Monday, June 30, 2008

Let There Be Libby

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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We are no longer the Knights Who Say TBD

We are the parents who say...please welcome our daughter Elizabeth Adele, aka Libby.

Like we always do, she squeaked in under her deadline, making her debut just as the last rays of daylight clung to June 23.

Details and pics to come later, sleep to come now. And let the gender prediction gloating begin.

Also, my apologies to Illiterati readers -- the hospital is blocking me from logging into Typepad, so I couldn't put a notice on TLB's blog.

Update: here's out little girl peeking out at the world--

Friday, June 20, 2008

TBD still TBD

Update 6/23: We're at the hospital, drugs are flowing, but TBD is still holed up like Butch Cassidy and/or the Sundance Kid. We're trying to convince the child that there are two eager parents waiting for him/her, not an armed and angry Mexican army. We hope to resolve the standoff peacefully.

Well, we haven't even had our baby yet and already TBD is rebelling. The initial pharmaceutical artillery failed to soften TLB enough, to the point where the doctor said inducing labor would probably not produce a baby. Labor without a baby...that's a pretty easy selling point to resist.

So, we have returned home for resting and will return Sunday night for more shelling and hopefully a full offensive on Monday morning. Sorry our fertility is jerking everyone around like the writers from Lost. And thanks for all the good wishes -- you all are putting some big ol' smiles on our faces.

In the meantime, this clip seems appropriate:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part

It looks like our parent initiation will be put off one more day. The hospital is apparently chock full o' delivering women, so there's no room at the inn unless we want to deliver TBD in a stable. The plan is to get The Lovely Becky in the hospital this afternoon and induce tomorrow morning. Since we're just hanging out and waiting, I'll turn things over to today's house band:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blogshower: The Gathering

If you have a baby on the Internets, does it cry in code?

The wonderful Jennifer has blown the Horn of Birth (not to be confused with blowing the Horn of Fertility, which can lead to pregnancy) to convene the First Non-Annual Blog Shower for myself, The Lovely Becky, and TBD.

As of tomorrow, TBD will be very much D. The doctors are inducing TLB, and we should be parents before the sun sets on Thursday. It’s the culmination of a long journey that, truth be told, only stopped sucking seven months ago. But as long as everything goes well tomorrow, none of that will matter. We’re going to be parents and it’s December 24th on our biological calendar.

People ask us if we’re nervous about being parents. The answer is a very honest no. We’re nervous about the birth as anyone with a vague grasp of the concepts of engineering, volume, and friction should be. We’re nervous about having a healthy baby, although the Magic 8-ball has consistently said “all signs point to yes” in that department. After nearly ten years of trying, though, we’re more than ready to add the magic number to our equation.

I also had a recent injection of confidence via Snoop Dogg. In the last issue of Esquire, Snoop participated in the "What I’ve Learned" feature. He talked about raising his two boys and what it’s like to be a parent, and that his oldest was about to enter high school. I didn’t know Snoop had kids, which means I had never heard about Snoop’s kids the way I had, say, heard about The Coreys. Which means that Snoop Dogg managed to have two kids who have stayed out of trouble. Mr. Dogg certainly has help with childrearing, but he is also high all the time. So if Snoop Dogg can have two boys who have avoided the harsh glare of TMZ, I think my chances are okay.

The bigger reason I feel okay about this is because of all the incredible support we have received over the years. Our families have been wonderful, consoling us when things went bust, cheering for us when things finally went well, and now offering to help us make the transition to parenthood. Our bricks-and-mortar friends have been equally solid, listening to more hours of ranting about our reproductive organs than the Supreme Court would allow and soothing us with their calming presence and copious amounts of alcohol. Finally, when TLB and I began blogging, we picked up a new group, our virtual friends, who have also consoled and cheered, even though most have never met us.

All of you have been essential to this process. We could not have stayed sane and remained hopeful without all of that support. So please allow us to raise a virtual glass of punch to toast you.

We would also love to hear any final wit and/or wisdom you have, or whatever else is on your mind. Drop some mad science in the comments section. TLB and I will be in and out of the comments today as well.

And now, please welcome our guest speaker, Dr. Bill Cosby:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: How is gay marriage changing our lives?

10) Wild nights of dancing at the club now spent falling asleep with spouse during The L Word.

9) The “ol’ ball and chain” refers to spouse instead of sex toy.

8) Trading in Miatas and Outbacks for minivans.

7) Lack of public displays of affection are out of laziness instead of fear.

6) Opens up a whole new realm of clich├ęs for gay observational comics.

5) Parent-teacher conferences will become 100% more fabulous.

4) Lesbian wife can carry us over the threshold of the house she built herself.

3) Spouse no longer has to pretend to be a woman when Gene Hackman comes over for dinner.

2) Will hold hands while filling out complicated joint tax returns.

1) Homophobic mouthbreathers are legally required to suck it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we preparing for parenthood?

10) Getting nanny recommendations from Jude Law and Rob Lowe.

9) Finishing off the last of the bourbon.

8) Preemptively packing on 20 pounds and moving hairline back six inches.

7) Simulating baby’s nighttime schedule by squeezing air horn on spouse at 3 am.

6) Playing Dark Side of the Moon while watching ultrasound video.

5) Practicing changing diapers by switching to Depends.

4) Shopping for minivans while reciting eulogy for our lost youth.

3) Giving child a real Christian sleeping arrangement by forgoing crib for pile of hay that smells like myrrh.

2) Trading in Grand Theft Auto for Grand Sharing Elmo.

1) Asking pharmacist if they make an Epidural patch.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cuter Than Baby Jesus

Last week, The Lovely Becky and I drove down to Illinois to attend a shower for our coming child, TBD. We had a very special guest on our trip: my mother.

What made Mom’s presence so special was that, for the first time since 1996, one of my parental units walked through the doorway of a building I paid rent or mortgage on. In fact, my Dad was the last one to visit me. Mom hadn’t been to visit since 1995, back when TLB and I still thought we needed birth control.

When I tell people how long it’s been since my parents visited me, they always ask if we’re estranged. It doesn’t help that I jokingly refer to Mom as Mommy Dearest, or that my family is marinated in sarcasm. The simple act of asking for the salt can produce five minutes of faux annoyance and point-blank bon mots that would have driven Dorothy Parker to drink. Or maybe sobriety.

However, I have a very good relationship with my parents—good enough that I can use sarcasm with them. I see them at least a couple times of year, despite never having lived closer than 500 miles from them since TLB and I got married. I would visit them, meet at my Grandma’s for Christmas, and travel to third-party locations for vacation. But they never came to see me.

As the sand on the parental visit clock grew into a dune, and then a desert, my brother Tickle and I joked about it. Tickle had moved away by 2001, and they never visited him either. My parents had good excuses—Dad has a very demanding job, and Mom spent a good part of that time helping our sister raise our nephew. Still, we wondered what it would take to get them to visit. (My sister and my brother Snake Anthony still live at home or close by.)

They flipped the sand dial over last fall, when they traveled to Iowa for Tickle’s engagement party. TLB waited at the front door with a camera, snapping a photo of them crossing the threshold, so we wouldn’t wake up the next day and think it was some crazy dream. Of course, by the time they arrived in Iowa, TLB and I had to travel there from Michigan, since my parents had been unable to make the journey in the narrow six-year window that we lived there.

The Journey to the Center of Tickle’s House presented my best opportunity. It unbalanced the Non-Visitation Equilibrium. When they didn’t visit either Tickle or myself, it was funny. Now that they visited Tickle, it was kind of sad. Or so I said as I bombarded them with visit propaganda.

Finally, I got the call. Mom was coming. Dad had booked her a flight, and she was trekking all the way to the UP to visit us.

I told Tickle I didn’t believe it, that I waited for the last-minute call that she had cancelled the trip or that it was some elaborate hoax. I drove to the airport last week ready to see everyone except my mother get off the plane. But lo and behold, there was Mom, waiting with her bags. She came to the house, sat on our couch, and visited.

As part of her visit, we drove down to Illinois for the baby shower. TLB’s mother was just as eager to see Mom as we were. They hadn’t been in the same room since our wedding in 1994. They caught up like old friends, talking about us, about TBD, about houses, and even took a trip to the antique store together.

The shower turned into a bit of This Is Your Life for us. We had friends and family from all over the country and from assorted eras of our lives show up. TLB’s friends from college. Our friends from Iowa. Friends from a job I left nearly a decade ago. Tickle and my forthcoming sister-in-law, K. My grandma, our aunts, our cousins, and our mothers.

We had the event at a local restaurant. After the meet-and-greet and lunch, the few boys in attendance headed to the bar. I stayed to open gift after generous gift, usually making a trademark smart ass comment while still expressing gratitude. We got car seats and diapers and bibs and books and hoozles and hotzels and blaggraffins and blitznuffins. Between the Monty Haul we made here, the gifts our coworkers showered on us, and all the stuff we’ve gotten from TLB’s sisters (who have already spawned), Baby TBD will not be wanting for much. Although I could use a couple yaks to carry all this stuff around.

My friends H and K gave us two gifts in particular that stood out. H’s boyfriend is a referee for the Windy City Rollers, a Chicago roller-derby team. She gave us this killer onesie. Nothing says cute like a skull and crossed skate wheels. K, who shares my love for religious humor that borders on blasphemy, gave us a T-shirt that says Cuter Than Baby Jesus, complete with a rattle cross logo. This elicited some obvious non-laughter from the more religious members in attendance, but TLB and I cracked up. After all, if I’m going to Hell, I’d like my child to join me.

After the official shower ended, a bunch of us returned to my in-laws to drink and make merry. Like the pregnancy so far, the conditions were perfect. I sat in beautiful 75 degree weather (look, kids, warmth!) drinking a beer with Tickle. He started talking about some pictures my mother brought with her. I had asked Mom to bring some photos of me as a kid, so I could scan them.

“There’s one of you wearing white pants and this red vest,” Tickle said.

“Oh my God, tight white pants,” said K, laughing.

“Really tight,” Tickle reiterated. “Awful.”

The outfit didn’t ring a bell. When we got back to Michigan and I checked Mom’s pictures, I realized why. My brain had blocked out that I had ever dressed like this:

I’m 15 in that picture, and clearly President and CEO of the Not a Chance Club. And yes, those are pants, not the product of spray paint.

Amazingly, I looked much cooler some ten years earlier:

Sneakers, funky checkered pants, thick black belt, and a white polo. I look like a rock critic, in this case, actually assessing a real rock.

The main reason I wanted to see some childhood pictures is because I had never seen a baby picture of me. That may seem weirder than my parents going 12 years between visits to my house. TLB in particular has been bothered by this much more than I have. I explained that my parents were very young and poor when they had me, and didn’t get a camera until after my first birthday. Luckily, other relatives had taken pictures of me as a baby, and Mom found some of them:

What did my lovely wife, who for years had expressed a desire to see my baby pictures, say?

“You look weird without hair.”

I have to agree with her. And it’s why I’ve started sleeping in a Propecia helmet, just to be safe.

I asked my parents to get us a camera as a shower gift, so we could make sure we have ample photos of TBD. Although sweater vests and pants tight enough to show birthmarks will be forbidden.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are we giving up?

10) 30 minutes of repetitive motion hasn’t produced the desired effect.

9) Explosives have tended to blow up hearts and minds instead of win them.

8) Currently in Russia.

7) Born in France.

6) Unable to make combustion engine that runs on hubris.

5) Boombox batteries ran out before Ione Skye came to the window.

4) Looking for a church that turns other cheek instead of flashing both cheeks at potential voters.

3) Dumbells not as delicious as Double-Stufs.

2) Husband convinced us to turn to lesbianism.

1) We’re not giving up! Who told you that? We plan to stay and fight until the bitter...hey, where are you all going?