Friday, December 25, 2009


It started with an unexpected call from Jen's doctor last Monday night. I had just made it back out to my car after giving up on Best Buy for a last minute gift for Jen when I saw Dr. Cummins' name come up on my Caller ID. It was almost 7:00 in the evening, and I was too surprised by her call to be concerned.

In the next ten minutes she explained to me that the last round of blood tests Jen had done came back indicating an increased chance that the baby would have Downs Syndrome. The first round of tests we had done put our odds at 1 in 1500 or so, but the more recent results brought us down to 1 in 200. She explained that it wasn't time to panic, but she wanted some additional tests done. Resigned to a Christmas in purgatory, Jen and I settled in, trying not to count the moments until the specialist's office would call to schedule the follow up testing.

Tuesday was tough. We knew enough to know we shouldn't be too upset, that results like this are common, but we were regardless.

Wednesday, Jen got the call and learned that they could squeeze us in Christmas Eve if we could be available. We could. We were certain that we'd have to wait a week to be able to speak with the doctor about the test result, but at least we'd get the process started. Plus, if the kid cooperated, we'd be able to find out if it's a boy or a girl.

Thursday morning, the Ultrasound Tech Jill explained some of the things that she'd be looking for, and to our relief explained that we'd get to meet with the doctor after they had a chance to discuss the results. As she worked, Jill pointed things out along the way. She told us immediately that the brain looked perfectly developed. She pointed out the kid's pinkie fingers had three bones, not just two which is a common sign of Downs. She told us enough good news that we were able to relax and just enjoy watching the kid wiggle around on the screen. So much wiggling, in fact, that she had a hard time keeping up with the twists and turns.

She agreed to not tell us what the gender of the kid was, but rather write it down in a card Jen brought along with us and had us look away when she headed south with the camera. A few minutes later and we were finished and in the doctor's office where he confirmed everything Jill had said while she worked. Relieved, we headed out to finish our separate days.

So, Christmas morning, after opening the few presents we bought for each other, we sat down on the love seat, A Christmas Story playing quietly in the background, and opened our card together. There was an arrow pointing to some indiscernible smudge with white text "IT'S A GIRL!" I saw it before Jen did. I said something, but now I don't remember what it was. Then we read the card.

"Merry Christmas! It's a Girl! Congratulations! Have a wonderful Holiday! Sincerely, Jill ____"

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Merryman Family Holiday Letter

Dear Friends, Family, Misguided Internet Trollers, and Virtual Stalkers,

Nearly 365 days have gone by so quickly that it's difficult to believe. It's true that years seem to get shorter the older you get, and I have to admit that I think it's crap. The tendency is to look back over a year when it seems to have passed too quickly and review what you've done, but that's not always the smart thing to do. Especially if you haven’t done anything. As a family, our accomplishments were meager:

Otis played a lot of fetch. Also, when he thought no one was looking, he ate a lot of poop. Rarely did we get to witness it, but we’d often be confused by the lack of waste in the yard when picking things up each evening. He views his buddy Lucy as a big furry Pez dispenser, and he's buying what she's shoveling. We know this is happening, yet somehow we’re able to be surprised when he has a gastrointestinal disaster and winds up at the vet hooked to IV's.

Lucy has found a consistency in her day-to-day life over the years, and rarely does she veer off track. So, while the act of barking isn't anything new to her (any more so than my mentioning her barking in a yearly Christmas letter is), she has refined her approach to the act, and has added lots of new items to her list of things she's barked at. Such items include a rabbit, fluttering leaves, a cartoon hamburger, imagined intruders, and CGI dinosaurs. She managed to work in this barking all the while serving as a mobile buffet line for Otis. We're proud.

For Jen and I, things were status quo for a big portion of the year, and we take a certain amount of pride in being uncommonly common. We lost and gained weight. We started and stopped exercise programs. We bitched about noisy neighbors and dreamt constantly of escaping our house. We yelled at dogs. A lot.

We watched a ton of movies. Some of them weren't all bad (Paper Heart, Away We Go, Up, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Doubt, Milk, Friday the 13th, etc.). We both are lucky enough to have jobs that we don't completely despise, and as a result, made it to work more days than not. We made a lot of messes and cleaned up a good portion of them.

Then, because things in our lives were too quiet and pleasing, we decided to try getting pregnant. Within just a few months Stephen's super virile sperm knocked the dust off Jen's aging eggs, and immediately our little DNA omelet started to grow and take form. Seamlessly, we became those people. We displayed Ultrasound photos. We read books and articles about childcare and learned to avoid crack cocaine, cold cuts, beer bongs, and over-easy eggs. (Actually, Jen had to avoid those things; Stephen helped himself to most, if not all, of the above.) In short, we became the recipients of indulgent smiles and polite questioning from the people we annoyed with our happiness. Fortunately, we were so secure in our thinking that everyone was as fascinated with the process as we were that we took all their indulgence at face value.

And so that brings us to the last member of the family…the mass of baby shaped cells Jen calls "Bean" and I call "The Kid". Out of all of us, Bean’s had the most interesting year. In five months The Kid crawled from the primordial ooze of Jen's uterus and developed into a clump, then into a tadpole, into what now appears to be a black and white smudge with a giant head (if the pictures are to be believed). It's funny to think that the one person in our family who accomplished the most can't even work the remote control.

It’s annoying if you really think about it. It’s like having to listen to the rich kid from school read their “What I did on my summer vacation report” on the first day of class and go on and on about Paris while you look down at your two paragraphs detailing the joy of making your own Slip ‘n Slide with a water hose and a large sheet of plastic you found on a construction site.

I can imagine the kid being in the womb, saying things like “Today I separated my heart into four distinct chambers and swam a few laps around the pool. So, ah…whatcha been doing to stay busy these days?”

One day we envision this open letter being full of information about Jen and my many work promotions, lottery wins, and a list of everything that our kid can kick your kid’s ass at. We’ll regale you with tales of Stephen’s many arm-wrestling tournament wins, and Jen’s new rock band’s touring schedule, but for now this will have to suffice. We may not be interesting, but we’re happy. That’s good enough.

All sarcasm aside, know that we love you (well, most of you - there’s no way of telling who’s actually reading this thing), and we hope that you have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a rip-roaring Kwanzaa, or whatever it is you and yours get down with. Stay in touch. We like it when you do.

Love,Stephen & Jen