It’s been a fun week.
I expected the birth of my baby to be a lot of things: amazing, incredible, intimidating, frightening. All of my expectations—happy and scary—were so very serious. I imagined I would be Transformed Brando, overcome with weepy emotion at the sight of my child. Or I would be Overwhelmed Brando, overrun with childrearing responsibilities like a fatherhood version of World War II Poland.
Instead, I have been having a ball. Libby is every bit the source of joy and wonderment children can be. But she’s also hilarious. She makes faces, kicks her little feet in the air, emits a wide range of gurgles and grunts, and makes me laugh more than I thought a baby could. That’s been the coolest thing for me.
The week got off to a not-so-fun start. When The Lovely Becky and I checked into the hospital last Sunday, we almost immediately heard some poor woman in the throes of labor in the room next door. The walls were thankfully soundproofed, but no padding could hide the cries, groans, and moans that we heard. We sat, enraptured, listening as the mother’s vocalization of her pain became louder. Rising with each contraction, she finally emitted a horrible noise before screaming, “GET! IT! OUT!”
“Jesus, I hope she’s doing natural childbirth,” TLB said.
“That’s got to be natural,” I replied. “Got to be.”
I say the following with no intention of being a patriarchal penis-waggler who tells women that they don’t have the right to forgo drugs and utter soundproof-blasting wails of agony while their bodies imitate a snake eating in reverse. But seriously, why would any of you refuse drugs? I know that it’s hard to know when to push and you don’t want to interfere with the natural experience and yadda yadda yadda, but OH MY GOD, HAVE YOU SEEN THE SIZE OF THE HEAD?
No man would refuse painkillers. Could you imagine that guy at the beginning of Dances with Wolves, the soldier in the field hospital screaming in agony as they saw off his leg, saying, “Doc, whatever you do, don’t give me anything to numb the pain because I really want to feel my leg as you remove it. If it gets bad, I’ll just breathe.”
My lovely wife, being my soul mate and all, wanted painkillers. She had her epidural, and she felt so good, she took a nap. Until her epidural wore off. We didn’t realize her epidural wasn’t working properly until it got too late to do anything but try to breathe through the wracking contractions. TLB was a trooper, getting through the pain with grit and determination and lots of breathing. Still, I’d have to score it Labor 7, Hee-hee Hoo-hooing 0.
Luckily, by the time she got ready to push, the pain returned to manageable mode. The only problem was that TLB stopped dilating. So after a full day’s supply of labor, we had to scrap the launch and go to C-section.
It is amazing how quickly a pregnant woman can go from pre-op to pulling a rabbit out of the hat. The doctors prepped TLB and wheeled her in the operating room. I waited five minutes for a nurse to come get me. When I entered the room, TLB lay stretched out on the table like Jesus, the incision already made. I came in, sat down by her head, and before you could say get it out, the doctor reached in and pulled out Baby Libby. They had TLB sewn up and back in the room about 20 minutes later. It was the Miracle of Life meets Jiffy Lube. I think they even rotated TLB’s ovaries at no extra charge.
As I don’t have to explain to anyone, being handed your child the first time is heavy. Especially when your child weighs ten pounds, three ounces. But like the fun factor, the initial feeling hit me differently than I anticipated. I envisioned Biblical transformation, a Paul-to-Damascus conversion where I would hold my child aloft and announce in the voice of James Earl Jones, “Libby, I am your father!”
Instead, I sat quietly awed by the whole thing, overcome with a huge wave of happiness that felt like being drunk. With one incision, with one tug, our War Against Childlessness was over. It didn’t really sink in and start to feel real until, after TLB breastfed her, I got to hold my daughter in my arms and rock her to sleep.
The rest of the hospital time passed uneventfully. TLB wrangled with breastfeeding a bit, as Libby sometimes fought her off—again, as a man, I don’t understand how someone passes on a free breast. But we got the hang of it enough to come home Thursday.
We pulled into the driveway and carried Libby into the house as my mother-in-law videotaped the homecoming. At which point one of our hairy, meowing children taught us a valuable lesson in Homo sapiens parenting: "Never Turn Your Back on Your Children," the A-side to the B-side of "Give Them an Inch and They’ll Take You a Mile." Jonesy, our youngest cat and the biggest flight risk, sensed weakness in our usually tight Front Door Defense. He launched a sneak attack like Al Catta, darting out the door and out of sight before we even realized he was gone.
Instead of enjoying the monumental moment of bringing my daughter home, I circled the block, uttering the kind of phrases even George Carlin would agree were too hot for prime time. I could not believe that this moment would be spoiled by a four-legged furball who didn’t realize that thousands of cats would kill to have his pampered Little Lord Shitleroy lifestyle. The little bastard’s plan was foolproof, because although I wanted to kill him when I caught him, any willful catricide would definitely spoil the mood. I had to capture him alive.
Luckily for me, Jonesy exhibited standard criminal behavior, not only lingering near the scene of his felonious flight, but also making the tactical error of being in a neighbor’s garage when I found him. In a scene reminiscent of Puss in Boots being busted by the cops in Shrek 2, I ran Jonesy down, grabbed him, and hauled his idiotic ass home. I didn’t even have to pull a Gaylord Focker and paint his tail.
However, the little fucker served as an allegory for the journey ahead of us. Our “baby” runs away, worrying us to death, angering us to the point of wanting to inflict death, all of which washes away the minute I realize my worst fears remain fears instead of reality. There really is nothing worse than being taught a life lesson by someone who licks himself.
We’re now settling in nicely. I have been surprised how natural this stuff feels. Sure, we’re dealing with standard infant issues—constant eating, which leads to not enough sleeping, worrying about every stupid little thing, and so on. But even when I had to take our very awake daughter downstairs at 4:30 a.m. so that my extremely tired wife could get a couple of hours of sleep, it’s been great. Libby and I parked on the couch, watched SportsCenter together, and hung out until she fell asleep. I think she even grunted when she saw the Cubs got swept by the White Sox.
This is going to be fun.