This is where I return to the present, next time we’ll jump back into the past.
Have you ever bought something brand new and really cool, say a car or an ipad and tapped your feet with literal impatience as you go through all the required steps to get said thing home. These are important steps, where they tell you how to use said product or instruct you on how your payments will work, you should be paying attention but all you can really think about is what you’re going to do with it the second you get home. Let’s call this the new car smell, it’s an aphrodisiac that clouds your brain until you get home and everything clears and you say to yourself, “oh shit, what did they say?”
This is where I found myself at the Birth Center waiting to take home our brand new baby girl, Jackson. Our room at the birth center was luxurious and comforting, like a stay at the Four Seasons, only with four women constantly putting their hands up your vagina. I was standing over the Midwife and assistant as she showed me how to operate the car seat that had been sitting in my car for over two months. Look, the car seat is an important piece of equipment, the most important when it comes to vehicular travel, and strapping your four hour old child into the car seat properly was the first test for a seemingly unprepared father.
My mind wasn’t in that Birth Center, it was at home leering creepily over the edge of a crib, changing diapers, playing peek-a-boo, and rolling around on the floor. I was impatient to get my baby home and figure out just what the hell this new life was going to be like. We’d conquered nine months of pregnancy, 48 hours of labor (more on that in a later post) but now we were ready to take the first step, and I was eager for that to begin.
Sometimes that new car smell doesn’t have anything to do with something new and cool, sometimes that aroma clouds your brain while being fed important instructions at work on how to complete an important project. I had a flash back to my pharmacy manager showing me how to properly input patient information into an antiquated computer, I nodded my head accordingly struggling to pay attention. At the end of the demonstration she asked if I had any questions and wanting not to say, “ yes, please repeat everything you just said” I told her no. Then I preceded to sweat through my shirt as the first customer approached the counter, I looked a an empty screen, awaiting my newly acquired expertise.
I caught myself wondering just why I was so eager to get this baby home. I don’t know what to do with a baby after all. I’m completely incompetent, sure to kill this thing within hours. At least here at the birth center she was under the constant watch of the Midwife and her assistants, here nothing could go wrong. Home was a nightmarish hellscape with death at every turn.
You’ve probably caught on to my catch-22 by now. I couldn’t wait to get this little bundle of joy home, and was equally terrified to leave the Birth Center, the midwife and assistants behind. Subsequently I was hearing nothing, my brain stuck in a futuristic limbo.
I put the car seat harness around her tiny fragile shoulders, buckled her in and loaded her into the car. We said goodbye and I drove off into the wee hours of the morning, never topping 30 mph. I pulled into the driveway and we entered the house for the first time as a trio. And then it hit me. There I was again standing at that blank computer screen, sweating through my shirt and maroon smock, an impatient customer in front of me rapping her fingernails on the counter, and my mind, a blank slate, awaiting input.
My mom showed up to make us soup (our first meal in almost 24 hours) and somehow I fell asleep on the bed. I awoke five hours later my phone buzzing underneath my stomach, my mind still clouded in that new car smell, a crying infant in my mothers arms standing over the bed. At that moment I didn’t have a single clue what to do.
Not everyone experiences new car smell, and it seems that my wife does not. In our first day home she centered me, by tirelessly repeating all the many details that had slipped past my ears the night before. Within the next few days I would get comfortable changing a diaper, comfortably holding my daughter without feeling like I would crush her like a faberge egg, and understand what she needed from one moment to the next.
Obviously I was a more adept father than I felt I was, here we are over a month later and we’re all still alive, to this point I don’t think anyone has been irreparably ruined. At times I still get that new car smell, but now it’s just in anticipation to move on to the next step. To hear her voice, to see her walk, to help her with her homework. My brain is no longer clouded in total fear that I am completely unprepared for what lies ahead. After all, is anyone ever completely prepared?