The ongoing saga that is my childbirth classes brought me to a revelation the other day (no, not that childbirth is weird). As a guy, the childbirth process is definitely and unmistakably NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s difficult for the guy not to develop a little bit of an inferiority complex or at least sit there thinking of how much of a jerk you are because you knocked up your wife. Because, really, that’s so unnatural and rude. It’s sometimes hard to find refuge except in other daddies who have been through the same thing. Most of the guys in our childbirth class just sit there and wait for an opportunity to slip in a joke that usually gets a backhanded chest slap from their wives. I sit there and wonder for two hours, “What’s my freaking role in all of this?”
This is one of those places where the woman’s role is pretty obvious, but the guy’s role is not so simple. She’s supposed to do anything possible to get that baby out. She can walk, rock around on a big ball, take a bath, push, make “push” faces, breathe, take an I.V., do a little dance. She has a number of options, but the father doesn’t always have a direction in all of this.
You desperately want to just jump in there, but you don’t want to be in the way. You want to be active, but this ain’t the Daddy-to-be Show. You walk a fine line in the delivery room, I’m finding. You don’t want to be obnoxious because you might only aggravate an already delicate situation.
There’s something called a “birth plan” that, as a new parent-to-be, you’ll become very familiar with. Essentially, what the “birth plan” represents is your plans for how you see the birth of your child going. It’s a draft or doctrine that you and your pregnant wife draw up before you arrive at the hospital which lets the staff of doctors and nurses know how you would like the birth of your child to go. Say you want to be administered anesthetic the second you arrive in the hospital because you won’t want to feel any sort of pain in the process, put it in the birth plan. Say you want to do it naturally and don’t want to be given any anesthetic at all unless it’s absolutely necessary to delivering the child. Put it in the birth plan. Say you want to chill out in a jacuzzi and pop it out like what little boys do in the deep end. Put it in the birth plan.
Well, since my lovely wife and I don’t really have any demands or requests except to have a healthy baby and we’re not very high maintenance people, we don’t really have a birth plan as of this juncture. And, in class, I decided to raise my hand and ask the question: “What if we don’t really have a birth plan? Are we at at a disadvantage because we don’t arrive at the hospital with a clear set of instructions?”
Now, the nurse’s answer was sufficient. I actually took about a thirty-second nap while she was answering. She really likes to talk. But what she said at the end of her answer kinda struck me. She said that no matter where we are in the process, anything that I recommend or suggest as the father, they will go to my lovely wife for final approval as she wagged her finger at me and gave me a little head roll. “It is not your body and anything you tell the staff to do we will be going to her for on final approval, okay?”
Yeah, sure. Got it. Excuse me for living.
It was completely unprovoked and the nurse that has otherwise been very kind and thoughtful to this point, just turned for a second. I sat there for a moment and devoured what I had just been dealt. In the end, I reduced my role down to the gatekeeper. Because we’re not going into this with a set birth plan (even though, we’re going to make a few notes, but they’re more 20,000-foot philosophies and not specifics like, “I’ll need two nurses there at all times…one rubbing my left foot and the other scratching just below my right shoulder blade”), we know that the doctor will be making a number or recommendations along the way and it will be my job to be the information gatherer and provide my findings to my lovely wife succinctly and with clarity. I won’t be making any of the decisions on my own. We will make those decisions together, but she will get the final approval obviously because, well, I’m not a tool. I will ask the following questions at each fork in the road.
WHAT WILL THIS DO?: Pretty obvious what this achieves. It’s the “tell me exactly what this will achieve.” It would be answerable by one sentence and maybe even three words. If the doctor has problems answering this question, tell him/her you’ll just handle the rest out in a stalled elevator like you had horrific nightmares of it going down like in that episode of “Saved by the Bell” when Zack helped Mrs. Belding deliver her child. That Zack Morris is one slick cat.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS OR RESTRICTIONS?: Imagine the disclaimers at the end of drug or car commercials being slowed down to normal conversation voice (I like to imagine them screwed and chopped). That’s what you’re expecting here. Lay it out for me, doc. Tell me what this means. Will her movement be limited? Is the child in danger? Will we not be able to use the anesthetic after that point? Will it make me throw up? Is this experimental? Will my lovely wife grow an arm out of her forehead? He needs to answer all of these questions.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER OPTIONS?: If they tell you that it will make an arm grow out of her forehead, see if there are any other options or it could make your future romantic weekends more like a science fiction movie.
WHAT’S AFTER THAT?: Say we do, what’s the next step after that? It’s important to know this so that you can get the camera ready if his answer is, “then the baby comes flying out.” This is just to get an idea of what’s around the corner. The idea here is to eliminate any surprises in the process. If he says, “then we wait,” you might have to accept that as his answer even though it’s not an action or definable outcome. Sometimes that’s going to have to satisfy you and your lovely wife.
IS THIS AN EMERGENCY OR DO WE HAVE A CHANCE TO DISCUSS THIS?: This gives you an idea of the urgency of the matters. It helps define whether or not you’re in the ninth inning or the seventh inning stretch. Do you bring in Papelbon or Okajima? If the doctor looks at you and yells, “Dude!” Call up Papelbon.
In completely unrelated baby news, I had a dream that I was at Ellison’s first spelling bee and her first word was “petroglyph” and for some reason I thought that was too hard for her age group and I stood up in protest and yelled at the judge saying, “That’s unfair! You don’t have to spell that one, baby. Give her another word!” Perhaps I thought the “Y” was a little tricky or maybe it was the “PH” for the F-sound. The entire auditorium turned around in horror. Maybe it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was.