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Parenthood, Young Married Mom

September 20, 2010

Present-Tense Baby

Just before Father’s Day, my mom and I were shopping for cards for John and my dad. Knowing that my mom and I share views on a baby being a human life even before birth, I commented on how most of the cards were addressed in variations on the term “Daddy-to-be.”  The cards all had very sweet sentiments inside, and for the most part, the rest of the language respected and honored the new role a first-time father takes on.  But that one word, one I know I’d used before as well, struck us both.

Daddy-tobe?  If there’s a baby—and we’re not in a futuristic sci-fi in which a fetus has been cloned—then, biologically, there must be a mother and there must be a father.  Pregnancy and the preparations a mother and father make before birth are not the same as parenting after a child is born, and of course there’s debate on when a new life begins.  But the greeting card industry  having an opinion on the matter was a surprise to me.

It has been fascinating to realize over the past few months how unflinchingly most people, regardless of their beliefs, use terms like “mommy-to-be,” “daddy-to-be,” and the very worst in my mind, “baby-to-be.”   Somehow, the idea that the baby is not “here,” that parents are not real “parents” until the baby is born has found its way into our vernacular.

Over the past week, I’ve even found myself saying “no baby yet” and “we’ll let you know when the baby gets here.”  One look at my belly—or from my perspective, one teeny foot to the rib cage—and it’s clear that the baby is here for sure.

So John and I are working on changing the way we speak about the impending birth of our baby.  “When the baby is born,” not “when the baby gets here.”  “I think our baby has hair,” not “I think our baby will have hair” (and I do think it has hair, for the record, dark hair).   It’s a tricky thing to remind ourselves of, because of how entrenched this future tense is in the way we speak.  But I’m determined, from this point forward, our baby is a present-tense baby.

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