Unlike first-time fathers-to-be in an earlier age, who would venture out for a night of drinking, whoring and spitting while their wives gave birth, today's father-to-be knows that he should not, must not, miss his child's birth. (Also, whoring and spitting are out.) But, once in the delivery room, he finds himself largely as useful as a bra on a Brahma bull. (Bulls are the ones without udders, right? I'm a city boy.) (Also? That'd be one big bra.) As the father of two now-grown children, I feel uniquely qualified to advise you, young father-to-be, on what to expect; I'm not, but I feel that way. Sit back and relax; it'll be the last chance you'll get until your kid's in college.
It's her day -- no, make that Her Day. Sure, they say that about a woman's wedding day, her quinceañera, hell maybe her last teeth-cleaning, but the difference, and an important one, is this: on none of those occasions, unless some terrible coincidence transpired, did she find herself occupied with pushing a human the size of a young pumpkin out of her body via an egress the size of an kumquat. So while your significant other is in labor, you will essentially cease to exist; you will leave your phone off and you will focus your full attention on her and treat her like the ancient Babylonian fertility goddess she currently resembles. You will at many points in the proceedings feel the need to comment, generally something along the lines of, "Oh, my god, YUCK!" Master this temptation. Consider it a kind of Zen exercise: efface yourself, your wants, needs and gag reflex. As such, you must...
Know your role in the proceedings: everybody's bitch. You may be the CEO of a trillion-dollar yogurt-covered peanut company (in a world I ran, there would be trillion-dollar yogurt-peanut companies, and banks would exist only to exchange bills for rolls of quarters), the President of Switzerland or an NBA track star (they play track in the NBA, right? I'm not a sports guy), but when you enter into that delivery room, you become, as noted, everybody's bitch, most especially your spouse's, and rightly so, because see above in re-pushing a human being the size of a delicata squash (you've just witnessed the changing of the gourd) out her coochie. In a corner of the delivery room you will see an antiquated piece of apparatus that hums merrily to itself and every now and again makes a soft bubbly ta-pocketa sound, which no one remembers the purpose or use of: you, young father-to-be, are less useful than that apparatus. Fetch her ice chips and comfy socks, reassure her that everything looks great (it won't; it'll look like Alien; you'll see bodily fluids in colors you didn't know exist coming out of a part of her you had till now found quite aesthetically pleasing), rub her back, hold her hand and leap out of the way of people far more useful than you. You will not receive gratitude for this, nor will you deserve any, because of how it's all your fault. So, a useful forewarning:
Your significant other may spit at you. Or bite you; biting's possible too. Take heart, though: she won't be drinking or whoring. She finds herself in a great deal of pain, and you, whom she (rightly) blames for that pain, are not, so a sense of fairness may compel her to even things up a bit. She may demand that you immediately go out and get a vasectomy, or ask the obstetrician or a passing custodian to perform an ad hoc one right there in the delivery room, possibly with a rusty screwdriver. Whatever you do, don't let her near the scissors.
You will weep when you see your child for the first time. You might be the kind of guy whose entire emotional range consists of "hungry" and "feeling a draft", but you will without warning discover that your face is all wet, that your nose is streaming like a viral YouTube video no one will in a month admit to having watched, and that you've suddenly come over all Oprah. ("You get a baby, and you get a baby, and...") You won't even know it's happening. Go with it. You will not experience this kind of emotion again until your next child is born or you get your first college tuition bill.
Remember those all-nighters you pulled in school? Welcome to a year of them. You tell yourself that despite all the horror stories, your child will sleep through the night right off. Oh, rookie, I feel such sadness at your innocence, but mostly great hilarity. (In Germany, they call me SchadenFloyde.) Those people who tell you that their kid slept all night the day they brought her home? Are lying or possibly were driven insane by lack of sleep. You will crave sleep in ways you never as a young horny adolescent craved sex. You will consider hitting yourself in the head with a large cast-iron skillet just for those few precious moments of unconsciousness. You will master the art of sleeping with your eyes open at work, waking only occasionally to exclaim "put a stake in the ground" and "metrics!"
Enjoy the first few weeks or months of changing diapers. No, really. You will breeze through changing diapers at first. Those first baby poops will lull you into an illusory security. Why, it's like Dijon mustard, you will think. That's not offensive at all. And then, at some point, you will wrinkle your brow (and your nose) in confusion and examine your child suspiciously through watering eyes: has some dyspeptic 65-year-old dwarf taken your baby's place? Because that, as they say, is some shit. When you smell it, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll gag--mostly gag. You'll also try to get your significant other to take over diaper duty (hee! Duty! Get it?) (Fine.); she, no fool, will remind you that she pushed your little watermelon of joy out of an orifice the diameter of a kiwi (the fruit, not the bird). This period in my child's development prepared me to become a champion skin-diver, able to hold my breath for well over five minutes--quite an achievement, as brain-damage occurs after four minutes of oxygen deprivation. I know: explains a lot, right?
You will at some point have sex again. And the whole process will start all over. Unless she got her hands on the scissors in the delivery room.
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