In the game of life, my wife and I recently scored the hattrick. In almost exactly one year since April of 2006 we have been married, bought our first home, and started a family.
We’re calling the baby Lumpy, having no idea at this point if it’s a boy or a girl and needing to call him or her something. For everyone wondering why Tami hasn’t been at the Loonie Races this year, Lumpy’s your answer.
It’s an exciting and terrifying time to be alive, depending on who I talk to that day and what’s going on with their baby.
It truly is a scary world where someone like myself, who has never once been asked to watch a child for more than five minutes, much less babysit for an entire evening, can possibly be expecting in January. You can’t operate a drill press these days without the right certificate, although they do seem to give drivers licences to just about anybody. Maybe I can get one of those “L” stickers for my stroller, so other parents will know I’m a newbie and cut me some slack when I’m being a bad father.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I have no experience whatsoever with kids. I don’t have any young nephews or nieces or cousins on my side of the family, and limited experience on my wife’s side. All I know about babies and toddlers is pretty much limited to the time I was a baby or toddler myself, and I didn’t think to take notes.
I’ve never been a nanny, a camp counselor or a coach — unless you count the one spring in high school when I was on crutches and taught rugby to a bunch of 14 year olds. And while babies are about the size of rugby balls and you try not to drop them, there was very little relevant training there in how to be a father.
I also don’t remember even talking much about kids until very recently, when some of my friends started having children. So far I have to say that the stories haven’t been all that reassuring. The sleep deprivation, the dirty diapers, the fits, the getting peed on, the throwing up, the frantic trips to the hospital for what will later turn out to be gas, the crying, the screaming, the worrying — how could anyone ever be ready for all that?
And keep in mind that all that stuff comes after the birth. We still have about 17-20 weeks of late term pregnancy to get through, followed by the inevitable trauma of labour.
I’ve been privy to dozens of birthing stories since we joined the baby club, each one of them horrific in their own way. In high school phys-ed we had to watch a video of a woman giving birth, but it turns out that was an easy, textbook kind of delivery — probably the best of a hundred takes by the National Film Board. With 6.5 billion people on the planet you’d think it would be routine by now, but every delivery is completely different and uniquely complicated.
So far it’s been an easy pregnancy — no morning sickness, no mood swings, no strange cravings. If there wasn’t a gradually expanding midsection to keep tabs on I wouldn’t believe that we (and I use the term “we” loosely) are pregnant at all.
As it is, we’re starting to feel the urgency. There’s so much to do between now and our relative due date of Jan. 28, all of which only serves to remind me how little I know about babies. Walking through a baby store is a mystifying experience, a maze of literally hundreds of baby-specific products we may or may not need.
One of our first priorities is to get good snow tires for the frantic going-into-labour drive down to Squamish or the city — easier said than done if there’s as much snow this winter as last year.
We’ve already painted the nursery, formerly our office and guest room. We’ve acquired no less than two cribs from family friends, one car seat, and a bag of sleepers that a friend’s baby outgrew in eight weeks — 16 weeks early if you look at the tags.
We still need to purchase a stroller, which is far more complicated than it sounds. You need something you can put a newborn into and push into a building, but we’d also like to purchase a stroller we can run with or attach to the back of a bike in case we get bored strolling. There’s nothing on the market that does everything, which means we’re buying a minimum of two strollers.
Then there’s the whole diaper debate — cloth or disposable, affordable or biodegradable. We’ll probably go with some combination approach — cloth for home, biodegradable for the road — but apparently your best intentions can fly out the window if using plastic disposables will give you another five minutes of sleep.
It’s all so overwhelming, which makes us really appreciate all the great advice and second-hand togs we’re being given. Although I’d still rather talk about almost anything else, it’s also kind of fun to be in the baby club — despite all the alarming stories. The best support I’ve had is from other fathers, excited to have someone else to watch hockey with on our scheduled play dates. Hopefully Lumpy is a fan.