It’s late in the afternoon on a lovely and calm April 8th a Sunday in 2012. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and there were four people in my car — I was driving.
I remember exactly where I was.
I was turning right onto James, from Broadway, in Seattle. And I said it, as if I felt like I just pulled off some great heist as I mumbled under my breath: “So, that’s it?”
In Washington state, before you can drive, you have to pass through a bunch of qualifications.1 And rightfully so, because driving a car is inherently dangerous for the driver, the passengers, and the other drivers/passengers/pedestrians around the road. It makes sense to test people out before we allow them to drive around.
There are seven steps to get a license here in Washington and three of those involve a test. That’s a bit of work, plus you have to go to Hell,2 to get the license, but that’s a topic for another time.
In other words, just to drive a car, it takes a lot of studying/planning/practicing/testing — human lives are at stake here after all.
Rewind a day or so, before I was in the car, to April 6th in late evening as we got the word to “go check in”. Actually, let’s go back further, maybe six months before that day.
When you find out you are having a baby the sheer amount of information thrust upon you can be overwhelming. Flyers, pamphlets, forms — all of them demanding decisions. Lots of decisions about the life that is to come into this world and of which you know nothing about.
What classes do you want to take — should your parents take a class? Which hospital, which doctor? Don’t forget to tour the hospital — wouldn’t want to go in blind. And you need to do that early, but not too early. Fill out all these forms with your plans — but be sure to talk to your doctor about them first.
You get to find out which door to come in, corridor to walk down, floor to head to — where to park between these hours, and where to park the other hours. You’ll forget it all, that’s what the pamphlets are for.
You’ll plan, pack bags, strategize, but it will all go to shit once labor starts — it always does. Nothing matters, just get to the hospital before you play doctor and deliver that baby on your own — nothing scarier — people will be there to help, you just need to get to them.
And when you get to the hospital you expect a nurse to come to your rescue, but the truth is that these people do this everyday and you aren’t special. Well, they care about you, but “calm down” already.
You’re in a room, the room is large and it looks as though it is a surgery room, mildly masked as something more like a sterile living/hotel room with a bed. It’s nice though, they’ve thought of everything, because as I said, they do this everyday.
And throughout that entire labor and delivery, every nurse and doctor is nice — overly helpful towards you even. They know this is special for you. They treat you like the idiot that you are, and instead of heading to WebMD to argue with them, you are simply thankful for them, trust them, and very much appreciate being treated like an idiot.
I’ve done this twice, and I appreciated it each time. I like being treated simultaneously like an idiot and royalty — which come to think of it may be one in the same. There’s an odd sense that you are simultaneously in control of everything, but have delegated it off to people who actually know what is happening. You worked your ass off to get to this point, now let the pros you have selected take over.3
Then the baby comes. The intense labor and pain for your significant other is over, now healing and slightly less pain are in store for her. The baby is here, and the hospital now has an entire procedure to go over with you and the baby. Which is good, because by now your wife is out of it, your adrenaline is wearing off and the sleep deprivation, fear, and confusion are setting in.
So, more forms.
You thought you were an idiot before, now it really hits.
But it’s ok.
It’s ok because the hospital has a routine and they are still treating you like people incapable of wiping their own ass. And you need that. You love that.
They do this everyday.
Don’t Let Go
And then, without warning, a couple of hours later you are in a postpartum room. They now treat you like parents — the capable adults that must raise this child. The help now slows down.
You, are on your own.
The hospital staff now exists to make sure you are still alive and that baby and mom are healthy. And you are anxious to leave now because you are tired, uncomfortable, stinky, and you’ve forgotten a lot of things your significant other told you to pack — and things you didn’t know to bring.
Because you aren’t the one that does this everyday, and that shows. So you want out, because you want to lay down in a bed and you want to let your significant other get some rest without being pricked by a needle every sixty minutes.
And then the hospital actually lets you leave.
They check that you have a car seat, and make sure you put the baby in there securely, and simply let you walk out.
You get in your car and head home.
There are no more instructions, other than a sheet for monitoring bowel movements, some pain meds for mom, and orders to see the baby’s doctor in the next 2-3 days.
The routine, procedures, seasoned professionals, pamphlets, forms, questions have all disappeared. There is no one watching over your shoulder now.
You get in your car and you turn right onto James.
And you mutter: “So that’s it?”
And that really is it.
It is more strenuous to get a driver’s license than to be given the responsibility of raising a human life. And that’s both terrifying, and at the same time, the way it should be.
Even after two kids, I still cannot believe, that this is it.
Afterall all that work, help, pain, and decisions, you just get in your car and turn right onto Broadway.
“Good luck raising that kid, see ya later.”
And then you get home, and the real decisions start.