Monday, October 30, 2006


In Which We Count to Eight...

At 6:15 this morning, Thomas came screaming into the room and yelled

"I turn EIGHT in ONE MINUTE!!!"

right into my ear.

So at 6:16 we were all of us awake to sing a "true" Happy Birthday, as Thomas calls it.

Eight years. Holy shit.


It really was just the other day that we were watching a Star Trek rerun one quiet Wednesday night and Her Lovely Self suddenly made a face like she had the mother of all gas pains and flopped herself over the armchair (the only position in which she was comfortable, she claimed). For the next six hours, she thrashed and moaned in the most disconcerting way while I looked on uselessly and wrung my hands, feeling that never was a creature more singularly ill-equipped to stand by and bear witness to the suffering of a loved one than I, miserable speck of a man that I was.

Finally, when I could stand it no longer and insisted we go to the hospital, the pains vanished and Her Lovely Self simply waddled upstairs to bed.

The next morning, Thursday morning, she felt great. Better than she had in months. Except that her legs were numb and she was having difficulty walking. A panicked call to the doctor revealed that this was not uncommon, especially with a fetus like Thomas, who was known for unexpectedly locking his knee out and mashing on my bride's ribcage or liver or bladder like it was a gas pedal. In this case, the doctor was convinced our little bundle of spastic joy had knocked her a good one in the sciatic nerve or something similar. So HLS spent a quiet day watching TV and reading, while I stayed home from work to make sure she didn't take a tumble down the stairs on those numbed stilts of hers.

I was something of a nervous wreck after the previous night's adventures, so I can perhaps be forgiven for saying insensitive and unhelpful things the next day. The worst of the lot was when I said, "Wow, if that was false labor last night, how are you going to be able to stand it when you have real labor?" The only thing that prevented HLS from kicking me in the nuts there and then was, well, Thomas.

Who, about two hours after I uttered my observation began the old Third Trimester Two-Step again, and this time Her Lovely Self ended up in the bathroom. And she wouldn't come out.

After about 45 minutes on the other side of the door, it dawned on me that my wife was panting and swearing at regular intervals, then lapsing into worrisome silence. The next time she began swearing, I started the timer on my wristwatch and stopped it when she went silent. I did this a few more times and informed her through the door that I thought she might be in real labor, as her swearing fits were almost exactly 6 minutes apart.

"I can't be in labor," she yelled through the door. "It's too soon." And it was. Her due date wasn't for another 17 days. "I think it's just pain because the baby is shifting in the motherfucking goddamn Jesus Christ what the fucking fuck in hell is this son of a bitch doing?!?"

I looked at my watch. Five minutes apart.

When they were two minutes apart, I carried her to the car and drove at a restrained but sedate pace to the hospital, where the OB resident met us, took a peek, and told us HLS was already six centimeters dilated. That was at 2 AM.

Four hours and 16 minutes later, I watched my son being born and for a moment it was a competition to see which of us could cry the loudest, me or him. I was sobbing so hard the doctor almost didn't give me the scissors to do the ceremonial snip of the umbilical, so I had to suck it up and get with the program.

Never before in my life had it ever been so satisfying to take total credit for an effort I had so little--mere milliliters, really--to do with. I strutted around that birthing suite in a way that I'm sure the nurses had never seen before. I was a babbling idiot. More than usual, I mean. But once I was able to form a coherent thought again, one of my first ones was this: It's his birthday, but I'm getting all the presents. It was true. Once the dust settled, Her Lovely Self slept (or, to be more accurate, passed out). So did Thomas, more or less. I was completely unprepared for that. I mean, what kid sleeps through his own birthday?

Myself, I couldn't wait for the party to start. I marched all around the delivery room, holding my son in his little cloth burrito, jabbering away at him about all the things I was going to introduce him to: comic books and baseball cards and action figures, swearing and changing your own oil and offering seats up to ladies. Peeing with accuracy. Riding a two-wheeler. Appreciating cleavage. The list went on.

And then this dried-up old prune of a nurse had to piss on my picnic. "It's not going to be all fun and games you know," she croaked at me, pointing a gnarled finger in my direction. "Having a baby totally changes everything."

(Which, incidentally, goes down in history as the single most unoriginal thing you can say to an expectant parent. I myself have vowed never to utter these words to anyone, because I heard them oh, only about every three minutes of the preceding nine months from both loved ones and total strangers. My advice to the rest of you: think up something else to say to friends or relatives who are awaiting the birth of their first child. In fact, think up anything else to say, even if it isn't true. "He'll be beautiful," for example. It's simple, it's inoffensive, and it completely sidesteps the fact that most babies come out looking like either a wad of alien chewing gum or a pulpy wood-carving of Winston Churchill, as whittled by a man with only seven fingers.)

After I killed the old nurse and stuffed her withered corpse in a medical waste bag, we got moved up to the maternity ward and there the birthday festivities really began. Only I was still getting all the goodies. Never mind the whole son part of it. I got to call the relatives with the news. I got to fill out the hospital paperwork and so was the first person on the planet to write Thomas' full name. I even learned a new word that morning--meconium--and stranger still, I didn't mind the word or its implications for my immediate future.

I learned something else. That old nurse and all our unoriginal friends and relatives? They were wrong, of course.

A baby doesn't totally change everything.

It just totally changes you.

And for the better.

Happy Birthday, Art Lad.


So beautiful! Happy birthday indeed to Art Lad!
Awww! Happy Birthday, Thomas!
Happy Birthday Thomas!!!! Hope that you had the best of days.

You already have the best of Dads. :)
Happy Birthday, Thomas! Congratulations on eight years! Here's hoping that it's a fabulous year for you.

MM- three things:
1. "Never before in my life had it ever been so satisfying to take total credit for an effort I had so little--mere milliliters, really--to do with"
Okay, so the first two times I read this as "mere millimeters" and thought, "Come on, give you self a little credit. You must be more of a man that -that-."

2. Babies certainly do look anything but beautiful when they're first born. My husband and I are trying now (well, not right this moment) to get pregnant for the first time, and I've just decided that what I want is to have a "pulpy wood-carving of Winston Churchill, as whittled by a man with only seven fingers."

3. I've got a pretty strong vocabulary, but "meconium" was a new one to me. I had to go look that one up. Oh boy, the fun things we have to look forward to.

And, of course, thanks for another great post. I've just been re-reading the saga of the missing Blaze, which is the set of posts that brought me in to the Masthead the first time (via Suldog). Even in the moments of pain and worry and stress, your writing so effectively communicates your feelings, in a strong, palpabale way that goes beyond simple communication to actually instilling those same feelings in your reader. Bravo, sir, bravo.

(I must confess that I seem to have developed a bit of a crush on you. Luckily my husband doesn't mind.)
Hey, hope everyone had an AWESOMELY HAPPY BIRTHDAY at the Masthead! I just had one myself nine days ago, and have now joined MM in looking at the View from the Top of the Hill (or 38, to be more precise.) So far, it's been a good year for me, and I hope it is for you also.
Wait til you see how weird it feels to be having beers with your kid on their 22nd birthday. And just like you, it didn't seem that long ago....
What a beautiful post! I missed out on the actual birthday because of the time difference, so let me send out a belated

Happy Birthday Art Lad!!!

Happy Birthday Art Lad! Hoo Hoo! Big number 8- a wonderful number to be!

Changes everything? I remember singing to my little bambinos "you are everything and everything is you"

Please give Mr. Everything a BIG Happy Birthday Hug from me :)
Happy birthday to Thomas!! Woohoo!!

That was the most wonderful description of becoming a dad for the first time. I wish my husband was as eloquent as you, because I'd love to know what was really going through his head on our daughter's birth day. My only memory of him from our hospital stay was of a blubbering idiot on the phone calling half the world with the news. But I guess that's not so bad :)
Thomas, MM:

It just occurs to me that it must be excellent to have your birthday just one day before Halloween. You have your very own birthday one day and then the next day you get to dress up and get loads of candy.

Some kids have all the luck!
As usual, I'm a day late and a dollar short.

Happy Birthday Thomas! Hope it was a great one! I hope you get tons of chocolate tonight (without the tootsie rolls)!
Happy Belated Birthday Thomas, and Happy Halloween to all of you!
Congrats, MM!

On... you know... contributing to the whole extravaganza that is Art Lad.
Happy Birthday to Art Lad. Nice present he got thanks to his Dad, although it pains me to see it out of the box. Oh well.

With 7 weeks to go in my own first child birthing scenario, I can agree that EVERYONE tells you "everything is going to change." I wish someone would just tell me "hey, I've got some change" and then hand me some quarters and then I'd say something like, "I don't need quarters for the pay phone, that's so 1950's -- I've got a cell phone now..." then hand back the quarters and tell them to save them for their laundry machines back home...

Of course, that's when they'd say, "I own my own laundry machines I don't need quarters why don't you just keep them" and then I'd say, "Well, I would but where would I put them?" and they'd say "In your car" and I'd say "but then the valets will just steal them next time I go to a bar or something" and then all that conversation would keep them (at least) from telling me that having a kid would change everything.

That's all I'm sayin'.
How neat...Thomas and I share the same birthday. Happy birthday Art Lad! I spent many birthdays having scary slumber parties to celebrate being born the day before Halloween. They were great fun and I hope you make "scary" b-day memories that you can someday look back on fondly.
Wonderful, wonderful!

Happy belated to ol' glorious Thomas, and how lovely to hear his birth story.

And you totally did the right thing with that crappy old nurse. I've got no patience for those "it's not going to be all fun and games" types. No kidding, dorks. You just know with them that their fun & games to sucky dourness ratio is like 1:99.
That suds shot is awesome!

Happy belated birthday, Thomas!
Many happy returns of the day, MM, on Art Lad's day.

I think about when Flip was born and what it was like when I got to hold her for the first time. My first thought was "Wow, so this is what they mean by love at first site."
great pictures! the shampoo shot is awesome.

i'm glad all's going well at the magazine mansion. :-)

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