The baby is due to arrive any time now. Technically, April 2nd, which was yesterday, but apparently only about 10% of babies are actually born on their due dates. The majority just pop out anytime two weeks before or two weeks after that date. Jameelah and I are just waiting. She is on maternity leave now and has started doing stuff to prepare for his arrival, such as vacuuming and dusting and removing things that could potentially be harmful to the baby—toxic cleaners and rotten foods and that DVD of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
Now that we are going to be parents, everything is potentially lethal. For example, our neighbors downstairs have started smoking even more pot than usual since it became legal in Washington State. They like to do it in the bathroom and turn on their fan, which transfers all the pot smoke up to our own bathroom. Immediately I got indignant, thinking of our baby having to endure this during bath time, probably getting the munchies for breast milk, the poor kid.
I am on edge, unable to concentrate at work, waiting for the phone to ring any time now to announce that contractions are starting. It is exciting and stressful, and I am trying not to snap at people. In attempts to be supportive, they ask questions like, “Are you nervous?” or “Are you ready to be a father?” Of course I’m nervous, you fool! This is another human being we’re talking about; only an idiot wouldn’t be nervous! And am I ready? Who cares?! Whether or not I’m ready, this baby is coming and it would be uncomfortable for everyone to try to put it back inside, so stop asking me ridiculous questions!
Then I calm down, remembering that people are just trying to be helpful. The most helpful person, however, was a friend who brought me several mini bottles of alcohol. He is a father and knows what it’s like to go through this beautiful and stressful time. I tucked them into my jacket pocket.
For a father, this period can be difficult. Last week, I attended a workshop specifically for first-time dads. There were only four of us dads, and a facilitator. We were each given a fake baby and taught how to hold it, how to change it and swaddle it (babies love being in a strait-jacket hold, since they’re so used to a small space). The facilitator, Chris, had a tough-love sort of approach to his teaching.
“Make sure you have everything when you set your baby down to change,” he said, putting down his fake baby, “because when you put him down, that’s it. You can’t leave the baby alone. Never leave the baby alone!” Duh, we all thought. “As soon as you do,” he continues, “what happens?” We were afraid to say it. “That’s right,” he said, sweeping the baby doll off the table. It landed with a hollow thud on the ground. He picked it back up. “Now, some of your changing pads have harnesses. You’re going to tie your kid to this thing? What do you think will happen?” We were silent. “This!” He swept it off the table again, resulting in another sickening thud. “Your baby just fell off the table, and harnessed in, so maybe he can’t breathe either.”
I looked across the table at Tom, a sensitive biker type. He was heavily tattooed on both arms, and was yet so gentle holding his doll baby. He looked paralyzed with fear. Even though it was a doll, we all cringed every time it fell on the floor.
“Now,” continued Chris, “make sure you keep one hand on the baby at all times, and pay attention, or you might be combing baby poop out of your hair and the baby’s hair.” We learned newborns may need to be changed 10 to 18 times daily. Hearing that fact, Tom the sensitive biker sighed heavily, looking like he was going to faint. “I need a beer or a shot about now.” And I remembered something. Hey, I did have a shot of vodka in my jacket pocket! I reached inside, grabbed the tiny bottle of Absolut, thinking I would be supportive of this new father, since we were in the same boat, and I could feel his pain.
Then thought, Oh hell no, I might need this for myself.
Despite the anxiety and stress, I think I am ready for this little guy, and I hope he gets here soon. If anyone needs me, I’ll be waiting quietly in the bathroom.