We honeymooned in Orlando at the Universal Studios theme park and found our way to a Jurassic Park-themed boat ride through thick trees and velociraptors—fun in an ironic, retro way. The absences and deficiencies in technology stuck out. There was a time—presumably when the ride was released in 1996—when visitors would have been scared by the animatronic dinosaurs, and in particular that goofy looking Tyrannosaurus Rex who offered the final spectacle.
I was not scared.
I wasn’t scared, either, at the hotel five miles from the theme park the next morning when I saw the pregnancy test display a blue plus sign. We’d been trying with varying degrees of purpose and commitment for two years. Practical matters like calculating a due date and setting up a doctor’s appointment for when we got home would come soon enough, but on a somehow even more nuts and bolts level, I studied the blue lines. Was the original horizontal line a minus sign? An indicator of the negative in obvious contrast to the positive? Or did it symbolize a simple dash like the way a digital display on a cash register showed a void? On closer inspection, it wasn’t a single horizontal line either, but a set a four parallel lines close set to create the illusion of unity, but not touching.
I wondered why the lines were blue instead of pink. I knew, even if the pregnancy were confirmed, the color of the lines implied nothing about the child’s sex—that wouldn’t come for months. Maybe the color choice of blue—the traditional color for boys—was a patriarchal thing, for fewer parents would be offended at the implication their baby girl was actually a son, than that their son was a girl.
I thought of this pregnancy test like some canonical text with symbols and authorial choices embedded in its design, but which eager readers studied more closely—derived more meaning from—than the author-cum-manufacturer ever did.
I was a little scared in the doctor’s office a week later. Less baby fears than because medical visits make me nervous, after a childhood when going to a doctor’s office was a last resort.
I imagined a scene out of a movie. We’ve all seen it. The anxious couple holds hands sitting opposite a mahogany desk from a doctor who seems more like a judge issuing a sentence than a medical professional.
We didn’t have this climactic moment, though. I’m not altogether certain we could have. When Jurassic Park debuted in theaters in 1993, Roger Ebert criticized it for having too many dinosaurs—claiming there was no shock and no awe once we’d been over-exposed to the brontosauruses and T-Rexes too thoroughly throughout the film. Likewise, Heather and I had obsessed over pregnancy for the better part of a week leading up to medical visit. We were desensitized to wonder.
After Heather had blood drawn, we answered questions from an intern in an examination room. A nurse opened the door, an older woman with dyed red hair who carried something like the air of a mother about herself. She hadn’t even come all the way in before she said, “Well, you’re definitely pregnant.”
I grasped for Heather’s hand, as if we’d missed our cue, and she held on tight. As if the nurse, too, had forgotten part of the script, she tacked on, “Congratulations!”
We became scared, those days to follow. Scared when spotting seemed like it might suggest a miscarriage. Scared of the percentage chance of defects and disorders possible in a child, a new one revealed in every Google search. Another doctor had informed Heather that pregnancies past the age of thirty-five were termed geriatric. The word lingered, another search term.
I aimed to be the calm one. To keep from feeding a spiral, even as I sat on the opposite end of the living room, my own crackpot Internet research underway.
An incomplete list of things I’ve been scared of in my adult life: the little girl from The Ring; the frat boy who stared me down and told me you’re very persistent after it became apparent we were flirting with the same girl on a Saturday night; that a black spot on my back might have been skin cancer; snakes; the concept of in infinity and existing or not existing forever; that the first apartment Heather and I shared might be haunted; that Donald Trump might actually win the presidential election.
And what of those animatronic dinosaurs? They didn’t scare me, but maybe they did frighten a child, equipped with a keener imagination and less life experience. After all, going through the carwash when I was little, I crouched on the floorboard behind my father, rattled by streams of water shooting at windows, and the prospect of mitters crashing through the windshield. If these mechanical elements, none of them designed to evoke terror, could frighten me to tears, why wouldn’t something made to look a prehistoric reptile?
And maybe someone—a wizened parent who’d been through all stages of the pregnancy rigmarole might think us preposterous. They might say to enjoy ourselves now, because early miscarriage scares might pale in comparison to Bratxon Hicks contractions, and had we thought about the costs associated with giving birth in a hospital? Of vaccinations? Of daycare?
The fear that every arbitrary choice you make for a toddler might result in a trauma you only realize years later. That sinking feeling when a child runs ahead and you lose sight of them at a grocery store, at a playground, in the middle of a crowded amusement park.
There’s always something ahead you really ought to be scared of.
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and his hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press. He has previously published with journals including The Normal School and Hobart. Find him online at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.