Dan Szczesny searches for a man’s role among the butt wipes and breast pumps.
I’m proud of myself. After a half hour on my own, working what is billed as the New Hampshire Baby and Mama Expo here in Concord, I’ve returned to my wife and her cousin with pockets full of free stuff.
“Did you get the butt wipes?” my wife asks.
“The — um —”
“Or bibs, there’s free bibs,” my wife’s cousin points out.
My pockets are full of Starburst and Milky Way bars. I thought I had scored.
“Go and get the butt wipes and bibs,” my wife says. “We can’t keep going back to the same tables!”
I throw myself back into the babymama scrum, determined to hunt and gather this time in a way more befitting of an engaged and enthusiastic babydaddy. I am far from the typical football dad, perhaps too far, but that’s a topic for another column.
Throughout our pregnancy (yes, my wife’s pregnancy, but darn it, I’m trying to be sensitive here) the books have mostly included chapters for the new dad with little condescending sidebars about learning how to use the washing machine, helping out in the kitchen or not being afraid of poop. For the record, I do all the laundry in our home, am an excellent prep cook and have begun learning my own recipes and as for poop, I am the king of poop. Not only do I not fear poop, but I am an active supporter of the process. In my book on hiking with kids (The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie) I have a chapter dedicated to going in the woods.
But I digress. My point is, I’m sensitive, ok? But this enormous ballroom, awash with tiny babies, and everyone smelling like diapers and baby powder, is a little out of my league. My first inclination is to look for a booth or vendor or workshop that has anything to do with being a dad.
The expo is a tidal wave of breast pumps, natural skin lotions, and Goddess spa parties. And then I see my path in. For some reason, one of the local power companies has a booth, so I begin my entrance into babydaddy-ville there. Turns out they just want me to switch providers and I’m soon bored by all the talk of megawatts and power streams.
So, I do what I always do in situations like this; figure out what’s relatable. My wife likes green, natural kale drinks and there’s a vender selling some form of the stuff. They also sell post-baby diet wraps and for a brief moment I mistake the little tent next to the booth as some kind of odd weight loss sweat lodge. But the patient woman at the booth explains it’s just a changing tent. She gives me some of the green supplement, and it tastes exactly like what it is: liquid kale. “Good,” I say.
Next up, baby wraps. I’m going to be wearing those, so I better learn how to put the thing on. Again, the lady at the booth is a bit uncertain about my credentials but I can chat her up about different brands and wrapping techniques and soon I’m sharing my due date and we’re laughing like two moms at the playground.
There’s the car seat booth, where I strike up a conversation about different seats for different cars. I have a Subaru and my wife has a Mini. I am able to learn what a Doula is. Before this expo I had no idea such a thing existed. And finally, there’s a vendor selling exquisite cotton crib blankets and Moses Baskets. I even buy some cute little stickers of woodland creatures to paste onto my daughter’s onesie.
After a while, it’s time to regroup and with a puffed chest I recount my successful afternoon drifting among the moms. “That one table has some of those drinks you like,” I begin. “And I think I have the car seat situation figured out, as well as the type of baby wrap that we can both use; oh, and that basket you bought a couple month ago, that’s called a Moses Basket.” Then I show my wife the adorable stickers and wait for the accolades to shower down on me.
“Where are the butt wipes?” she asks. I sigh, and set off to find the free butt wipes.
Photo credit: Elle Rowbottom/flickr