God’s latest move, in this ongoing chess game called life, was both interesting and unexpected; Karrie and I were recently blessed by the arrival of our third child, Gavan Tomas Coffey.
Well played sir.
Although, some might suggest that handing me another child wasn’t exactly wise, but still… well played.
In any case, having Gavan has made me reminisce about the whole child rearing process. I have been thinking back on my experiences with each of our children over the years, and analyzing my unique parenting approach. Honing it like a finely crafted weapon for use as I, once again make my way into the fray.
I’ll try to keep some sense of order to my ramblings…
To begin with, I would love to say that I was a doting husband, entertaining Karrie’s every whim during the long nine months of each pregnancy, but that would be a bold-faced lie. Karrie has never been a big fan of accepting help from others, and I am an inconsiderate lazy bastard (a pretty good match).
Aside from Karrie expanding by about a dress size every month until small objects began orbiting her, it was pretty-much business as usual around the Coffey household for each pregnancy, so let’s just skip to the birth.
My behavior during all three of my children’s deliveries fully supports my theory that men really have no useful role in the birthing process; our only relevant duty in the entire business ended about nine months earlier, and involved a grand total of 90 seconds of work (including 30 seconds of begging). Let’s face it guys, we are in the room to hold our wife’s hand so that she has something to squeeze when it hurts. She’d really be better off with a decent “stress ball”, if you asked me.
For example, with each delivery, Karrie was strapped to a machine that measured the intensity of her contractions. During each contraction, since only my left hand was busy at the time, and it was impossible to have a meaningful conversation with Karrie because she was fully focused on gently but firmly ripping the fingers off of that hand, I occupied my mind by studying this machine and discussing my observations with her when each contraction had passed…
Me: Did that one hurt?
Karrie, grunting in pain: Yeah, it hurt… a lot.
Me: Really? Because that only went to 20, and this machine goes up to 100.
Now, before you ladies get all “hear me roar” on me, you should be aware that Karrie spent less time in labor with all three children combined than most women spend with one. With that said, I fully understand that pushing a roasting chicken out of any orifice is not a pleasant experience, and one that would surely spell the end of life on earth if the males of the species had to do it.
There is a good reason that “in the old days”, midwives used to send the men to boil water that was never actually used. We are nothing but a useless distraction from the main event, and should be forbidden entry into the room, and possibly even the building. What ever happened to men-folk spending their time in the local pub waiting for the call from the hospital so they could hand out cigars to drunken strangers?
The point is that men do not see things in quite the same way as women do. Women see childbirth as a miracle that is a joy to behold; a rare opportunity to witness new life being brought into the world. Men see it as a medical procedure…
*The doctor holds up the baby, still connected to the placenta*
Doctor: Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?
Me: Isn’t that what I pay you for?
…and we don’t see it as a pretty one either…
Nurse: Do you want to hold the baby?
*The nurse holds out a slime-coated bundle that I can only assume, by context, is a baby*
Me: Umm… no. Why don’t you hose it off first, then I will reconsider.
The hospital introduced something new this time around. Before we were allowed to leave the hospital with Gavan we had to watch a video about the dangers of shaking babies. I believe it was cleverly entitled “never shake a baby”. The fact that you need to have a video explaining to new parents that violently shaking their newborn is “bad” is not exactly surprising, but kinda sad.
The only thing I got out of the video was that it’s mere existence illustrated the vacuousness of your average parents. About halfway through the video I felt like turning to the nurse with a look of feigned innocence and asking: “Wait… is this true for puppies too?” but thought better of it.
Once we had watched the video, and signed more paperwork than we did at our last home closing, we were allowed to take Gavan home and begin to figure out how this little bundle of swirling chaos was going to change our lives. I mean sure, we have two other kids, so having an infant in the house is nothing new, but it has been a long time.
Why many people, Karrie included, love the infancy stage so much is beyond me. I sometimes shudder to think about how our children would have turned out if I was the primary caregiver in the household. I would probably have purchased every possible gadget that claimed to help a baby sleep/eat/poop/etc. Ultimately, my children would have been, for all intents and purposes, raised by robots.
I am perfectly fine when presented with clear instructions, but that is not how infants operate. When they are hungry, they cry. They have a full diaper? Cry. Hurt? Cry. Want to cry? Cry. It’s a bit like having a single alarm that can either indicate that “It is lunchtime”, “The basement is flooded” or “The building is being attacked by aliens”.
Women will have you believe that they use their magical spidey-sense (“maternal instinct”) to determine what the baby truly wants when they cry, but I have observed Karrie very closely and determined that women really just cycle through and check every possibility until they find the right one. It’s a well camouflaged brute-force algorithm, they just get better, and faster at it over time. Just had food, diaper is clean, doesn’t look hurt… must be something else.
I am not trying to devalue a mother’s role in any way, just trying to shed some light onto how it works in reality. I am still baffled by most of it. For example, when Karrie determines that Gavan wants to play, she will sit on the floor with him for hours, positively glowing, delighted by his every coo and giggle. Whereas my interactions with him tend to go a bit like this:
*I stare at Gavan*
*Gavan stares back*
Me: Do something.
Don’t get me wrong, I try to enjoy myself with the baby but I just don’t think I am wired to enjoy this stage of his life with the same vim that Karrie does. I do what I can though, for instance, I was recently in a candy store with Gavan, and decided to solicit his help to test a widely accepted scientific theory:
Me, to everyone around me: Watch this.
*gives a giant lollipop to Gavan*
Me: Give me that!
*snatches lollipop away*
Me: See how easy that was?
Unsurprisingly, Karrie seldom leaves me alone with any of the kids. In the interest of their safety and mental well-being, she pretty much handles all child-related activities all the way up to, and including, bedtime.
When she is putting the baby to sleep, or back to sleep in the middle of the night, she usually tells stories and/or sings songs. She is pulling from a fairly standard repository of children’s stories and songs, and I usually don’t have a problem with them, but at 3am I tend to become a little more critical than normal…
Karrie sings: Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.
Me, turning over from a dead sleep: Seriously? With all the science education you have, you are wondering what a star is?
I mean, really… what kind of bullshit is that? She knows damn well it is, more than likely, a giant ball of burning gas. But, this exchange gave me some ideas for a few minor modifications to the traditional lyrics. Because, if it’s not a burning ball of gas, it certainly isn’t a “diamond in the sky”:
Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.
A meteor set on a course to kill us all with massive force?
Or perhaps the final breath of a suns explosive death.
Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.
*Craig finishes with a flourish*
*Gavan begins to wail*
He does that a lot around me. I have a way with the kids.
So, in summary, even though it has been a long time since we had a baby in the house, Karrie and I are handling things in much the same way as we did with our other children, years ago. It’s a time-honored good-parent/bad-parent routine that we have grown quite accustomed to (Guess which one I am! Go on! Guess!). She spends every day diligently teaching the baby how to behave properly, and I spend about 15 minutes each night desperately trying to undo all of it.
I am sure you can recognize who has the harder job here. After all, Karrie has all day to do her part, whereas I only have 15 minutes to do mine.
It’s not easy, but it’s a burden I bear stoically.