With the delivery date for the new baby sneaking up, I was trying to remember all the things necessary to prepare for the hospital stay. There are certain things that the father is expected to do during and after delivery, and I was trying to bring one or two of them to mind so that I could present myself to the hospital staff as a useful addition to the family.
When my wife discovered that I was struggling with these recollections, she reminded me why I couldn’t recall any of the tasks on the modern father’s list of delivery room activities. “Remember what I told you last time,” she said. “I don’t care what they think you should be doing; you have one job and one job only. Do you remember what that is?”
The wavy lines that momentarily affected my vision indicated that I was flashing back to summer, 2008. My pregnant wife had just finished watching her 100th Lifetime movie about children switched at birth. We had gone to birthing classes for a number of weeks, but that training paled in comparison to what can be learned from Lifetime’s You Have the Wrong Baby Weekend Movie Marathon.
This was the moment of the defenestration of all of my weeks of training on how to be a supportive birthing partner. “You can do whatever the hell you want until the baby’s born,” my wife explained. “Once the baby is born, you have one job. I don’t care what they tell you to do, you do not take your eyes off my baby. I will not have some stranger knocking on my door in five years, telling me I got their baby by mistake. I am not spending my time raising somebody else’s kid for them.”
She let this sink in for a minute, while she looked like she was moving on to something else. Then she came back at me all of sudden, pop-quiz style. “What’s your job?”
“Watch the baby,” I replied confidently, like I was proving that husbands can pay attention when they want to.
“Watch? Did you hear me use a word as weak as watch? No, you did not. I said you are to keep your eyes glued to that baby from the moment he comes out of me until we get home. You are chained to that baby, do you understand?”
“What if you need me?” That seemed like it was the type of concern a woman would appreciate coming from her man.
“I won’t need you.” It sounds harsher than I’m sure she meant it. “I’m a grown woman. Nobody’s gonna stick me in the wrong family until it’s too late to do anything about it. I don’t care if I’m half dead, you are going wherever that baby goes.”
And that is just what I did. From the moment our son was born, I followed him around like a Secret Service agent, except that Secret Service agents probably don’t let their charges suck on their little fingers for three hours straight. If they do, I respect them all the more because that can really wear on a little finger.
That little boy did not go anywhere in that hospital without me. When a nurse offered to take him to the nursery so Mommy and Daddy could get some rest, my wife just about called 911 on her. We didn’t want rest; we wanted our biological child, not whichever baby happened to match the number on our claim ticket at checkout.
So don’t come knocking at our door telling us we went home from the hospital with your son. The boy we brought home was under strict guard the whole time. And just in case I did doze off for minute while I was watching him, we’re raising him in a barn, so you wouldn’t want him back anyway.