Monday, October 26, 2009

Meaningless Fatherly Pride

A few days ago we went to see our midwife. I've dubbed her the Ben Stein of midwives because she is chronically underwhelmed. The first time we arrived at her office, I was elated, nervous, a little baffled, and I expected everyone I met to share at least one of those emotions. Not Mrs. Stein. "A baby? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?" Granted, she's been delivering babies for 25 years, and there were certainly times during my table waiting career when I thought, "If I have to serve one more rib-eye steak..." Nonetheless, when people ordered them, I smiled, said "Good choice," and went over the salad dressing options. Not once did I flatly respond, "Wow. A rib-eye? How unique that you'd have the same thing everyone on this planet is biologically capable of ordering."

I know this sounds like something I might have put on the "Things I Won't Miss About Pregnancy" list, but I have since grown to adore our midwife, grown to admire her unshakable calm. What I once thought was catatonia, I now regard as serenity - a stability I know I will appreciate when Carrie is squeezing a melon through a lemon. Same letters different size fruit - is there a word for that? When we arrived last Monday, we hadn't had an appointment in about a week and a half and it was time for a pelvic exam. Mrs. Stein slipped on her gloves, reached under the sheet, and made as surprised an expression as I think she is capable. "Wow!" she said, "She's really low."

Carrie sat up a little, clearly excited by the news, "Really? That's great."

While earning my Master's degree in counseling, I learned that mirroring people's emotions is a terrific stall tactic when you're trying to figure out what the hell they're talking about. I smiled at Carrie, nodded in agreement, maybe even whispered a "Terrific" or an "Awesome." Then our midwife said the thirteen words that every expectant father longs to hear: "Yeah, she's much lower than any of the other babies due right now." It was actually just the adverb "much" and the comparative form of the adjective "low" that filled my heart with joy. I still had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew my daughter was "much lower" than the other babies were, and I knew that this news made my wife and our emotionally vapid midwife very happy. No one has ever accused me of being non-competitive.

When I finally figured out that it meant our daughter was positioned correctly and was right on (if not slightly ahead of) schedule and other children, I started thinking things like, "That's my girl. She really knows how to navigate a cervix." I can only imagine what I'm going to be like when she actually does something that isn't biologically determined by Carrie's physiology.

Ah yes, the joys of bridging unconditional love with unrealistic expectations. Stay tuned for meaningful fatherly pride. I'm sure they'll be lots of it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Premature Evacuation and Other Things I'll Miss

Saturday marked a week until Halloween - the due date of our first sonogram. The anticipation is building, and with each night I lose a little more sleep wondering what kind of daughter we will have, what kind of father I will be, and which color disaster our house will be painted for the next umpteen years. Although we're both anxious to be parents, there are a few things I will miss about being an expectant father.

1. The occasional Visa Commercial

A recent stop at the gas station:

Water: $2
Snacks: $6
Gas: $25
Carrie's deadpan response of, "Is what a boy or a girl?" to the cashier's question about her belly: Priceless

Carrie does this from time to time and its awesomeness (yes, it's a word) only increases with the size of her belly. I think people stop breathing for a moment, pray for the invention of a time machine, or start tapping their shoes together like Dorothy. It creates such a unique atmosphere of discomfort and relief that they inevitably share an embarrassing past experience when they actually were mistaken.

2. Premature Evacuation: My favorite. Pregnancy is a terrific time for the socially ambivalent and occasionally lazy. It is a constant and justifiable excuse to leave parties, work, or just plain undesirable situations early. "We have a mid-wife appointment," or "Carrie's not feeling well," or sometimes I'll just say, "Well...I think I should get going," and then point down at my belly with a knowing nod, hoping they know I'm talking about Carrie rather than implying that I'm headed for the gym.

These opportunities are rare, and I feel no shame in taking advantage. When my grandmother passed away in '91, I was taking "permitted educational leaves" from college for almost three years. Being the world traveler she was, I know she would have approved.

3. Eating whatever I want. Oh wait, that's Carrie. I do it, too, though, knowing that this is a temporary luxury soon to be replaced with eating tepid mashed carrots, chewed up grapes, and any "five second rule" items I deem too valuable to throw out. Future frugal father of the year. Say that ten times fast.

Other things I will miss that have more to do with baby outside the belly versus inside the belly:

1. Sleeping
2. Eating at the same time as Carrie
3. Going to the movies
4. Having time to blog
5. Finishing sentences

Friday, October 23, 2009

When Birth Can't Come Soon Enough

Where to begin? Our daughter, Amari B. Fishman, will be here any day now. Carrie and I have been given due dates ranging from October 31st through November 3rd depending on the mood of the sonogram. For months we've both been rooting for Halloween because every birthday would be a fun (and really cute) costume party. Now we're both rooting for tomorrow. I'm selfishly ready to stop worrying about how I'll respond under the pressure of labor and a home birth, while Carrie's just ready to evacuate her uterus and return to her upright position.

While we're waiting - here are a few things I will not miss about being an expectant father:

1. Opinions: Some say they're like assholes because everybody has one. I say they'd be much more similar if people had a whole bunch of assholes and offered them freely without solicitation. This has never been more evident than during Carrie's pregnancy. Whether it's the gender, our name choice, breastfeeding, how much time we take off, how tired we're going to be, or what kind of parents we'll make, people feel compelled to share many of their personal "assholes" with us. Granted, these opinions usually stem from experience and if they didn't I would definitely stop listening and immediately say what people have told me for years, "'ll feel differently when you actually have a kid." Instead, I generally just furrow my eyebrows in feigned interest, nod slowly, and say, "Wow. Thanks. I didn't know crying develops the lungs."

Interestingly, current and compelling research shows that prior to having kids, 99.9% of these same people vowed never to pass along their advice to newly expecting parents. I, however, as a proud member of the minority, have an extensive and ever-growing list of people whom I intend to call the minute my daughter is born just to let them know how they should have done things.

2. Loss of Identity: When we went public with Carrie's pregnancy (which was much too soon for the superstitious), I subsequently ceased to exist. "How's Carrie?" or "How's your wife?" or "How's she doing?" when people don't know her name or if we're married. I'm used to it now. It's kind of like the royal "you guys" that married couples get knighted with, though I've never bought into the royal "we" response unless they're specifically asking about our relationship. Then I make up something tragic so they'll change pronouns and just ask me questions.

To be honest I don't mind Carrie getting most of the attention, because I think she deserves it. My part in the pregnancy began and ended nine months ago, although in my defense I have taken on the very primal roles of wood gatherer, fire starter, and sandwich maker, which in my "asshole" are very important jobs. I'm sure that once Amari is here, then Carrie and I will both cease to exist.

3. Brand new "Friendships": Loss of identity is much less annoying than opinions, and in fact, my loss of identity with close friends and family has been supplemented by brand new relationships with previously peripheral people whom I never really had anything in common with. Now, knowing that we both have vital sperm or that they have a uterus built to support vital sperm, we have forged relationships based firmly in numbers 1, 2, and 4.

4. "You guys will make great parents." People love to say it, I love to hear it, and I also suspect that all of those people are brilliantly intuitive. I do, however, wonder whether there is anyone out there (besides my friend, Bodhi) honest enough in the face of less capable parents to say, "You guys are going to A kid?" or "You guys will be great co-parents after the stress of child-rearing leads to divorce." This is why I love Bodhi, even though I am sometimes the object of his courageous honesty.

I suppose the truth wouldn't be so hard to hear if the lie were never invented.

Stay tuned for the things I will miss about being an expectant father...