Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Day the Womb Stood Still

Over the course of Carrie's pregnancy, we've been given due dates ranging from October 31st through November 3rd. I, of course, was hoping for yesterday. It was the earliest prediction, it was a holiday of sorts, and it happened to land on a weekend. I'm also really excited to meet our daughter. It's as though I've been invited to a Your-Life-Is-Never-Going-To-Be-The-Same Party but I have no idea when it's going to begin. In some ways, it already has. I've spent nine months imaging the many possibilities - what Amari will look like, who she will become, whether she'll be a lefty or a righty, and how lethal split-finger fastball will be. I've spent nine months cultivating an extensive list of unrealistic expectations to balance out my unconditional love.

After our fall break last week, I was reluctant to return to work, wanting to stay by Carrie's side so I could know the minute labor began, as if I could somehow contribute in those early moments. I'm also enjoying the nesting process. Our house has never been so clean and from what I've heard it never will be again. The truth is, I've always been prone to inertia - when I'm an object at rest I like to stay that way. It was so nice to spend long days with Carrie, knowing they would be our last as an independent couple. We went to the movies, enjoyed eating out, began our days slowly and silently, and stayed up late watching Netflix without consideration of content or volume.

When I did go back to work, I continued to field questions about Carrie's well-being, signs of labor, and the sudden fascination with my readiness for parenthood. If I had a do-over, I would make a shirt that said "Carrie's fine, I'm ready, no baby yet." In the staff room on Thursday it became comical, as though "No baby yet" were the magic words to get to the fridge. Unfortunately, this eventually led to an endless chain of birth stories. As though I'd never heard that the due date was meaningless with the first child, fellow staff members felt compelled to not only remind me but to share detailed stories of labor ranging from 17-33 hours. And, as if that weren't enough, several went on to describe the quick, effortless exits of their second children. Thanks for those comforting images anonymous co-workers.

Towards the end of the week, I began to feel excited. I was convinced that Carrie's smooth pregnancy was an omen for a quick and easy delivery. Although I've lost sleep at night wondering how I will respond under the pressure of birth - whether I will be supportive enough, serious enough, quiet enough, or capable enough to deal with Carrie's fluctuating needs - during the day I am confident that I will be able to put one foot in front of the other, and one foot in my mouth if necessary.

During one of these moments of confidence I ran into an old friend and doula. If you don't know what a doula is, neither did I - and I'm still not entirely sure. To borrow an old SAT format, I believe doulas are to midwives as paralegals are to lawyers. They offer prenatal, birth, and postpartum support. According to Wikipedia, a highly respected information source, this support includes massage, cooking, and light housecleaning. That sounded a lot like me, so when my friend asked, "Who's your doula?" I confidently replied, "I am." When I got home Carrie reminded me that doulas are traditionally women who have given birth themselves, but concurred that I was going to be acting doula. I felt proud to break the chains of gender norms. Later, out of curiosity, I Googled "male doulas" and found a small population of men who, under the self-proclaimed "ridicule of peers and the criticism of feminists," have made doula-ing their careers. Yet another confirmation that there are no untapped markets.

Halloween came and went without incident and I was so self-absorbed with my parental musings that I wondered to myself when all of the homeless, midget vampires moved into town. At the grocery store I saw one of my third grade students dressed completely in camouflage, face painted, and real twigs and leaves sticking up from his bandanna. After my joke that I could barely see him fell completely on deaf, green-painted ears, I asked him what he was, assuming GI Joe or something else contemporary. "I'm a Vietnam Helicopter Special Forces Combat Trooper," he grinned, shoving his very real looking hand grenade into my face. "Wow!" I said trying to hide my "yikes" expression, "I'll bet you're the only one of those in town." I then made an excuse to leave before his retired Special Forces grandfather showed up.

Although I've always wanted a little girl, there were times in the first months where I imagined both possibilities - the pros and cons of each gender. I had to mourn the loss of some possibilities either way. Vietnam Helicopter Special Forces Combat Trooper Halloween costumes complete with possibly live grenade will not be mourned.

As we were running our errands yesterday, we discovered a new joy - answering the question "When are you due?" with a casual "Today." Sometimes truth is better than fiction, especially when I follow it up with, "Woah. There goes her water." Carrie once told me that during the birth, she wants me to give her the play by play of what's going on down below. I asked her if I could do it as though I were a sports commentator. Three months in she said, "Sure," but I have a feeling that opinion may change when Amari's crowning and I put on my Vin Scully voice. That being said, today feels like the seventh inning stretch. I'm expecting someone famous to come into our house any minute now and sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" poorly and then yell "Go Cubs." Until then, all I can do is wait...

1 comment:

  1. Ike-Dawg. This is fantastic. It took me damn near 3 weeks to respond because I've been waiting for some down-time to enjoy them quietly, sanely, and perhaps with a warm cup of Joe. (Yup, got one right now) Also, there's no comment option in the Google Reader where I receive these posts, unfortunately. So now I'm coming over to your blog to get it all firsthand, if 3 weeks later.

    And let me just say, thank god I'm not writing against you in the Great Debate. I can't hang with the SAT and Vin Scully references. But alas, this is not a competition. Being a papa just means you win. I look forward to the rest and hope you are getting some...(rest)

    -Big Ack