Many, many things seem unpleasant about the milestones of adulthood. Specifically, the amount of crying I imagine I'll be doing.
The day I propose to whichever woman who's pitied me the longest, I'll probably sneak off somewhere and cry. I'll cry some more when I see her walking down the aisle some months later. Two years after that, I'll cry in my lawyers office once the divorce is final.
As Father's Day approaches, I can't help but wonder what'll make me cry in the delivery room. It's hard to predict which part will get me. Convention suggests that, overwhelmed by the beauty of life, I'll cry the first time I hold my little [insert the gender my child will eventually identify as here, should they ever happen to do so].
That might not be what does it, though. I could cry much sooner. Tears might flow the second I see one screaming human slide out of another screaming human, as I imagine that to be one of the more gruesome scenes a person could witness.
Or, I could cry on my way to the hospital, as my partner cusses me out for being generally useless in an emergency. I could cry after the whole ordeal is over, when I look at the bill and realize I don't quite understand health insurance. I could cry when I consider the fact that I don't get along with my own father, and that's why he isn't here to tell me to stop fucking crying.
To prepare myself for an inevitably emotional day, I spoke to some fathers—most of whom seem to possess more composure than I—about what they remember of the time their partners brought another life into the world.
Gio, 25, Queens, NY
The doctors were all super chill. They were trying to calm my wife down, because she was also starting to go crazy after a while. She was in so much pain. She was like "I don't know if I can do this, maybe I should just get a c-section." And they were like "no, it's too late. We asked you before." They gave her the medicine to numb her or whatever and she was like "it's not working! I don't want to do this anymore!"
At one point, she grabbed the stuff that was on her and tried to rip it off. I kept having to hold her down, but there was really nothing else I could do.
So, the baby was born, and they were like alright you have to push again. I was like what? The baby's already born. Did I just randomly get twins? But then they were like nah she has to push out the placenta. It was super weird. It was just this ball of meat. They asked if we wanted to keep it. Apparently some people do that—and then eat it. I was like "Nah, I'm good."
Chris, 36, Philadelphia, PA
They give you a gown to wear, a cap to cover your hair, and booties. So you're sitting there in this ridiculous getup. You're dead tired from being up for ten hours waiting to go into a surgery room where your wife is going to be cut open and your son is going to be ripped out of her. It's crazy.
The nurse comes out and gets you, and then you go up and sit next to your wife at her head. She's covered from the breasts down. It's really cold in the room. You're super nervous, and you're just holding her hand hoping everything is going to be alright.
Everything you're told—you know, You give birth, they put the child right on the mother's chest, and everything's beautiful—that's not always how it is. They get through with the surgery, he comes out, and it's like nothing you've ever seen before. He's this screaming little blue nugget. It's pretty wild, but it's great.
Eduardo, 36, Atlanta, Georgia
Her water didn't really break. They had to induce the labor. So I don't have that experience of the water breaking and rushing to the hospital. We just made an appointment. But one crazy thing was that, because she couldn't sleep, she had to take an Ambien. It made her hallucinate.
So she's lying on the bed, and there's an air conditioning vent on the ceiling. The way the vent was configured, to her, it looked like a man DJing. So she's bugging out. She's like "why is there a man on the ceiling?! He's DJing, he needs to get out of here!" I had to calm her down. That really bugged me out. I don't ever want to take that drug.
When the baby finally came out, it was wild. It's amazing to see another person—and not like a small person, my baby was eight or nine pounds—fully alive that wasn't there two minutes ago. It changed my entire life.
What I didn't know is when the child is born, the doctors do a battery of tests. So they're doing these tests, and they were kind of rough with her. They were bending her arms and legs, and I wanted to be like "hey, man, don't be putting your hands on my baby like that!" My baby is less than 30 minutes old and they're tackling her almost [laughs]. But I calmed down and everything was fine.
Ryan, 25, Centereach, NY
It was something I needed to be there for. That's the moment when a father realizes he's a father. For most of it, you're at her side...and I've never hand my hand squeezed so hard in my life. She probably could have broken my hand, to be honest—I'm not the strongest guy. But that's how I could tell she was in a lot of pain.
Actually seeing someone come out of your wife is obviously scary...and a little gross. [The baby] is covered in blood and mucus and everything. But you get to be the first person to see your son. You see him even before the mother does. It's really important that a father be there to experience that.
I cut the umbilical cord and it was definitely one of the weirdest things. It was nerve wracking—you're cutting flesh. It's a part of a human. I got really nervous...the doctor held my hand. Even walking out of the hospital with him was very scary. I think I drove home like 20 miles per hour.
Stephan, 26, Hackensack, NJ
Once we got to the hospital, at first, everything was calm. But as the contractions kept going, she was feeling more pain. And you know when you're in pain, you get a little more agitated. Your temper gets shorter. So I'm trying to stay out of her way and just do what she wanted me to do—I could tell she wanted me there, but didn't want me near her.
During the whole thing, my girlfriend could only eat ice. So I kept asking her if she wanted ice. Then I kept asking her if she needed anything else—like if she wanted me to play music or anything. I kept asking questions...she just hit me with "shut the fuck up! I'm trying to relax!" That's when I called my mom. I needed reinforcements [laughs]. She was my support system.
When it got real for me was when she was getting closer and I could start to see the baby crown. I could see the top of his head. That's what got me. I saw little strands of hair. He has a full head of hair now, but I can still find that one hair that I saw first.
Shomari, 28, Dallas, TX
I may be wrong, but when a mother is giving birth, going through that pain, that has to be the only thing that's going through their mind—I gotta get this baby out of me, I gotta have a safe delivery. In my mind, I'm like, okay I hope it's a safe delivery, I hope she's okay, we gotta get some diapers after this, I gotta makes sure I start saving so he can go to college someday—waiting during those hours, I was in the moment, but so far ahead of the moment at the same time.
And I definitely feel like I made a few mistakes while I was there. I didn't cut the umbilical cord. I was like 'nah I don't wanna do it, I don't wanna see all that.' But if I would have had my grandfather or even a homeboy there telling me to man up, I would have done it.
Another mistake I made was, when he was born, all my attention went to the baby. But my girlfriend just gave birth. Of course the baby needs attention, but I should have split my attention both ways. A woman can lose her life giving birth. So I should have spent time with her and the baby together at that moment, but I didn't do that. I held the baby first. She didn't even get to hold him after she gave birth to him...she didn't even get to hold her own baby. That'll always be in the back of my mind.
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