The Shop Teacher’s Guide to Childbirth

The Finished Product

You’re in the twilight hours of your pregnancy surviving the baby shower, Lamaze classes, and pregnancy hormones so intense they make a rectal exam from a longshoreman seem enviable.  Just one thing remains — having the baby.  If you thought the past forty weeks were rough —just wait.

Being raised in a blue-collar environment taught me not to complicate things that should be left simple.  I learned many important life lessons from my high school shop teachers.  I know you’re wondering how does something taught by a middle aged man with three fingers on one hand, who spent way too much time inhaling paint fumes apply to childbirth.  I learned not to overthink things or take six steps when you only need two.

This did nothing to prepare me for a drippy deuce.

Expectant parents rarely get an accurate picture of what to expect.  Reading parenting books, or loading a few new apps onto your iPhone, doesn’t prepare you for the real thing.  It’s like changing your practice doll’s diaper in childbirth classes, then handling a full-fledged blowout.

Ask a mother to describe her childbirth experience and the answer will vary depending on how doped up she was. As someone who’s been there,  I can tell you, any mother droning on using words like breathtaking or empowering — that’s the drugs talking — my guess is she was probably doped up on a combination of Vicodin, an Epidural, and some Flintstones vitamins.

If you are looking for a brutally honest description of childbirth, embrace the wisdom of the shop teacher.

Keep It Simple Stupid – During his first class each semester, Mr. Donnelley, my ninth-grade shop teacher, taught students the acronym K.I.S.S, Keep It Simple Stupid.  It’s direct and less cruel than ID10T universallused in the Information Technology field.

K.I.S.S should be used whenever an expectant mother’s Hippy Pre-Natal yoga instructor sells her on water birth.  Let me guess, you’re planning a Gender Reveal Party too?  In twenty years, you’ll be wondering if it was worth the time and effort when their child embraces gender fluidity.  Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself but there’s a good chance your child won’t be the next Michael Phelps, so why risk infection or a severed umbilical cord. You can plan your child’s first birthday party at the aquarium.

Some of the non-scary medical equipment,

Childbirth is Not a Dignified Experience – Are you the queasy type whose stomach turns at the sight and smell of a bowl of raw octopus? Does the thought of the doctor, a classroom full of interns, and the janitor checking out your partner’s junk make you uneasy?  Wait until you get your first glimpse of the slime-covered, cone-headed mess that’s waiting for you. Remember when your partner came home from Victoria’s Secrets with three shopping bags of lingerie and you demanded a fashion show?  After a few pre-natal check-ups, Victoria won’t have any secrets left.  If you got here using a test tube and turkey baster, keep repeating, “We really wanted this.”

Picking the Hospital – This should be a no brainer, but people keeping screwing it up.  Remember K.I.S.S.  Ignore suggestions from your hipster friends suggesting a hospital because they heard the bedding has a high thread count or it’s where Beyoncé had her children.

Babies arrive at the most inconvenient time.  Like at three in the morning, in the middle of rush hour, or during a raging snowstorm.  If you’re crossing a bridge and tunnel to get to the hospital, the Uber driver might be delivering your child.

Make Those Hormones Work For You — You’ve had a rough pregnancy, and are ten days past your due date.  Your unborn child has barred the doors and is giving the doctor the middle finger.  She’s tired and moody because the doctor keeps sending her home, saying, “Let’s give it a few more days shall we?”

There’s only one thing to do – piss her off.  It sounds cruel, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one.   If it’s your 42nd week, she’s gassy and has the hemorrhoids of a long-haul trucker. Trust me you’re doing her a favor, so churn up those hormones and point her at the doctor.  If I had done this my son would have been born two weeks and fifty hormonal outbursts earlier.

Its Go Time – The delivery room is where the myths and expectations of childbirth are shattered.  It’s not the breathtaking experience you were led to believe, it’s gross, slimy, and eye-opening. My wife and I saw things so scary, we made a pact not to share what really happened with anyone – the way couples do after spending a wild weekend in Vegas.

If you want to foreshadow your childbirth experience, start with the Mucus Plug.  When this slimy mess keeping the baby in place pops, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Let’s get this party started.”  What follows are several hours of farting, pooping, and vomiting – kind of like a college frat house on Cinco de Mayo.

Children are rarely born in the O.R., meaning the room the hospital assigns you, is your delivery room.  The transformation from hospital room to delivery room is terrifying. Scary looking medical tools and devices appear for mystery compartments.  Your tastefully decorated room becomes a fully-equipped bondage chamber any dominatrix would be proud of.  I’m pretty sure I saw a ball gag among the medical equipment.

As you watch your better half sliced with the medical equivalent of gardening sheers in ways I won’t describe, be prepared to be a little disappointed. The child you’ve been anxiously awaiting is compressed, cone-shaped, and covered in slime, and your room will need a thorough scouring with industrial strength cleaning products.  Most guys experience a Post-Natal PTS.  After watching their partners pass something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a hard-boiled egg.  This is part of nature’s plan, it gives new mothers the time they need to heal as their men won’t go near them for a few weeks.

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50 Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Father.

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Time has a way of sneaking up on you.  I have a hard time believing I’ve been a parent for over year and a half.  Spending time with friends recently reminded me how much my life’s changed in that time.  I love my son and being a dad, but it’s a lot of work.

This list is a public service to anyone thinking about starting a family.  Take a good look, this is required reading.  I invite any parent to add anything I missed or to share what lies ahead.

    1. Did your better half’s pregnancy hormones make you look forward to your next prostate exam?
    2. Did picking a baby name remind you of Congress trying to agree on immigration reform?
    3. Let’s work on the nursery means she plans layout and design and you move furniture back and forth again, and again, and again.
    4. Are your wife’s friends using possessive terms like our baby?
    5. Are you calling them up at 3am because our baby was screaming like a banshee?
    6. Did you carry your newborn son around like Mufasa carrying Simba at the beginning of the Lion King?
    7. Did you show the baby to everyone on the maternity ward, including security guards and the maintenance staff?
    8. Was putting the baby in your father’s arms for the first time the best gift you ever gave him?

      Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
      Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
    9. Did it take you at least 45 minutes to figure out how to install the car seat correctly?
    10. Did you put the baby’s car seat into the car gently like you were handing a carton of eggs?
    11. Was driving your wife and child home from the hospital the slowest you’ve driven since you took your road test for your driver’s license.
    12. Was your first night home alone with your baby the scariest night of your life?
    13. Did the first few days of childcare make you feel like a sequestered juror on a high-profile trial?
    14. Friends and family will want to see the baby. This isn’t a bad thing.
    15. Remember when friends ask what can I bring, think big. It’s a limited offer so think surf and turf not chicken nuggets.
    16. I’ve spent many a sleepless night wonder at the logic of giving a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
    17. How long did it take to you to learn, babies will pee on you?
    18. Have the words onesie, boppy and binky become part of your vocabulary?
    19. Do the words Butt Paste make you giggle?
    20. I’m convinced anyone advising sleep when the baby sleeps, never took care of a baby.
    21. Things are easier if you know a good Baby Whisperer
    22. You will be required to take your child on a Baby Tour for the benefit of family members who couldn’t make it to your home.
    23. The dog or cat who was your child before the baby was born will go back to being a dog or cat. Sorry Chico.
    24. Don’t expect to sleep through the night for a few years.
    25. Why are the baby wipes and diapers always at the bottom of the diaper bag?
    26. Few things in life change your mood faster than a diaper blowout.
    27. Are you the only Dad in Mommy and Me class?
    28. Am I the only Dad whose nipples were sore after Mommy and Me class?
    29. Mommy and Me class will make you channel your parents.
    30. Do you wonder who is more annoying Daniel Tiger or Caillou?
    31. Competitive parents suck.
    32. Don’t be too anxious for the baby to start walking. Trust me.
    33. It’s okay to look silly in front of the baby.
    34. Your home will look like the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.
    35. Does Netflix and Chill mean you actually sit on the couch and watch a movie?
    36. How long did it take you to learn there are no quick trips to pick up anything for the baby?
    37. If you think babies don’t throw tantrums until they are two-years old, I have a surprise for you.
    38. Is getting your toddler to sleep a Darwinian Survival of the Fittest?
    39. Have you thought of putting a Fitbit on your toddler to see how many steps he takes in a day?
    40. Do you compare notes with other parents on the strangest places you’ve found poop and puke?
    41. Do you remember when being awakened at 3am meant you were getting lucky, now you hope the baby rolls over and goes to sleep once you’ve given him a bottle.
    42. Are your iPhone and iPad high-tech pacifiers.
    43. Have you told people, “Don’t let his smile fool you?”
    44. Do you flood social media sites with pictures of your child?
    45. Have your family and friends planned an intervention because of posting too many baby pictures?
    46. Have you chased a twenty-something working in GNC around the store with your screaming child to reinforce the importance of birth control?
    47. Do you think sitting in cramped airplane seat with a screaming toddler in your lap should be used as a fraternity-hazing ritual?
    48. Your child will soon crawl in and out of his crib with ninja-like efficiency.
    49. When you are singing Elmo’s Greatest Hits or humming the Pepa Pig theme, it’s time for a night out.
    50. Everyone is an expert.  You will get lots of unsolicited advice from all sides.  Get used to it.


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Chasing the Tazmanian Devil

cropped-Sent-to-Esther-3.jpgParenting is a time-consuming, energy-draining proposition.  Babies expect to be fed and those diapers need to be changed every day.  I knew this when I signed on, or thought I did.  Taking care of a baby is easy in theory.   Reality on the other hand…

During Esther’s pregnancy,  we debated baby names, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz had nothing on us, designed a nursery, she planned the layout while I moved furniture back and forth and back again and again and again, and stocked our home with every conceivable baby item.

I wanted to record Cristian’s birth, so we could show him the video every year on his birthday.  The doctor was onboard—the Go Pro Camera was strapped around his head and ready to go.  My better half objected, something about therapy being expensive.

Tummy Time - He hated Tummy Time.
Tummy Time – He hated Tummy Time.

Like most expectant parents, we thought had it all under control when in reality we had no clue.

As new parents we anxiously awaited each developmental milestone, lifting his head, tummy time, and crawling. We survived, sleepless nights, diaper blowouts and teething (wait that’s still going on).

Walking, or more accurately, chasing our walking baby is the challenge du jour.  We were so excited when Cristian took his first steps.  A baby’s first steps look a lot like college students on a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl.  Before long they figure it out, and then it’s like chasing the Tazmanian Devil on Red Bull.


Chasing a curious toddler down hallways and keeping him away from open doors and staircases requires teamwork (see my last post).  Think you’re keeping him out of the kitchen by putting a few chairs or a toy box in his way?  Guess again.

Cristian’s an amazing troubleshooter, climbing over and crawling under most obstacles.  He’s going to kill the Tough Mudder course in about 20 years, maybe 10, but that’s not helping me right now.

Hanging out with my brother last weekend didn’t help.  Ever the big brother, he let me in on a secret—we haven’t scratched the surface yet.  Thanks Bob, I knew I could count on you.  Oh well at the very least, I’m sure it will generate a post or two and give me some cross training once race season starts.

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It’s Showtime – Part 2

machines 2In the hospital we watched Jimmy Fallon as Esther lay in bed hooked to machines and an IV Drip I knew we were in for a long night.  Sitting in a cushy recliner next to her bed listening to my son’s heartbeat all we can do is wait.  After 41 weeks, Baby Priegue is ready to arrive, but like his parents he’s being stubborn.

Leaving the doctor’s office, we stopped for Esther’s “Last Meal.”  We went home to walk and feed Chico, and called friends and family letting them, it was go time.

Let me hit the highlights so this post isn’t too long, of course I still can’t promise it won’t be really long.

SInce you're up could you go to Dunkin Donuts and get me a cup of coffee?
SInce you’re up could you go to Dunkin Donuts and get me a cup of coffee?

Facebook Posts Instead of Phone Calls-Knowing this was going deep into the night or into the next morning we kept friends and family updated via an ongoing Facebook posts.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had a sleepless night.  Several friends woke up hourly checking for updates.

No All-Night Maternal Slumber Party-Anticipating what awaited us; I pushed the recliner back at around 3am to get a few hours’ sleep.  It didn’t sit well with my better half.  Esther expected the type of all-night maternal slumber party she had when her sister gave birth to her son.

Let me give you a little family history.  My sister-in-law Rose Marie, or Neiqui, her family nickname, was in labor for over 20 hours.  It’s become something of an urban legend (tell me about the doctor using the Jaws of Life again) and Esther was with her kid sister every step of the way.   

Esther and I before she went into the O.R.
Esther and I before she went into the O.R.

“When Neiqui had Justin, I stayed awake the entire night,” She mentioned with a very disappointed look.  “I’m happy for you,” was my tired reply, “but the doctor said he won’t be here until 8 am, we have a long day ahead of us.”  I went to sleep wondering if I’d wake up to an irate wife smothering me with a pillow.

A Moment of Calm-Upon waking up the nurses told me Induction wasn’t working—we were probably having a C-Section.  Hungry and a little anxious, I stepped out for a quick breakfast sandwich and coffee (yeah coffee will help those nerves Frank).

Looking at the newborns when I returned to maternity wing gave me a sense of calm.  Tuning around, I saw Steven, Esther’s doctor watching me.  I don’t remember what he said but it removed any remaining anxiety.  I guess his services extend to expectant fathers too.

In our room Esther napped as induction continued.  Listening to the baby’s heartbeat, I knew we were in for a long day.

We’re having a C-Section-Around 10am Stephen and the anesthesiologist confirmed the C-Section.  Let’s do this I thought.  Since a Caesarean section is surgical procedure, the nurses brought me a package of surgical gear, hat, mask, white coveralls that looked like a hazmat suit and a pair of little booties to cover my shoes.

I was gearing up when they came for Esther.  Rushing after her I forgot to put my feet through cutouts of my “hazmat suit.”  Straightening up the suit started tearing like clothes off the Incredible Hulk.  It was the icebreaker we needed.   Mentioning it still brings a smile to Esther’s face.

Selfie in my Hazmat Suit
Selfie in my Hazmat Suit

It’s Go Time-Outside the O.R. I watched Esther being prepped as I paced.  Turning around I saw Stephen, who must have been thinking, not again.  He told me, “You will be sitting behind a screen with Esther, when I call your name, stand up and starting taking pictures.”

Holding Esther’s hand, we waited and listened.  Hearing a gurgling sound Stephen called me. I stood up and saw my son for the first time, I was awestruck.  Stephen called again. “Frank, start taking pictures!”  Turning to Esther I said, The C-Section was right decision, he’s huge.

Snapping pictures I felt guilty, Esther carried him to term and could hear him crying, but still couldn’t see him.  Taking a few pictures, I went over so she could see her son.  When they cleaned him up, they put him under a heat lamp.

After cutting the umbilical cord, yes I cut the cord, they weighed the baby. The scale said 147.  147?  It was 147 ounces, which is 9 pounds 3 ounces.  That’s a big boy!  Stepping out I called my mom to let her know she was a grandma again, then made the obligatory calls, while watching my son through the O.R. Window.  With that done, I fired off a Facebook post with a picture saying, “We have a boy!”

Esther holding Cristian for the first time.
Esther holding Cristian for the first time.

Returning to Esther’s side she mentioned, we still have to name him.  You pick.  We narrowed the list to two names Cristian and Daniel.  I wanted Daniel.

Growing up, was my best friend was Danny.  He was the popular kid, who was good at sports and picked the kids no one wanted when we chose sides. He protected a lot of us from bullies.  As an adult, he coached baseball and soccer taking the kids the other coaches passed on.  The kids loved playing for Danny.  Sadly he was killed driving to work when a drunk driver crashed into the car he was riding in.

Esther knew this story and I knew she preferred the name Cristian.  Thinking of everything we went through to get here, how and she had the hard part through all of it, I looked at our son in his mother’s arms, he looked like a Cristian.

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It’s Showtime – Part 1

Two posts ago I covered the highlights of Esther’s pregnancy, but there is more story to tell—a lot more.   I split this post into two parts to make it easier to read.  Hey it worked for Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill I and II.

For me one of the joys of pregnancy was creating something that’s part Esther and part me.  Certain things, like who the baby resembles were obvious immediately, (our friends started with the sonograms) other traits like habits, temperament, and personality may take years.  It started for me upon being given the baby’s due date.

Which one of us does he look like?
Which one of us does he look like?

Esther comes from a strong gene pool, so I knew Baby Priegue would look like her.  Just go to a Santiago family event—there are mini-mes everywhere.  I was ok with that, I fell in love with that pretty face (other things too but I’m getting sidetracked).

Upon receiving an October 1st due day my mind, and sarcasm, started racing.  My brother and I are both punctual—we get that from Dad.   Dad got twitchy if we weren’t early for family gatherings—many times we arrived for weddings while the waiters were setting the room up.

Esther has many wonderful traits but punctuality isn’t one of them.  Let’s meet at six means arrive at six not leave home at six.   My theory was if Cornelius (just checking to see if you are paying attention) was born before October 1st, he’d take after me and Esther if he was born after the 1st.

Let’s cover some highlights before this post gets too long.

mapNesting-Described by Parenting as “an uncontrollable urge to clean one’s house brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world.”  I guess Esther’s been nesting since I met her.  After Labor Day we worked on the nursery, translation Esther planned the layout and design and I moved furniture back and forth, and back again and again.

The Baby Bag(s)-In early September we each packed a “baby bag” and left them in my car.  Two bags quickly became four—yes we both over pack.   The bags were packed and repacked after last September’s Indian Summer.   I spent the month figuring out how to sneak Chico into our hospital room.  He fits in the big bag, doesn’t he?

Belly’s Everywhere-Our building had five new babies last year, including our next-door neighbors Shawn and Nika.  We met them, five-years ago when Chico walked right into their apartment as they were moving in.  They married a month before we did and had their daughter Sydney Rose a month after Cristian was born.  Shawn and I shared more than few beers while the women compared notes on all things pregnancy. How does another cold one sound Shawn?

More Humor-Esther’s OB/GYN was Raveco Medical, whose primary physicians are husband and wife Doctors Steven and Claudia Ravins.  Besides being excellent doctors their sense of humor appealed to me.  Claudia was the first one who got the Cornelius reference, without it being explained.  When I joked about videotaping the baby’s birth so we could show him in a few years when he asks, “where did I come from,” Steven played along, joking about strapping a Go Pro Camera around his forehead during the delivery.  Esther’s response, usually with her legs in the stirrups was always the same, “Hello remember me?  The patient.”  For the record, we didn’t record Cristian’s birth, something about therapy being expensive.

Esther and her ginger-ale filled champagne flute.
Esther and her ginger-ale filled champagne flute.

 Not So Smooth Sailing- Although the pregnancy was pretty smooth—we had a few scares along the way. About four months in, Esther fell down a few steps, requiring a trip to the emergency room.   It turned out to be nothing, but I remember the baby’s pissed off look on the screen during the sonogram.  Late in the pregnancy she developed a skin condition called PUPS, an itchy uncomfortable rash on her legs.

Our biggest scare came during an early-morning appointment.  Claudia was concerned with the baby’s heartrate—it was too low.   After trying to raise her blood sugar level with ginger ale, served in a champagne flute, didn’t get the desired result Esther was sent for a carb-rich breakfast.   It turned out to be a false alarm, but after months on a strict diet, doctor’s orders never tasted so good.

Esther finishing her last 5K race at Met Life Stadium in July.
Esther finishing her last 5K race at Met Life Stadium in July.

The Walking Tour-The baby kept growing as late September faded into October, but Esther wasn’t dilating.  Trying to stimulate contractions the doctors suggested extensive walking—three hours’ worth every night.  It was Esther’s first intense activity since her last 5K race in July.  Keeping it interesting, we walked a different park every day.  We walked Cunningham Park, Flushing Meadows Park, Kissena Park, Central Park, and Prospect Park as well as touring Fresh Meadows, Flushing, Howard Beach, Jamaica Estates and Malba, but it didn’t help.

Its Go Time-After 41 weeks and much discomfort Esther was ready to pop, but the baby wasn’t cooperating.  On our way to yet another doctor’s appointment, she vented.  “As soon as we get there, I’m telling him, Induce me or C-Section me, I’m ready.”  I was surprised when she repeated this verbatim to Steven.  Without missing a beat, he replied, “How about tonight?”

After few phone calls, he told us to be at the hospital at 8pm, so they could start inducing. This gave us a few hours to tie up some loose ends.  Leaving the doctor’s office, Esther called her sister and nephew, asking them to meet us at Applebee’s for her “last meal.”  When the meal was done, two-year old Justin launched into a wicked tantrum.  Foreshadowing, I wondered.  Looking at Esther, I said, “Too late to turn back now.  Let’s go.”

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