From the World Wide Web to cable news outlets to my preferred morning show, I am inundated with advice on how to live as a modern woman. I should toss my makeup, purchase a full wardrobe of athleisure-wear, and dismiss any person who dares to judge me based on my under-eye circles, leggings as pants, and unkempt hair. I should also run a 10K every morning, dedicate my life to CrossFit, and organize my home so that the editors of Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, and Southern Living can have a tea party on my floor. I am to eat only food grown by local farmers and purchased at Whole Foods for twice its market rate because, after all, it’s artisanal, be the CEO and CFO and COO of a major corporation, and ensure Baby will ace the SAT by age one because he has never ever viewed anything on a screen, all while wearing the latest trends and kicky, heeled booties. So, now that my Five Hour Energy Shot just kicked in, draw back the curtain on the confessional because I’m about to spew some truth regarding my life as a modern woman. Continue reading
A short story for Christmas…
Disappointed, delicate fingers affix the red and gold bow to the top of the three-foot tree. She arranges the ribbons so that they cascade down the artificial limbs and fill holes left vacant by too few ornaments. The mismatched memories smile at her as she places the polished, silver star back in its foam, resting place. “Too heavy, again.”
She had purchased the star a decade before, unaware of where or when it would be used. That Christmas would be spent under hotel sheets, a reunion eleven months in the making. “Next year,” she had thought when she placed the box in the trunk of her car, atop suitcases, next to carefully wrapped packages and one hand-made poster that read, “Welcome Home!”
The star waited, hidden away under foam and cardboard, for its debut. Patience extended through too-small houses, temporary quarters, and Christmases with no tree at all. “I’ll enjoy Mama’s tree,” she had thought one year while driving through Chicago, six hours into their trek home. “My star would have been perfect on Mama’s tree.” Thirteen hundred miles there, and thirteen hundred miles back with only three days in between.
She had hoped this would be the Christmas the star would brighten the top of her tree, for this Christmas would be special, more special than all the others. This Christmas welcomed new beginnings and bid farewell to old fears. The star was to be a shimmery symbol of all to come and all to leave behind, but her three-foot tree could not bear such weight.
“I can wait one more year,” she tells him and rubs her cheek against his hand, rested on her shoulder.
The house that holds their future is filled with Christmases past. Between the floorboards and up the grand banister, one hundred years of holiday celebrations mark the mantels and linger in the parlor.
One more year.
Five hundred final miles.
“Next year,” she says and smiles at the worn box. “You will have a home.”
My friend’s life will change forever tomorrow. In the early morning, with dawn still approaching, she will get in the car for the last time as just herself. Within a few short hours, her doctor will perform a C-section, and she will become a mother.
My friend will do exactly what she is supposed to do, without any of us offering her any tips, suggestions, or, heaven forbid, the too oft told birth horror stories. Instinctually, she has everything she needs to become and be a mother.
Instead, I offer her husband this simple guide.
Dear Man in Missy’s Life,
Tomorrow will not be just the birthday of your daughter, but the most wonderful and terrifying day in your wife’s life. And it will be the day you prove to her that she was brilliant to marry you. Just remember these few simple acts to become the dad of all dads and the husband to beat all husbands.
Hold her hand. Through everything. She will be given an IV. It will hurt. After she is prepped, she and her bed will be rolled through the hospital, likely nervous and feeling on display, wondering if each turn in the hallway is the last before the operating room. During the procedure, she will turn control of her body over to a team of near strangers. She will feel pulling and tugging, as if her numbed organs are being removed from her body. She will wonder how long the sensation will last. Squeeze her hand even tighter.
Cry with her. You will be the only other person among the crowd of people in the room that will come close to understanding the emotional impact of hearing your child cry for the first time. At the moment of birth, your wife will probably not see her child, but she will hear her. Hopefully, her cry will be loud and strong, but it will definitely be the best sound your wife has ever heard. Let your tough guy persona melt away, look into your wife’s eyes, listen, and then cry like a baby. Your wife will find strength in your tears.
Go with the baby. At the end of the C-section, the nurses will take the baby to the nursery. Go with her. You are the person your wife trusts most, and she needs you to watch over the baby like a hawk armed with an iPhone or Android or even an old school camera. She will want pictures. The twenty minutes she is separated from her child will seem like an eternity, but knowing you are in the nursery being The Dad will ease her mind.
Get your wife everything she wants or needs, no matter how small. Ice water, lip-gloss, an extra blanket, a hairbrush, fire to light under the nurse’s ass so the painkillers get there quickly. Anything she wants.
Do not indicate in any way that the gross stuff is gross. You will see things you never wanted to see, things your wife doesn’t want you to see. Pretend seeing her splayed open on a table is normal. Act as if helping her, swollen, shaking and weak, into the first post-surgery shower is beautiful. This is a key moment. You can earn an entire, uninterrupted college football season on the couch in this one simple act. Yep, the shower and the sympathetic look on your face is that important. Save the “Good God, what just happened to my wife?” expression for the hallway, away from your wife.
Lastly, prepare yourself to love and be loved like never before. This love isn’t just that felt for and from your child. You will become infinitely more important to your wife after the birth of your child. Yes, you matter to her now, but if you are one of the lucky ones, you and your wife will become irrefutably fused together. That bond that led to your child will grow ten-fold. Your wife will become some sort of superhero in your mind, and you will become her lifeline, her connection to sanity through recovery and feedings, diaper changes and constant self-doubt.
The irony of tomorrow will be of all the scary times of your life, the life-altering choices you’ve made, the near misses, and holy-shit moments, none will be so earth-shattering as the moment you meet the tiniest, most peaceful and peace-giving being you will ever hold in your arms.
So, soon-to-be dad, I wish you strength and courage and love. And if you worry you do not have enough of one of the three, just look to your wife. She just grew a human being from food. And let it dance on her bladder for months.
You’ve got this, my friend. Welcome to the club.
This post is dedicated to my husband, who on the day of my C-section, did everything right.