I can hear our two-year-old daughter gabbing with my brother-in-law in the kitchen. He's been sick for the past week or two, unaccustomed to the constant daycare siege on his immune system, which began when he moved in a few days after I left for Dominica. His adventures in sinusitis and my mother-in-law's suicidally busy schedule have left my wife on her own with my daughter for at least a week, which wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't taking a blowtorch to the other end of the proverbial candle at work.
She looks so tired. It paints a pretty glaze on her eyes that I wish the choppy video feed would let me see better.
Meanwhile in Dominica, I don't have to cook. I don't have to drive. I live in a tropical paradise. Truthfully, I haven't anything to worry about on this island but my work, for which I write the schedule and I make the priorities. Nothing troubles me otherwise but writing about how the burden I've placed on my own wife's shoulders is related to the burdens men have placed on women's shoulders since everyone's most recent common ancestor was not in diapers. That and learning to properly wield a cutlass.
Hell, last week I danced for six hours straight during Mas Domnik, this island's version of Carnival, literally moving until I exhausted myself and got extremely ill, all in the name of inter-cultural exchange. And believe it, being a béké (that's Kwéyol for "White guy") who can dance has bolstered my rapport enough that I think it will have a measurable effect on the response rate to my surveys. But as I cheeped away behind a lapo cabwit band, I tried to stomp down the guilt with every upbeat step at the same time my wife would be leaving the office for that second shift at home.
For these reasons, I reply to my wife-computer, "I can't believe that after all I'm putting you through, you still want to have children with me or even hang out with me at all."
"God, these hormones!" my wife exclaims in agreement, cursing the glycoproteins and steroids that have transformed her from a child-hating puppy-lover to a breastfeeding, baby-oogling, no-epidural-using badass in the blink of her hypothalamic pituitary gonadal axis. At the "o" in "hormones", her face freezes on the screen in what, frankly, looks like an O-face, which I savor quietly during a lull in our conversation.
Give a lonely Fulbrighter a break, man.
"Seriously though," she says, suddenly sitting in a different position, "Sometime soon?"
I wish I could tell her how desperately I want to see every beautiful permutation of our two faces despite it all. Despite the two years I have of writing after my return. Despite my lack of certainty that this little adventure will give me an edge in any job market, especially that of the itinerant academic, and never mind the two months after my return before I can take a teaching job.
While I tell her, "Someday. I hope sooner than later," I forget that people in some places manage to have children even though they are malnourished and energetically stressed. In that ignorance, I ask myself, why now? Why when things seem darkest for us, while my mother-in-law is working hard investing her time in mid-life certifications, while I am 4,000 miles away and may not have a job when I get back, do we entertain the idea of a baby?
Later, while clicking on abstracts in my peer-reviewed journal RSS feed until all the links turn grey, I come across this article in Proceedings B and misguidedly relate its finds to my personal life, as many scientists do but don't admit. The paper's abstract reads:
Calm down, Hanowell, the scientist in me warns. You're getting ahead of yourself. Extrapolating beyond the limits ofone study. Using a logistic regression model to predict a new data point without using cross-validation to avoid overly optimistic model fit. You have an n of 3, Hanowell.
Yes, I say to myself, all of that is right. But at another level, I have a data point for every moment from my daughter's birth to now. My qualitative, post hoc, idiographic analysis of those moments yields the conclusion that we'd be lost without grandma, busy as she is.