November 8, 2010
by Shawn Bean
I am experiencing a once-in-a-generation event akin to Halley’s Comet finding a four-leaf clover during a leap year. Four of my guy friends are expecting babies. I’m not talking about far-off Facebook acquaintances; these dudes are a flesh-and-blood part of my everyday life.
This momentous moment requires reflection, scrutiny, exploration—and a survey! It’s the first of its kind: Never before has a more inexperienced survey giver surveyed a more inexperienced group of men about their parenting inexperience. I plan to ask the questions that no self-respecting medical organization would even consider. I’ll delve deep into the minds of men on the brink of fatherhood. Plus, I have their email addresses handy.
The survey’s mission: to gauge their feelings about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and expectations for life after baby. As I hoped, the findings were fascinating. For example, when asked, “If forced to, would you choose to breastfeed for three months, endure labor and delivery or undergo a voluntary episiotomy?” Three out of four chose breastfeeding; no one picked labor and delivery. Why breastfeeding? “It’s a bonding experience and the least traumatic choice,” wrote one respondent. Another stated, “It would be cool to nurture your child and give it nutrients…while looking at boobs.”
Next question: “Describe something you could do to equal the pain of labor and delivery.” Half of the respondents used a violent sports scenario, such as “taking repeated punches from Mike Tyson” and “a steel cage match with Hulk Hogan.” Regarding the strangest thing they’ve observed their pregnant partner doing, all four referenced acts of self-improvement: getting up for yoga every morning at 5 a.m., taking periodic pictures of her belly for documentation and lathering herself with cocoa butter. Strange eating habits, however, were not overlooked. Highlights included a bowl of Rice Krispies before and after dinner, and pairing celery with mustard.
The final question: What will be the best part about having a child? “Watching her learn new things every day,” “teaching him about sports and the outdoors” and my aww-shucks favorite, “helping my daughter avoid the mistakes I made.”
While the sampling was small, I’m confident that these four guys represent expectant fathers everywhere. Sympathetic, funny, hopeful and clueless—exactly where I was six years ago when my wife, Brandy, was pregnant with our first son. Which begs the question: how would I have responded to my own survey? Well, the episiotomy is off the table—I watched it happen live in the delivery room, and there was enough cross-stitching that Brandy now tours the carnival circuit as the Human Quilt. And the best part of having a child? I don’t know what I would have said back then, but thanks to the power of hindsight, the answer’s easy: seeing my nose on a tiny little person.
It’s important for moms to remember that sympathetic, hopeful and clueless is exactly where you want dad to be, because there’s nowhere else he can be. He can’t be inside your mind, nor can he deal with your hormones or feel the weight of your bump, so understand his limitations. Can he anticipate your whims and feelings? No. Can he keep the pantry stocked with Rice Krispies? You bet.