Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Met with the mid-wife today, an appointment I'd almost forgot. Yes, we have a mid-wife. (Don't ask me to explain it. And, no, the benefits are not what you think, you dirty dog, you.) She is an enthusiastic sort, excited at the prospect of a new life. Happy. Warm. Welcoming. She greeted the two of us, and then the unborn baby, like we were old friends and our 37-week-old, hiding in the belly fetus was the cutest thing! Our mid-wife is the kind of person who enters the room and lights it up with her smile, throws back the blinds on our dark world and cranks up the color saturation. It's a baby! It's a new life! It's what all of everything is all about! She was there when Keaton was born.

So we relaxed. Listened to the heartbeat. Happy midwife turned the volume up on the device to ear-splitting, near distortion levels and it sounded like a fireman's boot in an industrial washing machine broadcast on an old CB radio: sshhhwuh-boomkk, sshhhwuh-boomkk, sshhhwuh-boomkk, and her eyebrows went up and she smiled some more. "Healthy little guy! Or girl!" So I guess that's what it's supposed to sound like.

So we relaxed some more. Ever since the first Little Ditchman came out looking perfect, and then the doctor came in the next day, put on the stethoscope and thoughtfully looked askew, listened, and then frowned at her squeaky little heart, I've been on edge about our fragile newborns. In and out of the Children's Hospital is no fun thing, but we came out healthy in the long run. And today with the new one, more healthy. Thank God Almighty. For now.

Though I am not exactly prepared for the big marathon of baby-rearing, bearing down on us in a few weeks. I know that with the first child, the Mom tells you how it's gonna go down, so a man can defer, and get back to work. With the second one, you come home tired from work to a woman who is tired from work, and you switch off duties like taking over for the boss during the night shift. (It's easy enough. The phone doesn't ring that much.)
But with Baby #3, as I have heard from those in the know, THERE IS NO ESCAPE. You suddenly preside over the better half of a small country, not quite yours, and the livelihood of unknown cultures look to you for leadership, while Emperor Mommy is away governing the new world. But she has not disappeared below the horizon, and reserves her long arm of wrath for when you deserve it good and hard, and she doesn't care how hard you worked today. So, meh. I've got all that to look forward to. A good man can take it. I'll give it my best shot. I don't think I've forgotten how to father an infant. I don't think.

I know a guy who has four kids, and has completely lost it. He appears to have suffered the fate of some 2nd-world, middle class powerless figurehead. One who wafts in and out of the home on a reliable 40-hour work week schedule, passing his children in the hallway and wondering if puberty set in that fast when he was a kid, and, hey, how come no one hears a word I say around here? He works all week and has no idea where the money goes, but is grateful that he gets out of the house for the week. Me, I'm one of six, and I watched my dad deal with the whole transition in an I-WILL-NOT-BE-IGNORED-NOR-WILL-I-TOLERATE-DISSENT manner, which, I guess, worked for him. I don't think he came back down to pre-1965 levels until after we left the house and the grandchildren started being born, at which point I finally began to understand him.

Beating hearts. At my dad's funeral service my mom got up behind the podium -which I'd never seen her do before- to say one thing: that she remembered the happiest days of her husband's life very well. They were at the births of his six children, and then she named us by name. And then I lost it.

So, you lose it. You lose it as a father, you lose it with family. You lose it all, everything, including power and control. You are steering an aircraft carrier into the wind, and one wrong move and it takes forever to get the thing back on course. Sure, I'm nervous.

On her way out, the mid-wife noticed my shirt, which read "Honolulu Marathon" on it, and she asked me if I'd run it. "Yeah, a few years back." And then she cheerily told us about when she had ran it, a decade ago, and the running she's been doing since. The triathlons. (With kids!) She mentioned she's running the local half marathon in a few weeks and Mrs. Ditchman pointed out that I'd be running the full, that is, if we weren't all chillin' and birthin' in the maternity ward.

A full marathon. In a few weeks. I'd almost forgotten.