Violet Skye, Chapter 2: The Weight of the Wait

It was an unseasonably warm Friday night in September, and both of our children were on the move. Greyson was truggling around in my parents’ comfortable living room, starting to get sleepy. Meanwhile, his tiny sibling was truggling around in Danielle’s increasingly uncomfortable womb, nowhere close to being sleepy. Nighttime is when the baby always springs to life, and on this night the baby seemed to have even more spring in his or her step.

We were camped out at my parents’ house because they had agreed to watch our sons — of the human and feline variety — during our hospital stay. Migrating to their house preemptively would give us the shortest possible distance between our “It’s time!” moment, and the moment we walked through the doors of Holy Spirit Hospital. No packing needed, no phone calls needed, and no Greyson drop-off time needed. Short of a supremely convenient home birth (which we had successfully pulled off with Greyson), this was the ideal arrangement for a streamlined labor-day process.

Danielle’s contractions had been slowly building all day, but just like with her firstborn son she remained unflappably calm and collected. I had long since learned (from her) that childbirth is rarely like it is portrayed on TV, where the mildest of contractions can instantaneously morph into full-fledged head-crowning delivery. I was glad to know, at least in theory, that we would have plenty of time to grab our things and proceed to the hospital at a legally mandated speed. More often than not, babies are pretty good at giving their moms reasonable notice of their intent to vacate the premises.

Having said that, I possess a preternatural ability to vividly picture dire scenarios. So when I suddenly thought to ask Danielle about her contractions around 8:30pm, and she said they were 60 seconds long and maybe 5 minutes apart (but she wasn’t entirely sure of the latter measurement), and it was now past Greyson’s bedtime, and I knew how long it sometimes takes to get him to fall asleep, a process for which Danielle is still quite vital, my previously calm-ish mind quickly began to roil.

What if our quickly hatched plan — to leave for the hospital as soon as Greyson was asleep — wasn’t properly factoring in the time it would take to get Greyson to conk out? What if right now is when we need to head to the hospital, but we haven’t even brushed Greyson’s teeth or read him his bedtime stories yet? What if, because he’s not in his usual bedtime setting, Greyson takes an unusually long time to fall asleep on this night? I knew how dead-set Danielle was on getting him to sleep before we left my parents’ house, since she doesn’t like to outsource that often tricky job. But what if this thoughtful insistence led her to wait long enough that we didn’t have enough remaining time to make it to the hospital in time? One of my oldest friends in the world was forced to “catch” one of his own children because the midwife arrived minutes too late. Is it at all conceivable that I might be pressed into baby-catching action? Presumably the back of our minivan, en route to the hospital, on the shoulder of an interstate?

I know, I know — I’m a compulsive worrier. Things escalate quickly in my mind, and de-escalation is rare. My only viable defense is that babies are worth worrying about. I throw myself on the mercy of the court.

As I said, our plan was to leave with our pre-packed bags just after Greyson fell asleep. I called the doctor’s office to let them know our intention. An after-hours answering service passed my message along to Dr. Bucher, and he called me back in 5 or 10 minutes, after I had paced back and forth nervously enough to dig a very, very slight trench (invisible to the naked eye) in my parents’ carpet.

The ever-cool Dr. Bucher, almost as unflappable as my wife, put my mind at ease by calmly telling me that our plan sounded good and we should head to the hospital whenever Danielle got Greyson to sleep and then felt ready to embark. He wasn’t alarmed by the contraction numbers — which, in hindsight, weren’t at all alarming — and he conveyed no trace of worry or particular urgency.

He did inform me that our hospital of choice was unusually busy that night (maybe a regular weekend baby rush? is that a thing?), so if this didn’t prove to be active labor we would likely be discharged due to lack of available rooms. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that this thing was not veering quickly in the direction of active labor, because I so thoroughly trust Danielle’s maternal instincts. (At least about everything but the gender of our children, a point on which she’s been endearingly wrong both times.)

When I asked Dr. Bucher, purely as a formality, if he thought it was the right thing for us to head to the hospital soon, he said something like this: “I know Dani. And if she thinks it’s time to go, it’s definitely time to go.” In other words: “Your wife knows her stuff. And she’s tough as nails. Just trust her gut.”

You’re darn right, Doc. See you at the hospital.


Violet Skye, Chapter 1: Sugar & Spice

I have a thousand things to say about this tiny girl in my arms, but for once in my life I’m at a loss for words.

Where do I start? How can I do justice to the enormity of it all? How many blog installments will be needed to properly convey the grand trajectory of our miraculous journey to this point in time?

I’m overwhelmed with possible starting points. So it looks like overwhelmedness will have to be my starting point. Perhaps through writing down my thoughts, I will find my way out from underneath the overwhelm.

Violet Skye Marie Wingert emerged into the fluorescent light of a Holy Spirit Hospital room in the dead of night. Make that in the life of night — indeed, 1:55am has never felt so bracingly alive. Just like her big brother, Violet made us wait (and wait, and wait). I guess our kids have a penchant for the grand entrance.

The suspense didn’t quite kill us, but it may have killed — or at least maimed — my confidence in Danielle’s baby-related hunches. After all, she had notified me in mid-August, one full month earlier, that she felt our baby might join us 2 or 3 weeks before the due date. So I had been on high alert day after day, week after week, as I scrambled to get ahead of things at work so that I would be ready to make a clean break once the moment of truth arrived.

But days passed. Weeks passed. August turned to September. The due date came and went. Another full week passed. And we woke up on Friday, September 14th, still without a baby in our arms. Just like with Greyson, we were a week overdue. We had another poky little puppy on our hands.

For those who are not familiar with Greyson’s birth story, I’ll mention a few things by way of background so you can understand Danielle’s ultra-woke labor philosophy, which I resoundingly support and will forever stand in awe of. For both of her pregnancies, my wife was tenaciously committed to avoiding induction and medication unless medically necessary. While she was pregnant in 2015 and 2016, Danielle had read voluminously on the subject, and as a result of her research (and her razor-sharp intuition), she made the personal choice to have our babies through natural means. Old school. Hyper-alert. Hardcore.

In addition, with Greyson we opted for a home birth. This meant that our son was born in the comfort of our bedroom (“comfort” being a decidedly relative term for a laboring mother), at the hands of two experienced midwives. Despite a truly grueling 32-hour labor process, Danielle was somehow able to bring Greyson into the world without medication, other than a micro-dose of Pitocin late in the proceedings to get things moving.

Two years later, Danielle opted for a hospital birth but was still committed to a natural birth. So when we went to the doctor on Thursday morning, 6 days after the due date, and the doctor told us she wanted to schedule Danielle for an induction two days later, and not at the birth-plan-friendly hospital we preferred, Danielle was a bit disappointed. This isn’t what she had pictured. But we tentatively signed on and went home to mull over our options.

The next morning, we headed back to the doctor for another check-up. This time, another of Danielle’s favorite doctors was on duty — Dr. Bucher, who would later have the honor of catching our 2nd baby. Based on his comforting assessment that the fluid level and the heart rate and the baby’s positioning were perfect, Danielle and I asked for a sidebar. So Dr. Bucher stepped out of the room. Between us, and with Danielle possessing the unquestioned tie-breaking vote, we decided that we wanted to push the induction to Monday (instead of Sunday) and spend the weekend doing everything in our power to get this sweet baby out.

This one-day-later option would not only increase the odds that Danielle could have the natural birth she longed for, but also greatly increase the chances she could labor at her hospital of choice. We drove home feeling great, and lucid, and hopeful, about our weekend’s prospects. Scratch that — I drove home feeling great, and lucid, and hopeful. Danielle, on the other hand, drove home feeling achingly pregnant, impatient, and uncomfortable — but equally lucid and equally hopeful.


My takeaway from that morning’s change of plans is this: Autonomy is absolutely vital for a laboring mother. The maternal instincts and desires of the woman carrying the baby should heavily factor into the narrative of her birth story, in which she is after all the protagonist. While an induction at our backup hospital preference would have been fine, and the baby would have been just as healthy, it was not what Danielle hoped or dreamed of. And with the benefit of hindsight, we now know it would have been unnecessary too.

After the appointment, I headed into work to log 5 distracted hours while Danielle logged her usual (much more difficult) mama hours with Greyson while she continued to monitor the wrigglings and writhings of the 41-week baby in her belly.

After work, we ate pad Thai for the second night in a row. We had eaten spicy pad Thai the night before Greyson’s labor commenced, and we badly hoped that history might repeat itself. On this night, we ate the spiciest dish of pad Thai I’ve ever laid eyes (or taste buds) on, and it was all I could do to tearfully choke down my portion. I tried in vain to cut down on the spice — first with peanut butter, then by simply giving up and pouring soy milk into my bowl like cereal — but this stuff was borderline radioactive. My steel-palated wife, on the other hand, handled it like a champ.

Old wives’ tales have a checkered reputation. But it just so happens that the old wives who told those tales sometimes knew exactly what they were talking about.

“Spicy food hastens a pregnancy,” you say?

In July 2016, Danielle’s contractions began in earnest within 6 hours of eating spicy food.

In September 2018, Danielle’s contractions began in earnest within 7 hours of eating spicy food.

You be the judge.

To be continued… (obviously.)

LGMs (Little Greyson Moments)

I’ve had the privilege of bonding with Greyson a lot this week. Our newborn Violet needs a lot of TLC from her mama, and as a result, her big brother needs even more TLC than usual from me. During my week of self-granted paternity leave (oh Scandinavia, how I envy you), it’s been deeply gratifying to be able to generously give this extra dose of time and affection to my little guy. Greyson is supremely fun to be with, and the emotional dividends of any investment of time with him are considerable.

Thursday was a perfect example of this. Below I want to highlight two snapshots from a single day spent with my intrepid, funny, energetic, contented, and achingly sweet 2-year-old son. It was September 20th, the penultimate day of summer, and unlike much of the last two months, the weather was dry and mild. The 4 of us spent the day lying low at our house in the countryside. Here are two of the myriad little Greyson moments (LGMs) that made my heart soar on this particular day.

While Danielle tended to Violet, I took Greyson to storytime at the library. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I was both excited and a bit apprehensive at how Greyson would respond to a crowd. He doesn’t regularly rub shoulders with a lot of people beyond family and relatives, and despite adoring storytime at home he’s also a tireless spark plug of go-go-go energy. So would he be able to sit still for 25 minutes in a circle of complete strangers? I could picture any number of outcomes.

But if I do say so myself, Greyson was the unequivocal MVP of storytime. During the open playtime, he happily arranged lifelike little people in a cute diorama — a businesswoman with a briefcase next to an elderly man with a walker next to a teenager with a leg brace next to a scientist with a beaker. (His favorite little person, as usual, was the girl in the wheelchair.)


Then “Miss Sue” began storytime, and about a dozen toddlers and their parents gathered around in a circle. Greyson was content to sit encircled by my legs, watching attentively as Sue led the group in an array of stories (very short ones, to accommodate kids with much shorter attention spans than our bookish boy) and interactive songs.

My enthusiastic little guy did his best to keep up with the clapping, the spinning, the nose-touching, and the head-and-shoulders (knees-and-toes, knees-and-toes). He particularly excelled at the silly dancing portion of the program, bopping up and down and moving his tiny hips with more confidence and flair than his Baptist-raised papa ever could.

Afterward, Greyson was enthralled by his usual puzzles and trains and animal figurines, while I sought out more great books for our insatiable bookworm. At one point, while I was perusing the stacks, another little boy must have grabbed a train from Greyson because I heard that boy’s mom scold her son for being rude. It took about 7 seconds for my own son’s stunned face to crumple into a teary-eyed visage of sheer 2-year-old devastation. I did my fatherly best to divert his attention toward puzzles (his current favorite pastime). And I resisted the urge to sternly chide the ill-mannered, train-stealing boy.

After all, diplomacy is one of the highest virtues of parenting.

Greyson recovered quickly, and the offending boy was removed from the library shortly thereafter by his frazzled mom. We checked out another 9 books to add to the 37 we had at home already, and Greyson had fun pushing the books we were returning through the narrow book return slot until they dropped invisibly behind the desk with a thunk. He waved goodbye to the librarians, and I’m pretty sure I could see in their admiring eyes that they believed they may be in the presence of the greatest 2-year-old in the history of 2-year-olds.

Or maybe I’m just insanely proud of my son.

In the evening, Danielle and I took the kids (that phrase! It has such a nice ring to it!) for a walk in the woods across from our house. Just a hundred yards from our front door, there is a 0.2-mile wooded loop trail attached to a small local park. I would guess that our family’s use of the trail accounts for roughly 64% of the overall usage by the Franklin Township populace. Living across from a quiet wooded area has made it easy to raise Greyson as the nature boy that he is through and through.

After a loop or two, Violet started fussing. So Danielle took her back home to feed her. Meanwhile, I accompanied Greyson while he ran (or to use a word coined by my dad, “truggled”) through the grass to the playground. He fell a few times and got fresh-cut grass all over himself, then hopped right back up and kept on trugglin’.

But the specific LGM that I want to share came after Greyson and I played on the miniature fire truck and then headed over to the big blue slide, his favorite attraction in this miniature theme park. To get up to the slide, you must cross a stationary drawbridge-type walkway with small openings between each slat that a little foot could slip through and get stuck. Every time I’ve ever climbed up this slide with Greyson, he has insisted that I carry him across this walkway, raising his arms toward me and with his mouth cutely formed into a circle, saying “hoooood?” (Which is to say, “Hold [me]?”)

But as every mom and dad knows, parenthood is a slow-motion process toward independence (for the child) and letting go (for the parent). And on this night, Greyson decided he was finally ready to walk across the drawbridge with his own two feet.

What crushed my heart with sweetness, though, was that Greyson ventured only halfway toward drawbridge-crossing independence. He was ready to cross himself, yes, but he insisted that I hold his hand while he did it. As a papa, there is nothing quite like the sight of your little boy (or girl) stretching his little hand out to you. The warmth and trust in that gesture is enough to melt the hardest of hearts. So you can imagine what it did to my soft, squishy, super-sentimental one.

Each time we got to the drawbridge, my son held my hand and fearlessly crossed it. Then we would bomb down the big blue slide together, Greyson encircled once again by my legs. As soon as we reached the bottom of the slide, he would laugh joyously and then start running back to the stairway leading to the slide. But once he got partway there, he would suddenly turned around, thrusting his hand out to me again. Then I took his hand and guided him up the steps, across the drawbridge, and up the small ladder to the slide. Over and over — no less than 7 straight times — we followed this exact pattern.

It was the unexpected combination of Greyson’s sudden independence with his sweet insistence on being connected to his papa that really got to me. That moment It felt like it encapsulated so much about fatherhood.

Whether we like it or not, our kids will always be veering in the direction of self-sufficiency. In our heads, we know this is good and healthy — and indeed, absolutely vital in the long run. But we also know this process will break our hearts in a thousand ways in the span of a few decades.

Fortunately, while we gradually adjust to this jarring truth, we are granted the following grace: Our kids, whether they are 2 or 9 or 16, still need us. And sometimes, especially when they are young, they even have the thoughtfulness and good sense to realize this fact.

Will I be crushed when Greyson no longer reaches his hand up to grab mine anymore? When he barrels across the drawbridge with no fear and doesn’t need me to accompany him down the big blue slide and rejects all my offers of playground assistance?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. I will be crushed by each of these developments.

But for now, I will savor the sight of that tiny, trusting hand stretched out toward mine. And I will enjoy every LGM I have with this sweet, innocent little boy. There is no one I’d rather walk hand in hand with — and eventually observe from close distance — as he navigates the various slides and drawbridges of life.

Because one thing’s for sure: This boy’s a keeper.

The Ballad of Violet & Dominic

Nothing on heaven or earth could fully eclipse the bright, beaming joy of having a new baby. But a runaway cat certainly obscures the light a bit.


On Sunday night, our faces ruddy with euphoria over the Saturday arrival of our sweet Violet Skye, we drove to my parents’ house for a celebratory overnighter. After all, showing off a new baby is one of the preeminent secondary delights of having a new baby. My parents had taken care of Greyson from Friday night until Sunday afternoon when we were discharged from the hospital. And they had also taken care of Dominic, the sweet, jet-black, white-dipped, stub-tailed cat that we adopted into our family a year ago. So the least we could do to show our thanks is give the new grandparents some face time with their brand-new, cherubic-faced granddaughter.

Joy was pervasive in their house that night and the next morning. As we took turns holding Violet, blissed out of our minds, I felt — just as I had when Greyson was born — that nothing could possibly derail the freight train of my happiness.

Around midday, I noticed that my dad had, very briefly, left open the door to the garage, and the garage itself. Picturing the worst, as is my neurotic propensity, I set about to find Dominic in the house. I scoured every room twice, including all of Dom’s usual nooks, crannies, and hidey-holes. My brow furrowed. He was nowhere to be found. So I got in the car and scoured the entire neighborhood twice, as my heart sank like a stone with a bowling ball attached.

There is a sizable wooded area behind my parents’ backyard where I could envision Dom escaping into. So I staked out the perimeter of a huge yard on the opposite side of that wooded area, hollering “Dominic!” into the trees. Suddenly I noticed a man walking briskly toward me from a grassy distance. Hoping he wasn’t fiercely territorial (it was his property) and/or packing heat (we live in gun country) and/or strung-out on drugs (always a viable fear during an opioid epidemic), I waved and walked toward him, trying to wordlessly convey the innocuous nature of my trespassing from 100 yards away.

As we converged, the bushy-bearded man calmly asked, “What can I do for ya?” and I explained the nature of my feline search. “Is the cat black and white?” he asked. I said yes. The man replied that earlier in the morning (current time – 1:30) he had seen a black and white cat near Associated Products, a nearby port-a-potty distributor. My mind brightened for a second, then instantly darkened at the implications. Dominic really was outside. And he had been outside for multiple hours.

I gave the man my phone number and drove 100 yards to Associated Products, where I asked several young men about Dominic while they loaded and unloaded port-a-potties from delivery trucks. None of them had seen him, although they said they see lots of cats prowling around their grounds. I left my number with the woman in their front office, who assured me, “We love cats! We’ll take good care of ‘im if we see ‘im.”

After taking a third fruitless loop around my parents’ neighborhood, I headed back to their house to make missing-cat signs. A steady rain had now begun, and I cringed at the thought that our cat was hiding under a shed somewhere, or in some roofed backyard deck, invisible to me as I scoped out the neighborhood. Even worse (much, much worse), I tried not to picture the sleek, black, rain-soaked body of our sweet Dommy laid out across a road somewhere.


You’ll never have less fun doing an arts and crafts project than when you’re making a sign about a lost member of your family. I tried to make the sign as eye-catching as I could, with “MISSING” in bright blue bubble letters followed by a description of Dominic, contact information, and space for two pictures at the bottom. Next I headed to Target to print out the pictures from my phone, and then to the library to make color copies. The rain, which was the residual tail of massive Hurricane Florence, had now grown torrential. Sheets of rain drenched me each time I got out of the car for my next disheartening errand.

While I was at the library copier, the reference librarian spun some wild tale for me about a missing cat of hers that was found days later, 10 miles away from her home, and how amazing the cat was and is and always will be. I don’t remember any more details because my heart felt too crumpled at that moment to ingest someone else’s story, complete with a happy ending. My takeaway from this is: Sometimes when a person is miserable, it’s best to offer a few unadorned words of solidarity and then just leave them alone.

I’m not a person who can envision positive outcomes when negative outcomes seem decidedly more likely. This is despite the fact that I generally think of myself as a Tigger-like optimist, due to being awash with enthusiasm and gratitude for the amazing life I’ve been handed. But adversity tends to reveals my inner Eeyore. With a dark and clouded mind, and under dark and clouded skies, I cringed my way back to my parents’ house. Carefully hiding 14 crisp, blue-lettered signs under my jacket, I ran inside as rain pummeled the world, and perhaps our lost feline son as well.

I spent the evening in a fog. The dreary rain might as well have been falling inside my skull. We stayed at my parents’ house an extra night so that I could hang the signs the next morning, once the hours-long rain finally abated. I tried, but failed, to make my peace with the ominous possibility that Dominic was gone for good. I stumbled to bed at 11:00, emotionally exhausted and dreading the morning ahead. I slept next to Greyson’s toddler bed while Danielle tended to 3-day-old Violet in the adjacent room.

Then it happened. My mom suddenly rushed into the room.

“Jer!” I sat bolt upright.

Pointing down the hallway, she loudly whispered, “He’s here!”

My eyes bugged out in the dark. It couldn’t be. Multiple people had scoured every corner of the house multiple times. Could it be?

As it turns out, our stub-tailed little fellow had discovered a plumbing access point, largely hidden from the eye level of humans, in the back corner of my parents’ bedroom closet. And somewhere in the untrammeled darkness beyond that hole, he spent close to HALF A DAY.


Who knows how deep into the bowels of the house our intrepid explorer our intrepid little fellow ventured? For all we know, Dominic walked through the warm darkness of my parents’ wardrobe and right into bright, snowy Narnia. Maybe he even had an awe-inspiring brush with Aslan himself, the king of cats. Dominic’s whiskered lips are sealed, so we’ll never know.

All I know is that for eleven grinding hours, the crystalline sunshine of joy about our sweet human daughter was deflected and diluted by murky clouds of anxiety about the possible loss of our sweet feline son.

Sometimes life juxtaposes events in baffling ways. And sometimes nothing works out right in the end. But when everything does, and you’re given back the thing you thought for sure you had lost, all you can feel is pure gratitude.

So today I am grateful. Grateful that my family is intact, and grateful that my family is growing. Grateful for Danielle, Greyson, and Violet.

And grateful for Dominic, our much-loved cat. Whose curiosity did not kill him but — I think we can safely assume — only made him stronger.

A Capsule of Time


This is one of the final days before we officially expand into a family of 4. (Or 5 if you include our sweet, stub-tailed son Dom.) What follows is my attempt to briefly document this glistening moment in time. Years from now, I want to be able to look back and recall what it was like when 3 was company, before our 4th member makes us a happy crowd.

So here’s a brief and unassuming little time capsule of images and impressions from Greyson’s last days as an only child — and our last days as “only parents.”

  • The family that walks together, stays together. If that well-worn axiom (which I just coined) is true, then we’re in good shape. Lately we’ve been walking as if our lives depend on it. And not just because we’re trying to generously assist gravity in the inexorable process of drawing our baby out into the world. But also because walking is our sacred ritual. Some of the best conversations Danielle and I have had unfold organically in the fresh air as we gaze at the countryside horizon ahead of us, putting one foot ahead of the other and unpeeling our brains and our hearts on any number of subjects. Fresh air is a magical thing.
  • Greyson is currently in a cute, acute puzzling phase. (Which is not to say that his cute behavior is puzzling to us.) He assembles, disassembles, and re-assembles wooden puzzles with intense focus and intense delight. Up until now, he’s been all about cars and trucks and books and letters. His puzzling flair began a few months ago, around the time he turned 2. We’re amazed at how quickly he’s gotten the knack for it. Does his puzzling prowess prove him a prodigy? It’s too early to say. (But yes.)
  • As I’ve extensively documented, Greyson has loved nature pretty much from the moment he exited the womb. As far as it is in my power, I will continue to foster this affinity in every way I can. There is not much that makes me prouder than to see him serenely engaged in the world around him, content in my arms (or running along on his own) during our morning nature walks.
  • Our family is, quite happily, almost entirely vegan now. Our only real exceptions are eggs and honey. Danielle and I are on the same page about our herbivorous inclinations, as we have been since our first date in 2009. At that point I had just begun a vegetarian experiment a week earlier, and she was 7 years deep in being meat-free. Crazy timing, eh? The dietary solidarity we’ve had ever since is a wonderful thing, and we don’t for a second feel we’re missing out on anything of value in the culinary department. (If anything, I think everyone else in the world is missing out on Danielle’s scintillating herbivorous cooking.) I’ll save my expanded thoughts on this subject for another post — click here for one I already wrote — but suffice it to say for posterity’s sake that 2018 is the year we shifted fully from a vegetarian to a vegan family diet.
  • Greyson’s 2-year-old palate isn’t as broad as we’d like it to be. But in addition to fruit and other snacks, he devours pasta and veggie burgers and veggie-laden smoothies, and even a slightly-toned-down version of his mama’s pad Thai. Plus he has zero interest in junk food because we’ve never given him a taste for it. So there are enough wins on the ledger to make up for those agonizing days when he staunchly refuses to eat a single vegetable — other than the ones we deviously smuggle inside the belly of a Trojan horse into his belly.
  • Library visits are now part and parcel of our Saturday morning schedule. I hope and fully intend to maintain this ritual for years to come. Greyson enjoys playing in the children’s area with an entirely new set of toys (little animals! little trains! little people!), and he equally enjoys the truckload of fresh reading material we haul back home afterward. Danielle and I adamantly believe that libraries are one of the last bastions of sanity in an increasingly un-sane world. We will do everything we can to pass this belief along to our bookworm babies, who will hopefully grow into bookworm adolescents, bookworm teenagers, and beyond.
  • Storytime with Greyson is a shining highlight of every day for me. As he has done for months, he points at just about every vehicle of transport (“tuck [truck]! di-cyc [bicycle]! he-cop [helicopter]!”) he sees on the page, as well as most animals and a handful of objects he also likes to identify. His favorite books to have me read to him are about Little Quack the duck, Franklin the turtle, and any of the oddly disproportionate number of books we have about bears. Greyson still has a tendency to lean in and kiss certain pages, on which animal parents kiss their animal children, and while we know this quirk will not last forever, we are savoring every heart-swelling moment we have. There’s no question that Danielle and I have found books to be a superbly effective form of bonding.

Our life is admittedly a low-key one, centered around one shining goal: To raise Greyson as best we can, surrounding him with books and nature and all the love we have to offer him. In a matter of days, we will be graced with another child who will quickly be inundated with all of the same warmth and beauty.

The well-known mystery of parental love is that unlike any other natural resource, it’s not a finite quantity. We have a boundless supply on reserve. So even though we’ll soon need to spread our love between two children, Greyson will never experience any decrease in the amount or the intensity of love he receives from us.

Whether or not he gets jealous of the baby is another story.

Not Quite Impossible

If a mysterious gypsy on a street corner had grabbed my wrist in the summer of 2015 and told me that in 3 years we would be eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of our 2nd child, I would have shrugged it off with a rueful chuckle and walked briskly in the opposite direction. And not just because I’m generally skeptical of the peremptory prognostications of prying pedestrians.

It simply would have struck me as borderline impossible.

To explain why, I need to rewind a few additional years. Our hope-fueled quest for a baby began in August 2011, just three months after our wedding. If Danielle and I had discovered each other at a younger age, I can imagine us spending a few years luxuriating in wedded bliss before hatching a plan to conceive (or, if we were birds, conceiving a plan to hatch, said the compulsively jokey voice in my head). But when you marry in your 30s with the ironclad intention of starting a family, you don’t fool around. Which is to say: You do fool around, as often as necessary to get the job done.

That August, in order to convey my emotional readiness to Danielle, I shopped around and found a heart-meltingly cute baby scrapbook with colorful, smiling, oversized animal faces on the cover. I wrapped it up and gave it to her, and we shared one of those rare, glistening moments that’s too euphoric to try and put into words.

The journey we embarked on from that point forward ran the gamut, the full length of it, from exhilarating to exhausting. I will save the grittier details for the book I plan to write someday about our journey toward parenthood, but we spent 4 years and 2 months — roughly 50 cycles of life — endeavoring to make our dream a reality.

At first, it was effortless. It was just love that we were making, after all. We had that in spades; love and more love and love to spare. But a year went by and nothing happened. We flew to Europe for our belated honeymoon. Everything was clicking. The trip was pure magic. Still nothing happened. So we started to try a little harder. Another year went by. We moved across the country. And still nothing happened. Eventually we were trying and trying, harder and harder, trying with every fiber of our beings, trying everything we could think to try in order to summon a tiny life out of the sweat of our vigorous but 30-something bodies and the love of our ageless but increasingly anxious hearts.

Infertility is the loneliest road I have ever traveled, and I know for a fact that Danielle would resoundingly attest to that sentiment as well. It’s a road you can’t envision unless you walk down it yourself. You travel it alongside your partner, that is true; but the longer you wander down it, the more you begin to experience the gradually accumulating sense of dread as individuals. As disappointed as I felt in the later stages of our journey — when we felt our hope being gradually obliterated, month by demoralizing month — I can assure you that the sense of loss was exponentially more crushing for my beautiful wife.

Ever since Danielle was 3 years old, she knew she wanted to someday be a mama. I have a picture in my office of my footie-pajama-clad future wife standing next to a Christmas tree, grinning from ear to ear as she adoringly (and adorably) clutched the luckiest doll that was ever manufactured. There is a kind of euphoria in her sweet brown eyes.

It’s difficult for me to fathom a 3-year-old having such lucid clarity about her mission in life. But I guess some people just have a sharper sense of destiny than others.

Now fast-forward 30 years and imagine Danielle’s deep sense of displacement as we entered the 3rd year and eventually the 4th year of our reproductive quest with nothing to show for our fervent attempts to conjure the flame of life out of the spark of our love.

Imagine my decimated confidence upon learning, at long last, that the deficiency was on my side of the fertility equation and that our odds of achieving pregnancy without medical intervention were daunting.

Imagine us, after 4 long years, finally understanding what had been wrong all this time. Seeing the cold, hard numbers laid out in front of us.

Imagine our frazzled nerves as we sat in the office of the IVF specialist who explained that for $15,000 to $20,000 we could notably improve our chances (but still not be guaranteed) of pregnancy.

Imagine two strenuously frugal people deciding to spend a sizable chunk of their life savings on a shot — a mere shot — at unthwarting their thwarted dream.

Now imagine those two people, ready to take the first IVF step, waiting for that 51st cycle of life to roll around, at which point tests will be commenced and contracts will be signed and deposits will be paid and fingers will be crossed.

But the 51st cycle never comes. No tests are commenced. No contracts are signed. No deposits are paid.

Because this time, against all odds — inconceivably — life is conceived.

Thus began the story of Greyson Francis Wingert, the greatest gift we’ve ever been given, our miracle boy, our grace son, graciously gifted to us at the last possible minute of the eleventh hour. And three years later, his tiny and equally miraculous sibling is on the verge of entering the world.

Borderline impossible indeed.

Emphasis on borderline.