WHAT WAS THAT?

 

And then it happens, I am in the delivery room with a profound feeling of love and admiration for my wife, the likes of which I could never have imagined. I cannot even fathom the pain she has just endured and the magical glow that surrounds her now as she holds our child.

 

Our child! I gaze at this tiny being who shivers under the rough feel of the blankets, crying and scared. This gift from God gives me pause to reflect on the miracle of life. No baby has ever looked so beautiful I surmise, and then it happens, “Sir, would you like to cut the umbilical cord?”

 

I am not out for long, only a few minutes. Luckily, since we are in a hospital, they had smelling salts handy.

 

THE X-FILES

 

“What was that hiding under the blankets?” I exclaim. “Shouldn’t we get a team of doctors in here to look at it? Do Mulder and Scully know about this?”

 

One of the nurses takes me aside and explains the purpose of the umbilical cord and the cutting process after birth. Between that and the placenta I have learned enough medical jargon to last a good three years. Someone else does the Umbilical Honors and I go back to marveling at this incredible creation.

 

The first night is a bit of a blur. They wheel in our son in a glass bassinet while my wife and I try to get settled. I turnout the lights and our newborn son instantly starts wailing. Lights on, silence. Lights off, screaming intended to wake the entire floor.

 

We sleep with the lights on, setting a bad precedent, but the hospital administration insisted. I try to find a comfortable sleep-position on the foldout chair only to realize it was used in WWII to help break POWs. I have a fitful night of sleep realizing this is the first day of the rest of my life as a Dad.

 

THE SON ALSO RISES

 

The next morning, they take our son back to the maternity ward. After an hour or so, I leave my wife in the hospital room to go peek at our newborn. As I approach the nursery fear grips me when I see a team of doctors surrounding my son’s bassinet.

 

Expecting the worst (I’m Italian-Irish-Catholic in case you haven’t figured it out yet) I rush into the nursery only to hear the doctor say, “So as you can see students, this is the perfect specimen of a newborn baby…ah, nurse, more smelling salts please.”

 

IT’S TIME

 

You’ve read the books, painted the room, assembled the crib, graduated (with honors) from the Lamaze class, sought the advice of parents you respect and admire (both of them), felt the Braxton Hicks contractions (alright, but it sure felt like contractions), experienced the morning sickness (could have been the burritos), gained a little sympathy weight of your own, went up with the highs, down with the lows, watched your wife radiate with the joy of new life and marveled at the embryo that was developing in her womb.

 

And then it is time to bring the baby home! Now what the hell are you supposed to do? It doesn’t come with instructions, no warranty, no receipt, no “if not fully satisfied, please return” tag on their toes (define fully), nothing. Just you, your wife and A BABY! Remain calm, this is no time to panic. Actually, it is an ideal time to panic.

 

DIAPERS! DIAPERS! DIAPERS!

 

Perhaps if the hospital was nice, they threw in a pillow and some diapers as they briskly escorted you out of the maternity ward. “Can’t we stay until preschool begins?” Here is my advice about one of the first things to do. Kiss your wife on the forehead, put the baby in the bassinet (not the other way around) and go buy diapers now. A lot of diapers. Unless you have already made arrangements with a diaper service, those three disposables will only last until you have unpacked the car, then if you don’t have a large supply you are in big trouble. Define “large.” How does 70-80 per week strike you?

 

As for all the family and friends that will be parading by to see the new baby, it is time to accept you new role as Jeeves. If you don’t know, Jeeves is a fictional valet based on a series of novels by P. G. Wodehouse. There was also an Ask Jeeves site that eventually morphed into Ask.com.  Basically, your sole purpose is to answer the door, offer a beverage and point your guests towards the bathroom when they need it.

 

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

 

These well-meaning people are invading your home to see the new baby and the mommy. Try to be polite because some of them might come bearing a casserole. Others will bring a plant. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Besides the duties mentioned above your lines consist of “Isn’t he great, and so alert… Yes, she’s up and around already, isn’t she amazing.” You might want to practice in front of the mirror.

 

They are not, I repeat not, coming over to see you. You did not just begin your collision course with life or lose six pounds, seven ounces over the course of seventeen excruciating hours. That is what they came to see and want to hear about. For the next few days, possibly years, you are background noise. Most of them will be driving home thinking, “I didn’t even see Alex. I guess he was out.” Accept it and move on!

 

It is when no one is over visiting that panic sets in, especially with the first child. Not since kindergarten have you been this scared to see your own mother walk out the door. “Mom, why don’t you stay for a twelfth cup of coffee?” “It’s two in the morning.” “Exactly my point. You shouldn’t be driving at this hour!”

 

THERE’S NO CRYING IN DADLANDS

 

Babies can be very scary things when you’re first exposed to them and then after a while, they become downright frightening. They do not tend to follow any logical pattern or consistent behavior, like the guy in front of you driving home last night. They cry when they are tired… or wet… or poopy… or scared… or sad… or alone… or awake, and then they laugh when they are three and a half. The trick comes in deciphering one cry from another. Luckily the babies do have different crying intensities and you will know when you should walk into their room and when you should run.

 

The good news is you, your wife and the baby will come to an understanding pretty early in the relationship. The one thing to keep in mind is, don’t be afraid to assert your opinion on occasion. Maternal instinct is wonderful and all, but I am convinced paternal instinct exists and sometimes dad knows best. For additional information, please see my follow-up blog entitled Sleeping on the Couch for a Week.