Now that my son Jack is just days away from turning a year old, I’m having these flashbacks from when my wife was pregnant with him. I remember how people were constantly asking me about our plans for his delivery and postpartum care. Looking back now, I wish I would just kept my mouth shut.
My wife and I are planners. Sure, so much of life (especially when it comes to parenting!) is unpredictable; but still, we like to be able to take control of little we can in our lives. So we had plans on how Jack would be born and raised. But as John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy,” “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And that is exactly what happened in our case.
Life (our son) happened while we were busy making other plans. Here are the Top 6 plans that didn’t work out:
1) No epidural. We watched The Business of Being Born and wanted to do this thing as naturally as possible. We knew that statistically, a woman who is given an epidural has an increased chance of needing a C-section. So my wife decided (on her own) that she would not get an epidural unless it become absolutely necessarily.
After enduring 17 and a half hours of labor naturally, we were told that if my wife didn’t get an epidural, she would definitely have to have a C-section because she wouldn’t have enough strength to deliver him.
Five hours later, our son was born. In case you’re keeping up with the math, it was a 22 and half hour labor, only five of those hours being drug-induced. Just for the record, I could never have done that! That’s why I was born a man.
2) Breast milk only; no formula. Jack was born tongue tied, so breast-feeding wasn’t much of an option because he couldn’t latch on properly. We did have his tongue clipped when he was three weeks old, but at that point we just decided to continue pumping and supplemented with Enfamil until he was nine weeks old; at which point we switched him entirely over to formula.
3) That he would be born early or on his due date. I knew I had to be ready, so I was; as ready as I could be. All that anticipation caused me to actually think he would come out on time. But of course, though he was due on November 11th, he was born five days later on November 16th.
4) Cloth diapers. Yeah, that would have saved us a lot of money. But I guess we’re just not disciplined enough of parents to raise an exclusively cloth diaper wearing baby. They were too bulky, they leaked if they weren’t on just right, and they made Jack smell bad by the end of the day.
5) Co-sleeping. Mainly, Jack just didn’t want to. He fell asleep better in his Pack ‘N Play, so that’s what we let him do. I admit, I’m glad I was wrong about this one. Because it sure is nice that since being seven months old, he has slept 11 hours a night in a separate room down the hall. I love my Jack-Man, but I don’t think my bed is big enough for the both of us.
6) Pacifers. Evidently, Jack thinks that pacifers suck. He experimented with one for a brief amount of time, but ultimately, he couldn’t pretend enough to even care about having it. Granted, he has put his mouth on a whole lot of other stuff, including a closed water bottle, a pumpkin, and his own foot.
In the midst of planning this blog post, Shawn Brook Williams, one of the graphic designers for Comics Buyer’s Guide magazine, sent me a copy of his graphic novel, Five Pounds and Screaming. His comic book style novel covers those subtle and understated moments a dad goes through, from the realization of pregnancy up until the child’s first birthday. So that’s why reading Five Pounds and Screaming was so perfect in writing this post; it conveniently jogged my memory.
I feel that Shawn and I share a very similar perspective and narrative on fatherhood. The book doesn’t cover being a dad in the cliche ways that Eighties sitcoms typically did. His approach is fresh, original, charming, and warmly familiar.
One of the most memorable scenes in the book, for me, is when the protagonist brags to a supermarket cashier, “I’m a dad!” This stood out to me because I remember doing the same thing the first couple of weeks after Jack was born.
From the telling of the family of the pregnancy, to the anxieties of expecting, to the frustrations of breast feeding, to the child’s first birthday party, Five Pounds and Screamingis like an illustrated version of The Dadabase. In particular, I think the book would make a perfect (and fun) gift for any expecting or new dad.
In the tradition of mini book reviews here on The Dadabase, the first reader to A) leave a comment on this post requesting the book, and also B) send me an email with your mailing address to nickshell1983@hotmail, I will have the author mail you a free copy of the book.
*Congrats to Hannah W. from Dover, Delaware on winning this!
There is only one person who directly assured me back before we knew the gender of our baby that he would be a boy. That was Tommy Huong, a Vietnamese co-worker who had already predicted the gender and birthday of another coworker (he has evidently memorized the 12 year patterns of the Chinese calendar). So last Friday (the day after the due date) when someone at work suggested we all do a “baby pool” to predict when Baby Jack would actually be born, a better idea instantly surfaced:Go ask Tommy!
I ventured over to his desk and as he turned around it was as if he already knew why I was there, being that he was too far away to have heard the recent conversation. “When was the due date?” he asked me. “Yesterday,” I answered. Tommy turned to his calendar and without any hesitation, placed his finger on Tuesday, November 16th. “Tuesday, he will be born Tuesday.”
So we enjoyed the weekend. Then I worked a full day on Monday. That night around 8:45, my wife said I should finish the last two episodes of Dexter on the disc from Netflix so we could mail it off the next day- and so I have could time to watch my new favorite show before our schedules became forever changed. I watched my two 50 minute episodes of Dexter, walked to the bedroom in perfect time to hear my wife proclaim, “I think I’m in labor.” And she was.
From 10:30 Monday night until 5:11 Tuesday morning, she labored at the house. Then we drove in the rain to the hospital; a 40 minute ride. After laboring for 12 hours without any pain medications, she then pushed for four more additional hours while not furthering past the 8 centimeters mark (and 100% effaced). By that point, it became clear that after making it that far, she no longer had the strength to push without some outside help. So my wife chose to get an epidural. Because ultimately, we wanted to do everything we could do to avoid major surgery.
But even after several hours of the epidural, it took everything she had to push our baby out. In fact, if it weren’t also for the diligence and determination of the midwives to honor our request of avoiding a C-section, cutting the baby out of my wife’s stomach would have been the only option. But the midwives tried every trick in the book, and finally, it worked. In the end, Baby Jack turned out to be one big Bambino. The first words my wife said when she saw him coming out was, “You’re a big baby! How did you fit inside of me?!”
I realize that the expected Hallmark way to portray the first time I held Jack is to say that I cried, as the emotions surrounding the miracle of life flushed through me. But for the fact all my emotions were exhausted from helping my wife suffer through over 22 hours of labor, here’s what I thought instead: “You’re darker than us! If anyone should be Mario, it’s you!”
I’ll explain. A few months ago I told the story of how the name my parents gave me while my mom was still pregnant with me was Mario. My mom is half Italian and half Mexican, and therefore, dark skinned. The name Mario would not only have represented my dark skin, but also cover both my Italian and Mexican heritage. But as soon as I was born, my pasty skin and seemingly American features brought cause for a name change. Therefore, a few hours after I was born, I was named Nicholas- a less ethnic name that still points to some kind of a foreign background.
So 29 years later as I held my own son for the first time, I had the opposite reaction from the one my mom had when I was born. Because as of now, Baby Jack doesn’t necessarily especially look like my wife or me, but instead what I would imagine Super Mario would have looked like when he was first born. One of Jack’s noticeable features his full head of black hair. I think he has “Gerber baby” lips. And as I have already studied his profile multiple times, it’s safe to say he has an Italian nose- which I am so proud of!
My parents holding their first grandchild for the first time.
Right before we were released from the hospital, Jack was circumcised. I felt really bad for him, yet at the same time realized that I don’t remember my own circumcision. It’s still sad to think about him having to go through that though. He’s holding up just fine and so is his mommy, despite a drawn out entrance into this world. God has answered all of our prayers for his and my wife’s safety and health; we are so grateful for that. The pediatrician at the hospital told us that she checked him from head to toe and couldn’t find anything that needing fixing or reason for caution or concern.
Jack is a cool baby, if I do say so myself. He’s pretty low maintenance- he just wants to be held all the time. But I’m guessing we won’t have trouble working that out. Thanks for following dad from dad one, so far. If life is a sitcom, this is the season finale. The new season premieres next week where I am promising an interesting new plot twist…
For the past several weeks, my wife has been toying with the idea of “going natural” for the birth. In other words, no pain medication. And I’ve been impressed just by her willingness, because I know if it were up to the men of the world to continue the human population by giving birth instead of women, the human population would have died off thousands of years ago.
I had been seeing The Business of Being Born keep popping up on my Netflix as a recommended title that I would enjoy. Then recently, a writer friend (http://www.meetmissjones.com/) also told me I should see it after she read about our disappointment with our first two appointments at a standard hospital. (Of course, we ended up switching to midwives and are so happy, though I had no idea what a midwife really even was when we first met with them.)
So last night we watched the documentary, The Business of Being Born, directed by Ricki Lake and produced by Abby Epstein (yes, they are both Jewish). I went into it thinking it would be a tiring movie telling how much money is made off of strollers, cribs, daycare, etc.
Instead, it is a one-sided film about the importance of the long-lost tradition of natural births. And we loved it!
I took notes:
-Induced labor increases the chances of C-Section by 50%
-In Japan and Europe, 70% of births are delivered by a midwife. In the US, only 8%
-The US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world
-The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries
-Since 1996 the C-Section rate in the US has risen 46%; In 2005, it was one out of every 3 American births
While there are obviously certain situations where a C-Section is absolutely necessary (like the baby being “breach”), it is a major surgery that has become the new norm.
Interestingly, in the movie, a group of young doctors are asked how many live births they have witnessed. Basically, none of them had.
And to me, that’s scary. That it’s easier, less time consuming, and more profitable to induce labor and perform a C-Section that it is to let the baby born naturally.
In the documentary they explain how the peak times for American babies being born is at 4pm and 10pm, the times at the end of the work shifts so that doctors can go home.
For me, the desire to have a natural birth all comes down to observing the downward spiral of having a baby in a hospital, with a doctor, the American way:
The mother is given Pitocin, to induce labor. Which causes longer, more intense contractions and cuts off oxygen to the baby, putting both the mother and the baby at risk, as well as potentially causing birth defects (even ADHD or Autism in the child later on, though not enough evidence can back this yet, but I won’t be surprised when it can).
So inducing labor increases the chances of having a C-Section by 50%, which puts both mother and child at greater risk. And the epidural slows down the birthing process- which in addition to the Pitocin, is another drug that may also affect the health of the baby.
Until last night, I had never witnessed a live human birth. But now I’ve seen at least four or five. All of them natural.
It’s pretty interesting to watch. I didn’t think it was gross, and I’m not artistic enough off a person to go on and on about how beautiful it was. It just seemed natural and normal. Like watching someone poop. But a baby came out instead.
The Business of Being Born does contain a large amount of nudity, as most of the mothers are nude while giving birth. But we were so intrigued by watching the births, that it didn’t register, “hey, this is porn”. It was just a woman giving birth. The documentary is not rated, because if it was, it may have to be rated NC-17. But to that I say, What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?
One of the major reasons I now support natural birth (and denounce induced labor by a doctor, with certain exceptions) is the fact that in a hospital, the mother lays down flat on a bed. Common sense tells us that gravity will naturally help pull the baby out. Plus the fact that by having the mother lay down flat, it gives the baby less room to come out.
I also learned that when a baby is born naturally, “a love cocktail of hormones” is released by the mother, causing a unique bond to occur between the mother and the child.
This is where we’re headed. This is what we will attempt. A natural birth overseen by midwives. Yet just down the hall from an M.D. in case something goes wrong.