The Good Dad (#234)

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.

Mostly.

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.

A recent study of paid family leave in Spain showed that men who took family leave were less likely to have more children.

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.

 

17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#232)

Around here, we do things The Hard Way.

  1. Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
  2. Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”
  3. Unpleasant Exams. You’ve probably heard terms like “effacement” and “dilation” being thrown around in delivery rooms. These basically mean that your cervix, which holds the baby up and in the uterus, is getting thinner and wider. When your OB examines you and discovers that your cervix is 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, you’re ready to give birth. But you know what all those helpful little links above don’t tell you? Exactly HOW the OB examines you. She shoves a couple fingers up your vaginal canal and checks your cervix by feel. THIS IS NOT PLEASANT. This exam is actually on par with your annual pap smear—no curling iron-like speculum, but way more digging around. (Hey, you men bemoaning the horrors of your first prostate exam at age 50? Woman the fuck up.)  
  4. You might hurt someone. It might not be your husband, either. If you think those checks on dilation and effacement are bad, try coping with the doctor breaking your water. (Breaking the amniotic sac is another way to help move labor along after you’ve been in the hospital for a day.) Your OB will now be up your vaginal canal with two hands, one holding a sterile wooden swabby thing to poke a hole. If you’re a control freak with “no touchy!” issues and freakishly strong leg muscles, your semi-involuntary thrashing may send your OB to the hospital floor. (On the upside, it may also motivate your nurse to get the anesthesiologist in ASAP for an epidural, though, since she doesn’t want to risk catheterizing you until your lower half is numb.)
  5. Your amniotic water isn’t clear and pretty. In fact, it could be filled with greenish black baby poop. All babies swallow and pee in the womb, but big, late babies are more likely to start pooping before delivery. Problem is, too much prenatal poop (known as meconium) in the amniotic fluid can block airways. It’s another worry when your baby is a late arrival. 
  6. You’re not the only one having a baby. In fact, your hospital might be having a “baby blizzard” the day your son finally shows up. This means that your OB and your nurse are running from room to room. With 58 babies born on the same day as your son, they may not notice when you’re a) fully effaced and dilated, or b) start running a fever.
  7. You’re feverish and puking when the nurse and OB insist it’s time to push. 
  8. Your baby might decide to present himself on his back (face up, also known as posterior) with a lifted chin. This means that each time you push, the baby tilts his head back, instead of forward, blocking his own exit. And if your baby has a big head? He can get stuck.
  9. If your fever hits 102 and your baby’s heartrate goes up, you’re gonna need an emergency Cesarean section. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been pushing for hours and your friend KL can see a hint of baby’s head. Baby needs out, fast.
  10. No matter how quick your emergency C-section needs to be, someone will find time to shave your pubic hair. 
  11. You’ll have a second OB in for your C-section. One will say, “In a minute, you may feel a little pressure.” Translation: one doctor will throw their entire weight across the top of your midsection while the other hauls the baby out of your uterus. 
  12. Your husband may hallucinate. Sure, you’re the one with the fever and the puking and the abdomen open to the elements, but he’s had a long day stroking your hair and lying about how great you are doing. Ignore him when he tells you he keeps counting eleven fingers and toes on your newly delivered baby.
  13. You might not get the much vaunted “skin on skin” contact after a tricky delivery. Baby D was all cleaned up and swaddled up when the nurse handed him to me. I was okay with that, since he wasn’t in distress. (Instead, he looked up at us with big grey eyes and a puzzled expression that clearly said, “You guys are it? Seriously?”)
  14. As much as you want to hold your newborn, you might not be able to do it for very long. You might be feverish, exhausted, and shaking so much you can barely hang on to him. 
  15. It’s really, really hard to watch your husband leave the room, carrying your baby off to the nursery. But you know your baby has to be weighed, measured, and examined thoroughly, especially after a traumatic delivery. (Also, someone in better shape than your husband needs to check on those fingers and toes.)
  16. Being stitched and stapled back together takes a lot longer than being scalpled apart. At least an hour. You will have plenty of time to wonder if your husband passed out or dropped the baby. But then you’ll remind yourself that you carried Baby D for ten months. It’s someone else’s turn. Ultimately, you’ll realize that it this is just the first of many times you’ll have to hand your baby over to someone else. And yet…

17. Even after a miserable pregnancy and a grueling delivery, the most difficult part of motherhood will always be letting go.

Lows & Highs (#252)

Some creatures are suited to lying in bed all day. I am not one of them.

We Ashboughs have two dominant traits. 

The first is impatience. We’re high-functioning, super efficient people and we expect the same of everyone else (who isn’t a guest in our home). If we think someone’s moving slowly—or stupidly—we are either loudly critical or chewing our tongues bloody. We’re excellent employees and potentially nightmarish employers. If you’re foolish enough to road trip with us, make sure we drive.

Continue reading Lows & Highs (#252)

Heels (#251)

I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet. 

I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.  

More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits. Continue reading Heels (#251)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Snapped (#241)

My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes. 

We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure. 

And so common.

Continue reading Snapped (#241)

Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

I have exactly one rule when it comes to Halloween.

Rule #1: Everyone who comes to my door on Halloween gets candy.

I have these rules because I had a racist Southern Grandma. The worst Halloween horror story I ever heard was about that grandma. My mother once told me how her mother would keep two bowls of candy by the door on Halloween. One bowl was filled with Hershey Bars. That bowl was for the neighborhood kids.

The other bowl was filled with candy corns and cheap lollipops. When truckloads of “poor kids” came in from “more rural areas,” to trick-or-treat, they got the crap candy. Continue reading Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)