Growing up, there were a few things I knew a lot about: “Star Wars,” comic books and really bad haircuts. Consequently, there was one thing that I knew next to nothing about: girls.
So, just over a month ago, fate decided to give me a crash course on the subject of girls when my wife Jen and I welcomed our daughter Kate into the world.
As with our son Matthew, Jen and I decided to be surprised by the sex of the baby, even though Jen spent the length of the pregnancy obsessed with figuring out the mystery. She remains convinced that if we had an ultrasound machine at the house that she could not only determine the sex, but also diagnose the maladies of others. As she reminds me frequently, she is practically a doctor.
While everyone in our families was pulling for a little girl, the odds seemed to be stacked against it as my side of the family has, to this point, produced enough boys to field a hockey team. (I had to look that up, as I know nothing about sports in general and hockey in particular. Please refer to the first paragraph.) But somebody up there really wanted me to paint my old bedroom pink.
While the lead-up to Matthew’s arrival two years earlier was filled with preparations, list-making and general fears of being unprepared, we both took a somewhat more lackadaisical approach the second time around. Like me working on a grade school science project and spending two hours watching “Night Court” re-runs and 10 minutes spray painting some Styrofoam globes, I felt that I could get everything I needed done in the two weeks leading up to the due date.
In our defense, it was a whole lot easier to build cribs and read baby books when a two-year old wasn’t asking you a hundred times a day to open the garage door.
With no emergency bag packed for the hospital, and no newborn laundry or bottles washed, we arrived at the night before our final ultrasound. After a full night with Matthew, capped off by a particularly excellent reading of “My Nose, My Toes and Me,” Jen informed me that the only thing she wanted for dinner was White Castle. And as a loving husband, and a lover of terrible food, I was more than happy to oblige. What better way to end the evening than by patronizing a restaurant whose customers and employees all look like they are on their way home from a parole hearing?
The next morning, Jen and I went to the hospital for the ultrasound, both thinking that afterwards we would then be free to go about our day. Jen was having some cramping which, like any sane person, we both assumed was due to the White Castle. We were moved to another room to monitor the cramping and as more and more doctors and nurses came through, it became apparent that we would not be free to go about our day.
Jen’s plan to have a scheduled c-section, allowing her to have her hair and make-up done and to generally not smell like little square hamburgers, was quickly dashed as we were informed at 11 a.m. that she would be going in to have the baby at 12. If you are going to have a baby and you can’t quite remember all of the things you need to get ready around the house, a good way to jog your memory is to be told that the baby is coming in an hour.
In one of the few moments Jen and I had to ourselves before being wheeled upstairs, she confided in me that she was terrified because she was passing gas every time she had a contraction. I asked her how far apart the farts were coming, at which point Jen probably had some second thoughts about bringing me along.
With Matthew, Jen had labored for two nights before he was born, and we had even been evacuated from the room due to a tornado, but this was a tornado of a different kind. Amid the frenzy, we called our families and I called work to let them know that not only would I not be making it in that afternoon but that they would not see me again for two weeks.
Jen was wonderful, and hardly missed a beat as she was poked and prodded and even had the epidural knocked out of her back as they moved her onto the operating table. For those first few minutes, the Dad’s job is just to stay out of the way and to not look over the curtain. (Never look over the curtain.) It is almost like being in slow motion while everyone else is moving at double speed, but everything slows down when you first lay eyes on your beautiful baby.
A girl. A beautiful baby girl.
Visions of tea parties, frilly clothes and me punching boys in the face flashed before my eyes. I could almost hear the whispers of the women at Target who would say “Did her Dad even try to comb her hair before he brought her out?”
I’m not sure what to expect on this journey, but I am excited find out. Maybe I will finally figure out something about girls, or at least figure out that I’ll never figure them out.
But right now, all I know is that Kate is coming in to a family that loves her very much, and is lucky to have a big brother who thinks that “Baby Tate” is the bees knees….at least until she starts touching his stuff.