Four weeks from now, on April 1st, Chalice Press will release my first memoir, titled PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. I wrote it back when Amy was pregnant with our second child, Zoe. As you can tell from the chapter below, it took a while for me to warm to the idea of having a second kid.
Basically, the book follows Amy’s pregnancy from beginning to end, but also my own changes throughout the process, both as a man, a father and a husband. It’s not your average Christian memoir, by any stretch, but it is a story of faith too.
Seeing this project finally come to be in the public forum is a little bit like sending my son off to kindergarten for the first time. There’s a strange mix of pride, terror and awe in watching it take on a life of its own. My hope is that the story connects with others in a way that helps them realize they’re not along in this strange ride we call the Human Experience. And hard as it may be sometimes, we can always laugh a little along the way.
Mattias: “Daddy, you suck.”
Amy: “Mattias, tell your daddy you’re sorry.”
Mattias: “Okay. Daddy, I’m sorry you suck.”
-Mattias, 3 years, 3 months
These two words are what started the baby ball rolling in the Piatt household, back in January. After months of counseling, discernment, weepy nights and sleepless mornings, I submitted, succumbed, caved in like the roof of a Geo convertible.
I know “screw it” is an ironic choice of words, considering the circumstances. I also think it’s sadistically ironic that we men are biologically tuned to love sex so much, yet we’re usually the ones who freak out the most about the byproduct. I’m a typical male, visually aroused by anything vaguely resembling a boob or a booty. Also, working from home and sharing responsibility with my wife for the daily development of our four-year-old son, Mattias, makes me somewhat abnormal. And it’s this shared responsibility, I think, that makes having another kid such a big deal for me.
“I think you take it more seriously than some dads,” said a shrink friend of mine who counseled me through some of my initial anxiety when we first started talking about more children, several months ago. “You know that half of the responsibility of another baby will fall on you, whereas some guys are happy to have more children, since they aren’t really around that much anyway.”
Doc, as I call him, has been both friend, physician and in many ways, a surrogate father to me when I’ve most needed him. A father of three boys himself, he knows a thing or two about family, and if he’s as emotionally and physically available to the rest of his former clients as he is to me, his extended family tree looks like a freaking Chia Pet.
The thing is, even though I love Doc as much as I do anyone else on the planet, he can be kind of a schmuck too. On the one hand, he’ll offer up these insightful little gems like this that help validate why I’m so freaked out about expanding our family, and then he’ll smile and tell me to stop being such a pansy and just man up.
My wife, Amy, who is nearing her thirty-fourth birthday, is a minister by profession. She’s not exactly your typical minister, which should be pretty self-evident, given that she’s a woman. We started a church together almost four years ago in southern Colorado right after she finished seminary in Texas, just as Mattias turned six months old. We’ve joked ever since that raising a toddler and starting a church is a whole lot like having twins, but I guess God didn’t see that as enough of a challenge for us.
I have my own life outside of the church, which is good since I have yet to receive a paycheck from the church in four years. I help out with everything from music and leadership to outreach, toilet unclogging, landscaping and whatever else is left unattended to at the end of the day. In some ways I like being a volunteer because it allows me to say “no” more often than if I was paid, though I rarely say “no.” It’s just nice to know I could if I wanted to. I actually make a living as a writer, which explains how it is that I can at least pretend to have a career, volunteer fifteen or so hours a week at church and still pitch in my fifty percent toward parenting.
It just seems to me that a full life is a blessing, but only to a point. After that, anything else you pile on just makes you a moron or a masochist, or both. So what I’m left with is a lingering question about why the hell I agreed to this, and if it’s something I want, or if I’m doing it more or less to keep my wife happy. And at what cost to me?
My wife came down the stairs last Saturday morning with the little pee stick that showed two little red lines indicating that her ticket had been punched. I had no indication that this was coming, as I didn’t even know she had a secret stash of preggo tests upstairs in the bathroom. The first thing my son wanted to know, of course, was what the pee stick was.
“It’s a thermometer,” my wife lied, not too eager at that specific moment to explain the implications of what she had only told me to this point by sticking the pee stick under my nose.
“I wanna try it,” he said, pulling it toward his mouth. “Here, take my temperature.”
“Not a good idea, monkey,” I said, snatching the still-moist stick from Amy’s shaky hand. “This one goes in your butt, anyway.” That took care of his interest in the pee stick.
She had presented it to me only a few minutes before we took Mattias to play his first soccer game at the YMCA. But the fact that this particular Saturday morning was the day before Mother’s day, and given the fact that, only a few days before, we had talked tentatively about going back on birth control at the end of the month, makes the pee stick incident more than ironic.
So there I sat on the couch, pregnancy test in one hand and coffee cup in the other, pretty much wanting to vomit, but trying to smile instead. “Well,” I said in a carefully measured tone, giving away nothing, “I guess that means pressure-free sex for the next nine months.”
“And my boobs will get huge,” said my wife.
“Yeah, there is that, I guess.” Now I was giving my feelings away.
“It’s kind of like cheating,” she said after a pause, “but with me, attached to someone else’s boobs.”
“Thanks,” I sighed, “but you don’t have to sell me.”
There was a long, pregnant silence.
“Guess we ought to get ready to go to the soccer game,” she said, holding herself up along the back of the couch.
“Guess so,” I rolled off the edge of the couch and to my feet. “The Mighty Giraffes won’t wait forever.”
As we headed out the door to the soccer field, I was already telling myself that worrying about it wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
It’s coming whether I’m ready or not
At least I have about eight more months to get used to the idea, I thought. Maybe I’ll pour my thoughts out onto the page, administer some self-service therapy.
But right now, I’m pretty much back to where I started: