I stare at the small container in my hand. There are two pieces of plastic inside: one blue and one pink. They're pacifiers. "You're going to be a daddy."
My wife has tears in her eyes. I feel numb. This is the same kind of shock I felt when told of my grandmother's death. I can sense the great effect on my life, but can't feel it. I smile for my wife. I want her to know that I'm happy even if I'm not just yet. I need for her to feel secure.
I sit in the ugly brown chair in the living room; the one that ruins the decor of the whole house. My wife sits on top of me, talking away, picking at my thoughts before I have a chance to form them. I tell her I don't know how to feel. We sit in the chair and she tells me how excited everyone at work is while I stare off toward the kitchen, far from her words. She recognizes that I'm not as happy as I was in her imaginings of the moment.
"What's up? You're going to be a Da-a-a-addy..." She smiles so wide when she says daddy, stretching the word into a limerick. I mutter back, "I feel like crying." This is my best assessment of the blur inside my head.
Because I am a man, a screwed up dumb one, I almost never have a grasp on my emotions. My wife tells me she's pregnant and I feel dread without knowing why. She asks me if I'm scared, prodding at me for the kind of emotional information that I don't have available. "I am."
To clarify, I'm not afraid of the kid. I know that much about myself. I'm afraid of something inside, some deficiency that I never intended to pass on to an innocent creature. My wife knows this because she knows me.
Just then I felt broken. Because I don't have parents. Because I don't know how to be a parent myself.
"You're not your mom. You'll give this baby a better life than you had. You'll protect it. You'll love it."
This is something I love about my wife: she never romanticizes anything. She tells me these things because she knows that they're true and not because she wants them to be. I explain that I need to tell someone. I don't know who or why exactly. For reassurance?
In a different life, I would call my mother or father, and they would cry with me. In this life, I call my best friend. He's overjoyed only I feel awkward and find an excuse to end the call. Like most things I will have to navigate this alone, only my wife smiles at me and I remember that I am not alone anymore.
After a few days, I begin to feel the kind of excitement that my wife had from the moment her home pregnancy test was positive. While driving, she informs me that in week six the baby develops an umbilical cord and is about the size of a blueberry. I am not prepared for this information as I am not prepared for this blueberry sized person. I think about it. Little boy or little girl, the size of a blueberry. I smile wide. "I hope it's a girl."
Under different circumstances, I could have been a fisherman or a cop, a fireman or librarian. Instead, I am here, this person living this life. I have often discussed my dreams with my wife and she has often torn them down. She can never understand why a person would choose to do something simply because they love it. This is something I hate about my wife: she can't see the magic in anything.
Days go by and I make my peace with what must be done; my life is no longer mine. It belongs to my family now, to my little boy or little girl. This way of thinking transforms each task into a higher calling. I clean the house because I want my child to grow up in a clean house. I mow the lawn because I want my family to feel proud of their home. I take extra care with my math homework because it will someday lead to a better job through which I can buy nicer toys at Christmas. I exhaust myself thinking like this.
The Monday after exhausting myself my drive home from the college takes an hour longer than it should (the slow flow of traffic owing to both construction and an accident.) I'm tired. My head is full with nasty thoughts about failure and what it means to ruin something good. I worry about raising a kid as a full-time student while my wife works 90 hours a week training to be a physician's assistant. How will I find the time? Am I too lazy to be a parent? Is it wrong to leave a three-year-old at daycare?
I talk myself out of my current plan. I have no time left to chase the things I want. I could be an elementary school teacher in less time and with worse grades. No one needs a perfect GPA to find a job as a high school English teacher. It isn't what I want but it makes sense to settle. Goals are for the young and dreams are for the rich and young. What I have are options and mine are limited.
To cope with my troubles I know a few tricks. Drinking is kind to me, eating is kind. Not good, but kind. When neither works I give up, I stop trying, and I stop caring because quitting works against all manner of evil... only it doesn't work for this. I cannot run, cannot drink, cannot eat away my worries. My thoughts drift to blueberries, to the corners I back myself into and to the kindness of food and drink.
I get home and head inside. I feel the weight of this, the pain and the work yet to be done. I imagine the martyrs from the bible, not as characters in a book but real people giving up their lives for the greater good. I am completely aware that I do not possess the selfless nature of a martyr.
I crawl into bed next to my wife and lay my hand on her belly, waiting for it to grow, to feel tiny feet kicking against my fingers. I listen to the many burdens of a pregnant woman, how the little blueberry is trying to kill her, how she can't eat without getting sick and how the cramps are unbearable. I whisper something to the skin under my hand:
"Carry me little blueberry and I'll carry you."
My little he or she, growing a fruit size a week, soon to change my life.