It's become conventional wisdom that marriage increases life expectancy, especially in men. But I was wondering what effect children have on the life expectancy of their parents. I did a little bit of research, but I only found one study that shows increased lifespans in men who have lots of kids before they are 30. I'm 42 and we just had twins. How long have I got?
That's an email I just sent to the "Expainer" column on Slate.com because while I'm concerned about my health, I want someone else to find the answers for me.
Aside from having somehow given me license to forgo exercise and healthy eating, I think the twins have had some positive effects on my health. I get less sleep than I should (not because they keep me up, but because I'm goofing around on the internets, reading, or blogging); but I nonetheless wake up more energized than anytime I can remember. Of course, at about 6:30 a.m., when the cycle of rustling around, chattering, giggling, softly sobbing, and full-on fussing begins, I silently plead with them to let me sleep past 7:14, at which point Mom, already halfway through her first pumping session, rousts me out of the sack.
But even though I look every bit the disheveled bleary-eyed wino as I shamble over to scoop the babies up, upon entering the closet/nursery where they share a crib that's way to small for them but we can't yet bear to move them out of because the real nursery is all the way downstairs where we can't spy on them as they sleep, I am greeted like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. The little ladies scream and giggle and generally make me feel like I'm the most awesome human that ever lived. Can there possibly be a better way to get up? Starting the day like this must have some positive effects on my health, right?
On the other hand, I'm pretty sure Butterbean has given me a brain tumor with what I like to call the "sonic icepick." Cobra can scream as loud as the average banshee when she puts her mind to it, but her best effort is like the gentle tinkling of bamboo wind chimes in comparison to Butterbean's mighty screech. This is not a cry of distress or anguish, but rather an expression of exuberance. It usually happens toward the end of a satisfying meal of sweet potatoes and fruit, or while she triumphantly waggles a toothbrush over her head; and the more I wince in pain, the louder it gets. But she can strike at any time. When we are out for a walk, innocent civilians half a block away hit the deck when they hear what sounds like an air raid siren blaring from the stroller.
I have played in bands whose great volume has been their most remarked upon attribute, attended countless punk rock shows in tiny, acoustically suspect venues, and worked on construction sites with no ear protection; but I have never had any noise make my skull crumble like Butterbean's shriek of delight. I have not been able to capture this blood-curdling racket on video, but the sound that comes closest to matching it's devastating power is the acoustic weapon known as the LRAD, used to keep pirates and anarchists at bay. This may come in handy if we are frontally approached by bandits while Butterbean is in the stroller or Baby Bjorn, but when she's in the high chair, it is me who receives the brunt of the punishment.
While I am not technically a doctor, I pretty much got my wife through medical school and residency, and I think it's safe to say that the sound waves from this cataclysmic cacophony are accelerating the particles all up in my brainpan and forming a thermonuclear tumor that could go off at any moment, leaving a mushroom cloud where my head once was. Also, I think one of those kids is giving me angina.
I used to laugh in the face of mortality, even very recently. We met with our life insurance guy to upgrade our policy a couple months ago and I was all, "Haha--when the plane goes down, just make sure the godparents don't spend all the money on themselves har har har..." Now I get these low-grade headaches every night, or some unexplained pain anywhere in my upper body and I'm all, "Damn--maybe we should have gotten the policy with the bigger payout."
Dr. Mom doesn't seem concerned about my nuclear tumor, but I've got an appointment with my new family doc tomorrow, and we'll see what he says about my diagnosis.