In this installment of Love, Recorded, Matt is taking a variety of classes to prepare for the imminent birth of his daughter.
Spring is attacking me. The cats are shedding. I am blowing my nose every five minutes. My nose is crying—that’s what it feels like. I am also actually crying.
My mother is collecting baby things and bringing them up in bursts. Don’t let the cats shed on them, she says. I say the same. Cathreen says, what can you do?
Cathreen is itching from unrelated matters. The doctor ups her steroid prescription to 25 mg. The consulting doctor wants it pushed even higher, but our doctor knows us. When I read back through these columns, I know us, too: we are worriers.
As the weather starts improving, we go for a walk on the track down the road from our house. Cathreen is angry with me for telling her to “go away,” while I was trying to order pizzas. I feel as if this walk is punishment. Though maybe I have the days mixed up. Maybe we walked a different day.
I know my wife is sensitive. I am sensitive, too; time is getting away from us. I am writing this column at the last moment. I am doing everything at the last moment. The baby isn’t even born yet.
We walk three laps. Tomorrow, she says, we’ll do four. We never return.
In the middle of the week, we do our first session of pregnancy yoga, following a tape from my aunt. Once is enough for yoga, as well.
There are some events that recur. We are taking classes: one childbirth class, plus a session on newborn care and one on breastfeeding, and one Korean class, for me. I am also teaching: how to write stories in fewer than 1000 words. “We talk about these stories as much as real stories,” one of my students says, surprised at the impact of space.
I am learning Korean to try to speak with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and nephew. They have moved their trip sooner, to July. We are desperate for help with the baby, or I am, an anticipatory desperation. How strange it is to be certain that in your future is fear. Sometimes Cathreen threatens to talk about me with our daughter in Korean, jokes I will never understand. I am learning in class how to say it is sunny outside. I am learning how to describe where I am in relation to objects: in front of, beside, behind.
In the newborn care session, there is a moment when the teacher begs for questions. She says we are too quiet. We must be curious. I have questions. A few mothers chime in. I ask about screenings and immunizations and breastfeeding. When we get home, Cathreen calls my mother to express her surprise. The next day, in our first childbirth class, the teacher has the fathers-to-be do introductions, say how far along they are, what they would like to learn. I know how far Cathreen is to the day. The teacher repeats lessons I’ve already heard from my wife. I am rubbing my eyes and it looks like I’m very sad. The allergies. The teacher says, fathers, take care of mothers. Fathers, be there for support. She talks about green poop and when I say “gross” too many times, the mother beside me laughs. At what point do I realize that I am the one, of the two of us, who is most worried? I am listening to the stereotypes here, the reassuring dad, and then I see how hard it has been for my wife.
Each day, I come home from work and Cathreen says, listen to this. Our nephew (the autistic one) never kicked in the womb; there’s a crib mattress for sale on a Korean website, never opened; the nuclear failure in Japan might affect fertility in Korea; in this video, a cat protects a baby from a babysitter.
Then, one night, she is in shock. One of her sister’s best friends has committed suicide. Her mother and sister have been crying all day. What is strange, they say, is that this girl was always the most optimistic; she left behind child and husband. Korea has a rising suicide rate, led by presidents and celebrities.
One day you seem fine and the next day, everything has piled up.
Stupidly, I want to tell Cathreen not to be upset because the baby can feel it. She tells me this all the time, not to anger her because it angers Eun Chong. But what can I really say? I hold her hand. I am perpetually unprepared.