One of the benefits of being a Dad, aside from not having to go through surgery or shoot a human out of your vagina, is being able to walk into the hospital lounge after delivery and announce the birth. In my case, we had already divulged the sex of the baby to everyone, so I was basically filling in the remaining blanks. It was MY job to go out and do this, which was pretty sweet because, for the first time since conception I felt like I was a contributor. Here I am delivering the height, weight and physical (mental) condition of my wife to the family.
This experience was one in a small handful of great ones that come around every so often. I went with the ‘stick em’ up’ entry, which you may have seen before, after a winning quarterback leaves the field or during a bank robbery. If you have panic attacks, being hugged by 20 people at the same time in a hospital lounge would be your signal to wrap up and get going. I missed the opportunity and endured. A flurry of phone calls began and I initiated the process of bringing everyone back to recovery, one or two at a time to visit with Jen and Ava. In true form, I became fanatical about making sure everyone was lubed up with hand sanitizer and then took a seat on the window sill, the only seat left, feeling victimized as visitors kept using our private bathroom. Everyone’s focus was on the baby. I was a forgotten soldier, relegated to the window sill, manning my post and fulfilling my orders to pump Purell into dirty hands.
If you’re not a celebrity and have a regular recovery room, living at the hospital for 3 or 4 days is probably similar to having your fingernails pulled off. A C-section is pretty serious surgery and I found myself butlering for my wife when she wasn’t sleeping. ‘Butlering’ is a fancy term for opening Jell-o, changing the baby and signing for gifts as they arrived. It also included forcing the new Mom to watch baseball with me against her will. I mean, it’s not like she could get up and change the channel. Go Phils!
She was still on an IV and the nurses had encouraged Jen to describe her pain with this handy assessment chart. I practiced some personal pain evaluations and according to the Wong-Baker facial grimace scale, I generally looked like I was in moderate pain for most of my stay. Aside from the omelettes in the cafeteria, hospital food was pretty rough. There was also a nurse in our room every fifteen minutes, so getting any sleep was impossible.
And hang on a minute, because I forgot to tell you about the best part. As you watch your wife sleeping in a cushiony craftmatic adjustable bed, you are the big winner, because this rickety aluminum post partum bed is all yours!
If you didn’t have back problems before, you certainly do now. I would’ve chosen a hot bed of coals over this nonsense any day. It was just like a typical college dorm mattress, but half as good and made out of shiny plastic that’s only goal was to adhere to your skin. Fortunately for me, the only place to set this thing up was against the wall, directly under the dry erase board, which only needed to be amended every time a nurse walked in. It was super comforting to wake up and have people hovering over you, clawing at the wall with a squeaky marker.
I did manage to sleep a bit and even though they don’t recommend it, I took Ava out of her comfy plastic bassinet and brought her down to the post partum bed slums with me, to teach her an early lesson of sacrifice.
Along with forgetting about the umbilical cord, another little gem that I overlooked was how I was going to deal with breastfeeding. For most guys, losing boob access is like finally buying that pristine 67′ Camaro. It’s a dream car that’s taken many years to acquire. You glow with pride when you’re around it and often spend your Sundays detailing it’s every curve. THEN, you’re forced to turn over the keys and let some punk kid drive it around while you sit on the front porch, watching her do donuts and E-brake slides through the manicured front lawn. It’s a sucker punch to the stomach. No one tells you when you get married, that if you decide to have kids, you may lose the boob access.
In the morning, there was a knock at the door. This is pretty much how that conversation went:
ME: “Hello, who is it?”
LACTATION SPECIALIST: “I’m the lactation specialist.”
ME: “What’s this now?”
It was clear that she wasn’t there to help me with my breasts, they’re beyond help, so moving aside and letting her in was the logical next step. I reassumed my post on the window sill, as the matriarchs in the family huddled around my old friends, the boobs. I can’t remember the last time I felt so awkward. My 67′ Camaro was being banged around, tugged at and suckled as I stood at the outside perimeter peering in. The boobs are gone. The Camaro is totaled.
I’m pretty sure that Ava was getting back at me from earlier and this was HER showing ME what sacrifice is. Paybacks are a bitch.