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.