Letter to my Unborn Daughter

It was the night of December 13th, 2007, and I had resolved that day to ask your mother out for the second time in our somewhat tumultuous couple years of knowing each other. I was on good authority that this time was going to go better than the first, but I was still nervous. It’s always a little scary to extend yourself, even if you’re certain. And let’s just say the first time had not gone so well for me. But it was more than that. Asking your mother out felt more like proposing than the actual proposal itself ever did. I was certain she was the one for me, and that if she said yes that night then everything else would follow. Marriage. A house. Schnauzers.

You.

Just before I left the house that night I caught myself in the mirror and the strangest realization came over me. These were, in all likelihood, the last few hours of my single life, and while my single life hadn’t been anything remarkable (or very enjoyable for that matter) it did feel like the end of something. It took about a minute, whatever I did, thinking that thought, then I was off. Out the door and into the car and driving off towards the best and most rewarding relationship of my life.

I’m glad I took that moment. It sticks out in my mind. And before you arrive (any day now) I felt it was right to take that moment again before everything changes. Because shortly everything will, and the person who is writing this won’t be the same as the guy you see every day. He’ll be a father. Your father. And for your whole life you’ll never really be able to meet me as I am in this moment. It will be, quite literally, before your time.

I’m not really sure what to say.

I’m not sure all fathers feel this way, but it has been my experience that the pregnancy part of having children is a work of science fiction. Unlike your mother, I haven’t been directly connected to you. All the information has been filtered and mediated through machines. When I heard your heartbeat for the first time it was through speakers that sparked with distortion and static that made it sound like background radiation from space. A sound amplified from a great distance. And when I saw your face for the first time…well, I didn’t even see your face at first. I saw your skeleton. Your organs. I saw your little heart beat. Black and white through an ultrasound that brought to mind looking at ancient or alien fossils underwater, the white light from the surface colouring everything in different levels of gray. I could feel you kick and move through walls of flesh and muscle, that movement that so quickly brings up images of the monster from Alien. But in each instance I have met you only indirectly. You’ve been the person I’ve heard so much about at a part, the girl who is constantly in the next room over. The neighbor I hear rattling around next door in the middle of the night.

Suffice it to say, it hasn’t been what I expected.

But what did I expect? Honestly, I think I expected to fall in love with you the moment I heard you were coming. I expected that feature film level of excitement. The shaking hands as I called my parents, as I told my friends. I expected to talk to you daily and with growing enthusiasm as you developed, relating to you as the person you would become through our (mostly one-sided) witty banter. I expected laugh track accompaniment. Music, too. I expected to immediately and magically become a father. Whatever that means.

But that’s not what happened. While there’s been periods of excitement a larger portion of time has been spent nervous and, more than a occasionally, a little scared. Nervous about what kind of father I would be. If I could keep you from making some of the mistakes I made. Or would you even like me? Scared that something will happen to you. That I might not get to see you at all. That you might not be healthy. That the world can be a terrible place and would try to hurt you or take you away. Like some sort of survivalist nut job I’ve kept myself up at night thinking of worst case scenarios, both epic and mundane, trying to puzzle out ways to protect you from that. I’ve had countless conversations with future teenage you. Hoping you’ll listen to me. Hoping I’ll listen to you and say the right thing.

It has at times been pretty overwhelming. When I try to hold it all in my head at once, all the possibilities and dangers of the future, I have trouble catching my breath. It’s just too much. I have to go outside. Take a moment. And when I do that I invariably look up and see the stars (somehow, it’s always the stars) and it’s in that moment when I’m closest to you, when I feel like I understand what this is all about. Because this past nine months has been a science fiction for me, and when I look up at the night sky I feel like I can see your arrival. That straining, sputtering glimmer of a satellite. The last child of some dying planet. Heading to Earth. Looking for home. It’s funny, because when I was young I wanted nothing more than to be Superman and I’ve grown up and found myself Jonathan Kent with all the incredible responsibility that entails.

And it’s suddenly all fine. There’s no nervousness. There’s not even excitement. There’s just the simple, certain knowledge that you are heading this way and I will do my very best for you with the time that we have together. And I hope that time is long and healthy. I truly do. I hope that your mother and I can raise you to be the woman none of us even know you can be yet. So that one day you’ll get back in your spaceship or step off the ground and into flight and have a whole world of adventures out there. And when you do  I’ll be the one in the distance who will smile and think, ‘that’s my girl’.

So this is me. The me you’ll never meet, the me hasn’t seen you yet. And I’ve found while writing this that while I thought it would happen after you were born that I love you already. That I am scared for you and hope for you. That I’ll always have your back, whoever and wherever you are.

I’ll see you soon.



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William Neil Scott

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