JUST BORN, GOT A FREE HAT 

Babies come with hats.

Lots of hats.  And about a half-dozen blankets, a week’s worth of diapers, some wipes, concierge service, free food, a masseuse, formula, paparazzi, lots of miscellaneous baby-related swag, an emcee, and (much later) a really big bill.  We had good insurance, so we were also provided a hype man during the delivery.

Naturally I was pretty nervous going into this thing.  I pictured the labor and delivery wing to be a grim place – akin to a civil war combat medic tent.  Blood everywhere.  Screaming.  At best, I figured that they would deliver the kid, hand him over, and say “here, you’re probably going to want to hose him off.”  So, what actually happened was a pleasant surprise.  Women, for about 48 hours on either side of delivery, have it pretty good.  You know, aside from the violent expulsion of a live human person.  The staff did an excellent job, which is to say they (1) listened to Jenn talk, and (2) laughed at her jokes.  Kudos.

Jenn was a model patient comedian the entire time.  Right up to and, yes, during the delivery.  She was the opening act for Finn’s birth.  She opened for her baby.  Who does that?

Anyway, I only had to do two things during the delivery.  First, I had to tell Jenn to push, pretending I had some authority in that area, and tell her what a great job she was doing, as if there’s such a thing as not doing a great job in that situation.  “Honey, I love you, but you’re not trying hard enough.  Stop being so bad at giving birth.  Try putting your back into it.  And maybe more grunting.”  Of course, during this entire process I was little more than an appendix.  An unnecessary appendage that, in the best case scenario, serves no real purpose.  I was a glorified observer, set to a task to keep me from getting into trouble.  Then – after – I got to cut the cord, which was awesome and something I’ll never forget.  It was tough to cut through and it had a texture, which was disconcerting.  Afterwards, nurses appeared, ninja-like, out of nowhere and swarmed over the wee baby Finnegan.  Prodding, poking, testing, but most importantly, cleaning.  Oh thank you nurses for the cleaning.  Thank you for rendering my child handle-able.

Jenn did great.  The epidural helped her be great, and earned two big thumbs up, but she gets all the credit.  It all happened quickly, maybe 30 or 40 minutes from start to finish, and just as quickly as we were swarmed, we were alone.  Jenn really didn’t even look like she’d just had a baby; she was cool and collected.  And hungry.  We took a beat to hold and stare at Finn, and then we had a roomful of visitors.  They were all  kind enough to NOT drop our new human child or say mean things about his appearance.

A couple of hours later we moved from the labor and delivery floor to the recovery floor, which was a lot like moving from a magical cave full of hugs and high fives to the DMV lobby.  The accommodations were fine.  Identical, actually.   It was the people.  Gone were the friendly, cheerful staff that was so happy to help you bring your baby into the world.  The new people were hard.  They’d been around and they’d seen some stuff and it changed them.  You could see it in their eyes.  They did not think your baby was cute and you were not funny and what the hell did you hit the nurse button for again because your kid is clearly still breathing?

Sleep was a challenge.  I assume that the sleeping arrangements for new dads were developed on the principle of fairness – that we should be just as mentally impaired as the new mothers.  They were as predictably and hilariously terrible as you can imagine.  What no one tells you, what I wasn’t prepared for, was that the nurses are sadistic, sleep destroying monsters.  They come in and check on their patients regularly around the clock.  That’s great, but do horrible evil things when they come in.  They talk, they clang around, and they turn lights on.  I figure they know they can get away with anything because they’re delivering your baby any second now!

On the day after the birth, the cute picture mafia paid us a visit.  Organized, efficient, intimidating.  In control.  They were going to take expensive high quality glamor shots of our kid, and they were going to be adorable, and it was going to happen whether we liked it or not.  “But Justin,” you might say, “she was only 19 years old.”  I don’t care; she ran the place like Stalin.  She basically walked in and said “I’m taking your baby, and here’s what I’m doing with it!”  It was kind of scary how fast it happened.  The pictures were cute, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.  But, unsurprisingly, they were crazy expensive.  And why shouldn’t they be?  Only parents who don’t love their children won’t buy them.

As we were gathering ourselves to leave, I felt a lot like I was stealing the toiletries and towels from a nice hotel.  “Just grab everything” Jenn said.  There really were a lot of freebies.  Most importantly they gave us free stuff that we didn’t even know we needed.  For example, I didn’t realize how critically important it was to keep our son in a straight jacket at all times.  We got like six free straight jackets.  It’s an empowering twist on the “you break it, you buy it” admonition – you touch it, your insurance buys it for you.  Which is probably why they practically throw stuff at you, because they love billing your insurance.  I picture that in a dim room, on the other end of the maternity wing security cameras, the medical billers gather and conduct dark rites praising their elder gods.

Anyway, with step 1 of our plan out of the way, we’re now well into step 2.

Step 1: Birth
Step 2: Wait
Step 3: Chores!

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