October 18, 2010
by Shawn Bean
I still close my eyes and hear the explosions, the cries, the horror. Even now, many years later, it stays with me.
Even though the pitocin drip started promptly at 8 a.m. we spent the entire day waiting for the Big Moment to arrive. We passed time watching movies on TNT. Over the course of the morning and afternoon, Julia Roberts morphed from diabetic Southern belle to Prince-loving prostitute. Next thing I know it’s 9 p.m., and I’m holding my wife’s knee by her ear as Steven Seagal’s Under Siege 2 blares from the TV. As our son Jackson came through the birth canal, Seagal fired a rocket launcher at a truck-full of bag guys. In one fell swoop a baby cried, a truck exploded, and a stunt man probably separated his shoulder. Good times.
I had no idea this is what delivery day would be like. As a youth, I spent countless hours watching that TV documentary about New York obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, yet nothing that happened on April 16, 2004, was really expected. Men don’t grow up with uteruses (or is it uteri?), so we don’t spend much time thinking about childbirth. As a result, guys have historically played a nominal or non-existent role on delivery day. My father sat in the waiting room; my grandfather didn’t even go to the hospital. A male in the delivery room was as useful as a Nerf rocket in Baghdad.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a father-to-be who isn’t in the delivery room. It’s even tougher to find a woman who’d let him skip out. While writing this piece, I texted my wife Brandy, “What would you say to a dad-to-be who didn’t want to be in the delivery room?” Her response: “Suck it up [expletive].”
I learned many things in birthing class, but practical advice for the delivery was not one of them. Having gone through the experience twice, here is what dads-to-be need to know about D-Day.
Your overnight bag is ill equipped. My wife Brandy packed enough to last the rainy season in the Serengeti. I packed two pairs of tube socks and a Hot Pocket. Your overnight bag should contain two looks: solitary confinement (T-shirts, basketball shorts, pajama pants, and flip-flops for sitting around the hospital room) and public appearance (Polo, jeans, and loafers or sneakers, for impromptu stops at the pharmacy, grocery store, or local restaurant).
You are the press secretary. If she’s lucky, Mom only has to separate her hipbones and pass an eggplant on steroids. But other issues could arise including a C-section or episiotomy, which require ample bed rest. So dad must be the filter for all visits, requests, and phone calls. Before heading to the hospital, input all the contact numbers you’ll need on delivery day.
You will get emotional. I cried when I looked at Jackson’s tiny nose. I cried when I pushed the elevator button. I did the lip-quivering stutter as I ordered take-out. You may be overwhelmed by this experience, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Unless, of course, you’re blubbering “p-p-p-pepperoni” to the pizza guy.
All things considered I’m proud of my performance on D-Day, but I’m happy to have it behind me, safely preserved in the baby blue photo album in the living room. In short: Before was pretty good. After is way better.