My wife and I found out we were expecting last fall. It was a complete surprise to us. If it were really up to us, we would have waited a few years. But it didn’t take us long to get caught up in the excitement of our coming baby boy. Maybe I would even get motivated to finally move that 40ft Ethernet cable out of our hallway.
Nine months later, we were killing time between contractions at home before finally rolling into the hospital at 1 AM. I had never watched a birth before. I should have probably prepared by watching one on YouTube. I’ll save you the grizzly details obviously, but here are some observations that surprised me.
Epidurals are the Real Miracle
Leading up to the epidural, everything felt like it was right out of a medical drama. My wife and I were stuck in triage for a few hours while she was considerably dilated. She handled it like a champ, and left some pretty good nail marks in my arm.
But starting with the way the anesthesiologist casually slid a metal cable into my wife’s spine, things got weirdly informal.
The labor pains were no more, and nurses and doctors began to calmly float in and out of our room. My wife was napping, surfing the web, and even joking during contractions that looked devastating judging by the graphs and instruments.
Part of me expected the birth to happen in the middle of the night – maybe I would be wearing scrubs and sitting in a dimly lit observation deck. It hadn’t dawned on me that it could instead happen on a sunny Friday in the middle of the afternoon in about fifteen minutes.
Everything Else Feels Kind of Medieval
After being so floored by the precision and technology of an epidural, the assisted labor by contrast looked purely medieval.
One of the nurses told us our child would need a vacuum delivery1. This “vacuum” was literally just a suction cup connected to a hand pump. One nurse would plant it on the baby’s head like a plunger while the other nurse squeezed a hand pump. At a few points, the plunger would lose suction and make a hilarious flubpf sound.
Meanwhile, plunger nurse is twisting the baby’s head way harder than I thought was possible – like the way James Bond would wrench a goon’s head around during a covert op.
But they tell me that babies are a lot tougher than they look. Those weird soft spots in their head and pliable shoulders are designed to facilitate being hiked out of the female body like a Nerf football.
The procedure leaves the baby’s head shaped like a cone. I’m happy to report after only 10 days, he no longer looks like one of the aliens from XCOM.
Nurses Know Everything
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered when an actual adult sits you down and explains how to do everything you’ll need to do to take care of the new human in your life. The answer is a lot simpler than it sounds – it’s basically every nurse that walks into the hospital room.
Five minutes with any given nurse was easily worth more than the couple of hours of natal care videos we watched. Nurses are a godsend.
The staff was happy to let us play our own music. Like good Wisconsinites, we played Bon Iver. My son was born to the song Holocene. It was by chance, but given the music video2 follows a young boy who wakes up in a rural cabin and wanders around a breath-taking wilderness scene, I don’t think we could have made a better choice.
Rodney was born at 2:12 PM on July 8th, 2016. He weighed 7 lbs, 2 oz. He opened his enormous blue eyes immediately. He was perfect. My eyes immediately welled up with gratitude.
Family filed in and out of the room all weekend.
We spent not even three full days in the hospital. Time behaves weirdly there. It had felt like we had been living there for months.
I was a little irked at how unofficial his naming felt. For some reason, I was picturing a giant server room where we entered RODNEY into a console attached to a Deep Thought3 style super computer. In reality, it was just a sheet of paper that I filled out on my lap.
But nothing felt weirder than putting him in the car for the first time. At that moment, it was clear to me that the fairy tail of sitting in a clean white room with no sense of time and nothing to do but stare into your baby’s face was over. Now I had to mow the lawn. I had to fill up the fridge. I still had to move that Ethernet cable out of the hallway.
But friends, neighbors, and family to the rescue! Our fridge was stocked with more food than we’ve ever had in the house. I love the people in my life. Getting less than five hours of sleep isn’t so bad when you can slink downstairs in the middle of the night and eat a spoonful of chicken pot pie, a handful of chips, and a grilled chicken sandwich on the way back up the stairs.
You get a lot of advice when you are getting ready to have the baby, and it’s almost always spontaneous. I’m not complaining. I’m touched that so many people in my life were so eager to leave me with their own nugget of wisdom, but inevitably people started to repeat each other.
One such nugget Marissa and I heard a lot was “Your life is about to change.” I’d try to politely nod and thank them for the sage advice, but sometimes I couldn’t help myself from messing with them. I’d patronize them in return by asking things like, “You mean I won’t be able to throw house parties on the weekends? What about the 3 AM cock fights I like to host in my backyard on Wednesdays? How is my life going to change there?”
You could not step twice into the same river – Heraclitus
Is my life about to change? That’s true on any given day. Even when we can point to a nostalgic time in which our lives felt stable, I think it’s only because we’re not remembering all the things that we worried about day to day. Rose tinted glasses will do that to you.
Rodney was not born in a vacuum. He wasn’t born in a castle in the middle of a fairy tail. He’ll grow up in a house next to a busy road and a Burger King. The floor creeks, the kitchen still has some sharp corners, and there is still a 40 ft Ethernet cable tangled on the floor in the middle of our upstairs hallway. My life probably will never feel the same. If it were a river, stepping into it would probably feel a little different every day. But his Mother can do anything, his dad is obsessed with him, and his furry older brother would probably already jump off a bridge for him.
We hadn’t planned on being parents, but we had no idea what we were missing. I feel like I’ve spent a few hours a day just staring at his face. My wife and I are constantly nudging each other every time he stretches, yawns, or even has an impressive fart.
Hey everybody – this is my son. He changed my life. I’m a freakin’ dad.