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…
Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads. In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other. That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood. A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack. Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980′s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70′s.)
For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.
In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo. Preparing for our new arrival. We might just live the good life yet…”
Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever. In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange. Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”
In Full House, it was Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”
There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster. As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”
The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”
Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”
You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia. It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day. So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now. That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:
Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres. Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday. Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week. Good call.
It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated. He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure. Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack. So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.
Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date. So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment. Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date. He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.
I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave. In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date. We went to the doctor today. Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position. He’s turned the correct way and everything. But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it. He’s a sneaky little guy.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
Today was my wife’s last doctor’s appointment before the due date (November 11th), which it just one week from today. She is dilated one centimeter and effaced 50 percent. However, the nurse told us today that it is common for first time moms to go a week past their due date. But still, it could happen at any time.
For the past week now, I’ve noticed that I have been completely spaced out. My mind is obviously preoccupied with knowing that our “Jack-in-the-box” could spring out any moment. People have asked me if I’m getting nervous- to my surprise, the answer is yes. I thought I was over that stage. But the first time I got nervous, around a month ago, it was because of the realization I don’t really know what to do with a newborn baby. Now that we’ve finished our Lamaze course, I’m much more confident on the basics of how to help care for Baby Jack. The thing that makes me nervous now is knowing that I have to see my wife in pain and discomfort, for hours. No matter how easy it could end up happening, it will still be difficult.
People have asked me if I think I will pass out during the delivery. The answer: a simple “no”. Blood and guts don’t bother me. Besides, unlike the reality TV star of the moment Kody Brown (Sister Wives), I will not be on the “receiving end” while my wife is giving birth. I don’t need to see his head coming out. Instead, I will be holding my wife’s hand, or at least beside her, as he’s being born.
Speaking of blood and guts, my wife and I have come up with some exciting plans for the weekend- that way, even if our baby isn’t born in the next few days, at least we can be busy and entertained otherwise. And we don’t have to just sit around getting anxious. So either way, we win: Saturday morning we have brunch plans with some friends- I’m very excited about the meatloaf and mashed potatoes at the place we’re going. Then Saturday afternoon, my wife and her mom (who is in town for the next couple of weeks) will be getting a facial. (I guess I’ll read a book during that time.) Next, we will go to the matinee: I will see Saw 3D (finally explaining the “blood and guts” reference), while my wife and her mom see something a little more light-hearted, yet appropriate for the upcoming event: Life as We Know It.
That’s right- my mother-in-law got into town Sunday night and plans to be here through the end of the month. If the audience of dad from day one was male, I would have to take a page to humorously explain that though my mother-in-law is living with us, it’s not a wacky, cliché sitcom sort of deal. I can’t complain. When I come home from work, dinner is already ready- as my wife has had help preparing it. As well as the fact that her mom immediately takes care of the dishes afterwards.
People have asked me if I’m planning on taking off a while from work once the baby is born. At this moment, I’m thinking I’ll take off just a couple of days. Because fortunately, I won’t be leaving my wife alone- she will have her mom there with her until I get home. We are very blessed that my mother-in-law has chosen to stay with us.
Those are my final thoughts as a man who has yet to see his son. Everything is about to change. Unless Baby Jack stays in past his due date, the next dad from day one will be “Baby Jack is Here!” Pictures of him will be included, of course.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
In a matter of days (most likely no more than 20), dad from day one will no longer be a blog about pregnancy from a dad’s perspective; instead of pregnancy, it will be about a real life baby. Like the way that the first season of Saved by the Bell was really called Good Morning, Miss Bliss and took place in Indiana, then by the next season Miss Bliss was gone and Zack, Screech, Lisa, and Mr. Belding magically reappeared in California, yet it was still basically the same TV show, only better and livelier.
My work place had a "masculine baby shower" for me, meaning there were no games- just food and a bucket full of gifts.
What this means is that this post of dad from day one could be the last one before “Baby Jack is Born!” is published. Or, I could easily post two more new ones before he’s born. No way of knowing. It’s like waiting for the clown to jump out of the jack-in-the-box while turning the crank. Any day now, our Jack may pop out of the box! (Unavoidable metaphor.)
Pork-free soup is hard to find in the South; at least in my office.
His due date is November 11th, on my dad’s birthday, but my wife and I are both convinced that Baby Jack will be born on the 5th. We met on October 5, 2006. Our first date was on February 5, 2007. We got married on July 5, 2008. And November 5, 2010 will be Week 39, close enough to Week 40- it’s very possible. Though I love to joke that he will be born on Halloween and he’ll be our Jack-O-Lantern.
Last night we finished our last Lamaze class. Last weekend we packed the car seat. This weekend we will make a trip to Target to pick up supplies (snacks) for the hospital stay and finish packing for D-Day. It’s like preparing for the ultimate first day of school. But instead of meeting my new teacher, I’m meeting my new baby.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
Pick up a copy of the November 2010 issue of American Baby magazine...
...and on page 13 you just might see some familiar faces.
This being the first time my writings have been featured in a national magazine, I have to compare the experience of seeing the copy for the first time to that great scene in That Thing You Do where The Wonders all hear their song being played on the radio for the first time. I will never forget; during my lunch break I rode my mountain bike to an appropriately named maternity and baby clothing store in Franklin, TN called Pickles and Ice Cream.
The issue had just arrived in the store. The two girls behind the counter watched me anxiously and purposely turning the pages until I found page 13, both knowing something was up. And though I was still wearing my bike helmet, they realized that the squinty-eyed Italian-looking guy wearing a Tom & Jerry t-shirt in the magazine must be me.