After 42 years of hemming and hawing, I'm ready to fulfill my biological purpose: to replicate my genes.
I've been reading lots of books on evolutionary biology lately, because I love it and it's awesome. Our bodies evolved in a very different environment than we live in today. We are "built" to maximize survival and reproduction under much more precarious conditions. Once we got really big brains and learned how to create tools, we started to change our environment to suit our needs, rather than evolve to suit the environment. This fascinates me.
It also fascinates me how easily evolution and natural selection is misunderstood, even by people who believe in it and support it. The single most important determining factor in natural selection is making babies. Whichever individual makes more babies, and those babies survive to make more babies of their own, will most influence the course of its species' evolution. People love to argue about the evolutionary value or purpose of certain traits or features. But not every trait or feature has a purposeful "design." A lot of them are side effects that don't necessarily affect evolution one way or another. At the heart of it is making babies who continue to pass on your genes.
|So many people like to label others' stupid activity as "Darwin Awards." The only criterion for whether a stupid action would relate to Darwin is if that stupid action prevented you from making, or having made, babies.|
With our enormous brains, humans tend to overthink it (like everything), but we are subject to biological forces just like the bears, birds, and bees. We've devised all these tools that enable us to cheat a little-- to satisfy many of our biological urges without having to deal with the biological consequences.
For example, take sex. (Please!)
We now have tools and knowledge that enable us to enjoy sex without ever having to fulfill its primary biological purpose, which is to make babies.
For my entire adult life, I've been trying to have sex. On many happy occasions I've been successful, but I've also spent my entire sexual life trying as equally hard NOT to make a baby. Sometimes I've used two or three non-baby-making strategies at the same time. I really did NOT want to make a baby.
Now my wife and I are trying to make a baby. All those precautions, all that meticulous attention toward NOT making a baby, has not only been thrown out the window, but I'm actively going AGAINST that impulse. It's a very strange attitude reversal. It's like spending your whole life trying to avoid heroin, only to decide, "Alright, let's do as much heroin as we can!!!"
With our advanced ages, and knowing so many other people who've had trouble conceiving, Katherine and I devised many baby-making strategies and prepared ourselves for several months of baby-making fun and toil. In January we got into a quasi-argument about our different approaches (clinical vs. spontaneous.) Oh, well, we said, we'll do better next month. In preparation for that, we bought an "ovulation kit" at Walgreens.
A few weeks later I asked Katherine where she was in her cycle and when we should break out the ovulation kit. She mentioned that she was three days late with her period.
"Maybe you're pregnant," I said.
I was totally joking.
The ovulation kit came with a pregnancy test, so she took it. Here's what it showed:
Now, you might notice that the horizontal line is not as blue as the vertical one. All the pregnancy tests (and books) say, "It doesn't matter how faint a line is." But we didn't believe it. The next day, she took another test with the same result.
We were in shock. How could we possibly be pregnant? There were literally like only three times that we could have conceived. It's not supposed to happen this quickly. It's supposed to be harder than this.
There's a saying that you can't be a little pregnant-- you either are or you aren't. That's not actually true, though. There ARE degrees of pregnancy. The further along the pregnancy gets, the more real it becomes. Many people don't tell others they're pregnant until after the first trimester, when the chances of miscarriage decrease substantially. But I think we can say that Katherine is definitely more pregnant now than she was 8 weeks ago. Or at least in our minds, the pregnancy is more real than it was then.
We told a few select members of our families immediately, but we decided not to make it public until week 12. We're finding it very difficult not to tell people, though. [This post was started in January, but I wasn't allowed to post it til now.]
The first week we found out, I accidentally told a guy I played tennis with. He asked me if I had kids, and I said, "No, but my wife and I are starting the process." I meant this to mean we were trying (i.e. "pulling the goalie"), but he responded with, "Congratulations!" Oops.
That same week I was at work and feeling dizzy. One of my co-workers joked, "Maybe you're pregnant." Then she added, "Men can have sympathetic symptoms, you know." I laughed and bit my tongue.
As time has moved on Katherine found it harder and harder not to tell some of her best friends. We amended our rule to: only tell people you would be comfortable telling about a miscarriage, too.
Now we're 16 weeks in, and the doctor has advised us that we can make it public. "You can post it on Facebook now," she said, reading my mind. After three ultrasounds and some genetic testing, the baby appears to be healthy so far. I have named it Cletus Fetus, since it is the only name I know of that rhymes with "fetus."
Here's the very first picture of Cletus. At the time it appeared that we were spawning an alien crab-like pinto bean. Since then it has grown a head and a body and arms and legs.
It will be interesting to see what a mix of our genes comes out as.