As of today, I've been officially been a father for 14 weeks. On the one hand, it seems like a short lifetime ago that BossLady gave birth. On the other hand, I know that there's a long road ahead of us. But like they say...the journey can be just as enjoyable as the destination.
Anyway, I've learned a lot about fatherhood in a short period of time. I don't presume to be an expert (after only 14 weeks) but there are many things that I wished I'd known earlier. And from your e-mails, it seems that there are a lot of soon-to-be-dads out there who have discovered this blog while looking for some fathering advice. I'll try to share my learnings with you as I go through them so that the guys who are right behind me might be better informed.
That being said, here are some words of advice regarding childbirth that may not be covered in any of the pregnancy books you've been reading:
1. You're not Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola. Leave the video camera out of the delivery room. Enjoy the amazing beauty of the moment through your own eyes. There's nothing in the universe that compares to seeing your child's head pop out as she takes in that first gasp of air. It's awesomely life-affirming and you really don't want to witness it through a fucking viewfinder. Nothing says GEEK like fiddling around with a digicam while your wife is giving birth.
2. After your wife pushes out the baby, there's going to be some afterbirth pushed out as well. Afterbirth is basically your wife's placenta and the remains of her fetal membranes. In some cases, the afterbirth has been known to hit the floor with a giant SPLAT. Whatever you do, don't look at it and start staring! It looks a little like an alien fetus and will probably freak you out. Really, if you're a little squeamish and if you ever want to go near your wife's vagina again, don't look at it.
3. In case you don't know this, there's a good chance that your wife is going to shit all over the delivery table while she's pushing out the baby. It's natural and it happens to virtually all women. If you had to push a basketball out your ass, there's a good chance you'd shit too. Anyway, I know there's a good chance that nobody mentioned this to you. I'm telling you now. Don't act surprised when it happens. Be cool. (Let the record state that my wife, the BossLady, did NOT crap during delivery. Although we had discussed the possibility that it might happen prior to her delivery, I can wholeheartedly attest that she did NOT poop while pushing. Happy, honey?)
4. They have a very cool machine in the delivery room that can track your wife's contractions from beginning to end. The machine looks like a futuristic gadget straight out of the Sharper Image catalog. You'll find yourself fascinated by it. Resist the urge to stare at it and yell, "Woo hoo, honey. Here comes a big one!". Trust me. She knows.
5. Tipping at the hospital...good idea or tacky maneuver? If you're Asian, your wife's nurse is Asian and you're actually giving birth in Asia, then it MIGHT be ok to slip the nurse a fifty. Otherwise, I'd recommend not greasing the hospital staff. However, if you want to ensure that your wife gets top-notch treatment in the maternity ward, follow my lead. For the day staff, I gave the nurses some of the flowers that my wife received so that they could take them home. For the night shift, I would empty out the vending machines and bring them back huge piles of Oreos and cartons of milk. A little thoughtfulness went a long way towards making sure my wife was treated better than anyone else in the maternity ward.
6. If your conception of what a newborn baby looks like comes from Hollywood, you might be in for a big shock. Trust me. Most babies do not come out clean and pink. The Peanut had to be suctioned out with a vacuum so, for a solid 24 hours, she looked like a conehead. She also had jaundice so, between that and her conehead, she looked like a little banana. In a few cases, some babies are born completely covered in a very gross-looking, white pasty substance called vernix. Don't worry. It comes off after a wash. Everything that you think is weird is most likely very normal. The only time to be even slightly concerned is if the doctor delivers the child and screams, "For the love of Christ! What is that?" (Otherwise, you're ok.)
7. After your child is born, don't forget about your wife. Easy advice, eh? You'd be surprised at how many fathers I saw in the maternity ward who were spending all their time in the nursery while their wives were lying uncomfortably in bed. Don't be one of those guys. Make sure your wife gets everything and anything she needs. You'll have plenty of time to enjoy your child together later. But the last thing you want to do is make your wife feel like she's just a child-carrying vessel.
8. During the whole pre and post-labor phase, don't be a wussy. I don't care if you haven't slept in 3 days, you haven't eaten in 2 days or you haven't had time to take a crap for a day. Your head hurts? Your eyes are swollen? Your back is acting up? Tough shit, bro. This time's not about you. I only tell you this because you shouldn't expect to get any attention or sympathy. Don't ask for it. I can't tell you how annoying it is to hear fathers discuss how difficult labor was for them! Are you fucking kidding me?
For those of you about to go through the experience of childbirth, I hope this helps. If not, send me an e-mail and I'll give you your money back. And if there are any other parents out there (moms included) who would like to give some dads-to-be advice, feel free to leave a comment. Based on the e-mails I've been getting, I think these future Dads would appreciate it.