Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

Shannon and I attended our Labor and Delivery Class at the hospital last Saturday morning. Because she is planning on having an epidural at the first sign of discomfort, Shannon and I elected to take the one day overview, as opposed to the five weeks' worth of Lamaze classes. The brief (seven hour) course is designed to let couples know what to expect during labor and delivery. We covered topics such as: how to tell when you are really in labor, where to go when you get to the hospital, and what will happen once you are there.

The class was scheduled from 8:30AM to 3:30PM. (Of course the Tennessee vs. Alabama football game kicked off at 12:30PM) We arrived right at 8:30 AM and the class promptly began at 8:45(ish). There were five other couples in class with us. One couple and one woman had been in our last class. They were Dagwood and Blondie and Single Mom. Single Mom’s husband, Absent Man was now wearing the disguise of his alter ego, Redneck Guy. The new couples were Rosie Perez and Baby Daddy, Young Girl and Sensitive Boy and Average Couple.

The instructor began by asking all of the couples to introduce themselves. Then we should tell how far along we are in the pregnancy and why we took the class. Baby Daddy, Redneck Guy, Dagwood and Average all said that their wives made them come. Sensitive Boy (with a tear in his eye and lip quivering) said he was there to show his wife love and support. I said that Shannon and I had spent so many years avoiding pregnancy that now that it has happened, we might as well know what we were in for.

The next question by the instructor was “How many of you planned your pregnancy?” We all raised our hands except Baby Daddy (big shocker). This was followed with a small lecture on staying healthy while pregnant. At some point all of the husbands were required to wear an empathy belly. For those of you who don’t know, an empathy belly is a weighted vest that men can put on to give them the “sense” of being pregnant. Because I am not a small man, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I was already familiar with the concepts of breathlessness, and discomfort sitting, standing or bending over. Redneck Man said that he could understand how this condition could make it more difficult to mop or vacuum. How lucky is his wife?

I won’t bore you with all of the humdrum details of the class. I will only hit the highlights. The main attraction had to be the video tapes we watched. There was one of a natural birth, one of a woman who had an epidural and finally a film of a C-section. I had seen a version of these at least once before in school and on the Discovery Channel. My wife, on the other hand, had not.

The first video was of a natural childbirth. The film opens by introducing us to the couple who are having a baby. They are so happy about a natural childbirth. They even went for a hike in the woods before going to the hospital. Ahhhhhh how pleasant it must be. I think Sensitive Boy was already starting to cry.

Shannon is sitting to my left, almost behind me. She is holding my hand loosely and resting her head gently on my shoulder. The room is quiet except for the video. As the documentary progresses we see the woman experiencing labor. Hours of labor. Hours of moaning and groaning and pacing. My wife is no longer a casual observer. She is engrossed in the tape. Her head isn’t resting on my shoulder anymore... it's completely behind me. Her eyes wide, barely peeking over me. I know she doesn’t want to see what comes next, but she can’t turn away. None of us can.

What follows next is straight out of a horror movie. There is screaming. There is blood. We watch as the baby begins to crown and appear. “There is no way that baby will fit through there,” is what all the husbands were thinking. We were wrong. The mother screeches and strains. The pain and discomfort are obvious in her face. Just a few minutes later the tiny baby emerges followed by what looks like the woman’s internal organs. The umbilical cord is cut and the placenta is examined for damage. Our instructor mentions how we should also be aware of the unpleasant smells that will accompany delivery before she promptly turns off the VCR.

Stunned Silence.

Shannon whispers in my ear, “You had better be glad I didn’t see this before I got pregnant.”

Right after that the class took a break. I was standing in line for the Men’s Room pondering what our own labor and delivery would be like. “I hope Shannon is not too traumatized,” I was thinking. I realize that Redneck Guy is standing beside me. I look over and see that he is looking at me. “What did you think of the movie?” I say without thinking. “I figur it cayn’t be no worse than cleanin’ a gutshot deer,” he says back. “Good point” I reply. Then I turn back around.

We watched another movie where the woman had an epidural. Much smoother delivery and not as much painful drama. The only major concern during this video was that Shannon hates needles. This one was a pretty big one. (Good thing it will be in her back so she won’t have to look at it.) “So far, I’m not crazy about my choices for getting this baby out of me,” Shannon whispered in my ear. I didn’t know how to respond. I feel awful that she will have to experience such distress. By the time we got to the C-Section movie I was completely zoned out. The majority of the afternoon was taken up with relaxation and breathing exercises. (I admit that I took a little nap while we were lying on the floor.)

It was a very informative class. I am glad we attended. It’s good to be aware.

I think.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Watch Out Spielberg

I have never wanted to own a video camera, at least not since I have been an adult. I have had friends with camcorders who would tape anything and everything and I always wondered when they would get around to actually watching those tapes. I figured that the majority of my life was boring enough the first time around. Why would I want to see it again? Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of exciting moments too, but for legal reasons, it is probably best there isn’t a video record of them.

Now that I am going to be a dad my views are changing. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of “home movie night”. My dad would hang a sheet on the wall and get out the movie projector. Mom would make a big bowl of popcorn. Carole, Suzanne and I would dig through the box of super 8 movie reels in the closet, each one of us picking out the film we wanted to see first. Even though we had watched the movies before we would always laugh at the sight of ourselves on camera. (If we ever wanted to feel like we were on a roller coaster we could always watch one of Grandma’s movies of a 4th of July parade.)

What really pushed me over the edge was when I was flipping channels on TV the other night. The remote quit working while I was mid flip and stopped on some channel. I don’t know if the battery was low or what, but I couldn’t move up or down using the remote. (What do you mean, “Get up and change the channel?”) Anyway, the show on the screen was America’s Funniest Home Videos. I’m not typically one for watching dumb people get whacked in the groin, but unless I moved from my reclined position, I was stuck.

Over the next several minutes I watched clip after clip of small children getting tripped, dunked and squirted. All to the delight of the studio audience. I thought to myself , “Man, those kids will be so embarrassed when they get older.” Just then a light bulb went off. I was thinking “my son deserves to be humiliated as much as any other boy.”

So, last weekend I found myself at Best Buy. Like most men I am drawn to electronic gadgets. I like the latest and greatest in thingamajigs. I don’t know much about video cameras so I did a very “unmanly” thing and asked for help from the sales girl. Her name was Sara. The conversation went like this.

“Hi, I am Sara” she said. “Do you have questions about video cameras?” I replied “yes.”
“Blah, blah, blah digital blah, blah battery life blah, blah,” said Sara. I just nodded. “Then there is blah, blah high definition blah, blah surround sound, blah, blah top of the line Sony” she spouted. “Wait…she said HD Sony?” “I’ll take it” were the next words that came out of my mouth. “Oh, and I have a coupon.” (My mom would have been proud.)

I am now the owner of a Sony camcorder. An expensive one. This kid better do some funny stuff.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Baby Training 101

We went to our first baby preparedness class last night. It was taught at a local hospital.
The class started at 6:30 in one of the hospital classrooms located on the labor and delivery floor.

Shannon and I arrived right at 6:30 and were greeted by the instructor. She was a nurse with many years of experience. I suspect her first delivery was assisting “Ol’ Doc Watson” in a log cabin by candlelight. (I could just picture her telling the “Paw” to boil some water and find clean sheets.)

Besides Shannon and I, there were just a few other people in the class. I don’t know their real names so I will refer to them by nicknames. There was K-Fed and Britney, Dagwood and Blondie and Single Mom. Single Mom wasn’t really single, she is just married to the super hero known as Absent Man. I was more than a little disappointed that we didn’t stand up and do introductions. I was hoping for a little insight into what they were thinking about having kids. Especially K-Fed with his facial piercings.

The class began with the instructor telling us how labor and delivery had changed so much since she began nursing. “In the old days,” she said, “the husband would drop the mother off in front of the hospital, park the car, and then wait in the lounge for one of the nurses to come out and tell him what was happening.” “Sounds reasonable,” I thought. I raised my hand and asked her why that had changed. She explained that during the 70’s and early 80’s some husbands “demanded” to be more involved. (Thanks gentlemen)

The next two hours were filled with helpful tips about caring for your newborn when you bring them home. Most of them were obvious. I took notes to make sure I did not forget the real important ones. For instance, :don’t shake the baby". It may seem like a good idea, but you shouldn’t do it. "Don’t let the baby use power tools." They are careless and waste a lot of lumber. "Don’t let the baby cook." They never follow the recipe and you end up eating bad food just to be polite.

I know this is an exaggeration, and most of the lecture was common sense, but I really did learn some useful information. I didn’t know that you shouldn’t give a baby a bath until their umbilical cord stump falls off. Even then, they don’t really need much of a scrubbing. I also had some concerns about trimming the babies nails. (Shannon says this will be my responsibility). I learned you can just bite them off while the baby is asleep. “Sweet Idea” I thought. I’ve had lots of practice biting my own nails. If nothing else, the class taught me that I am more prepared than I thought to care for a baby.

Monday, October 1, 2007

40 weeks sure seems like a long time...

And I'm not even the one who is pregnant. I know Shannon is getting frustrated with being tired and uncomfortable. Just the other day I was laying on the couch watching baseball when I noticed her mopping the floor and taking out the garbage. I thought to myself, "Boy, she sure looks worn out." (Just kidding Donna...I am taking good care of your baby sister.)

Lately Shannon has wanted to spend most evenings and weekends relaxing. Being the devoted husband I am, I plop down right beside her on the couch. The nice thing is that the time has allowed us to have some long discussions about the baby and our plans for the future. I really feel that we have become closer as a couple. Before the pregnancy we would have been running in oposite directions all week, just to re-group on Sunday evening. Now, we actually make it a point to sit down at the kitchen table for supper.

One of the reasons for her fatigue is that the baby is getting bigger and more active. He is making it increasingly difficult for his mother to get comfortable and relax. The other night I was sitting next to Shannon watching the Cubs game. (I wanted to watch HGTV, but she insited we see if the Cubbies would make the post season.) All of the sudden I noticed my wife;s t-shirt moving. The little fella just couldn't relax while Alfonso Soriano was up to bat. We sat there for a minute smiling and feeling the boy kick and move. At first, it is a little disturbing to see things poking out and moving around inside your wife's abdomen, but then it's exciting.

Speaking of disturbing, there are some other changes in our household that haven't been super positive. You know how when you come home from work and there is a package on the front steps? Whenever you notice it you think"Hey! A package...I wonder what we got?" Well, that is not the case at our house. Not for me anyway. Now I see a box on the front steps I just say "Great...another shipment of tiny clothes or big panties. Whoopie!"

Interesting how the size of my wife's underwear is directly proportionate to the number of Victoria's Secret ads I get in my e-mail box. They are an evil empire!

Just eight or ten more weeks and we are home free, right?