Long Suffering and I are about to become grandparents again. Our grand-daughter, Grace, is due to arrive in early September. My son told me he has written a birth plan to present to the obstetrician at their next checkup.
What is it with men and birth plans? Do they love devising these birth plans because it gives them something to do in the waiting room besides pretending to read the magazine articles their wives keep shoving at them. ("Jack, read this about inverted nipple syndrome: it's fascinating!")? However, birth plans do distract men from dwelling on the age-old question of why some women seem to recruit armies of small, whiny children to bring with them to every appointment.
My daughter-in-law asked me about my birth plaln, and I said it had been real simple. "Really?" she said. "Your son has several pages of plans with supporting documentation and footnotes. He's amazing. Did you manage to keep yours under two pages?"
"Well, uh, we didn't really write that much down," I said.
Did I have the heart to tell Mary the truth? That my "birth plan" consisted of one line hastily scrawled ont he back of a maternity pantyhose carton? That it read "Drugs. Lots of 'em and keep 'em coming"?
She thought I was kidding and began to chuckle. And then she said in that hormones-are-eating-my-brain-out way that pregnant women say: "Oh, I don't want any drugs. I just want to have as natural an experience as possible. I don't want to miss a single second!"
Sure you do. Listen to me. If I could have, I would have been sitting on the third-base at Royals Stadium, roughly three thousand miles from that hospital, eating a sausage dog and swilling Bud Light during my kid's births.
You don't want to miss a second? True. You want to miss hours. I'll let you in on a little secret, hons. The whole delivery thing is vastly overrated. Sure, you think you're going to lie up there with Mozart softly playing from the portable CD player hubby so thoughtfully packed. He's going to be rubbing your back with tennis balls rolled up in a sock while you speak in loving tones about the wonderment that is taking place in your body, your lives.
He's going to gently spoon ice chips into your alarmingly dry and crusty mouth while murmuring that you are, without a doubt, the bravest, most wonderful woman in the world.
As the time draws near, you experience some discomfort, surely, perhaps even some pain, but this is more than countered by the presence of your dear partner telling to you to "Breathe, darling, just like in class."
A doctor will enter the room, and softly say, "It's time." Then, after a few soap-opera birth-scene squeals, for which you apologize profusely, presto-whammo, you've got a baby.
Birth plans are silly because they give the illusion that you have any control at all over a situation that is completely beyond your control.
I didn't say this to Mary, who has watched way too many episodes of 'A Baby Story' on the Learning Channel and is convinced she wants a water birth. At home. With a midwife.
Mary is insisting on wearing regular cloths throughout her pregnancy just because "all the pregnant celebrities do it."
Mary isn't alone. Although I was happy to see the demise of the "BABY" shirts with the arrow pointing crotchward and the dancing bear casual Bo Peep-collared business wear that used to define maternity fashion (as though just because we were pregnant our IQs had inexplicably plunged 75 points), tight clothes on pregnant women look, well, well,.......like pregnant women in tight clothes.
I saw Jane Leeves (Frasier's Daphne Moon) at the Emmys once stuffed in a painted-on sleeveless sheath that made her look like a cover girl for White Trash Weekly. All she needed was some Vi-enna sausages and Saltines and a True Story magazine. ( Not that there's anything wrong with Vi-enna sausages and Saltines.)
Mary said she was proud for the world to watch her blooming body. I told her that while she thought she looked chic and fabulous, she really looked just like the tired-ass boa constrictor at the zoo right after he had his once-a-month bunny rabbit lunch.
I finally gave up. Mary was granola. I knew she would plant the afterbirth under a tree (on our farm, they live in an apartment) and nurse Grace until she was using works like "pontificate."
Then she insisted on a couples baby shower. I've been to a half a dozen of these now, and the men always wear that frozen look of horror that is usually reserved for when they discover that ESPN's showing the world figure skating championships.
Men have no place at baby showers. They can never figure out how to retrieve a mini-pizza from beneath the puffy fold-out stork centerpiece and it'll break you heart to watch 'em try.
Recently, I took my son aside and gave him some tips. "Here's the drill. You open the gift, hold it up, and squeal something like, "It's beautiful. Oh, thank you so much. It's exactly what we wanted.!"
I even told him how you have to pass it on to the person beside you so it can make the long, strange trip around the room and everyone can repeat the exact same comments. ("Why, yes! This IS the most precious and darling breast pump I've ever seen!")
The dad-to-be finished his beer, burped, and said, "Huh? Yeah, okay. Got it."
My duty done, I returned to my chair and watched him help his wife open an adorable bib. He held it aloft---so far, so good----and said, "Wow. Where the hell did you get this thing" This is why no man should be at any party that ends in the "shower" word.
It's not their fault. We've had practice. At bridal showers, we women can gush worthy of an Oscar over a crocheted toilet paper cozy.
The men who go these showers always abandon their buddy at the first announcement that it's present time. Utter the phrase "mucus plug" or debate the merits of Baby Bjorn over Snugli and they leave him like a wounded animal, fleeing to the room with the big TV or the deck, where they can bond over a few foamers.
My son had done better than most of at their shower, probably because, as Mary frequently pointed out, "He is very much in touch with his feminine side," causing his buddies to snicker and make tent tits by pulling on their Polo knits.
As Mary's time draws near, I feel I must tell her the truth about unrealistic birth plans. That's all I have to say about that tonight. I'll write about that tomorrow.