The baby is now 37 weeks, which means he can arrive at any time now. Sometimes, I put my hand on Jameelah’s stomach and can feel him moving around, a feeling that is both exhilarating and emotional and also very creepy. It’s like that one movie where the alien bursts out of that woman’s stomach, but instead of an alien popping out, it would be one of the Care Bears. Maybe Funshine Bear.
For the past few months, we have been getting ready for this little critter. We sat through a three-hour class on breastfeeding, which detailed the horrors or nursing. For example, there is such thing as “inverted nipples.” Plus, if not regularly released, mammary glands become impacted and rock hard, resulting in horrible pain in both the mother as well as any partner who decides at that unfortunate moment to say something like, “Wow, I’m glad men don’t have to do that; I’m going to go watch Iron Chef now.”
We have also been dealing with well-meaning relatives, many of whom grew up and birthed babies in a much different era and aren’t always up to date on the latest practices. My older sister, for example, is horrified that we are giving birth in water. (Since it’s Seattle, it’ll be organic, gluten-free artisanal water poured in small batches). Of course, she grew up in Vietnam, and we certainly do not do that.
Jameelah’s grandmother, meanwhile, is also concerned. Nanna is a wonderful person who now has four grandkids, all mixed-race. This will be her first great-grandchild. She’s been concerned that Jameelah is turning “too Vietnamese” and that our baby might be, too. When telling her that we would be having the birth in water, she asked if that’s the customary practice in Vietnam. That’s hilarious. If I weren’t so fond of Nanna, I’d tell her that all the children are born that way in Vietnam. We take the mother to the ocean, where the baby arrives into the world and immediately swims to catch its first fish, which we use to make a symbolic fish sauce. When people live too far from the ocean, they just give birth in a tub, but they add lemongrass and star anise to the water for that delicious pho aroma.
As the days count down, I’ve been experiencing mixed emotions. Definitely strongest is this excitement about meeting the baby for the first time, and holding him and singing him to sleep with a soothing lullaby rendition of “No Diggity.”
I also start to realize that my life will be changed forever, and that the days of doing things college-style are numbered. No more clubbing. No more inviting friends over at 11 p.m. to watch a movie. No more staying up till 4 a.m. playing video games while eating Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, which are like crunchy morsels of happiness. It is bittersweet, knowing that I am getting older and that the things that make me happy may change. I must become more responsible now, since it is no longer just my life that I must look out for. I must become a better person.
But then I think, “Oh helllllll no!” As much as I love this baby and will do what’s best for him, I am not going to give up on everything that I love for his sake. What sort of message will that send him? That once you’re a parent, your life is over? The key is balance. I’ve started lining up babysitters so that Jameelah and I can still go out from time to time. Friends can still come over; we’ll just need to move our booze to a higher location. We will find family-friendly bars. We are not going to be parents whose lives revolve around their kids, chauffeuring them around to karate and soccer games. We will provide love — lots of it, but I am not giving up my favorite TV shows.
I know, I am not a father yet, so I have little experience in how babies change people’s lives. But still, this kid is my son, and I have a responsibility as his father to teach him what I think is important for his happiness.
“Huy Jr.,” I would say, “there is much awfulness in this world, but also so much joy and kindness and humor. When you have your own kid, give up on some, but never all, of the things that make you happy…Now, Nanna is coming to pick you up for the weekend, so go rub some lemongrass on your face.”
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