The McBournie Minute: No one told me what I’m supposed to do — expectant dad lessons

When my wife told me she thought she was pregnant, I told her it was probably just the Mexican food. I don’t believe she’ll ever let me live that down, so I may as well put it out there myself.

She’d been telling me about odd sensations for the past day or so, and I kept explaining it away. One time I suggested that the tacos we had the night before were the cause of the weird stuff going on in her body. The next day she took a test without telling me, then walked into the room and said, “Want to hear something crazy? I’m pregnant.”

Then she went out for a run. So I was left with the pregnancy test and some questions. A quick search online showed me that there wasn’t such a thing as a false positive, only a false negative. For days I’d been trying not to get excited over nothing, and now I could let the doubt go. I was going to be a father. I cried, I prayed, and I did my best to get myself together for when my wife got back from her run so I could finally share in her excitement.

They say it’s a journey you take together, but it’s not. It’s a journey that is experienced in two completely different ways by two people. For whatever arcane societal reason, it’s all about the mother from the beginning. She has all the support and all of the knowledge that has been passed down from woman to woman since the dawn of time. Guys don’t have that. We drink beer with other guys and grunt acknowledgingly at each other, because no one wants to make it awkward by mentioning feelings. It’s just how we’ve done it since the Stone Age, and it’s served humanity pretty well, I’d say. But it meant I had to figure most of this out on my own.

You realize everything you know is from TV, and wrong
The first trimester seemed kind of easy at first. Did you know that they base how many weeks your wife is along by the date of her last period? I always thought it was some sort of measurement they did, or maybe the parents sort of guessed when the conception was. But because it’s about her cycle, that means the baby is getting a couple weeks of age before he or she even exists in the most Republican sense of the word.

When we went to the gyno together for the first time, we learned she was six weeks along. That meant we were about halfway through the first trimester and we hadn’t even known about it for a month yet.

They had my wife in for her first sonogram. They didn’t do the jelly on the belly. They had to do it internally, which I didn’t even know was a thing. I realized that literally everything I knew about pregnancy had come from TV and movies. Did you know they want women to have a full bladder when they do sonograms so they can look through it? I bet it’s more like looking through a fish tank than a window.

The technician working the sonogram seemed to know exactly what was going on on the screen, but I could barely make out speck of solid mass in the chaos of organs and tissue I learned about in high school but had long since forgotten. She took some measurements and said things were looking fine. We were watching it screen intently, but you could tell the technician had been doing it for years with how quickly and casually she went thought the motions. Then she said, “And let’s hear the heartbeat.”

What? Heartbeat? No one told me we were going to hear that! I wasn’t prepared for it, but a second later the technician flipped a switch and the sound came on. This rapid pulsing sound came on. Oh my god, I’m hearing my baby’s heartbeat, this is real!

Then she turned it off after not even five seconds. That’s all we got. I’m getting all misty eyed in the gyno exam room because I just heard my child’s existence for the first time, and we’re just moving right along with the exam apparently.

You learn that every day is different
My wife is my best friend. We’ve been together for the better part of a decade. So when she’s upset at me, I may not know what exactly it is, but I know something’s up. But pregnancy is a whole different game.

Being pregnant is like being constantly hung over, but being married to a pregnant woman is like hanging out with a constantly hung over person that is convinced you are the one who poured them a shot too many. They’re tired, they’re achy, they feel queasy and they blame you for doing it to them.

You’ve heard hack jokes about pregnant women and how their hormones make them really emotional. That seems to be true, but mostly in the first trimester. There were times when she would get emotional without knowing why, or times when she would react really strongly to something I said. For example, one time I listed off some big bills coming our way, and she took it as I was suggesting we were financially unstable. This of course wasn’t what I meant at all. I figured out eventually that thinking out loud about random concerns was a bad idea. No one told me this.

There were also times when she just wanted to pick a fight with me. They weren’t important things, they didn’t always make sense, but they came at me. I knew well enough that this wasn’t my wife talking, it was the hormones playing games with her body. For once, someone did tell me what to do. I bobbed and weaved, just like Bill Burr taught me, only I changed it up with a finishing move that has never, ever worked in any other argument with a woman: I called her out on the series of dumb arguments and politely suggested it was her hormones. Gents, never do this, because when I did it, it worked. So it will never work again for anyone. She saw my point and realized that it was just her wanting to fight for no reason.

I found that things could be fine one day, and without warning a storm could blow in the next. I learned to always be ready to calm down a potentially volatile situation.

You realize no one cares about you anymore
Once we went public with our happy news, our friends and family were thrilled for us. Some of my friends probably smiled on the outside, but thought to themselves, “Guess we’re not going to hang out anymore.” I know they did, because I thought the same thing every time a friend told me their own happy news.

The questions at first were about what we planned to do for this or that. Then, people asked about my wife and how the baby was doing. I eventually realized that I could have a one-on-one conversation with any of my friends and coworkers, and how I was doing would never come up. It didn’t bother me at first, because I didn’t have anything new going on. My body didn’t have another person growing inside it, so what did I really have to report? But when the stress of giving it my all to be emotionally supportive of my wife–knowing she couldn’t necessarily be there for me in the same way–plus the pressures of work and everything else in a normal life would really come down on me, I realized I was on my own. Even if someone were to ask me how I was doing, what was I going to say? My wife was the one doing the hard part, so who was I to complain?

As a society, we’re supposed to ask expecting dads about how the mother and baby are doing. It’s what considerate people do. I think at some point we forgot that there’s more going on than just mom and baby. I think every new dad has to realize that everyone’s done asking how he is. You see this in Facebook birth announcements. The father always ends with, “Mom and baby are doing fine.” No mention of how he himself is doing, because he has accepted the fact that no one cares.

Maybe that’s why everyone who has a kid changes their profile picture from one of themselves to that of their baby. It’s no longer, “Hey Facebook, here’s the latest selfie I took! Don’t I look like I have a fun and interesting life?” It becomes, “Click here to find out more about my child, because that’s all you people seem to care about anymore.”

You mourn your childhood
When we got to the third trimester it finally clicked in me that time was almost up. It wouldn’t be long until my life would be completely changed forever. I wouldn’t be able to go out to certain places or do certain things with ease anymore. I’m guessing this is what dog people feel like. They always have to get home to feed their dog or insist on going to places that have little water bowls outside to make dog owners stop and look at the storefront.

But on top of this, I started thinking about what being a parent would be like, which naturally led to my reflection on my own childhood. What made it great? What would I have done differently if I were a child again? What would I have done differently from my parents? Then a big wave of nostalgia hit me.

I started listening to albums I used to listen to a lot in high school but hadn’t really picked up since. I thought about my hometown, the kids I knew, the house I grew up in. The freedom of being a kid, even though it seemed like a hassle. It hit me that for my entire life, I’ve never had to truly worry about anyone but myself. I care about my family and friends, and my wife has always been first in my considerations about anything, but they’re all fully functional adults. They can function just fine on their own. I don’t worry that Bryan Schools will put his finger in a socket, and I don’t walk into my apartment hoping that my wife didn’t drink one of the cleaners under the sink.

That’s all changing soon for me. And to retreat from that, I began being more social. On weekend nights in, I made it a point to stay up drinking and playing Xbox well after my wife had gone to bed, because one day very soon I won’t have that anymore. And the thought of never having it again is daunting. Part of growing up is saying goodbye to what was.

You get excited
Any day now my wife and I will greet our daughter. (I may have to take some time off from posting when the time comes.) It’s exciting, honestly. I mean I’m not looking forward to getting pooped on day after day, but I am looking forward to being a father. I have no idea what I’m doing, but no one does. They just do it.

I get to watch a person grow into an adult. I get to help one person find their place on this planet. I may not know what I’m doing, but I have to tools to do the job. I know not to take my cues from TV and movies. I’ve learned to be ready for something unexpected every day. I know what it means to truly put someone else before myself, and be the rock of support they need. I know what made me have a happy childhood. I know I’m not alone. And I have a lifetime of lessons about the world I can share with my child.

I also know that dads aren’t cool—not that I was cool in the first place. It’s just nice to know I don’t have to try anymore.

5 thoughts on “The McBournie Minute: No one told me what I’m supposed to do — expectant dad lessons”

  1. Don’t worry. You’ll always be a douche-y dork to me Also, Schools wrote his article the week after the kids were born; I think it was nice/necessary for him to do something that was non baby related and could get his mind onto something that was his “old normal.” After a (very very short) while, your old normal and your new normal kinda blend, and you end up with this awesome new normal

  2. Just to let you know, there may be some more mixed up hormones to deal with plus a lack of sleep. But I will tell you, at about 3 weeks when the baby can smile at you for the first time, and believe me, they smile with their whole bodies, it will light up your world like nothing else. You may feel invisible or forgotten, but trust me- while that little girl is growing up she will look upon you as Superman. I think you are both up to the parenting job, and if you need advice you both have parents only a phone call away.

    1. Love it! Both you and Alaina will be awesome parents; you both have great role models to follow. So glad your Mom shared this with me.

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