Last Sunday I went to get donuts from our favorite donut shop, Donut Drive-In. You know the place: that tiny white hut with the giant blinking arrow and neon DONUT DRIVE-IN sign. The name is misleading because it is not a drive-in. You don’t sit in your car while a friendly, roller-skating server brings you donuts. There isn’t even a drive-through. In fact, the whole experience is an exercise in anxiety; when you walk in the front door, there’s room for about eight people, it’s almost impossible to know who is next in line, and a great many of the donuts are hidden under parchment paper on racks in the back. The seven other people inside block most of the remaining donuts from view, so you’re stuck saying things like “uh, can I just get a glazed donut? Do you have cream filled? Can I please just have a minute??”
On the way home, as I always do, I made a quick right and saw the green logo for Quest Diagnostics next to a large black building. Both the sign and building would typically be completely forgettable to me but for the fact that it’s the place where I took my Zika test last fall.
Kendahl got pregnant with Chloe right before we left for our Mexico trip last summer, but of course we didn’t know she was pregnant while we were in Mexico. In our infinite wisdom we neither took with us nor purchased bug spray while there, despite both the cautionary airport advertisements and general common sense. When we moved to St. Louis shortly after returning from Mexico, our OB counseled us to both get Zika tests, “just to be sure.” As I passed the building, I spent a moment reflecting on that season of life; it was like we were preparing to say goodbye to certainty.
After I passed Quest Diagnostics, I flashed back to the twenty-week ultrasound, the ever-important gender reveal appointment. I remember the appointment like it was yesterday: the ultrasound technician greeting us, my heart racing then slowing down as the reveal took a little too long, then racing again when she typed the words on the screen:
“IT’S A GIRL!”
I remember being escorted into Room 2 and waiting for our OB as we always did. I remember how nervous I was, for some reason picturing scenarios of doctors delivering bad news and ruminating on how they would articulate it. Before those thoughts could clear, she marched in and immediately started saying “there was something…” My heart missed a beat as she told us that our baby only had one artery in her umbilical cord; normally babies have two arteries and one vein, a configuration which ensures that they get all the good nutrients and none of the bad. It’s probably not a big deal, she assured us. I can’t remember the last time I saw an issue with something like this. (I can’t remember the last time I was at peace with someone saying things like “It’s probably not a big deal.”) She informed us that she did want to monitor the baby carefully, so she scheduled monthly ultrasounds for the remainder of the pregnancy, “just to be sure.” It’s amazing how you can immediately be so nervous about something that just moments before you had no idea existed.
If certainty hadn’t left by then, she was out the door and heading for the hills now.
That’s one of the first things I remember thinking while we were in the labor and delivery room: “this child is our farewell to certainty.” The more I think about it, though, having a child is more like a farewell to our illusion of certainty. You become an adult, finally land a job, have the ability to start paying some bills and contribute to a 401K. You can decide if and when you want to travel. You choose to live in a foreign country for a year, then make it two. When things are going well, it’s easy to develop a sense of certainty and control. Then an eight-pound, seven-ounce bundle shows up and makes you realize you don’t control any of it. All you can do is order a donut, hope you got it right, and enjoy all the sweetness that ensues.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.