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Sometimes the Best Decision Is the One You Don't Make

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sometimes the Best Decision Is the One You Don't Make

My son, Holden, my first and only kid, was born eleven days before I turned forty.  He was not planned, not by any stretch, and had my girlfriend (soon to become fiancée, soon to become wife) not made the decision for us, I don’t know if he’d be here right now.  Justine had been using the ring as our sole means of contraception.  Makers of the ring claim 99% success.  

There’s an old SNL skit parodying home pregnancies, those conventional commercials that show the two potential parents brimming with hopeful anticipation after the stick has been pissed on.  Which is of course bullshit.  If you’re taking a home pregnancy test there is only one reason why.  And it ain’t good.
Two lines.  What doesn’t go through your mind when you see those two little lines?  I imagine it’s harder for the woman, but I’m not a woman, and I’m not so great at empathizing with the pain of others.  I only had one thought: run.  It’s not logical, not practical; you’re not going to do it.  Maybe some would, I suppose.  I wouldn’t, couldn’t.  I wanted a kid, had wanted one for a while.  There was a time I didn't, and there were at least a couple that could've been but never were.  All for the best, really.  I would’ve been a disaster as a father.   The first was when I was a teenager, wrapped up in Christianity and Republicanism; and if there is one thing that’ll make you switch from pro-life to pro-choice pretty damn fast it’s getting your girlfriend pregnant at sixteen.  I also got my first wife pregnant.  I loved her a lot.  Under better conditions, I would’ve liked to have had a child with her.  But I was a junkie.  She was schizophrenic.  Not much of a decision to make there.

This time was different.

It’s not just that I loved Justine.  I did, of course.  But I’ve loved others.  And it’s not just that I thought she’d be the best mother of any of the woman I’ve been with.  (I did.  And she has been.)  Despite all internal feelings of logic telling me that I should wait to have a kid—wait till my book was published (or at that time, at least until I had an agent), wait until I have some money, a career, own my own home, wait till I’m more ready, more emotionally mature—I allowed Justine to make the decision for us, even if I was worried.  I was able to do this because of one thought.  

Everything I had planned so meticulously on my own, from childhood on through adulthood had turned to shit.  My best thinking had gotten me here, so to speak.  I am a control freak, need to be in charge, think that if I can just anticipate every possible configuration and contingency I can circumvent disaster.  And of course I can’t.  No one can.  Micromanagement of my life had wielded positively piss-poor results.  So like the Summer of George, if all my controlling ways had netted less-than-stellar results, what would happen if I did the opposite?  My plans blow up in my face, so I’d let the universe, God, whoever, plan for me.

And like anyone with a kid will tell you, it’s the best thing to ever happen to me.

Not that the pregnancy was a joyride.  Justine swelled to the size of a house and was a pain in the ass to be around most of the time, finding fault with every little thing I did, like make coffee or talk, and we had trouble from the get-go.

In Permanent Midnight, Jerry Stahl talks about how when his daughter’s born he’s just grateful she comes out without two heads after all the drugs he’d taken.  I was convinced that this kid would be damaged, defected somehow, that I'd be saddled with feeding and caring for a giant one-eyed mole.  I don’t always think too clearly so it was hard to gauge what was real and what was paranoia.  In my case, most things fall under the latter, so I tried to keep these fears as much to myself as possible.  But right away, it looked bad.

On our second trip to the OBGYN at Kaiser, a fucking intolerable HMO in the middle of downtown Oakland that I couldn’t stand, the doctor discovered a blood clot in her uterus.  It was amazing how quickly I went from not being sure if I wanted this kid to sheer panic at the prospect of losing it.

They hooked Justine up with drips and IVs, broadcast her belly on the TV.  The danger with a blood clot was that it could suck up all the live-sustaining nutrients and starve the baby, the fetus, the whatever to death; and all I knew right then was that was the last thing I wanted to have happen. 

Which is another way of saying I was already falling in love with that little gray dot growing inside her.


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