Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things I Will Remember Next Time

It's been a little over a year since my son was born. The Wife and I were reflecting back on that time spend in the hospital, the nurses and docs who helped along the way, the food we ate (or didn't eat), and of course the birth itself. Looking back, there's a lot of stuff I wish I knew going into that whole thing. Read any baby book in the world, including the ones that appear to only be for women, and they will give you plenty of practical suggestions for what to do when you go the hospital. Allow me to share some things that soon-to-be Daddies need to know but are never told before they enter the large building where your old life ends and parenthood begins:

  • Parking sucks - This one might just be about the hospital that we went to, but since it applies to every single hospital I've ever visited, it should be mentioned. Prepare yourself to park in BFE (look on a slang website if you are lost), and then prepare to walk back and forth a thousand times. Because you will forget stuff in the car, becahse you will have to go out to get food because nothing on the take-out menu looks good, and because you will have to re-check the car seat more than NASA does the space shuttle. And because of all these things, it is a rule of life that you will parking at least a half mile from the door to the baby wing.

  • Be ready to be confused - Lots and lots and lots of people are going to come into the room and start talking in a foreign language. Don't be alarmed, these people are professionals. They will check equipment that looks like props from the latest Star Trek movie, and even makes sounds like it. I tried to joke with one of them, saying "Tell Scottie to get the warp core ready, we're making a run to Risa today." He wasn't amused. These people will discuss things with your wife in this foreign language and she will speak it back to them. Just know this will happen and try to stay in the background. You don't need to understand; if something is wrong, no one will tell you. You are the father, it is your job to be lost.

  • Yes, Nurse Land does exist - Now I know what happened to all those girls who were top tier good looking in high school and said they wanted to go into medicine. You know the ones I mean. The cheerleaders, the beauty queens... all those girls who you wished you had as dates, but would settle for as lab partners. They became nurses in the baby wing of the hospital. And no, not even scrubs can hide a chick's figure. But gentleman, always know that no matter how many drugs your significant other is on, she can still see you looking. And the less drugs she's on, the more vile her retribution will be against your dumb, male self.

  • Some people in the medical profession are stupid - True story: A day before the birth, my wife went downstairs for her last big ultrasound, and I was made to wait in the hallway. The technician said she'd be out to get me in a few so I could see the baby one last time before... uh, I saw it for real. (A small tip, bring a book or two just for these types of situations and there are lots of them; video games don't work because something about a squaking box in your hands makes everyone working in the hospital think you are an idiot) Twenty minutes later my wife comes out crying because the same technician told her she failed the ultrasound. Never, ever, ever, ever tell a woman filled with more hormones than a hundred middle schools that she failed something that has to do with her baby. You will cause her to break down into tears, and you will risk suffering extreme bodily harm at the hands of her husband. Thankfully, one of our nurses saved me from killing the tech and calmed both of us down. But, I hear the nurse did rip the poor tech girl a new one for saying it. In a British accent no less.

  • Do NOT complain about anything: The sofa or bed in your significant other's room for you to sleep on is purposefully constructed to be as uncomfortable as possible. The springs will turn your back into a page out of a braille magazine; the lumps will make the greens at Augusta National look benign by comparison; and the sheets and blanket will make you long for the days of basic military training. This is a trick, my friends. It is designed so that you will complain. This in turn will give the nurses and hospital staff, who are 99.87% female, a reason to loathe and scorn you. And they are all looking for one. Their looks will burn through lead as they shoot "How dare you complain about anything with what she is going through!" thoughts your way. If you are asked how you like your sleeping arrangements, the appropriate response is always "I didn't sleep." No explanation is needed and they will give you approving looks the whole time.

  • Fear is good - When the whole birthing process starts (usually hours before what you see on TV), your wife will appear to be in more pain than anything you've ever seen short of battlefield experience you might have in your past. It is not fake; she really is hurting that badly and is that uncomfortable. You may encounter fear in this moment, and it is natural, even healthy. She is the woman you love, after all. And there ain't a damn thing you can do about it. Let the professionals do their jobs, stay out of the way, and be supportive to her. The fear, along with the pain, will pass in time.

  • With baby comes... stuff - Her feet are in the upright position, the sweating and grunting has begun and the moment is arriving. The baby is about to come out... and so is a whole bunch of other stuff you weren't told about on "School House Rock." Let's give names to these invaders to your special moment: 1) Amniotic fluid will make an appearance, and it has to because that's the whole "water breaking" stuff. They never show you this on TV, and there's a reason. Trust me. 2) Blood will be a'flowin. It's not like you see in the movies if you have never seen actual flowing blood. It's darker and not as... well, not as liquidy. I don't know, it's hard to explain. You know it when you see it and either you can take it or you can't. 3) At some point after the baby pops out, the placenta is going to follow. And yes, Joey wasn't kidding on "Friends" when he said that some cultures actually eat it in some tradition that a clearly disturbed individual started. 4) Poop. Yes, the urband legend is real. Most don't like to talk about it, but it comes out. Think about it, you're pushing with muscles that control both your birthing canal and your bowels. Really, it's inevitable. So, if you are going to watch the whole birthing process (I'm not a big fan of video taping it, unless you are pro and can keep the bad stuff off screen), just be prepared. You will get an eye full

  • Here comes the family - Family will arrive. Grandmothers, especially first timers, will completely disobey the orders of the nurses and wait right outside the door. When the whole group gets there, they will take over the room like they run the place and you will be either taking pictures, or running errands. Everyone gets a turn with the kid, and everyone will ask you the same questions. "How's it feel?" "Ready for this?" You feel like you're listening to bad sports reporters at a press conference. But know that everyone will end their questions with the same word, Dad. This is supposed to be funny, and you are supposed to laugh. You will because you will be too tired to do anything else. Just know that the easiest way to get everyone out of the room will be to say your significant other needs her rest, which she will.

  • Say goodbye to the other guy - When you get ready to leave the hospital, you will be so tired, so stressed, and so ready for relaxation that all you will be thinking about is sitting on the couch, kicking your feet up and drinking whatever beer is left in the fridge. Oh, forgot to tell you; you can't do that anymore! No, because more family will be coming over, more friends, and then it's time to change the diaper (with everyone making fun of you as you go to do it, and that will get very, very old - believe me). After that, the baby will nap and so will you. Or at least you will want to. But you can't because you have to finish baby-proofing the house, and washing clothes, and taking care of your significant other.

Babies are a lot of fun. And they are special. And painful. Don't believe me? Hold your kid in your arms, kissing the back of his head as he looks out on the world. Then have him jerk his head back, cracking you in the nose like a Mike Tyson left hook. These are the things that no one puts in baby books, and the things I'm here to tell you.

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