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 a 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’re the queasy type whose stomach turns at the sight and smell of a bowl of raw octopus? Does the thought uneasy 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, 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 domanatrix 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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The Revolving Door

Cristian with his Titi (Aunt) Neiqui
Cristian with his Titi (Aunt) Neiqui

Shortly after Cristian came home we were ready for the next part of the new-parent ritual—people stopping by to see the baby. This time-honored tradition once featured on a Seinfeld episode is required of all new parents.  Of all the experiences from finding out Esther was pregnant through present day, I dreaded this one most—more than hormones or changing my first drippy diaper.

Throughout Esther’s pregnancy, images of guests showing up in large groups taking turns riding my couch while taking selfies using my son as a prop before posting a Facebook update haunted me.  “Who’s next?”  Maybe my protective instinct kicked in a wee bit early. Who me?

After spending a week or so as tag-team parents, hosting guests provided a welcome change of pace.  Here are the highlights.

With niece Katie with her Baby cousin
With niece Katie with her Baby cousin

The Revolving Door-Visits started small—first it was grandparents stopping by to see the baby. Then a few college friends showed up after work.  Soon friends and relatives called for visits like they were making dinner reservations at a fine restaurant. “We have on opening on Thursday at 7:30.  How many will that be?”  Our lobby was like revolving door, I’d be walking two guests out as another group was arriving.  “Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on the way out.”

Don’t Be Shy When People Ask What Can I Bring-Lamaze class taught me many things, breathing, pain management and that I reminded the instructor of her husband. Apparently he’s sarcastic too.  Finding that out cost me a look from Esther.  What I remember most was not being afraid to ask friends to bring dinner.  We ate well, home-cooked meals, Chinese, Filipino and Japanese food and lots of empanadas. Just a head’s up if you’re bringing Chinese food, I like the spicy mustard.

The Baby Whisperer-Every family has at least one.  The aunt or family friend found at family gatherings with a baby in her lap. Whether the baby is her grandchild or the neighbor’s child is irrelevant, the experience imparted from these Baby Yodas is priceless. “A diaper change he shall need.”  Need someone to give you a breather or keep your baby awake for extra hour call the Baby Whisperer.

Does this dress look like Esther or me?
Does this dress look like Esther or me?

He Looks Like-From his first sonogram our loved ones started playing the Who Does He Look Like Game.  Five months later, the game’s still on.  I’ve heard he looks like Esther with Frank’s skin color or his hair is the color Frank’s used to be to the distant aunt who sees my dad or her cousin etc. It’s kind of like “What Color is this Dress.”  To date my favorite has been the friend with no relation to either of us insisting he looks like her when he smiles.

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Esther’s Pregnancy – Nine Months in a Few Paragraphs

Since returning from the break I’ve thought about the best way to cover the five months between posts.  If you’ve met me, you know I’m chatty.  I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’m sticking with chatty.  I figured it would be best to hit the highlights so I could get this blog going before Cristian goes off to college.

Another sonogram of Baby Priegue
Another sonogram of BabyPriegue

High-Risk Pregnancy-Because of her age (42 on the baby’s due date) and medical history (two miscarriages) Esther’s OB/GYN was a high-risk specialist.   This meant doctor’s appointments every other week and lots of sonograms.  In addition to maintaining a strict diet and regular weigh-ins, she was restricted from cycling, running and Zumba.  The doctor, an avid Republican, loved a lively political debate. More than once Esther asked me to steer the conversation towards politics so she could avoid a lecture for gaining an extra pound or two from the last weigh-in.

It Was an Active Pregnancy-Despite the restrictions Esther qualified for this year’s New York City Marathon. Instead of running she walked the nine qualifiers, finishing 11 races overall, including two half marathons and a ten-miler (yes I sound like a proud husband). Walking the More Half Marathon with her taught me it’s harder to walk a half than run one.  Most memorable was Cristian’s end-zone dance at the end of a 5K race at Met Life Stadium.  It scared the hell out of the paramedics giving us a story we still tell.

Esther finishing a 5K race.
Esther finishing a 5K race.

The Baby Shower-Like its cousin the bridal shower, baby showers are a great way of filling your home with tons of free stuff—but it’s not really free—it comes at a cost.  I had to be there.  In olden times, women went to baby showers while the men stayed home.  The father’s involvement was limited to loading and unloading the car afterwards.  It was a good system that worked fine. I’ve always been a believer of “If it ain’t broke.”  Over the past few years baby showers went coed.  Men are now required to attend, not just the expectant fathers but the husbands and partners of the female guests.  Why would a guy want to go to Hooters for beer and wings when he can play games like Baby Bingo?

Esther and I during her Baby Shower
Esther and I during her Baby Shower
My practice doll from class.
My practice doll from class.

Parenting Classes- Esther signed us up for a series of parenting classes.  It was a good idea—or maybe it was a hint.  The classes covered feeding, bathing changing diapers, and Basic Parenting 101—perfect for a baby spaz like me.  I didn’t go to the breast feeding class because she felt it would make the other women uncomfortable. I told her I’d leave the camera home.

Oh That Weight Gain-Not hers—mine. It’s common for expectant fathers to gain weight during their wife’s pregnancy—I just didn’t think it would happen to me.  Is this foreshadowing?  We both gained weight (25 pounds for me) the difference is Esther produced a son, I produced a belly.

Esther and I showing our bellies after last June's Queens 10K
Esther and I showing our bellies after last June’s Queens 10K

Hormones Hormones Hormones-Every father has more than a few war stories about their wife’s hormones going berserk. These hormones hijack your sweet lady giving her more personalities than Sybil.  They are no joke, if you’re lucky it only feels like getting a prostate exam from a doctor with fat sausage fingers. Why are you putting your head in the oven Frank?  Don’t worry they pass when the baby is born.  Suck it up and focus on the big picture.

When in Doubt Laugh-It’s my motto for life and it helped me when things got stressful.  Pregnancy is a unique experience, and those experiences have given me enough material for a 20-minute set at any Comedy Club or a maybe a blog.  I survived Lamaze Classes, unsolicited advice, and baby name suggestions (tomorrow’s post) with a joke or two.  Sure it cost me a few looks and maybe a lecture (see the previous paragraph on hormones) but it helped.

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