Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Due date

Today, March 30, is the baby's due date. Obviously, given the nature of our active yet fickle little child, nothing is happening. I woke up this morning feeling like Christmas, feeling like my day had finally arrived. We have been waiting for the last weeks of March to roll around since late June, 2009. All of the holidays and hurdles that separated us from our baby -- including the holiday seasons, all of fall and winter, trips up and down the Atlantic seaboard, a move to a new apartment uptown, the end of one job and the start of another -- have come and gone. And the trophy for our patience and fortitude is L's big and glorious belly.

Rationally I knew there was no reason to expect the kid to arrive today. It's not like she received the memo that March 30 was her assigned date. In fact, less than 5% of babies are born on their actual due dates (most, especially for first-time mothers, are born after the due date). Yet I couldn't help but hope that our kid would come barreling into life on the early side. To be early is to be on time, after all. She should know that already.

So now we are winding down another day free of labor and delivery. Maybe tonight will be the night L wakes up to a strange yet not entirely unwelcome new pain. Maybe tonight, but probably not. L is convinced we will be having an April baby, and that makes sense to me.

...But it could be tonight! It's March 30, our due date! Our Christmas!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Then and now

Last night I sent a photo to some family and friends featuring me modeling all of the university-branded swag I received on my first day of work:

My parents quickly responded, to the entire group, with a photo of me on my first day of pre-school, 28 years ago.   I concede that there may be some similarities:

Two thoughts occurred to me: I am touched that my parents can remember such small, ancient moments. And I can't wait to similarly humiliate my kid in another thirty years.


Last week was my final week at the law firm. On Thursday they surprised me, and another attorney who was about to go on maternity leave, with a champagne toast to celebrate our new milestones. All week long I heard a lot of kind words from partners, associates, and staff, which really meant a lot to me. On Friday, I labeled all of my files for storage and cleared the last lingering items from my inbox, and then sent my farewell email late in the afternoon. I talked about how I felt grateful for the opportunity to work with, and learn from, all of these colleagues. The final lesson, though, the thing that surprised and heartened me, was the warmth of the goodbyes and the sincerity (or so it seemed) of their best wishes for the new job and the new baby. I was really touched.

On Friday afternoon, around 4:30, it seemed like there was nothing else to do. My stuff was all packed up, my desk was empty, and the usual stream of emails and phone calls had dried up. So I packed up my bag, left my security cards on my desk, and said goodbye to the two grinning partners who had been hanging around my office. I gave my secretary a hug. I said a few quick goodbyes as I waited for the elevator one last time. Although there were moments when I felt very ambivalent about leaving this position, this feeling would always burn off in a dawning sense of excitement and relief for the next chapter. Once I got to the lobby I put on my headphones, selected "Imma Be," and strutted out into the clear spring evening.

Today was my first day at my new job, at the university. I saw many old friends and had some promising conversations with people who seemed warm and friendly and personable. In the afternoon there was a champagne toast to welcome me to the office. They said how excited they were that I was there. The differences between this work environment and my previous one are many, although I can't say that one is objectively better than the other. But after this first day I am feeling very confident in the decisions I've made, and grateful for the new opportunities before me. It's exciting to enter a new environment, a new culture, with a new mission to guide you. And the fact that all of my comings and goings have been punctuated by these champagne parties -- I have discovered a new depth of my gratitude, for working with kind and gracious people who have been so warm and welcoming to me.

There were three big things I had to wrangle this spring: End the old job. Start the new one. Those two are basically taken care of. Now there's only one thing left.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not yet

This morning I was at my desk, waiting to hear back from L about her trip to the sonogram place to check on the baby's growth. Around 11:30 she called me on my office phone. When I picked up I could hear her laughing to someone else, so I thought everything was fine. "I'm in a cab to the hospital," she said. "The baby's heart rate was low, so they want to hook me up to a fetal heart rate monitor." The doctors had told her that I should meet her at the hospital. A nurse had walked L out of the office to make sure she could catch a cab to St. Vincents downtown.

I had a conference call at 12, and was supposed to attend a hearing at 2. Everything was different now. I emailed a few attorneys and my secretary to tell them I had to go to the hospital. At first I tried to be discreet but I couldn't find the words so I said exactly what was happening. I didn't care who knew. My wonderful secretary came to my doorway and helped me think of things I needed. We decided I should take the subway. I gathered a few work items, grabbed my lunch and the New Yorker, my headphones. "You know, this could be it," I said.

I was so nervous I got out at the wrong subway stop, walking briskly up 7th Avenue in my ill-fitting dress shoes at a clip that made my lower legs ache. St. Patrick's Day revelers were everywhere, laughing and plodding along in their stupid green t-shirts. A lot of green Yankees paraphernalia and orange wigs. In the hospital I remembered how to get to Labor & Delivery, but I had to stop at two different nurse's stations to find L. I thought of the other times I had made similar trips, navigating an unknown hospital to find my wife hidden in some small undistinguished room.

She was lying on her side in a hospital gown, a nest of tubes and wires snaking out from her belly. The room was filled with the constant, reassuring thrum of the baby's heartbeat. She was smiling. Everything seemed to be fine.

We sat there for almost two hours, as doctors and nurses came in and agreed that things seemed perfectly normal. We watched a little bit of TV: some CNN, some TLC, the "Full House" episode where Michelle learns to tie her shoes and Uncle Jesse admits he never graduated high school and decides to go back. It wasn't as poorly written and un-funny as I feared it would be; it wasn't bad at all, except for the unnervingly intimate close-ups. I've never seen a sitcom with such tight close-ups. It was like "60 Minutes" or something.

Ultimately they discharged us; L got dressed and we staggered back out into the day. A part of me had hoped this would be it, that the day would end with a baby. But I suspected we would probably just head on home. The doctors concluded that the low heart rate had been a fluke: maybe L had been sitting in a weird way, maybe the baby had been squeezing the cord or something. Who knows. Nothing to worry about.

We stopped at the bookstore visit with our friends, and ate lunch at Subway. We both returned to work rattled. I had a couple of beers at the office's St. Patrick's Day happy hour, organized my personal emails and eventually went to hip hop. Class was great tonight; we had a sub, and he was doing really intricate, asymmetrical stuff, based on the California style of krumping. Then I came back home to see my pregnant wife and wind down this day.

Now at day's end, I'm glad we were able to go through a dry run of things. L told me she had initially gone to the wrong floor of the hospital. Now she knows which floor to go to, and I know which subway stop to take.

On my subway ride down to the hospital, I had started to get excited. If the baby was going to be born today I could just wear my suit at the hospital for the next few days, my nice starched shirt getting wrinkled and soft after a couple days of broken sleep. This necktie would always remind me of the day my daughter was born. The work I brought would have gone untouched, but I might have read the New Yorker. We didn't have a lot with us, but it would have been enough.

There was that sense, riding the train down to see my wife and my daughter, that this could be it. The question kept rising in my mind, and the realization that there was no wrong or bad answer made me revel in the asking: Why not today? Why not right now?

Eventually, soon, we can answer. But not today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pull the trigger

Today I resigned from my job. This was a long time coming. Last night I received word that my new job had come through, that I had found a place to land. I was nervous to tell the folks at work that I would be leaving, and that I would be leaving the firm to work at a university in a non-lawyerly way. I expected them to snicker and say that I could never make it as a lawyer, and that now I was tucking my tail between my legs and slinking off to a different and easier world.

Obviously no one said this. They were actually very supportive, and very surprised. They even said they'd miss me. I told a bunch of different people today, basically relating the same narrative of opportunity, decision, and commitment, and the reactions varied: some were shocked, or aghast, or euphoric, or proud, or even jealous. And they all wished me well.

The foundation below the happiness and relief I felt today, though, was a sense of my own autonomy. Seeking out this new opportunity, winning it and committing to it reminded me that I am a free man. Not on anyone else's track, with no one to answer to but my family; my choices are my own. And I'm making them.

To be honest, I hadn't felt this strong and burly and in control and convinced that I'm the man since I found out I knocked up L. Today I felt proud of myself for finding a way out of an untenable situation, and for finding a new opportunity that is better-suited for my family and me. I was also thinking that this is how life is -- choices and consequences, transitions and opportunities. All of it in the service of a vision that is growing clearer every day.

Looking ahead: my last day of work is next Friday the 19th. My first day at the new job is Wednesday the 24th. And this baby girl of ours is due around Saturday the 27th. At this point the only thing I'm sure of is that all of my careful little plans will most likely be blown to bits, whenever this kid decides to make her entrance. And that's all right too.