Saturday, March 21, 2009

Reality Check

So Amy and I went to a baby education class today. Big ol' 8-hour whoppin' one. Covered everything from "bring a picture of your pet to look at" through "look, here's some really gross birth movies to watch" and wrapped up with a dash of "Don't forget to bring all these things with you while you're stuck in a closet for two days."

I fully understand why all this stuff is important - don't get me wrong. And I'm glad to have more information, and generally I feel as though I've moved from "Useless Cavedude" to "Mostly Useless Cheering Cavedude." That's a step up, I guess. After eight hours of that stuff, though, yeesh. Has anyone ever seriously sat down and considered the staggering volume of conflicting messages on this subject?

"Oh, just use the epidural. Everyone does it, it's perfectly safe." vs. "Use only what is medically justified."

"Natural home births with water are the way to go!" vs. "We'll keep you two days in a nice, well-monitored room."

"Use a ball" and "Use a bar" and "Don't lie flat" and "Don't lie on a side that hurts" and "Don't Touch Her Face" and "stroke her hair" and "short quick blowing breaths" and "deep long cleansing breaths" and "massage this" and "don't rub that"  and WHO THE #!$%! SERIOUSLY EXPECTS YOU TO REMEMBER ALL THIS !#$$!? Dear god, people. I still flex in the mirror and make rawr faces when no one's around like every other dude under the age of fifty! (If you claim otherwise, you lie. I will tell you to your face that you lie, too. Once in the past six months, you HAVE flexed with mean-face on. You know it. Move on.) I'm not a friggin doctor! That's the damn doctor's job to know all this crap! I'm still not entirely convinced me, my wife, the baby, or all of the above will not suddenly spontaneously combust or explode in a gory pile that will somehow result in my being at fault and being left to take care of an infant on my own!

Look, amigo. When the day comes, if you're anything like me, you're not a damned cheerleader with a science degree and a pack of fifty friggin plans, subplans, and "focus items." I'm going to be focusing on three tasks:

1) Keep the lunch in the gut while remaining conscious.
2) Don't say or do anything TRULY memorably idiotic.
3) Attempt NOT to beat the hell out of anyone who seems okay with my wife's great and radiating discomfort.

Given how hyper-protective of her I am already (seriously, my driving habits have changed to the degree that it annoys her - there's even an intersection I've started avoiding, I'm coming to realize) I can only imagine that task 3 may require a great deal of personal restraint. If I can actually be supportive or pull off any of the crap they dumped at me in rapid-fire today, I'll consider it absolute proof of the divine. If anyone calls me a "coach" again, though, I may very well punch them. I'm not a friggin fat dude with a whistle and a newspaper, k? I'm dad. Padre. Father. I'm the strength of the pair, the grumpy reliable, the dumb-but-instructable. I'm the hairy half of the team, and I'm going by that title - I'm not going to scream "Drop and give me twenty" at my wife while she's in labor, so don't call me a friggin "coach."

Honestly, I don't think I was the only guy at the end of that 8 hours with a case of "Oh, damn" going on. When you're a dude, you totally recognize there's a pregnancy in progress. Aside from living with a psychopath who suddenly develops a wild, aggressive fetish for cleanliness, she has this fishbowl mounted in the front and occasional serious jonesing for ice cream. It's not hard to notice changes in the air, even for we cave-and-club types. We get it. Really. On one level, though, the entire thing is still a semi-romantic, like-you-see-in-the-movies kind of deal. Twenty minutes of heave-ho counting the commercial break and she's gorgeous again and life goes on.

Fellas, I'm not giving you the rundown, but let's just say it ain't so. I encourage you, for your own sanity and calm, though, to maintain that illusion for the first eight months. The amount of dread of "the day" in the back of my head has skyrocketed. The short version is the moaning/screaming/wailing/beat-hell-out-of-husband part usually runs, if yer lucky, for closer to the full-length-of-Titanic-without-commercials timeframe, not twenty minutes counting an advert for Burger King. If I can manage to not put my wasted college days of silly sports to use on a doctor's head by hour two, I'll be very pleased. I'm of the opinion that if your wife in genuine dire distress for an extended timeframe doesn't give you nightmares, you've got some serious internal conversations to be had about that ring you're wearing.

Amy, thankfully, is rock solid in any situation where I start coming apart, and vice versa. S'good thing, because while she was freaking out yesterday and I calmed her down, today I started to come unglued a bit. (Fellas, your emotions are going to do weird things in the last few months. Just accept it. We have some pretty primal instincts going on too.)  When we were touring the delivery area and the post-partum recovery area (big fancy word that means "after giving birth") I started having a very serious dose of reality check. Pardon my french, but this is pretty much, word for word, what went through my head, along with a wailing klaxon and red flashing lights:

"Uh. A month from now you're back here, and uh, yeah. This shit ain't no game anymore, jack. This is getting seriously real.  A month from now you've got a little ****** (gender deleted) to look after. Here. This hallway. This room. HERE. RIGHT. HERE. YOU. AMY. BABY. Damn."

And it didn't help any that as the tour was going around, there was a seriously stressed-out looking dad-to-be hanging out in the waiting room, scratching his arm nervously for so long I actually noticed the skin raw under his hand. Found myself wondering if I'd see a tour go by a month from now, and if some dude would stare at me, and wonder what was going through MY head. (Probably not. I'll be in a room, beating the screaming jesus out of a doctor, remember?)

Did I mention there were about 30 of us packed into this little room getting information on this tour? Nothing like finding out whether you have claustrophobic or crowd-press issues during all that, right? Meh.

On one hand, I get that this is all normal. I get that I will probably be just fine, that I will keep Amy sane, and will probably not go predator-hostile on a doctor for not instantly making Amy happy, if only because doing so would make Amy UNhappy. I get that, on some level, this "realization of reality" thing I'm doing is also very normal and expectable for dads-to-be, especially at this point in the process.

On the other hand, fellas, knowing any of that stuff won't do you a damn bit of good when your guts start wrenching as you contemplate the staggering reality that soon something will be produced that really will look on you as the shining example of how to be a man. Could be your son who sees you as EXACTLY how to be when he grows up. Could be your daughter who sees you as EXACTLY the kind of man she wants to spend her entire life with. (Yeah, that thought makes my blood run cold, too. I don't know why Amy's insane enough to deal with me - god forbid my child want to deal with someone like me.) Yeah, that phase doesn't last forever. I'm well aware that eventually kids acknowledge their parents as a reality. I'm also aware that despite my deep and abiding dislike of my mother, there ARE traits of hers that I DO evidence on a daily basis, and you DO pass on more of your teachings through role modeling than anything else. (Makes you think twice about scratching yourself in public, don't it?)

I'll probably keep this blog going well beyond the birth of 2.0, even though at this point we're basically down to "1 month to live" as it were. I'd like to think that there may be a few dudes out there who, like me, are going to have some serious headchecks going on, and that this rambly thing may be useful. I'm pretty certain there's a subsection of women -possibly that I know, possibly not- who find this entertaining and possibly interesting as an insight into me.  Hopefully there's a practical tip or two in here, too, for the guys who aren't like me, either because they're made of steel or stone, and aren't affected because they're either too tough or too stupid to be.

(But if you claim to be either, I will call you a liar to your face. Or I'll wait until you take the 8 hour class and show up RIGHT after the birth video. Then we'll see.)

Friggin "deep cleansing breaths" my ass.

-MT out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life After Baby?

This is a quickie blog entry, but I suspect this will be one that a lot of guys who read this down the line will empathize with and wonder about. It'll probably be something I blog about after 2.0 joins us in the outside world, too.

I've picked up a new hobby in the last 2-3 months. Very cheesy geek hobby called Battletech. You basically drive this 100-ton walking robot-o'-doom. Jump into an 8-foot tall, 5-foot wife lil' egg with a bajillion screens, buttons, joystick and a throttle, with seven screens of video-game-goodness around you. Guy who introduced me to it is actually mildly famous - in Battletech circles - as quite the pilot. Getting pretty good at it, I am. Every Wednesday night I plunk down m'20 dollars, go romp around for 3-4 hours doing the shooty thing. A tad expensive 

Only problem is that I suspect my hobby will be in both temporal and financial jepoardy once 2.0 comes along. I'd like to think that I'll still have the time and the cash, but can't really know about these things, I suppose. Obviously, when wife enters The Red Zone where birth is imminent, I'm going to skip my Wednesday night to be near Amy. ('cause nothing says "QUALITY DAD" like running an Atlas battlemech around when your wife's in labor, right?)

I imagine a week or two afterwards, I'll have to give it up as well to make sure the wife is okay, and I'm totally fine with that. What I worry about is the longer term. A lot of people say "Once your kid is born your life is over," and indeed that grim prediction is what led to my blog's name. I dunno. The closer I get to "THE BIG DAY" the more I wonder if it's right, though. I absolutely want to be a huge part of my kid's life. Killed me that my back was out and I couldn't help paint 2.0's room or lay in 2.0's new floor.

At the same time, though, I still want to be more than just "2.o's dad." I'm a guy with a lot of talents, and a lot of passions - and I don't think it's wrong that I want to hang on to those. It's funny, but even after 8 months of observations here, I'm still back to the original question: when 2.0 was conceived, did I have 9 months left to live?

Dunno. I'm not morbid or in the least bit unhappy this morning - hell, wife made me cookies, I'm in a great mood! - but I find myself wondering about my future. I'm really happy, for the most part, with how life is going right now, and even an idiot can tell you big change is on the horizon. I know I'll be happy with what I'll gain. I just wonder if I'll be happy with what - if anything - I lose.

...including, potentially, a 100-ton walking robot.

-MT out

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Yellow Zone

So at this point, we're pretty much in the yellow zone as I call it in terms of baby arrival. It's unlikely still at this point, but no longer out of the realm of reasonable possibility. (32 weeks.) I myself was a moderate bit early - 6 weeks - so every time Amy winces and grabs her belly, I cringe. Fellas, in case no one ever told you, seems chicks have this "Braxton-Hicks" thing going on. They're basically fake, warm-up contractions that don't actually hurt, but cause women's eyes to widen and hands to go to their bellies. Great way to freak a fella out, lemme tell ya. I'm not sure if I'm going to be James Bond when the moment for that drive comes, or more "Father of the Bride 2" when the time comes. Feel free to place your bets.

Speaking of freakouts, I've got a mild grouch going with our doc at this point.  I don't think I ever posted on it, but awhile back the doctor saw some strange shadows in the brain of 2.0 (Baby Fletcher's Codename) and sent us to the specialist. Fair call, apparently it can be a flag for UBER BAD STUFF, and so the next day we went. In the 24 hours prior to trip number two, Amy and I were an absolute and total wreck, major basketcase, and anyone at work telling me "scary signs show up during pregnancy and babies are fine all the time" got a polite nod, an ear, and absolutely no mind whatsoever. Turns out nothing was wrong, and that's one thing I'll happily never go through again.

Well, baby doc sent us back to the specialist this week for a heart echo. My freakout level was a lot lower this time, because of the past, and because of the phrase, "Won't affect delivery either way." Went back to the same specialist again, and I swear the guy almost looked annoyed this time. He basically said, in politer terms, that there was almost nothing here to worry about at all. Now I get that the first doctor is just playing it safe, but geez. Shouldn't he be able to, I dunno, make a decision on his own? Do an analysis and figure something out without costing us money to go to someone else? Bah. I'm not advocating reckless behavior with 2.0's life or anything, but c'mon, if the specialist practically gives off "time waste" signals, you'd think the first doctor could make a friggin judgment call once in awhile, eh?

Anyhow, it's cool that 2.0 is healthy and definitely wigglin' around. Amy's belly is a show all its own nowadays.  Amy's had a friend coming over to help with the construction of the baby room the past three weeks. This is cool and all. It's a little frustrating from my point of view, though. I was kinda looking forward to doing dad-type stuff with 2.0's room, and since I blew out my back moving heavy things - something that's still annoying the hell out of me to this day - even standing on a solid surface too long starts to hurt. Yeah, the chiro-dude says I'm healing very quickly, fine, been that way all my life. Still doesn't mean I'm able to help with the fixing-up of my own kid's room. And given what you, oh tolerant reader, know about my feelings towards contribution and being a decent parent, yes, this vexes the hell out of me. Meh. At least Amy doesn't appear to be flagging much. She still looks amazingly well, healthy, and not-fat for a woman 31 weeks along. She's wielding power saws and drill bits with a gleam in her eye, and it at least makes me feel better that she doesn't need me for this kind of thing, despite her pregnant state. Sorta makes me feel better, I guess. Really.

In other news, students have a big friggin test this week. Be nice when that's water under the bridge. Not really too worried; they're well-prepared, but still - something about being held to a vastly higher bar than the rest of the school when it comes to their results is a tad ulcer-inducing at times. ;)

Life goes on. Yellow zone will progress to red zone, and we'll finally find out if 2.0 looks more like mom or dad. Mental note - at some point soon, discuss strange rumors and suggestions I've heard about the goings-on of a baby shower.