Open Letter

Dear Nikolas,

It's been a few days since your fast and furious birth. Despite the fact that I once nearly passed out watching a dog get neutered (effectively ending my nascent veterinary career), I stood like a rock throughout your tumultuous arrival to the world of the living. I thought I'd leave this message for you in the hopes that you might eventually stumble upon it -- like a little tucked-away Easter egg. I'm guessing that in the future we'll all have our brains wired to the Internet, in which case you'll just have to think-search through ten duotrigintillion files. And then perhaps you'll find it. However, if searching through the Internet is anything like it is today, you'll first have to wade through a few billion pages of Star Wars fan fiction and Texas Hold 'Em ads, but eventually (I hope) you'll discover it.

It is the story of your birth: Your mother started having minor contractions at around 8 p.m. on October 30, 2005. She called the hospital, which advised her to take it slow: take a hot shower, walk around, and come down to the delivery room as soon as the contractions got "intense." As you've probably figured out by now, your mother is a bit of a Spartan woman, with her own unique concept of terms like "intense." So she continued doing household chores even when the contractions started rolling over her every five minutes. She would pause, breathe heavily for a while, groan, and then return to the task at hand (laundry, cleaning) as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Your father, who was slowly getting panicked, offered to help, but to no avail.

Three nerve-wracking hours later, when the time finally came to leave, your mother suggested that we walk. Yes, really. To be fair, it's only a 15-minute stroll from where we live, and your mother did it when your sister was born two years ago. Something told us we would be pushing our luck to try it again. So we hopped in the car and set off. We listened to chirpy ABBA songs on the way. It seemed a bit inappropriate, but both of us were too preoccupied to think about changing the music.

When we arrived, your mother went straight to the delivery room and gave birth about an hour later. The nurse told us that if we had walked, your mother would have "given birth on the street." I'm glad that didn't happen, even though it would have provided me with the ultimate cocktail-party story. "Did I ever tell you guys about how I delivered my own son?" I would ask people. And then, with everyone's attention on me, I would say: "Yeah, it was pretty tough. There isn't much light when you're standing in a ditch by the side of the road at midnight. And all the trucks kept driving by, splashing us with water, which didn't help much either -- although some of them would honk to show their support. Which was nice. Unfortunately, my wife wasn't helping much either. She was busy filling out our tax return during the whole thing. Yeah, you know how she is. She likes to multitask."

Then again, who would believe it?

Instead, you were born on mischief night, at about 17 minutes after midnight, as the hospital's 1,716th baby. Unlike your sister, born two years ago, you were born in the European Union. I don't know whether this will affect your ideas about identity. Perhaps you will grow up feeling like a good European. Perhaps not. Right now there are people, like the journalist T.R. Reid, who think the EU is about to become a superpower and others, like the CIA, who think the EU will implode before you turn 15. Either way, identity will definitely be a tricky issue for you. Your family is already a mishmash of nationalities and people, from Serbian to German to Chinese to American. The country you were born in, Slovenia, didn't exist 20 years ago and only joined the EU a year before you were born. All around the world, things are changing. Rapidly.

In short, I don't know what to expect from either the world or from you. But I hope that when you're old enough to read this, you'll see that our intentions for you were always based on love, and that any mistakes we made were caused by our own human imperfections. Right now, unfortunately, you can't see anything; in fact, you can barely open your eyes. (And I think your diaper needs changing.)

But I'm still really looking forward to seeing you in the future.



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