Class Is In Session
While most workshops draw 10 to 15 expectant dads, the Oakland camp had just four. That was fine with coach Palmer, who was sharing teaching duties that day with Reggie Bridges, a gregarious father of five. It meant the rookies could spend more time handling the "stunt babies," provided courtesy of veteran and workshop MVP Todd Lawrence. He showed up bearing his 4-month-old twins, Adrien and Tajah, in car seats.
Lawrence kicked (and wiped) butt. It was one thing to listen to Palmer or Bridges talk about how to bond with your baby or recognize the baby blues in your partner. It was quite another for the expectant fathers in the group to observe and listen as Lawrence fed, burped, and changed the twins. This was about to become their world, and they hung on his every syllable.
Asked about the contents of his backpack, Lawrence ran down the list: "Let's see. I have a burp cloth, bottled water for moistening towels and cleaning up messes, formula, and a few Zip-Locs for soiled diapers." If your kid drops a deuce at a friend's house, he explained, you need to pack it up, rather than, say, leaving it in the powder room wastebasket. The expectant fathers digested this in grim silence, reflecting, perhaps, on how fundamentally their lives were about to change.
The class discussion continued apace, as the coaches ran down their checklist of what to do when a baby is crying. Is he wet? Hungry? Gassy? The importance of burping was emphasized. Techniques for releasing gas were discussed in detail. Lawrence demonstrated bicycling Tajah's little legs, but alas, no wind was forthcoming. When it was time to learn how to hold an infant, coach Bridges told the rookies to sit facing one another in chairs. "I want your knees to touch," he said. "That will be your bridge, in case something should happen and the baby falls."
Fortunately, no infants were dropped, which is not to say that rookie Greg Dowd, 31, from Alameda, CA, inspired confidence as he clutched Adrien with trembling hands, then held on as if the child were a Ming vase. Dowd's anxieties were not allayed by a bystander's keen observation: "See how he's stretching out? Look's like he's about to drop a load."