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My daughter was conceived in a haunted house. I know that sounds like my wife and I made love while a teenager jumped out from behind a corner wearing a Friday the 13th hockey mask. But this was an actual haunted house, with a documented ghost.

It was 2013 and we had spent the last year living like vagabonds with stops in D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and finally Sydney, Australia. We were broke and happy, sleeping in spare bedrooms.

My wife and I at a Sydney Roosters rugby match.

Christina and I always knew we were going to have kids, it was just a matter of when. We were very careful. Middle school sex education classes instilled in me the axiom “it only takes one occurrence of unprotected sex to make a baby.” So I took another middle school axiom—guard your nards—to a whole new level.

I spent most of high school and college in relationships, so accidentally getting a random girl pregnant wasn’t a constant fear. That said, the fear always lingered under the surface, threatening to change the course of my otherwise amazing potential life.

I took intercourse seriously. As Spider-Man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (I assume he was talking about sex.)

Sometimes the lingering fear popped up irrationally. After college, I returned to my hometown, Westminster, which hosted the Maryland Wine Festival. Once you turned 21 in Westminster, the Maryland Wine Festival was like a high school reunion. Friends, enemies, and classmates all showed up to drink wine and recapture or rewrite their glory days. That year, I flirted with a friend I never had the guts to ask out. Alas, she was already married, but that didn’t stop us from having some wine while I imagined what could have been. A year later, I came back to the Wine Festival to find out that married friend was pregnant. My first thought was:

“Oh no! Is that my baby?”

Let’s break down why this is a ridiculous thought:

  1. I never had sex with this person. (Let alone kissed, hugged, or held hands.)
  2. The person would have had to been pregnant for 12 months (which I think is a record).

Suffice it to say, my wife and I didn’t take the decision to have a child lightly.

Back to Australia in 2013.

We worked with a company that helped clients delve into the world of human consciousness and find out about their “True” self. Whatever you think that means, you are right. To some people, it was therapy. To others, it was figuring out if they could turn their body into a lion. We encountered the most heartfelt seekers and the most off-the-reservation nut jobs.

I’m not going to say that we were homeless, but we did live in a friend’s walk-in closet and sleep on a mattress on the floor. The group home up the hill from Bondi Beach hosted many guests over the years.

My wife, Christina, on Bondi Beach

In this environment of free spirits and enchanted closets, it was common to talk about anything beyond the pale of normalcy and into the paranormal. During a dinner, our host Rachel casually mentioned that a ghost lived in the house. On multiple occasions, the ghost stood at the foot of her bed and touched her feet until she told him to knock it off.

This discussion made me mad. I think there are two times when it is appropriate to tell someone that a house is haunted.

  1. Before they stay there. Let them decide if they want to risk the haunting.
  2. After they leave. Now they can be happy they were never haunted during their stay.

Telling a guest that a home is haunted mid-stay is bad etiquette. You’re already settled into the home and can’t just jump up and leave. Plus you have to be on extra special ghost guard for the rest of your trip. For the rest of our stay, every time I walked down the hallway, I swore I saw a ghost and it always turned out to be a kitty litter box.

During one of our consciousness sessions, the facilitator asked the question: “What are you resisting that you would love?”

As soon as she asked the question, a tingle went from the top of my head down my spine like a love waterfall. I knew that I would love to be a Dad. I knew I wanted it. I had resisted starting a family because I was scared of the responsibility of having to take care of another life. Between taking care of my wife, my pets, my real estate dealings, my clients, and my creative goals, I didn’t think I had any space left for a child. But in that moment I knew it was time.

Christina and I had a talk that day about growing our family. Within the month, we were standing in the bathroom of that haunted house looking down at a positive pregnancy test. (A hole in one!)

The positive pregnancy test.

I remember walking to our office that morning knowing that everything was about to change. I also remember seeing a rainbow colored parrot in a tree, but that type of stuff just happens in Australia.

Rainbow parrots, chilling.

Our season of vagabonding soon came to an end. Goodbye floor mattress. Goodbye foot-fetish ghost. Goodbye rainbow tree parrot. It was time to rejoin the normal world.

Back in D.C., Christina’s pregnant belly busts out of her jacket.

Upon returning to our paused lives in Washington, D.C., a friend told me a family anecdote. They believe that every baby brings its own fortune. There is no reason to worry because the child decided to be born and would manifest everything it needs. And from that moment on, I never worried again about being responsible for taking care of others.

Just kidding. Being a parent means you worry about everything because everything is potentially deadly to your child and if you mess up this child, they won’t give you another one.

But in between bouts of worry, you have moments of unconditional love that make everything else in life insignificant.

Me as a brand new Dad with Grace.

I conceived my son a day after the 2016 presidential election. I know that sounds like my wife and I made love at the White House while Donald Trump jumped out from behind a corner wearing a Vladimir Putin mask. But when things get scary, be it ghosts or neo-conservative fascists I try and remember there is always room for the love of a child.

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Cal James

Cal James is an author, improviser, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. His memoir, “I Guarantee You Love, Fame and Legacy” follows his journey through self-realization as a comedian.

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