Sunday, September 09, 2001

Labor has begun.

Ah... the first night of no sleep -- the tossing, turning, constantly flopping and rolling in a futile search for comfort, accompanied by sighs, grunts, murmurs of exasperation . . . and my wife seems to be uncomfortable, too..

The last labor we went through started similar to this one, with a night from hell. (Yes, my wife has filed a formal complaint regarding my use of the collective "we", insisting it cannot possibly apply when I am reporting on such events as "contractions" and "labor" and "delivery" -- I submit for consideration the crescent-shaped scars on my arm she dug in during each of those contractions and the enamel ground to dust off my teeth which each grimace as I was forced to view the birth at an extremely close angle.) The contractions were seven minutes apart from dusk til dawn, and I know this for a fact because I awoke every seven minutes with red neon clock numbers glowing on the bridge of my nose and my wife's elbow in my spine alerting me the next pain package had arrived. Questions raced through my mind -- or, more accurately, the questions raced from 9 - 11, jogged at a frisky pace until midnight, briskly strolled a stretch before putting their feet up around 2:00, and at 4am they pulled the pillow over their heads and told me I was on my own -- the confused queries of a panicked father-to-be repeating unanswered in an endless loop: what do I do with her water when it breaks? was it three short breaths followed by two long breaths, or is that the international SOS signal? was I supposed to call her mother before, during, or after the baby arrives? why does she wake me up every seven minutes to announce another contraction?!?!

If a man invented the Lamaze classes, it was only as a business venture, a way to siphon more money from the dazed and confused future fathers, their rational minds clouded by the upheaval in their lives: dens and studies redecorated in fluffy clouds and rainbows, nursery rhymes and cartoon characters banishing the babe lounging along a classic tail fin; mini-van brochures replacing The Sporting News as bathroom reading material; evenings during the dramatic pennant race spent not with the lads from SportsCenter but the ladies from Labor & Delivery, learning the finer points of meditative massage and reassuring rhythmic counting to the peaceful keening of the blue whale. While spending two hours alternating between rubbing his partner’s back and massaging her feet, the father-to-be is subjected to graphic propaganda, films portraying men in un-natural settings (“I wanted to crochet with my wife, to show my support for her maternal sacrifice”) and scenes of blood and gore (“I wanted to cut the umbilical cord, to show my eternal gratefulness for her maternal sacrifice”) -- do not be confused! This is not an action flick! – these images are designed to weaken a man’s instincts, to oppose his genetic disposition to prowl in the waiting room before beating his chest and trumpeting to the pride his genes have been carried forth. Today’s fathers are not encouraged to howl amid the cigar smoke, but are accessorized with matching diaper bags.