The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Regular followers of this blog will recall that my last experience with a childbirth prep class (Infant CPR and Safety) fell somewhat short of my expectations, to put it nicely. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to my return trip to the hospital (solo this time) for a "Boot Camp for New Dads" class. The previous class had felt like a disaster to me, despite being taught by a licensed (and female) medical professional. However, in the interest of learning everything I possibly could about this baby and how to take care of it, I decided to enter this one with an open mind.
It was hard not to picture a class called "Boot Camp" to be full of false bravado, b.s. stereotype-riddled misinformation and macho posturing. When I saw the "no girls allowed"-style literature I was handed upon entering the classroom, my fears seemed to be becoming a reality. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised.
The class essentially consisted of an instructor and three "veteran dads" (men with their own first children, ranging in age from 12 weeks to 6 months, in tow; they'd all been through the program themselves while their wives were pregnant) addressing any and all concerns we had about becoming fathers (and being good ones, especially in the shadow of our own [for better and/or worse] dads). Turns out the "no girls allowed" thing, more than being some sort of facade, was really an opportunity for all of us to say what was on our minds without fear of being judged by anyone who might already have their misgivings about letting us anywhere near her baby.
The instructor was a youngish guy who I instantly liked for several reasons:
1. He bore more than a passing resemblance to my brother-in-law Aaron.
2. Right out of the gate, he identified himself as a 9 year cancer survivor who had been unsure if he was ever able to realize his dreams of fatherhood (and whose wife was currently pregnant with their third child).
3. He didn't seem like a d-bag (I'm trying to cut down on swearing this month in the hopes that I can quit completely by May).
Much of the class consisted of the instructor asking the veteran dads about their experiences with their wife's pregnancy, labor, delivery, post-partum and their own experiences with fatherhood. We were fortunate because all three typical birth types were represented by the three guys: natural birth, induced labor, and c-section. All described their experiences in frank terms with no detectable posturing (and oftentimes a lot of actual genuine emotion). Watching them with their kids, it was clear that they loved them very much and were great dads (A's all around for effort, at the very least). It was very encouraging stuff.
Later, we broke into smaller group with the veterans, each of whom gave a few of us a guided tour of their diaper bags, along with a few recommendations of which products were worth the money and which we could do without. My veteran dad looked like a young Tim Robbins. Tim Robbins (I'm terrible with names and have already forgotten his real one) talked at length about his experiences, stopping occasionally to let us ask questions (I had a few about how much time he took off from work and how he and his wife shared the duties of getting up at night). He was incredibly helpful and positive.
Finally, we watched a video about shaken baby syndrome which, coupled with a very graphic demonstration of shaking via an egg inside a plastic jar was enough to make me live in constant fear of accidentally killing or maiming my baby. (I ran home after the class and immediately made a contingency plan with Kathy that involved my being able to hand our daughter off to her, no questions asked, if I ever felt my rage starting to get the best of me).
At the end of it all (the class ran three hours with a five minute break and we used up every minute and then some), I stayed after class to chat with the instructor for a few minutes about cancer and also met one of the other "rookie" dads, whose wife had gone through five(!) miscarriages and some intensive corrective surgery, complications and months of anxious waiting. He was now just weeks away from finally becoming a dad. I told him that I couldn't even imagine what he'd gone through. One miscarriage rocked the foundations of our world in a very profound way... I couldn't in a million years imagine going through that five times.
Finally, I said my goodbyes and went home, very impressed with the class I'd just attended. Put together by a bunch of guys with no medical training (and perhaps even more shocking to some, no female intervention), this thing had all the makings of an epic disaster, but instead ended up being the best ten dollars I've spent in quite a while. I wish I could say that I made a bunch of new friends who'll be with me through this new experience called fatherhood, but you know what?
I guess I kind of did.