Full-time parent, full-time journalist
Shecame more than two weeks ahead of her due date. We experienced the first signs around 4:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, checked into Women’s Hospital and waited. For most of the day, nothing seemed to happen. Then, around 8:30 p.m., the contractions began in earnest and labor progressed rapidly until she arrived at precisely midnight.
She looked around with big, startled eyes as the doctor took her over to the examining table to pinch her arms and legs, wipe her off and check her heartbeat. “Go ahead and touch her, dad,” the doctor said. She looked so fragile.
Looking at her in wonder as she stared back at me, and I fell hopelessly and immediately in love.
Amy Margaret Bell Green was born at 8 pounds and four ounces. So, as my wife’s grandmother likes to say, she was born in the fullness of time as opposed to pre-term. The prediction was wrong.
Both AmyBell’s mother and I can hardly believe our good fortune that this beautiful creature whose hand works in a near symphony of motion – performing tai chi one moment and illustrating an aria the next – whose eyes scan the room with wry observation, has been placed in our care. Even though her mother carried her in her womb for nine months, we can’t quite believe the miracle that she’s here, lying in her bassinet in our bedroom, ready in a moment to have her diaper changed and still later to be fed.
I’m 38 years old, and exactly a decade into a career that got off to a late start. I feel like a geezer dad and at the same time not quite financially stable enough to contribute to the upkeep of a dependent. Taken together, those two factors make the timing exactly right.
I’ve visited the occupied West Bank and the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca; I’ve traveled the land singing in coffeehouses and sleeping on the couches of kind strangers. At this stage, nothing quite can quite match the adventure of nurturing a child – comforting her when she cries, testing her reflexes, helping her discover the world, challenging her to be compassionate and develop her talents.
Parenting itself seems like a fairly straight forward proposition. Maybe we’re just lucky to have a healthy baby. When she cries, there’s typically a check list that can be counted on one hand that will resolve the problem and bring her back to contentment. Since the third night at home, she has taken to settling down to sleep once her needs are met, and allowing us to do the same.
What makes the proposition interesting is that AmyBell has two working parents. Working alternating shifts, we’re going to be managing two jobs each: eight hours of professional work and eight hours of childcare, along with something less than eight hours of sleep – a juggling act of feeding her and mini two-three hour shifts of tending to whatever needs may arise.
I’m taking 10 days off to learn this dad business. (Sources and readers note: I’ll be returning to work full-time on Aug. 26, and slogging through roughly a thousand e-mails.) I’ve done a pretty good job of setting aside election coverage – normally an all-consuming mania when municipal races roll around.
But I haven’t been quite so successful staying away from developments in the Latin Kings federal racketeering case. I’ve been tracking the case as part of what I hope will become a book about the social history and law enforcement reaction surrounding the activities of Jorge Cornell and his followers. So even though our daughter was only four days old, my wife and I thought it was important for me to be in court on the day Cornell received his sentence. I also showed up the following day for the sentencing of a co-defendant who pleaded guilty without cooperating with the government, along with four others who helped the government make its case.
What I felt walking from my car to the federal building in downtown Winston-Salem on the morning of Cornell’s sentencing was like starting over again as a journalist. I felt the same way when I turned up at the offices of The Nation in lower Manhattan for an internship at the age of 25, and when I drove a rental car into Espanola, NM three years later for my first proper newspaper job. It was a mix of terror and wonder, cocksure confidence that I could handle myself while knowing how little I really knew about what I was getting into.
Later that night, I struggled to finish a blog post about the Cornell sentencing, my keyboarding endeavors interrupted periodically by a crying baby. I tried with mixed success and to comical effect to handle the two tasks simultaneously. I would find myself leaning back in the office chair to give AmyBell maximum reclining comfort while reaching one hand for the keyboard. Capitalization required a maneuvering my left arm cradling her head to depress the caps lock key. I considered typing all lower-case letters and coming back later to fix the text, but rejected this idea as impractical.
It will all come together, by necessity. In the meantime, expect to see me dashing out of a city council meeting to pick up my little girl from her grandmother’s or toting her in a pouch as I pursue someone for a quote at a Saturday political meeting.