This Is All Your Fault
This is your father. I’m writing this because I want you to know — in no uncertain terms — how much of an inconvenience you have been for your mother and me.
You should’ve been born by now. You should’ve been born months ago. There are whole universes out there where everything went as planned, where the sequence of events that led up to your birth were straightforward and uncomplicated. You could’ve been living in a single family home instead of a one bedroom apartment — if you hadn’t been quite so inconvenient.
In the first universe, I took a picture of the pregnancy test. You appeared so suddenly, so easily — as simple as downloading a fertility app — it was hard to believe it was all really happening. The effortlessness of the situation gave it the semblance of a miracle. It seemed like something that needed to be captured on film. It warranted photographic evidence.
In the time that it took to take that picture, an entire universe unfolded before my eyes — one where your arrival was quick and painless, you were born in the winter, and I became a father without hardly trying at all.
But you were gone in a few days.
When you came back a couple months later, I couldn’t help but marvel at how great your timing was. I was on my way to see a total solar eclipse. I imagined telling you that — instead of a plus sign on a pregnancy test — your arrival was announced by the moon blotting out the sun. I took a picture of that too.
It made your first disappearance seem justified. As if you had scrapped that initial universe in favor of this one, where you could specifically coincide with a once-in-lifetime celestial event.
Again, it seemed nothing short of miraculous.
But you and that universe lasted for only a little longer than the eclipse itself.
After that, your mother and I peered deep into our chromosomes, trying to find out was wrong with us — what was keeping you from staying with us. The doctor had your mother pump herself full of hormones to entice you to stick around — like some illicit chemical bribe.
And it worked.
But this time it didn’t seem as much like a miracle as the inevitable result of drugs and doctor’s orders. The magic was tempered, to say the least.
You didn’t stay long anyhow.
We knew we shouldn’t get our hopes up but we couldn’t help it. Whether it was the chemicals, our chromosomes, or some fault in the stars, there was no telling why you left us again. The doctor couldn’t give us any answers.
These things happen, he said.
It was cold comfort. That doctor eventually left our insurance network anyway.
But the fact of the matter is that babies are born all the time. Literally, every second. And a good fraction are not. Generation upon generation never make it past the first few weeks. We are the results of trial and error, the culmination of an untold number of biological missteps and chromosomal fumbles — almost all of which go unnoticed.
It’s a miracle any of us are here at all.
Anyway, we abandoned the hormones. We saw a therapist. We avoided social situations. If we did attend a party, we took a cue from you and didn’t stick around for long.
Over the next couple of months, your mother interviewed for a new job in another city and we moved. We scrapped our initial plans and prepared for a future without you.
And we more or less ignored the fertility app.
You should know there’s a more convenient universe out there where you were never born. In that universe, your mother didn’t have to deal with the never-ending nausea and exhaustion you caused her. She didn’t have to spend the hottest months of the year carrying an extra human around inside of her. She didn’t have the unpleasant prospect of having to inform HR that she was pregnant after only being employed at her new job for a few weeks. In that universe, the one bedroom apartment has enough space for just the two of us. Under those stars, we returned to our lives as if you had never been here at all.
But of course, we’re not in that universe.
When you came back again, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only was it an inopportune moment for your mother to be pregnant, but the fertility app made it clear that your conception shouldn’t have happened. The timing was all off. That meant your mother and I could plausibly deny that your existence was even possible and we could save ourselves the inconvenience of getting our hopes up.
But as if in outright defiance of natural family planning, you continued to stick around.
When we went in for the first ultrasound, I fully expected to see nothing on the monitor. Given your track record, chances are you’d be long gone by the time the technician placed the transducer to your mother’s belly.
But of course, there you were.
The monitor revealed the unmistakable outline of a skull and the beginnings of a face. The shadow of one arm — then the other — both descending into the tiny crescent of your body — at the center of which, the rapid flutter of your heartbeat gave you away like a beacon in the night. As the technician gave us a tour of all your major features, you kicked and squirmed as if trying to make one last getaway before capture.
But it wasn’t you who was captured that day.
I’d spent so long tempering expectations, girding myself for the day you went away again, I never let myself be entirely captured by you — not until that moment.
I was ready to stay right there and stare at the ultrasound screen for the rest of the pregnancy. As if looking away — even for a second — would give you the chance to make another escape.
But of course we had to leave eventually. This time I felt like I was the one doing the abandoning. But the technician left us with pictures. You were finally captured on film. At least I had photographic evidence.
Why you chose this universe of all universes, I will never understand. Maybe you grew tired of the chase. Maybe you were finally ready to settle down and start a family, and plan a future with us. It’s entirely possible this was the plan all along. Or it could all be happenstance.
But the fact of the matter is, you did coincide with a total solar eclipse. Several, actually. There was an eclipse the week we first suspected you were here. And another just after the ultrasound. There was even a total eclipse of the sun the month you were born.
We just couldn’t see them.
Eclipses happen all the time. Every month, in fact. Because the formation of the Moon was the result of a chance collision with a rogue planetoid some billions of years ago, its orbit isn’t perfect. It’s kind of wonky. So when the Moon crosses in front of the Sun, its shadow usually falls somewhere outside of the Earth, somewhere in space where it goes unnoticed. So we only see a small fraction of the eclipses that actually occur. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening — they are just exceedingly inconvenient to view.
Anyway, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to this universe, Maven Jean. It isn’t perfect. It’s kind of wonky. But miracles happen all the time here. So much so, they often go unnoticed. That’s what makes them special.
So I can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that you are by far the greatest inconvenience I have had the good fortune to experience.
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