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Date Night

The Queen and I got into a weekly ritual to celebrate our remaining weeks as a childless couple. Every Wednesday we met at my place of business, had dinner at one of the delightful ethnic restaurants on Capitol Hill, and then gathered with eight or ten other couples to watch horrific videos of strangers coming out of other strangers' private parts.

Yes, we're attending childbirth classes, and Date Night will never be the same again.

Our first class started charmingly enough, with a round of introductions and some gentle prefatory remarks by the instructor. Then, about an hour into the session, the teacher announced that it was time for a video. Perhaps remembering "movie time" from high school, we all settled back in our seats and prepared to snooze. And sure enough, the film opened with some soothing music and feel good imagery, enough to lull us all into a false sense of serenity. And then, a few moments later, everyone was sitting bolt upright in their chairs and gripping their arm rests, their mouths perfect O's of terror.

The closest kin to childbirth videos are traffic safety films -- you know, the ones with names like "Mechanized Death" and "The Final Swerve." Both employ frightening, gory imagery, which make the viewer never want to go through the ordeal depicted on screen. The difference, of course, is that by the time you see the childbirth videos, it's already too late. It's like showing "Yugo To Hell!" to a driver who has already crashed through the guardrail but has yet to hit the rocks below.

Between videos we learned the nuts and bolts of labor: breathing techniques, coping mechanisms, and what to say when your child comes out ("That doesn't look like a baby!" was a popular exclamation in the films we saw). Most of this, obviously, was for the benefit of the mothers, but we did cover a few dad-centric topics, like how to take a punch and smile while your wife is in the "transition stage".

We also learned the father of the child traditionally cuts the umbilical cord. "Why?" I asked, upon hearing this. Our teacher seemed confused by the question, so I clarified. "I mean, if there an actual reason for the father to do it -- like, because he's standing right there anyhow, and the midwife's hands are full -- or is this just a feel-good measure to make the husband feel useful, so, later, with the guys, he can be all, like, 'dude, I totally helped out with that birth!'" The teacher conceded that the latter was the case. Knowing that the cord cutting is purely ceremonial, I've decided to go whole hog. I plan to wear a suit with a sash that reads "DAD," and proclaim "I declare this baby to be ... born!" while cutting the cord with a giant pair of scissors.

Our final class was last Wednesday, and it was our turn to bring snacks. The previous lesson had been all about breastfeeding, so while The Queen and I were discussing our options on the drive home I came up with a brilliant idea. "You know what we should do," I said, "We should go to The Erotic Bakery up in Wallingford , get one of those cakes shaped like a huge pair of breasts, and serve it with milk! To which The Queen said, and I quote, "Hah hah hah hah hah, we should totally do that, hah hah hah hah hah, that would be great, hah hah hah hah! But, no." Stupid impending adulthood.

Anyway, with classes over we're "officially" "ready" to have an "baby," if you can believe that. Now we're just sort of hanging around, killing time until the dirty deed takes place. It's like waiting for a really, really slow elevator to show up, but without the little arrow on the mother's belly to tell you exactly when it's going arrive (although that would be super cool -- somebody invent that).

But what's really got us anxious is that everything feels weighted with foreshadowing these days, even the most insignificant events seem indicative of our upcoming adventure. Over the weekend, for example, we went out to Chinese food. When the fortune cookies arrived, I gave mine to The Queen, saying "This is our child's. It will tell us what his life -- and our future -- holds in store." Solemnly she cracked it open and read the slip of paper therein. Then she laughed and handed it to me.

The Squirrelly's fortune said, "You may soon win a contest."

Posted on February 09, 2004 to The Squirrelly


HA! contest

Posted by: michael on February 10, 2004 7:08 PM

Heh. We managed to miss the Horror Films in our birthing class. Of course, we found most of the techniques were quite a bit less than adequate to the job when The Day came, so I'm not sure what we got out of it. Except an opportunity to buy a big exercise ball.

Posted by: *** Dave on February 10, 2004 7:35 PM

Did they tell you birthing women sometimes breathe fire on the relevant sperm source? Don't worry, it's (typically) temporary. And they may not recall it.

Posted by: Jim on February 10, 2004 8:02 PM

When you go to the hospital, bring extra pillows for the recovery room. The hospital might not have many pillows and they're undoubtably not very comfortable. Also, hire somebody to clean the house before your wife and child come home from the hospital.

Posted by: Helpful New Dad on February 10, 2004 9:05 PM

Another thing that would be really helpful is to go ahead and do some excessive grocery shopping. My Aunt did this a few weeks before she was due. Go hog-wild and buy 2 or 3 times the normal amount of things you usually would even if you don't need them that way you won't have to go to the grocery store for a few extra weeks after the birth. Make sure to stock up on laundry detergent and fabric softener and make it clear to The Queen that you intend to do it all for a while so she doesn't think you're going "Here honey, I bought you lots of cleaning supplies!!!"

Posted by: Levi on February 10, 2004 9:24 PM

"Yugo To Hell"

In a world overssen by a just supernatural being, you would find yourslef employed as a scriptwriter for, if not The Simpsons, the show that knocks them off the air.

Posted by: mike on February 10, 2004 9:39 PM

for the record, shouldn't it be a little down arrow?

Posted by: Steve on February 10, 2004 9:59 PM

I forced myself to keep my eyes open during those horrible films. The best part was when the little white head was coming out, and the doctor had to cut the perenium with a satisfying *snip*. i almost vomited. mostly because I'm a woman. you're wife is gonna be in a HELL of a lotta pain, but all women say its worth it once you see the little living thing that comes out of it.

Posted by: livie on February 10, 2004 10:18 PM

Having gone through 'the blessed event' with my wife just two months ago, I can offer one bit of advice:

Tennis Balls.

As in, throw a couple into the bag of stuff you are taking to the hospital.

Trust me...NOTHING feels better during labor than a tennis ball being rolled around on her lower back.

Posted by: David on February 11, 2004 2:38 AM

Birthing class highlights:

Following an explanation of "water breaking" and how it may happen completely unexpectedly, one father-to-be exclaimed, "You mean she might wet in my ride?"

Birthing video number two featured two women going totally natural and one woman with an epidural. The two naturals were screaming, sweating and writhing like Regan MacNeil while the epidural was sitting up in bed reading a magazine. My comment to the teacher - an advocate of natural childbirth: "This video is NOT helping your cause."...thekeez

Posted by: Jeff Keezel on February 11, 2004 5:24 AM

We saw one of those videos (one that must have been of a relatively "uncomplicated" birth) when we were 11/12 years old as part of our sex-education lesson(s).

I think even that was far easier viewing then, than it would be now, and I'm male.

Posted by: Adam on February 11, 2004 5:54 AM

Freshman year in high school, way back when (early 1970s), our health teacher showed us the film, "Emergency Child Birth." Black and white, graphic, and for some reason I have it in my mind that the woman gave birth in a garage.

Anyway, after this thing was over, the teacher asked the class if we wanted to see it again. Someone spoke up and said, "Only if you show it backwards!"

Posted by: T Green on February 11, 2004 6:06 AM

Bill Murray's character sums it up in Lost in Translation, when he looks over at Scarlett Johannson and says that after you have kids, "your life, as you know it, IS GONE. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk, and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life."

Posted by: Mrs. Kennedy on February 11, 2004 9:00 AM

"giant pair of scissors" heh. I can totally see that.

For my 2nd child, the Doctor forced the scissors into my hand and said, "here". I almost asked for a discount off the bill.

Posted by: MojoMark on February 11, 2004 9:18 AM

This is not helping with my anxiety level over our impending squirrelly.

Posted by: Lost Poke on February 11, 2004 9:56 AM

After witnessing my wife giving birth naturally (our 1st was emergency C-section), with no epidural, I can help prepare the father for the facial expressions that may appear on the mother's face. I know its a bad movie, but there are a few scenes in Total Recall that show the gruesome effects of exposure to the martian atmosphere: eyes bulging, teeth gnashing, veins popping, etc. It was truly stupefying.

Posted by: Robin on February 11, 2004 10:46 AM

I think the key word here is epidural. Very, very important. Also consider the post-delivery fun. check out dooce.com as she just brought her own little squirelly into the world last week and has managed to actually get a post in about it between feedings & full diapers. There are just some places on the human body that should *never* have stitches.

Pondering spawning myslef and I just have to say that you all aren't making it sound at all attractive.

Posted by: HDC on February 11, 2004 11:02 AM

One word: drugs. Gotta have 'em. Makes the whole birthing class obsolete.

Posted by: Bert on February 11, 2004 11:29 AM

""One word: drugs. Gotta have 'em. Makes the whole birthing class obsolete.""

Is this for the father or the mother?


Posted by: Luke on February 11, 2004 11:53 AM

My birthing class was in 1980 in Big Timber MT. (population 2500). The nurse (who would be at the birth and was running the class) gave me some great advice.

"If you start feeling faint, move out of the way and sit down. If you happen to faint and crack your head open... we're just going to let you lay there bleeding until the birth is over. It isn't about you."

I never actually felt faint, but it was something to keep in mind. :-)

Posted by: James on February 11, 2004 12:05 PM

Amen about the post-delivery stitches. That was what I was the most unprepared for,there's so much empahsis on the delivery, the recovery just didn't really seem like an issue. Our guy is 8 weeks old now and I'm just feeling back to normal. Make sure you get some percocet & Tucks to bring home with you.

We went for Chinese the night I went into labor. My fortune was "Happiness Comes from Within" awwwwwww

Posted by: Liz on February 11, 2004 12:22 PM

Crouching Toddler, Hidden Driveway

Posted by: .hack/jhimm on February 11, 2004 1:08 PM

Heya Liz, so are the Tucks for hemorrhoids at that point or the stitches?

Gads, this just isn't sounding like good thing at all. Am I the only one who is thinking adoption at this point?

Posted by: HDC on February 11, 2004 2:29 PM

HDC - they're for the stitches. Believe it or not they really help. I was spared hemorrhoids, thank god.

I hear you on the adoption thing, but strangely it really is worth it. Our squirrelly rocks hard

not to say in any way at all that adoption is a lesser option &/or that physically having your own is somehow superior. 'aint necessarily so

Posted by: Liz on February 11, 2004 6:27 PM

You have got to promise us that the Squirrelly will not stop you from writing. This was definitely one of your best postings!

Our birthing video featured an earth-biscuit hippie chick who showed no more distress than somebody picking a food particle out of her teeth. All the women in the class hissed.

Posted by: Dave on February 11, 2004 6:52 PM

As another one waiting for the elevator, I read the 5-day gap between posts as a birth-induced hiatus.

We did the power-birthing class, all in one Saturday (a day in which Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" played over and over in the heads of at least three of the fathers).

As for a signal, we figured that like on a cooking turkey, when the lady's bellybutton popped inside out, the kid was done.

Posted by: greg.org on February 11, 2004 9:07 PM

The two guffaw-out-loud moments in this entry:

"It's like showing 'Yugo To Hell!' to a driver who has already crashed through the guardrail but has yet to the rocks below."

(I mentally with my mind inserted "hit" between "to" and "the." I hope that's okay.)


"I plan to wear a suit with a sash that reads 'DAD,' and proclaim 'I declare this baby to be ... born!' while cutting the cord with a giant pair of scissors."

Someone, someday, far in the future, should make a film of all your similes and metaphors and so forth. Just ninety-some-odd minutes of, "....the hell?!"

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on February 12, 2004 2:16 AM

Good luch, guys, be sure to keep us posted!!!
I know that your both sooo excited right now. Go on now and have that baby.

Posted by: nn on February 12, 2004 3:50 PM

Don't hurry up! You need your wife to hold off until Feb. 29th.

If she doesn't hit that, she'll have to wait another 4 years for the next opportunity.

And, even on your shoulders, 4-year old is a lot of weight to carry.

Posted by: Kevin on February 12, 2004 5:17 PM

We were hippies back when and I had both kids at home with midwives. He buried my placenta out in the garden, making a big ritual out of it. Later that day, from an upstairs window I saw a pack of the neighborhood dogs out in our garden, having a great time throwing that placenta around. Haha! BTW, I had big kids and no tears b/c I had good midwives who knew when to oil you up and massage and stretch the pereneum. That's how to avoid being cut. There's very little recovery time after a birth like that.

Posted by: dot on February 13, 2004 1:16 AM

As a new mother, and a mother of 3...the best way to have a relaxing and actually enjoyable childbirth..EPIDURAL!!! Trust me, I had 2 children and begged for drugs, but was refused (it was a long time ago). Last year when I gave birth to child number 3 I had an epidural; my kids were playing in the room, my mother and mother-in-law were watching ice skating on t.v., my husband was freaking out (but attempting to be helpful) and I was pretty much ok and in NO PAIN.

Posted by: michele on February 13, 2004 8:25 AM

Bring snacks and something to drink (think juice boxes). Most likely they won't let the Queen eat until after the birth (except for ice and possibly jell-o), but there is a good chance that there won't be anything open to get food from!

One more piece of advice: Dermoplast. It's a numbing spray (Walgreens/drug stores sell it). The Queen will greatly appreciate this in the days after the birth if it's not a c-scetion. I found this out after spawn #1 and I can't say enough good things about it (currently baking spawn #3). :-)

Posted by: misty on February 13, 2004 9:20 AM

Are you sick of people offering you advice yet?

If you can (and please try) don't cut the cord too soon. Doctors like to severe the cord right away. Here, you baby is free of the mom! Ta da!

But there's a lot of blood and immune cells in the placenta, and the baby can use them. Leave the placenta attached for a few minutes (ten, fifteen) and let it shrink. The baby's body will suck up those nutrients and make good use of them. Typically you're talking about as much as another 20% of the baby's ciculatory fluids.

It's actually neat (in a very weird way) to see the placenta shrink up like that.

So wield your giant novelty scissors wisely. Wait for the right moment.

Posted by: Abigail on February 13, 2004 10:32 AM

With all 3 of ours, we went with the epidural ASAP. The wife's (awesome) OBGYN likened natural childbirth to having root canal with with no anasthesia because it's more 'natural'.
The wife and I played scrabble up till the nurse came in and said, "OK, time to push!"

Posted by: Mr. Big Business on February 13, 2004 12:45 PM

good luck with everything.

...and that invention would be extremely complicated and hard to build...

Posted by: Em on February 18, 2004 6:04 PM