[The Listserve] Baby Talk

Peter Goodspeed-Niklaus
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I received the notification that I’d won the Listserve late last night. I had other things on my mind: yesterday was the due date for my first child, and it was an open question whether or not she’d show up.

Eventually, things resolved: we didn’t have our baby last night, though we did spend a few hours in the hospital and some more painful hours dealing with intermittent pre-labor contractions at home. One doctor had wanted to induce her right away, but we managed to avoid that for now. We’re at home now, measuring the occasional contraction, making bets as to whether or not our daughter will arrive today. One thing I’m pretty confident of: by the time any of you read this, I’ll have a newborn.

On the one hand, we’re ready for this. My wife and I are both real grown-up adults, in our early 30s, well-educated. We’ve bought and read easily a dozen books on pregnancy and early childhood; we’ve made a detailed checklist of things we need to prepare for a child; we’ve dutifully checked off every item. We are as ready as it is possible to be for this baby.

On the other hand, who can be really prepared to begin a commitment which lasts the entire duration of the remainder of your life? If getting married was a big deal—and it was—there was still at least the theoretical option of an out if things didn’t work out between us. There’s no divorcing your child. Of course, marriage turned out to be a great decision, and I have no doubt that having a baby will turn out the same way.

Still, there is some angst. My job as a freelance programmer pays well when I work, but gives me no stability whatsoever. My wife doesn’t have a job to come back to either; she was contract-based, and her last one expired a few weeks ago. Her plan is to go back to school in the spring semester and hope that a second master’s in a more generalized field will make her more employable than when she had a single master’s in a hyper-specialized field. This is all fine when you’re a young competitive couple, but can we afford to keep this sort of high-risk high-reward career when there’s a kid who depends on us? We have to assume so—we do assume so—but now there’s a new voice in the back of our minds, and it’s very insistent: Risks Are Bad Now. You Have To Keep The Baby Fed.

We’ll make it work, one way or another. In the meantime, we’re just on the hook, waiting for this kid. I’m actually a bit peeved that she didn’t keep to schedule. I’m aware that only 5% of babies are born on the due date, and as many come after as before, so I’m trying to suppress the emotion, but it’s resilient. Even if you ignore my personal desire to play with my child, my wife is having a really rough time of it these days, and it seems cruel to prolong that. In the meantime, I’m just keeping the midwife’s words in mind: in the end, every baby comes out.


Incidentally, this is my third Listserve email. Assuming a constant subscriber base of 25000, 1902 days since I joined, and a standard binomial distribution, the chance of me getting to write you all three times by now is 0.0000679: if we re-ran history 100,000 times, we’d expect this result fewer than seven times. Is the Listserve actually random? There might be a case against it.

Peter Goodspeed-Niklaus
Würzburg, Germany