When Andy and I were
skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.
The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.
Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help.
Unlike me, with my half-dozen baby siblings and years of babysitting experience, Andy had no clue what he was really in for.
I had a hellish labor, a delivery by emergency Cesarean section, and a fever of 102. Baby D came out healthy and 9 pounds–it might have been more if he hadn’t pooped all over the scale and nurse when she first attempted to weigh him. Andy laughed at the poor, poop-covered nurse until he realized that since his wife couldn’t get out of bed, he’d he’d be doing all the diapering.
Diaper changes when your baby is born pooping are not easy. The amniotic fluid produces the fecal equivalent of tar (known as meconium) for days. Since we kept Baby D in the room with us as much as possible, Andy got a crash course in butt tar removal.
As I was too exhausted and battered to stand up, I couldn’t even offer advice (or as Andy likes to say, micro-manage the shit out of him). Baby D repeatedly peed on his father during diaper changes. I had to hold in my laughter (not out of kindness, but because it hurt my staples) until Andy’s use of the penis-covering washcloth became automatic.
Andy continued most of the diaper duties during his leave and beyond. When Baby D woke up hungry, Andy would change him while I arranged my nursing nest. Then he’d swaddled the boy up tight before presenting him to me for feeding. Even at 2 AM, Andy still helped. I usually didn’t even have to punch him in the arm to wake him up.
Sometimes Baby D needed a bottle after nursing. Andy readied bottles, fed the boy, and kept the bottles sterile. My husband became an expert baby-burper. When the burping was a little too successful, Andy developed solid bath time skills.
Andy continued the shopping and cooking. I recovered enough to micromanage, shaking my head at dinner one night and saying, “There’s a lot of broccoli. The last time I ate it, Baby D was gassy and fussy.”
“It’s broccolini,” Andy countered. “And it will be fine.”
“Just because YOU and your Chinese stomach can eat everything from fish eyeballs to undercooked chicken without any issues doesn’t mean the rest of us can,” I reminded him.
Andy sighed at me.
I picked up my fork and said, “Fine. But if Baby D complains at midnight, you’re the one walking and rocking him.”
The broccolini was good.
The three hours Andy spent walking and rocking Baby D in the middle of the night? Not so good. Well, for him. I put in ear plugs and slept.
It was six months before Andy tried serving anything from the broccoli family again.
Andy remained a hands-on father even when his leave ended. Only about once a year did I have to remind him that since he wanted the baby, he’d better get his ass in gear, put down his newspaper/ cellphone, and play with his son or take him to get new shoes. Mostly I did not throw things when I did this reminding.
Andy is by far the best, most involved father I know. But we all know the Best Dad bar is about a high as the bar for a dachshund doing an agility course. I’ve got countless Mom-friends who do all the housework. They all the shopping and cooking. They do all the research, emotional labor, and all the physical labor of childrearing – often while also working. Meanwhile, their husbands think nothing of spending their evenings/ weekends biking, hiking, or at sporting events. They never pick up a towel. Their idea of watching the kids is giving the kid an iPad so Dad can do what he wants.
These same slacker husbands are gung-ho about having a second or third child because of course it has no impact on their lives.
No fucking kidding.
Andy always said he wanted two children. Then came the New Hampshire trip when Baby D was about 18 months. I lost my birth control pills. Andy ignored the speed limit and got us to the only pharmacy within miles just before it closed.
The pharmacist explained that he could replace my prescription, but we’d have to pay out-of-pocket for it.
My frugal husband had his wallet out before the pharmacist quit speaking. “How much do you need?” he asked, desperately laying out twenties. “I’ll pay cash!”
He who fathers best, procreates least.