacket, Pinterest fails, IKEA instructions, alcohol dependency, more children, walks in the park, nine to five rush hour, good at first person shooters, washing the dog, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, 401K, tax write-offs, clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead, the day you die.
I haven’t written anything on this blog in well over a month. In fact, I haven’t really thought at all about it since we got back from Disney. This was entirely intentional. Why? I don’t really have much to say. Writer’s block? Maybe. After the euphoric feeling of being in Disney World for the last time in a while, I needed time to decompress and think. With the added bonus of a few very important events ongoing at work, I felt that a break from this blog would be okay – the Eng Dynasty could wait.
It’s now time to put down some of these thoughts that have been swirling around my head since Disney. Real talk. Real World. True Story. After all, the whole reason we wanted to start this blog was to be as honest as possible about every facet of having a baby, from the frustrations of conception to the realities of dealing with a growing bundle of joy. I won’t get into the childbirth thing, though. That is a whole other box of craziness we do not have to open until February (hopefully).
Ok. Here goes nothing:
For a while there, I felt like a silent partner in all of this. To be completely honest, I think that is entirely my fault. I haven’t been involved as much as I could have or should have. I say I want to, and then fall flat most of the time. It may be work stress or some personal stuff I have been dealing with. I can’t pinpoint it. Sometimes I legitimately forgot that Angela was pregnant. What a dick, right? Either way, I feel that I need to be more involved. I don’t need any coaching on this, I just need to do it.I need to take a page from the book of “Shit the Beef:”
Maybe I was getting a tad frustrated that Zelda always seem to stop kicking the minute I put my hand over Angela’s stomach. I always want to be active when Angela wants to rest, and vice versa. Shopping for bras is not always the most exciting thing for me, especially when the employees think I am a creeper. Despite my best efforts, Angela still has little taste for pretty much anything. I can cook all the fancy meals I want; it doesn’t matter. I felt so awkwardly out of place when we went shopping for the baby registry. What the hell was I doing? Why are there so many nipples, and why do we need them? I saw ALL of the diapers and envisioned all of them filled with feces that was my sole responsibility to clean up. All the gagging. Reality washed over me in a (not so) awesome wave. For a couple so in sync most of the time, there have been a few miscues over the past few months. To put it simply: I can’t triforce at all lately. Am I being selfish? Perhaps. At least I am being honest, which is a rarity nowadays.
I will say that my thoughts about pregnancy have changed completely since the end of May when we first found out. It’s not like I felt like it would be just like the movies, but I thought I knew SOMETHING about having a child. Jesus, I was so wrong. The amount of unpreparedness I feel makes Seth Rogen’s character in Knocked Up look like a father of the year award candidate. Definitely not Hugh Grant in Nine Months because…well…prostitutes.
I bought the new Zelda 3Ds game last night. I didn’t think I would be getting any life lessons out of it, but I found myself thinking about it most of the night. That was partly due to Angela’s snoring. Either way, I took advantage of the time that I was up to think how my recent purchase impacted my wide range of thoughts and emotions lately. It did.
The whole premise of the game is to complete a series of puzzles of increasing challenge level in the land of Hytopia (Apparently it follows the same timeline of the previous 3Ds game, but I will leave all of the theory and speculation to the uber Zelda nerds). Each of the puzzles requires your team to work together as a trio to complete each puzzle and task. You cannot do anything alone. Most of what I have experienced so far requires not two, but all three heroes working in tandem.
How does this apply to my life? Well, we are still just a duo right now. Oftent dynamic (though lately not due to yours truly), our duo is still missing its final piece of the puzzle: Zelda Elizabeth Eng. At the end of the day, I am confident these anxieties I feel will be erased once Zelda enters the light world. I am a huge fan of on-the-job training anyway, so I am sure that she will give me plenty of it. I will let you know how I feel about it again when she turns into a tiny shit and puke factory and I haven’t slept in over a week. I look forward to being able to triforce.
By the way, there is totally a Zelda dress in the game that you can purchase. That will happen.
There likely comes a time in every father-to-be’s life when he has a few questions. These questions can be about pretty much anything. They ARE about anything. I won’t say they are random thoughts that pop into my brain because the same ones keep reappearing. I find time in my day to think about everything from my ability to be a father to the amount of poop I will get in my mouth in the first year of Zelda’s life (I guessed 20 ounces, or roughly the amount you can fill in a bottle of Diet Coke). Then there is the big issue of money and finances. Obviously, having a baby begins the slow drain on my already draining bank account (DC living, right?). But that’s okay. That was the choice that Angela and I made when we wanted to move away from Virginia Beach and as far away from the Douchebaggery of Norfolk (if you don’t know about it, imagine hipsters from Brooklyn with three times the complex and half the creativity and/or beard oil). We both have jobs now and are beginning to settle into our life up here in the area, except of course, with the added bonus of caring for a child in less than half a year. No pressure.
The thought honestly blows my mind, and I certainly don’t know where to begin with the many answers to my mounting questions. That being said, there are certain things that I have come to find that I certainly don’t want to hear. Facebook is the worst culprit for this, as it is a direct injection into the vein of unsolicited advice. It’s like water cooler talk with a group of guys who just want to talk about their tribal tattoos. Nobody wants to hear it but the people who are saying it. Now I cannot inject the right kinds of questions into the mouths of friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. What I can do, and do often, is filter them like spam email. I don’t want a miracle cure for my erectile dysfunction, nor do I want to hear about why we are already damaging Zelda’s life by living in this particular school district in Northern Virginia.
I’m not trying to be mean here. This is real talk, and given the growing belly of Angela and my growing concern for my own ability as a father, it’s as real as it gets. I think this kind of stuff is why I wanted to start this blog in the first place – I want to keep it as real as possible and chronicle the experiences I am having, such as they are, while the real work is being done by my wife-turned aircraft carrier. I want to preface by saying that I appreciate all of the help and advice everyone has given Angela and I over the past few months. There are only so many ways I can present a shit-eating grin to someone before I begin to snap. There is a lot of stress floating around right now, and I have to try to remain as calm as possible for the safety and sanity of our growing family. So I write….and I keep it real.
The dialogue of any true unsolicited comment goes something like this:
Me: “So, Angela and I are having a baby.”
Person: “Oh, wow that is fantastic! Are you excited”
Me: “Yeah, it’s great, it’s all I have ever wanted.”
Clearly the conversation is going well here. Solid theme. I like the hypothesis. But we are slowly reaching the climax, and I know already that it’s about to come like a Coen brothers movie. Let’s keep the explosions going, right? The action is high and the tension is low. It’s a recipe for a perfect conversation, or a terrible Michael Bay movie.
Person: “So how is everything going with you two?”
Me: “It’s great! To be honest, I am a little stressed out about it. It’s a lot to think about – the finances, the food, etc. We are even trying to look for a home. I don’t know if it’s a good time for that because there is so much going on.”
As a response to this It may sound like I am fishing for some sort of complement. In most cases, I might be. If I said I was stressed about work or an upcoming lecture I was about to give, I might need a little encouragement. A metaphorical pat on the back if you will. I don’t think that applies for baby advice. Either way, the person will give one of the following responses that I really do not want to hear.
1. “You’re Going to be Fine”
2. “Everything Will Work Out”
3. “Just Relax”
4. “You can do it”
This is always followed by:
“Just make sure that….”
“Just remember to….”
“So long as you…”
Here is where you insert your unsolicited advice. Topics so far range from the CORRECT choice of a baby’s name to the right kind of crib or the dangers or rocking your baby too hard. Oh, don’t forget that the stress environment of a father can seriously impact the health of a baby….what?
This conversation is ALWAYS bookended with:
“That’s what ( ) and I did…and it worked out great…just a thought.”
Congratulations. You just gave me the verbal equivalent of a fish handshake.
It’s not JUST A THOUGHT. This is a command from the gods of parenthood. We can only strive to be Hercules when Zeus and Athena are in control. I’m not going to forget anything. Why? Because I am CONSTANTLY thinking about it, day and night. This only adds to my growing fear of not being a good father. Is this what all fathers-to-be think? Apparently, yes. Good.
These incomplete sentences mean about as much to me as the quotes with a minion poorly photoshopped on it that you reposted on Facebook from a random country station in the Midwest. Inspirational quotes are for people without inspiration. I am inspired…to be a good father. There isn’t a quote out there that says “You are going to be a terrible father.”
Okay. So I made one. It’s comforting.
What would I really want to hear as a response? Keeping with the Michael Baysian philosophy of conversation, it may go something like this:
“Yeah, I feel you on that. We were scared shitless when we had our first kid. It does get better though…and then it’s shitty for the first few months…like really shitty…and then it’s rad.”
We have some amazing friends back home who gave us that exact advice. They have an adorable little girl who is a perfect model for Zelda. I personally can’t wait for them to play together.
I want to hear that it is great and that it is terrible. Nothing great ever comes easy. And that’s why this is STILL the best time of my life, unsolicited advice or no unsolicited advice.
So, in summation, less Coen Brothers, more Michael Bay.