With baby nearly here, Dan Szczesny reflects on the first nine months.
By the time you read this, it will be Christmas and my baby may have been born.
My wife’s due date is (was) December 22 and recently, she began experiencing Braxton Hicks. Did you know that the pre-labor contractions that usually happen in late term are named after John Braxton Hicks, a 19th Century English doctor who specialized in obstetrics? This information was of no help to my wife, by the way, while she was in the middle of the contractions named after this fellow.
Instead, rubbing her feet seemed much more useful.
This got me thinking about the last nine months, the things that worked and the things that didn’t. There’s quite a bit written in the baby books about the dad’s role in the mom’s pregnancy, and a shocking amount of it has to do with figuring out how the dish washer works or learning about that strange machine in the kitchen called a stove.
But we looked at these nine months as something of a pre-adventure, an appetizer before the main course. And like what I’m sure parenting itself will be like, we got some things right and other times completely missed the boat.
So, to all the dads (and moms) out there in the middle of your own pregnancy, here’s my Christmas gift to you, a little list of do’s and don’ts as you get ready for main course:
1) The Miracle of Birth: The baby making industry (the Toys-R-Us Industrial Complex) speaks of pregnancy, labor and birth in terms of hyperbolic avoidance to what is actually happening. The mom glows. Babies invite you to surrender to the force of life. You participate in creation! If only. Trust me fellas, if I told my wife that her and the baby are two blossoms on a single branch, she’d think I’d gone mad. Do your real homework, look at the “miracle” in terms of the amazing biology that is actually is. The doctors and nurses and mid-wives know this and teach accordingly. Our labor classes were full of mucus plugs and amniotic fluid and effacement. New-agey? No. But remarkable none-the-less. Learn the incredible science behind what’s going on and share that with each other.
2) Take a vacation: This is called a Baby-cation. Take it. We went to Quebec City for a long weekend, where we walked and ate and took what we still feel is the finest picture ever taken of us near an enormous Campbell Soup can. You don’t have to go to Quebec City, by the way, but go somewhere, just the two of you and turn off your phones even though your family will be freaking out because they will assume you are running a marathon in Rome while eight months pregnant. This will be the trip to remember, the memory that will serve you well in the lack of sleep, stressful days ahead.
3) Move inside: Move toward each other. Go internal. Get your brain and body around what’s to come and spend time getting ready. I don’t mean nesting, exactly, but rather take time to figure each other out. Put aside all the books and movies and magazines and advice. Instead, spend a day talking about baby names. Learn how to work the breast pump with her. Think about, and talk about, who your own parents were and who you want to be.
4) Play: Play music and read books. Both of you. A lot. One of my fondest memories is sitting in our living room and playing Bob Dylan albums. (Yes, albums, I have a turn-table, and that is the ONLY way to listen to Bob Dylan.) Watch and see if your baby responds to the music, or to reading. Does she wriggle and kick? Maybe she likes it. Does she give mom heartburn? Well, better get Taylor Swift off the radio then.
5) Do your homework: How far is it to the hospital? How many streetlights? How’s the cafeteria food there? What are visiting hours? Got the phone numbers plugged into your iPhone? Figured out if your car seat fits into your car? Your life with baby does not begin when baby arrives, it begins now. There are a million questions you will have to answer in the months of your pregnancy. Some serious like insurance and maternity leave and health care. Some not so much like finding that perfect onesie with the Yellow Submarines that is going to be so amazing and funny because there’s no question that your little one will immediate love The Beatles. Ask the questions. Answer them.
6) A few nights ago, as my wife slept, I reached over and placed my hand on her belly. My daughter crept up and pushed against my palm and I gen
tly pushed back. We played this game for a few minutes and I thought how remarkable is this? How amazing that no matter what happens after she is born, this moment is unique to now, singular to the time when she was with us, but not quite yet.
By the time you read this, it will be Christmas and my baby may have been born, and maybe yours will be as well. But until then, until you hold your baby in your arms, find those pregnancy moments. Be aware that you have found them. And don’t let them slip away.
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