Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Set List

There are times when a full belly, an empty bladder, a clean diaper, and a pacifier just won’t soothe the FTS. When all else fails, I turn to the set list.

The FTS was born in the evening and delivered via C-section. Because the FTM had the post operative woozies, I stayed on a cot in her hospital room that first night. (The cots are designed by the same company that designs furniture for McDonald’s. They’re purposely made to be comfortable for 20 minutes and 20 minutes only.) The next morning, while the FTS was in the hospital nursery, I made a quick trip home to shower and change. On the way back to the hospital I listened to a mix CD I had made a long time ago, long before I was thinking about babies and how to quell their anxieties.

When I got back to the hospital, I found myself holding the FTS and I just started singing to him. I wasn’t singing “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” or “London Bridges,” or any other kids’ song; I was cooing the last tune I’d heard on my mix CD – Seven Spanish Angels as performed by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles:

He looked down into her brown eyes
And said say a prayer for me
She threw her arms around him
Whispered God will keep us free
He could hear the riders coming
He said this is my last fight
If they take me back to Texas
They won’t take me back alive

There were seven Spanish Angels
At the altar of the sun
They were praying for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home.

Even at 17 hours old, the FTS was transfixed. I was the Pied Piper and Saint Peter all rolled into one. Since then, when we need the boy to mellow out, I carry him around the house and sing. Seven Spanish Angels is always the first and/or last song of my performance, but the set list has grown to include:

  • Amazing Grace (which is truly amazing because I’m agnostic)
  • Van Diemen’s Land (U2)
  • Rosie (Jackson Browne)

  • Two original songs
  • An original spoken word bedtime story (I’ll save that for a future post)
  • And Folsom Prison Blues

    I spent years playing in a band – I dropped out of college to go on the road – so music is in my soul. But never did I imagine I’d be using music like this. It does get a bit weird when I (really we, because the FTM sings to him, too) change the lyrics. Case in point, the second verse of Folsom Prison Blues:

    When I was just a baby
    My momma told me son
    Always be a good boy
    Don’t ever play with guns
    But I shot a man in Reno
    Just to watch him die
    And when I hear that train a-rollin’
    I hang my head and cry


    Now that I’m a baby
    My momma tells me son
    Always be a good boy
    Don’t ever suck your thumb
    But I made a poopy diaper
    And I don’t know why
    When I feel that squishy mess
    I hang my head and cry

    When I stop and think about the horrible lack of respect we’re showing for such a timeless song, I kind of hang my head and cry, too. My apologies to Johnny Cash and his estate and may the possibly non existent God have mercy on my possibly non existent soul. But gotta do whatever works.
  • Saturday, June 28, 2008

    Barack the Vote

    So what business does a parenting blog have spouting off about politics? Shouldn’t I leave it to Daily Kos and Matt Drudge to duke it out? Uh, no. There is no more important bloc of voters in this election than parents. What happens in November will mean everything to my son and his future. But he’s only three and a half weeks old and not yet able to type, so I’m standing up on his behalf to tell you why he’s an Obama baby.

    Let me be up front and tell you that I’ve voted with the Democrats in every Presidential election since 1984 (I voted for Reagan that year), and that I vote Democrat in most, though not all, local elections. My politics are left of center and can occasionally feel a bit Libertarian, though I don’t really like what that term connotes.

    Let me also tell you that I have a lot of admiration and respect for John McCain. The guy seems to be a thoughtful, dedicated civil servant who has given far more to his country than yours truly. But he plays for the wrong team. He’s kind of like Derek Jeter; you can't help but like him, but there is just no way to root for someone wearing pinstripes.

    “Okay, FTF,” you might be asking, “then what’s your problem with the Republicans? They’re for trusting people more than government, and for security, and for personal responsibility. What’s wrong with that?”

    Hey, dear reader, that does sound good! Just as good as knowing that my local Wal-Mart really cares about the community, or that the Exxon/Mobil is committed to fighting climate change. In case the sarcasm isn’t coming through, the point is, the Republicans say one thing and do another.

    Republicans say they want government to interfere less in the lives of citizens. A noble thought, but:

    • Republicans want to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. (Anit-choice)
    • Republicans want to legislate who can and cannot be married. (Anti-Gay rights)
    • Republicans want to suppress scientific discovery (stem cell research) and learning (evolution vs. Intelligent Design).
    • Republicans want to listen to my phone calls and read my emails. (Wiretapping bills)
    • Republicans want to suppress my right to express my displeasure with the government (Constitutional amendment to outlaw burning a U.S. Flag, even as a form of political protest)

    The truth is, the Republicans only want smaller government when it comes to taxes, and when it comes to government oversight of big business. (The lower taxes would be fine if the Republicans – when they controlled the presidency, both houses of Congress, the judiciary, and a majority of state governments – didn’t outspend all of the Democrats that preceded them. You need only look at Senator Stevens “Bridge to Nowhere” to understand that the mantra of smaller government is an out and out lie.)

    “Okay, FTF, but what about security? The Democrats are soft.” I guess reminding you that Democrats led us into and successfully navigated our way through WWI (Wilson) and WWII (FDR, Truman) won’t much matter. “Old news,” you’ll say. “Fine,” I’ll say back. “But ask yourself if you think the U.S. is safer after eight years of Republican rule.” It’s not. Our position in the world militarily, economically, and diplomatically is weaker than it was eight years ago. We’re mired in a war we had no business fighting (Iraq), never finished a war we had every right to fight (Afghanistan), and are beating the drums of war (Iran) that will further destabilize the Mideast and antagonize the other world powers (Russia, China, India).

    “But FTF, the surge in Iraq is working.” Well, duh. Add tens of thousands of troops to any military theater and you’ll make it more secure. But what happens when those troops come home? As I say, well, duh.

    Perhaps worst of all, the Republicans, who wrap themselves in the flag and call themselves patriots, are systematically trying to dismantle the Constitution. I’d spout on about Habeas Corpus, but Saramerica already said it better than I possibly could.

    I could also go on about the environment and big oil; about the banking industry run amok; about lies and obfuscation of the Bush administration, and on and on and on and on about why I don’t want – can’t let – my son grow up in the world these yahoos want to create. But I think I’ve said enough. If you still don’t get it, maybe this video will help:

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    The DHD

    The DHD

    In the 18 days since the FTS was born, I have failed at the following:

    • Remembering one my best friend’s Jack & Jill baby shower
    • Giving my nephew and godson (and one of my favorite people on the planet) a graduation and 18th birthday present
    • Visiting my parents
    • Getting enough done at work
    • Keeping up with posts from my favorite bloggers (Manager Mom, Always Home and Uncool, and the rest of the list off to the left there)
    • Keeping up with my own non-blog writing projects

    In short, The FTF has become the DHD – the Dill Hole Dad.

    Everyone tells you how much your life will change and how all-consuming parenthood will be, but you just don’t grok until you’re in its midst. When you’re not handling the baby – marveling at every sound, facial expression, and flick of a finger; trying to quell a nascent fit before it gets out of control; feeding, burping, changing, clothing, and fretting over him – you’re doing laundry, washing bottles, reading parenting books, and trying to sleep. And you’re still going to work and mowing the lawn and balancing the checkbook and taking out the trash (which there is now a mountain of) and yadda yadda yadda. How then are we supposed to find time for all the other stuff…the fun stuff?

    I don’t know, but find time I will. The last thing the FTS needs is a DHD. I’ve always believed you lead by example, so I think the FTM and I need to figure out how to live active, fun lives, specifically so the FTS sees healthy, well-adjusted parents. (Well, so he sees what appear to be healthy, well-adjusted parents.)

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should bring our two week old to a movie, just that we should remember there’s a mommy and daddy life beyond being mommy and daddy. So I say farewell DHD, and welcome back FTF.

    Coming next….the FTF gets political.

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Chew on This

    What does the FTS have in common with the telephone in our house? They’re both cordless! That’s right, our boy’s umbilical cord has finally fallen off. Woohoo! That thing was freaking me out. It was like a factory defect.

    Of course, I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with it. Does it get pressed like a flower or a butterfly and immortalized in a baby book? Do we bring it to the pediatrician? Do we just throw it out? I’ve actually heard that in some cultures, the placenta and cord are nutrient rich delicacies. I throw up in my mouth just a little bit every time I think about that. Thankfully those cultures are far enough from my daily existence that the thought seems unreal.

    Or are they? This from the Mirror in the UK:

    Tom Cruise yesterday revealed his latest bizarre eat his new baby's placenta. Cruise vowed he would tuck in straight after girlfriend Katie Holmes gives birth, saying he thought it would be "very nutritious". The Mission Impossible star, 43, said: "I'm gonna eat the placenta. I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. I'm gonna eat the cord and the placenta right there." It is the latest in a series of increasingly strange outbursts from Cruise in the run-up to the birth.

    You can read the full article here.

    That's just so weird that I can't write any more tonight. Later this weekend a longer post on how becoming a dad might be turning me into a bit of an dill hole.

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    The Manly Arts

    Yesterday was Father’s Day. The one day of the year to celebrate dad, and to focus on the masculine side of home life and parenting. So let’s see how well the FTF scores on the first (and last) ever Father’s Day Manliness Test.

    Answer each question honestly. A correct answer is worth two points. A total of 8 points are needed to be considered “Manly.”

    Question: Do you drink beer?
    Answer: Yes! I like Corona with lime, though I should probably come clean here; for most of my adult life I hated beer. Let’s face it, the stuff tastes bad. (Wheat juice just isn’t a good idea.) I only developed a taste for beer three years ago, when I was giving myself a 40th birthday present of a solo hiking trip in the Scottish Highlands. I trained like a mad man for the trip, going on 10 mile hikes a few times a week and spending hours on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I also trained by learning to drink beer. I was pretty sure that if I tried to order a Pinot Grigio in some rural bar nestled in the rough and tumble Highlands, I would get beat up. So I bought a six pack of Killian’s and drank a little bit every night. By the end of one week, I was exactly what America needed: another 40-something beer guzzler. But I did escape Scotland unscathed.
    Score: 1 point (In light of my late blooming beeriness, I don’t think I deserve full credit.)

    Question: Are you good at home repair?

    • A screwdriver is first made with orange juice and vodka, and second a tool for, um, screwing;
    • An old saw is first common piece of folksy wisdom, and second the rusty blade in my basement;
    • Getting hammered is first what happens when I drink too much beer (see above), and second what happens to my thumb next to any nail;
    • Wrench is first what I do to my (choose all that apply) knee, elbow, thumb, wrist, hip, shoulder when attempting to fix anything, and second the tool in my hand at the moment of injury.

    So no, I’m not good at home repair. Recently, the FTM asked me to put up some crown moulding. After listening to me curse, scream, and finally injure myself, the ceiling, and the wood, she apologized to me. “I’m sorry,” she said very earnestly, “I really didn’t know just how bad at this you were.” (We called a professional to finish the job.) I keep thinking the problem might be that I don’t have the right tools, and I’m truly grateful to my in-laws for buying me a very nice set of power tools for Father’s Day, but let’s face it, a circular saw in my hands is a lethal weapon. Even the pets hide when they see me pull out the tool box.
    Score: -2 points.

    Question: Do you like sports?
    Answer: Yes! I bleed orange and blue for my New York Mets; I’m a New York Rangers fan; I used to be a huge fan of thoroughbred horse racing; and I casually follow most other sports. I’ve even been in the same fantasy baseball league for a decade. I stink, but I play.
    Score: 2 points!

    Question: Do you play sports?
    Answer: Three weeks after that last time I played golf, the United States Golf Association sent me a complimentary membership in the United States Tennis Association. (The USTA has since punted me to the Curling Association. I have to wait until winter to equally offend the curlers.) But tough luck on the USGA, because golf is my game of choice, and by hook or by crook, I’m going to get better. I did try an online golf lesson once, but I don’t think it helped:

    Knowing this, for Father’s Day the FTM got me one third of a group golf lesson at a nearby course. The other two thirds of the lesson were the two dads who live across the street. (They’re not two dads in the sense of two dads in one household – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but rather, they each received the same gift from their spouses). Our spouses also got us a round of golf in the afternoon with another dad. The three dads are very nice guys, and it was a really pleasant way to spend Father’s Day. It was capped off by watching the U.S. Open with my own dad.
    Score: 1 point (While I enjoy playing most sports, I really do stink at athletics. Plus, my golf instructor was a woman, which, when you think about it, is pretty unmanly.)

    Question: Are you a babe magnet?
    Answer: Well, uh, no.
    Score: 0 points.

    If I’m counting right, my total score is 2 points; decidedly unmanly. But wait…there’s a bonus question!

    Question: Are you a father?
    Answer: Hell yes! My boys can swim!
    Score: 5 point bonus!

    That means I have a total of 7 points!!! Yay!!!!

    Oh, wait. 7 points still falls just short of being manly. But you know what? That’s okay. I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, and generally speaking, none of my friends would score much better on this test. I’ll still teach my kid all about baseball and girls and beer. But I’ll also teach him how to use a telephone call the plumber, carpenter, and electrician. Because if I've learned one thing in life, it's that we have to play to our strengths.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Video Killed the Monitor Star

    It’s 11:49 p.m. and the FTM and her parents -- staying with us for the FTS’s first week home from the hospital -- have gone to bed. I’m on baby duty tonight, and I’m taking a bold step. Rather than keeping the basinet next to the couch in the living room, where I’ll be sleeping (or rather, fretting), I’ve relocated the FTS to the nursery. There are some very good reasons for this:

    1. It’s a nursery. We spent a lot of effort sanding, spackling, painting, and finishing the room for the express purpose of housing a baby. We now have a baby. You do the math.
    2. It’s dark in there. Well, not all the time, but I can turn the lights out. If I’m hanging out in the living room watching bad sitcom reruns and writing, I generally want at least a little bit of light and sound. In the nursery, I can limit the external stimuli to a night light.
    3. No pets. We share our house with a small menagerie—one dog and two cats. With the FTS in the nursery, we can close the door and be confident that none of our furry roommates will finally realize that the basinet is, in fact, the warmest, coziest place in the house.

    So with the blessing of the FTM and after she went to bed, I moved the basinet into the nursery, killed the lights, and shut the door.

    “But FTF, what if the baby needs something?”

    Good question discerning reader! But fear not, for I am armed with a Summer brand baby video monitor. That’s right a video monitor. It’s one of the many items the multi-billion dollar baby industry insists we can’t live without. This in spite of the fact that our parents raised us with plain old audio monitors and their parents raised them with no monitors at all. And let’s not forget that back in the haze of our ancestral past, our forefathers and foremothers were raised by protohumans picking protonits from their little heads of protohair by the light of a waning protofire. (In my family, this is probably only two or three generations back.) But you know what? The baby industry got this one right. We really, really, really need this thing!

    As I sit here, I’m watching FTS TV. The little guy wiggles around a bit, turns his head, and desperately tries to get on his side. But I know that he’s okay because it’s all here on this one and a half inch square screen, and I can be at his side in a matter of seconds. And check this out; it’s got night vision!!! (If I can see my baby in the dark from three rooms away, I shudder to think what the government can and can’t see. But I’ll save politics for another time.)

    “But FTF, what if you have to take a leak?”

    No sweat… the Summer brand baby video monitor is portable!

    The FTS can get a relaxing bit of sleep in a tranquil setting, and I can write, I can read, I can fill up on caffeine and Chips Ahoy . Thank you Summer Corporation, and thank you multi billion dollar baby industry. You go over the top sometimes, but tonight, this FTF is in your debt.

    Postscript – The FTS started fussing as soon as I started writing this post last night. I tried everything I could think of – rocking, walking, singing to him; saline nose drops; antacid drops; diaper change; hypnosis; Scnhapps – to settle him down, and nothing worked. Finally, at 2 a.m., the FTM emerged from her nest, sensing something was wrong. She cradled and rocked the FTS for 10 minutes and he was out like a light. She went back to bed and I dozed off on the couch, transfixed by the image on the baby monitor. Go figure.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Perchance to Burp

    The FTS turned one week old last night, and I’m fairly certain I’m averaging less sleep than he is. You may think this is a cute or clever statement because you know what everyone else knows: newborn babies sleep all the time. News flash: It ain’t true.

    Babies, it turns out, thrash and move and dance far more than they sleep. I remember reading about a study years ago in which a gymnast tried to mimic the movements made by a baby; he had to give up after a few hours because it was just too taxing. (I somehow conveniently forgot this when we decided to conceive.) As I watch the FTS move like a boxer in a mosh pit, I imagine him in utero and now understand how and why the FTM had such a rough pregnancy.

    Don’t get me wrong, the kid has a sweet disposition. He’s not screaming when he’s awake, nor is he throwing things or sitting too close to the television or refusing to eat his vegetables or getting in trouble with the law; he’s just constantly moving. If I could figure out how to wire a circuit breaker to him, I’m pretty sure we could power our house. What he seems to be craving is attention. A pacifier or a song gently sung or a book read aloud will generally hold his attention. (We tried teaching him Scrabble, but he didn’t seem that interested, and he kept spelling the same word over and over again: LIRIPOOP. We didn’t have the heart to tell him he had too many letters.)

    So sleep is rare. But it doesn’t have to be. And here we arrive at my first piece of legitimate advice for other FTFs: The single most important thing you can learn to do as a new parent, and the single most difficult thing you will learn to do is to get your own FTS or FTD to burp. Seriously. It’s all about the burp.

    When the kid burps and clears gas from his system he’ll be a lot more comfortable, will spit up a lot less, and will sleep a lot more. So just burp him. It’s that simple.

    Yeah, right. Short of a flying knee drop to the solar plexus, none of us – me, the FTM, the FTGM, the FTGF – have a clue as to how to get the air out of the FTS’s stomach. If we hit this kid’s back any harder or any longer after a feeding, the neighbors are going to call social services. But the few times we’ve bumbled our way into a burp – even the blind squirrel finds the occasional acorn – it’s worked like a charm. Down he goes.

    So, FTFs, pay attention at the hospital when they teach you the art of burping, and pray your kid cooperates.

    I’ll borrow a page from blogger extraordinaire Manager Mom, and embed a little relevant video in the blog. Normally the only thing I like less than talking babies are television commercials. But somehow this series of ads -- and this one in particular -- gets a smile out of me every time. Of course that could just be the sleep deprivation talking.

    Sunday, June 8, 2008

    ACME FTS (Model 1) Instruction Manual

    Congratulations on the purchase of your brand new FTS (Model 1)! The FTS is designed to bring you a lifetime of pleasure, fulfilling all of your unfulfilled hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Please read these instructions carefully, including all warnings and safety instructions before attempting operation.

    WARNINGS: Do not expose the ACME FTS (Model 1) to: smoke, including tobacco, marijuana, car exhaust, church incense, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” or the movies “Smokey and the Bandit” one, two, or three. Do not expose the FTS to extreme heat; extreme cold; or extremists. Do not operate heavy machinery near the FTS; do not allow the FTS to operate any heavy machinery; do not operate on the FTS with heavy machinery. Do not leave the FTS unattended. Do not leave the FTS with a priest. Do not leave the FTS, ever.

    Operating Instructions

    Swaddling: As human beings are known to loathe freedom of motion, you’ll want to “swaddle” the FTS, restricting its movements (not including bowel movements). To swaddle, follow these instructions for folding a burrito. Do not consume the FTS. CAUTION: The blue (on some models purple) plastic knob in the midsection is the factory installed umbilical nutrient conduit. This conduit was used during assembly to provide your FTS with required nutrients. It is not a carrying handle. Lifting the FTS by this knob could cause serious damage to your unit.

    Feeding: The FTS will emit a 120 dB, 2,000 Mhz pulsating tone when its nutrients need replenishment. To stop this pulsating tone, insert a lactating nipple, or a lactating nipple facsimile (see ACME LACTATING NIPPLE FACSIMILE) into the FTS Nutrient Receptacle. CAUTION: Feeding will be immediately followed by unfeeding. (See below) Do not reuse unfeeding byproduct for future feeding; see your local sanitation code for disposal.

    a)Through Nutrient Receptacle: Immediately following feeding, FTS will unfeed through Nutrient Receptacle. To minimize unfeeding through Nutrient Receptacle, vent gas (see below). To protect the FTS for future use, be sure to use an authorized ACME UNFEEDING (NUTRIENT RECEPTACLE) PROTECTIVE SHEATH.

    b)Through Rear Waste Evacuation System: The FTS will emit a 120 dB, 2005 Mhz pulsating tone (easily distinguished from the Feeding tone) when evacuating waste through the Rear Waste Evacuation System. The ACME Corporation has designed the FTS to evacuate waste in all colors and consistencies for your maximum entertainment. To protect the FTS for future use, be sure to use an authorized ACME UNFEEDING (REAR WASTE EVACUATION SYSTEM) PROTECTIVE SHEATH.

    c)Through Forward Waste Evacuation System: The Forward Waste Evacuation System will only be engaged while applying the Acme Unfeeding (Rear Waste Evacuation System) Protective Sheath. Do not be alarmed if the Forward Waste Evacuation System sprays liquid in your face. It is designed for just this purpose.

    Venting Gas:
    Following feeding, the unit will need to vent gas. This is done by firmly pounding on the unit’s back, loosening air bubbles in its various feeding receptacles. CAUTION: Venting gas rarely works. Improperly vented gas leads to unfeeding.

    System Standby Mode: The FTS will spend all hours between Feeding and Unfeeding in a dormant state. CAUTION: Some models have faulty System Standby Modes. If your unit suffers such a defect, it will:

    a) Exhibit sounds and facial expressions not associated with Feeding, Unfeeding, or Sleeping. These sounds will include cooing and what appears to be giggling.

    b) Emit a a 120 dB, 1995 Mhz pulsating tone (easily distinguished from both the Feeding and Unfeeding tone). Feeding and Unfeeding will not disengage the tone. Attempt to Swaddle, to Vent Gas, or to gently rock until the unit resets. This could take between 3 and 180 minutes.

    We hope you enjoy your ACME FTS (Model 1). If you have any questions, feel free to contact our customer service team.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    One Kid

    When the FTM and I first explored the idea of getting married, we made a point to discuss all of those big life decisions that can trip a couple up – religion, money, retirement, politics – and found that we were marching in lock stop on almost everything. The only issue where we parted company was the size of the family we both hoped to start. I wanted two kids; the FTM wanted four.

    This was far from my mind yesterday, which, as noted in a previous post, was D (as in “Delivery”) Day. We were scheduled to go to the hospital at the crack of dawn to induce labor. Long before dawn cracked however (3 a.m. if you’re keeping score), the FTM went into labor on her own. We were at the hospital by 5 a.m., and by 7 a.m. she was ready for the epidural. It was nearly 8:30 before the pain relief was administered, and it wasn’t until 7:19 p.m. when the baby was born.

    The day was basically one long CIA-style torture session for the FTM. Not only did she suffer through the excruciating pain of labor, she was made to endure an endless string of indignities: There were two internal monitors—one for her uterus, one attached to the baby’s scalp to measure his heart beat—that the doctor snaked into her body like a plumber looking to unclog a basement pipe; there were the failed attempts to find a vein worthy of a blood letting, leaving the FTM with a series of bruises; there was the administration of the epidural, which required the FTM to hunch forward and remain still through a severe contraction as an anesthesiologist drove a medicinal spike into a column of cartilage adjacent to her spine; and there was the doctor assisted rupturing of her membrane, leading to the hours-long and seemingly ceaseless gush of amniotic fluid.

    As awful as it was to watch, it had to be at least a million times worse to experience, and the FTM bore it all with bravery and character. I was never more proud of her than I was during this ordeal. It was in the midst of this living hell that the FTM grabbed my wrist and said to me, her tear-filled eyes peering over the top of her oxygen mask, “One kid.”

    One kid? The same woman who previously wanted a litter now wanted just one kid. Nine very rough months of pregnancy ended with the exclamation point of a miserable labor and it broke her spirit. Almost. Because then she added, “but we can always adopt.”

    After 16 hours of labor the doctor finally said what we were expecting all along: “FTM, I think we should do a C-Section.”

    I sat by the FTM’s head in the operating room—the FTM had a local anesthetic, so she was awake for the whole thing—as the OB/GYN performed the surgery. After hearing the baby cry, after we heard the doctor’s assistant say “nine pounds, nine ounces, 21 inches long” (to which we now say “Thank God for C-Sections!”), and after we heard the positive results of the APGAR assessment, they handed the baby to me.

    The FTM and I immediately named him First Time Son (FTS) and I studied his perfect little face as I held him in arms. His chubby cheeks were a rosy red, and his mouth was already sucking, looking for a nipple. A Vasoline like substance—a Vitamin schmear I was told—seemed to glue his eyes shut, but the FTS would not be deterred. His little eyelids fought their way through the salve and he looked at the world for the first time. I bent my face close to his, and his gaze found mine. At that moment, it all became clear; my life had meaning in a way that it hadn’t a minute before, and I knew that feeling was something I’d never lose.

    I looked at the FTM and said: “One kid. One beautiful, wonderful kid.” And we both kind of cried.

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    The Stopwatch

    The FTM and I went to the doctor this morning, fully expecting to be told that we were still on schedule for tonight. To briefly recap, the plan, as outlined last Thursday, was for the FTM to go to the hospital this evening (Monday) to be induced.

    Step one was going to be the introduction of Cervidil, a chemical that enhances the ripening of the cervix. No, this isn’t my language; doctors really do like to see a “nice ripe cervix.” (I can barely pick out ripe bananas at the supermarket, so I’m glad someone else is handling this.)

    It was going to take up to 12 hours for the Cervidil to do that voodoo that it do so well, and once its work is done the doctor would administer Pitocin, a drug that causes contractions. Pitocin, I learned, is somehow related to Oxytocin, a hormone your pituitary gland secretes during the act of kissing, which is kind of how we got in this whole situation in the first place.

    So that was the plan. But the best laid plans….

    The doctor told us this morning that the FTM’s cervix had ripened on its own over the weekend (two centimeters dilated and 70% effaced), and that we could skip the Cervidil and go straight to the Pitocin tomorrow morning. She also told us that the baby is somewhere between nine and ten pounds with a monstrously large head. (She didn’t use the word monstrous, but she was thinking it, I could tell.)

    So, after a nice lunch at the local diner, we came home to wait for tomorrow morning to hurry up and arrive. I started tooling around on the laptop and the FTM stretched out on the couch. I was so caught up in my own world that it didn’t immediately register when she said, “Um, FTF, you might want to time this one.”

    Time this one? Time what one? Are you cooking something? Oh, wait, a contraction?!?!?! I practically tripped over my own feet as I lunged for the digital watch I purchased for just this occasion. I hit the start button and watched the numbers tick by. The episode lasted 93 seconds at 3:17 p.m., mark.

    That was 22 minutes ago with no follow up contraction, but I’m convinced one will come sooner or later, and I’m starting to think we won’t make it to the morning. I hope my nerves hold out until then. The last thing I need is jittery bowels on the way to the hospital. Yes, intestinal infortitude is one of the many ways tension manifests itself in The FTF. (And yet, she married me anyway. Go figure.)

    I’m not sure who designed the pregnancy warning system, but there has got to be a better way. Even Thanksgiving turkeys come with pop-up meat thermometers. Are you telling me that the best a thousand eons of evolution can do to alert our species to the imminent addition of a new member is a twitchy man with bad gas and a stopwatch? Who can I write to about this?

    In the meantime, I stand ready, willing, and hopefully able. And whatever happens, if all works out well, by this time tomorrow, I really will be The FTF.