First, do not recommend that you stop at a Wendy’s drive-thru on the way to the hospital. This is true even if you’re really hungry and the Wendy’s is on the way and you can see that there are no other cars in line.
Second, when the baby’s head starts coming out, you might think it looks tiny. That’s the arrogant line of thought that got the captain of the Titanic in trouble. That little patch of baby head you’re looking at is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest lurks under the surface, and it’s probably not making an appearance quickly.
When we delivered our baby, I was the only male in the room. We were surrounded by nurses, doctors, NICU staff and residents, and I made an error in judgement.
“The baby’s head looks tiny, Rach!” I said.
The eyes of every woman in the room turned toward me. They were angry and accusatory, looking at me like I’d pushed an old woman out of the Kroger’s pharmacy line.
“You never say that to a woman who’s in labor,” one of the nurses said.
The third rule of the fatherhood club is this: if there are any metal devices involved in the delivery, immediately look away. Sewing needles, forceps and the like should be treated like the sun, something you acknowledge, but something you never – under any circumstances – stare at. Should you break this rule, you may suffer from PTSD.
Fourthly, after your baby is born, do your fatherly duty dammit and introduce your child to music. Do this while it’s just the three of you alone in the post-delivery room. Even lumberjacks can be brought to tears in such a setting, particularly if you go with Ellie Goulding’s version of “Your Song.”
Lastly, prepare to revise your definition of love. Old definitions are like 20-year-old bicycles you purchased at the flea market. They work, but you’re not going to win a race with one. For me, I realized this while making a pot of coffee. I used three scoops of Seattle’s Best, and I thought about how magical, mysterious, strange and beautiful it is to see your child open their eyes and look at the world.
I’m going to love that child no matter what, I realized.
And this is the ridiculous part: I asked myself if there were anything that might make me not love my little girl. I turned the coffee pot on, and I flashed forward 15 years. In my mind, Claire was a teenager talking to one of her friends in her bedroom. I was walking down the hall, and I overheard her making fun of me (something I’m sure we all did to our parents when we were teens).
And I smiled. She can make fun of me all she wants, she can ridicule me, yell at me, kick me, pour a cooler full of Gatorade on me while I’m asleep in a tent in the dead of winter, and, well, it doesn’t really matter. I understand unconditional love now.
That girl has stolen a part of me and hidden it inside her onesie.
Now that I knew the definition of unconditional love, I felt like Einstein. There’s just one problem; I was sleep deprived, and I left the house without pouring myself that cup of coffee. I’d put a bagel in the toaster, too, and I found it hard as a rock the next day. Zombie dad is on the loose! And he’s smiling…