Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Baby Number Whatever

My wife Lola gave birth yesterday. No this isn’t a repeat, even though it feels like I’ve shared that exact news sixteen or seventeen times now. Even I’m not clear on exactly how many kids I have at this point. I should really do a headcount.

Each baby’s entry into this world is unique, or so I say when I lie to my kids on a regular basis. In truth, all their births blend together. There were lots of people in scrubs, some bodily fluids, and then a baby. It’s exactly as magical as it sounds. This particular birth, though, stands out, probably because it just happened yesterday and I haven’t had a chance to forget it yet. If I actually remembered things for longer than that, I wouldn’t keep having kids.

This is the image everyone remembers after the fact. If we all took pictures of the war zone on the delivery bed instead, no one would make it past child number one.

This baby was exactly as stubborn as all our prior ones. Apparently they really do have half my DNA. As a protestant, Lola wasn’t born with the large, bear-like frame necessary to mass produce a string of Catholic children. She’s a hair under 5’2”, and by her last month of pregnancy her stomach stuck out as far as she was tall. That might sound like an exaggeration, but I have hard numbers to back it up, or at least I would if Lola didn’t give me a death glare every time I got near her with the measuring tape. Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever make it through her pregnancies without getting stabbed. My wife’s patience dwindled as the baby grew, and by the end I had a very large baby and a very deadly wife. That kid needed to come out for Lola’s sake and mine, but just a few days prior to her due date Lola still wasn’t dilated at all. The baby correctly surmised that the world is a terrible place and didn’t want any part of it.

Thankfully, the doctor gave us the green light to induce, a highly scientific process that involves medicine, plungers, and mining-grade blasting caps. The IV drip started Sunday afternoon, and within a few hours we were settled in for an action-packed night of absolutely nothing. I know it’s not easy to push an entire human being through a tiny opening, but it isn't a cakewalk for husbands, either. I had to sit around being completely bored, which is no easy task, even though I’ve been doing it for most of my adult life. People walked in and poked and prodded Lola off and on all night, but that had nothing to do with me so I ignored it. I finished all my prodding in a frantic 30 seconds roughly 40 weeks earlier.  Now it was Lola’s turn to finally do some work.

These things keep multiplying. Someday I hope to learn how and why.

By the next morning, Lola was 4 centimeters dilated, which was by no means wide enough to accommodate the pumpkin-headed babies my genes produce. Getting them out basically takes a four-lane Interstate. An anesthesiologist rolled by and earned $15,000 for the 10 seconds it took to put in the epidural, and then we waited some more. A while later - I’m not sure how long since time stands still when I’m that bored - Lola casually asked a nurse to check her cervix again. We figured we were still at least an hour or two from delivering. The nurse pulled back the covers and saw the baby’s head. This is not hyperbole. The nurse stuck one finger down there, and the baby’s entire face popped out. My daughter was literally staring at me. Well, her eyes were closed, but you get the point. It was a place on my wife where I didn’t expected to see a face, and, quite frankly, it’s a place I hope to never see one again. I think most babies come out with the back of their heads first simply to avoid creeping everyone out. My daughter’s lips were moving and everything, even though the rest of her head and body were still inside my wife. She seemed unperturbed that her face was hit by a sudden, unexplained breeze. She wisely knew that in those kinds of awkward situations it’s best to not ask too many questions.

For one surreal moment, we all just kind of stared at the baby’s face. Then the nurse called for help in a not-so-calm voice, and it was on. She begged my wife not to push, but by that point the baby had decided to deliver herself. My daughter more or less slid out on her own. She landed on the bed right before the doctor walked in. The doctor saw all the work was already done, billed us another $15,000, and then left.

This massive thing burst out of my wife right in front of me. I think it was less traumatic for her than it was for me.

As for a name, I let the good people of Twitter decide, and they rewarded my faith in them by calling my kid Waffle. I have no choice but to abide by their decision. No, her real name isn’t Waffle, despite my intense lobbying to the contrary. My wife’s opposition to a breakfast-based naming scheme for our children is nothing short of bigotry. But I use fake names for all of us online anyway, and Waffle is as good a fake identity as any. Yes, that means my name isn’t really James Breakwell. I’ll give everyone a moment to get up from their 18th-century fainting couches. My wife long ago established a strict don’t-get-our-family murdered policy, and a key component of that was making it hard for people to track down and kill the real us. I’ve built up a huge Internet presence under my pen name, but googling my real name turns up exactly zero results. None of my coworkers or old high school classmates know about my double life. They assume I’m an uninteresting loser, as opposed to what I really am, which is an uninteresting loser with a large social media following. I dream of the day when I reveal my secret identity to them and watch as they shrug indifferently and go on with their lives.

All the pictures I post of me and the kids are real, though. An image of my face has been online and in print in front of millions of people, but so far not a single person from real life has recognized me. It turns out I have such a generic look that no one can separate me from millions of other average-looking white guys. I should have chosen a life of crime since no eyewitness could ever tell me apart from about one third of the earth’s population. As for my kids, small girls with long brown hair are pretty abundant. Each one is unique and special, but not unique and special enough for me to tell them apart from other little girls unless I look really close. It’s a miracle I haven’t brought home the wrong kids from daycare yet. So I use fake names since real names can be googled, but I use real pictures since we’re virtually indistinguishable from countless other people. It’s foolproof system that I’m sure will keep us from getting killed by a random person on the Internet for at least a few weeks.

That’s the exciting tale of Waffle’s birth and name. My wife has forbidden me from calling the baby that in real life, even as a nickname, but I’ve done it enough times that my other daughters have started doing it, too. Make sure my tombstone shows I died for a good cause.