The Book of DanielThe Official Blog of Daniel Douglas
Baby Series: The Fine Print of Fatherhood
I don’t care how many pregnancy books you read, how many hours you spend babysitting your nephew or how many times you watched Three Men and a Baby, you will never, ever be fully prepared for a newborn.
Or at least that’s what I’m told. Repeatedly. And in the most annoying fashion possible.
People I haven’t spoken to in years – people I would have sworn had died – now think it is their sworn duty to prepare me for what lies ahead. I can’t help but be offended. How stupid does everyone think I am?
Okay, maybe don’t answer that. I did, after all, butter bread before sticking it in the toaster because I wanted the toast to have the crispy buttery shell of garlic bread. That was a very expensive toaster I ruined.
But I do know this, raising a baby is going to be crazy hard and a whole shit load of unexpected problems will pop up when I least expect it. I can admit, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.
Have you ever signed up for a gym membership because a Dolph Lundgren look-a-like in a shirt three sizes too small accosted you at the train station and although the gym is located in an industrial complex with a needle exchange next door, it’s only a five minute drive from your house and they provide a complimentary Under Armour bag when you sign up?
But then, in your third week, you catch the janitor taping you while you shower but find out you can’t cancel because there’s some fine print indicating the cancellation fee is $10,000 and your kidney?
That’s how I see fatherhood, except I didn’t know the fine print would start showing up this early.
I was under the impression that I would knock my girlfriend up, go on cruise control for the next nine months and then, once the baby is born, start gradually introducing HGH into his carrot and avocado puree to ensure he plays football. That’s it. That’s my contribution for the next nine months.
Yeah, there are doctor’s visits, grocery store runs, artful dodges of incoming pots and pans during hormonal flares and whittling a winch out of a fallen fir to help dislodge my girlfriend out of the couch when she gets stuck, but for the most part my life wouldn’t appreciably change
Or so I thought.
The girlfriend made an appointment at a prenatal clinic last month, the morning after Calgary’s first post-summer snowfall. A better man than me would remember what for, but a worse man would not have attended. So I think I come out in the middle somewhere. We were about seven weeks into it; the baby more concept than anything. A weak clustering of cells formed in the shape of the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise.
The clinic was near Sunridge mall, next to the old movie theatre which now served as an exceedingly creepy super church. I’d had my first job at that theatre, sweeping the Mike and Ikes and crushed popcorn left by rowdy teens during a showing of The Phantom Menace. I lasted three days as cinema sweeper, a harbinger of the work ethic that would dog my young adulthood. But that’s a story for another day.
We were called into the examination room by a doctor whose name I cannot pronounce where she began, in cramped quarters, laying down some medical jargon. What she was saying was no doubt important, it sure sounded like it, but my attention went to the posters on the wall.
Three of the four walls were littered with an assortment of feminine corporeal horror. One wall was lined with posters of women with stomachs the sizes of medicine balls smiling in a park, seemingly envisioning the many days to be spent there shoveling her prospective child’s shit out of the sandbox.
On another: posters – some colour others sketched – of a woman’s internal reproductive tubing. In painstaking detail. I thought: “So that part right there, that flap that looks like a sponge left to die at the bottom of a sink. I’ve been doing what to it these past 13 years?”
One poster on the third wall left me staggering. It was a very simple one, picturing a pregnant woman holding her enflamed stomach, the faraway gaze of an opium addict on her face. Below her, however, written in block letters was “YOU CAN EXPECT TO GAIN 35 POUNDS DURING YOUR PREGNANCY” with a small print indicating that the weight gain could and probably would be even more depending on your metabolism.
“So,” the doctor said. “It’s really important for you guys in the next few weeks to -”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I interrupted, pointing at the offending pictorial. ”Is that poster broken?”
“It says she’s going to gain 35 pounds. It’s a scare tactic right? That’s like when those anti-drug commercials show someone do coke and by the end of it he’s all strung out, picking cigarette butts out of ashtrays at the mall, when in reality we know coke is actually awesome?”
“Absolutely not. 35 pounds is just a baseline. Some gain more and some gain less. It all depends on the woman’s body.”
I know what you’re thinking. What kind of asshole worries about how much weight his girlfriend is going to gain while she’s carrying his kid? The answer, however unsatisfying, is “me”. At the risk of sounding insensitive, looks, to men, are by far the most important component to a woman. Marie Curry was brilliant but there’s no way I’d sleep with her…unless I was drunk. Besides, it isn’t as though I’d pick up and leave if my girlfriend started tipping the scales. But the better she looks, the better my life is.
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The doctor tried to continue but I had one more question. So, I interrupted her once again.
“When can we start having sex again?”
“He thinks he’s going to hurt the baby if we have sex right now,” my girlfriend chimed in.
“Yeah, I’m afraid I’m going to hit him in the head or something. I’m guessing that at such an early age it would be the equivalent of an adult being hit with a baseball bat.”
“Oh wow,” the doctor said. And I looked at the ground.
When you become a parent, you begin seeing things differently. It made me paranoid. I’ve turned into the old lady who sits at bingo and tells anyone who will listen that she was almost murdered by a group of black kids on her way to the store, when those kids were really trying to help her cross the street.
Sex, once the only reason I bothered getting out of bed and washing my body, began to seem rife with danger; the intergender equivalent of a UFC match. So much could go wrong in twenty (editor’s note: three and a half) minutes. My girlfriend could roll off the bed and onto my hardwood, she could hit her head really hard on the wall, pull a quad or – now that her bladder has become very high maintenance – something much worse.
“It’s perfectly safe,” she said. “It’s completely up to you whether you’re comfortable doing it.”
“See babe,” my girlfriend said. “It’s fine.”
I was then sent to the waiting room so the rest of the visit could proceed without my interference. I tried to kill time reading a Chuck Klosterman article on my phone but couldn’t concentrate on a block of text that exceeded a single sentence.
Is it normal to be so worried about a person that not only hasn’t been born, he or she isn’t even recognizably human? I’m not trying to give the pro-life Evangelicals any ammo here but if anything was to happen to my little monster I’d be devastated. As in I wouldn’t be able to go to work for a few days. I’d wander my house in my boxers eating cookie dough from the tube devastated. The same people who tell me how hard it is to raise a child will tell me to try again. But I won’t want to try again. I want the one my girlfriend’s carrying now. Specifically and only.
My girlfriend finished her exam and we left, back outside to gingerly walk to the car on the sheets of ice that coated the pavement. There! I thought. Ice. Another hazard! What if she slips and the impact of the fall damages the baby’s brain. Maybe I should have pushed her to the car in a wheelchair.
“She likes you,” my girlfriend said.
“Really? Because I was asking some pretty mental questions in there.”
“She said any man that worries this much about his kid will make a good father.”
I hope so. I hope so.
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