Sunday, July 13, 2014

Third Time's the Charm

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I did a headcount and discovered I have three children. My previous tallies only came up with two, so either my math has gotten worse or my offspring have become more numerous. Both scenarios are frightening. It’s about time I shared the story of how this came to be. It all began a month ago. Actually, it began in an underwhelming 90-second session 40 weeks before that, but that’s probably too much information. Let’s just say in my experience the key to a successful conception is to keep a woman thoroughly disappointed.

Flash forward to early June. We went in for Lola’s last doctor’s appointment, which is typically when her obstetrician lets us induce. The hospital’s staff is usually happy to help us get the baby out as soon as possible so I stop showing up there. It’s hard to put up with me for 10 months every other year. Our access to the birthing fast-track, however, depends on beds being available in the maternity ward. We can’t induce if a bunch of other women inconsiderately go into labor. Other people’s babies are so rude. We also can’t have the baby early if the obstetrician is off the next day. Babies are important, but not as important as margaritas by the pool.

We should really look for doctors in colder climates. Every drink in the sun erases four hours of medical school.

This time, we were unlucky. The doctor said we couldn’t induce because all the beds were full, but it didn’t matter. She bet me $100 the baby would come on her own within 24 hours. I was excited because I didn’t know my wife’s doctor had a gambling problem. It’s hard to find rich players for my illegal poker games. The baby bet had no downside for me. If I lost, I’d get a baby early, and if I won I’d get a small credit toward our thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills. It doesn’t get much better than that. I don’t know what signs a baby gives when she’s about to pop out - I assume it involves flashing lights and some kind of horn - but I trusted the doctor to recognize them. After all, she was the one who told me my wife was pregnant in the first place. Without that diagnosis, I would’ve assumed my wife accidentally swallowed a bowling ball. Those things should come with a warning label as choking hazards.

After the doctor’s optimistic prediction, we went home and waited. That’s all pregnancy really is: sitting around while some woman gets fat and whines a lot. Lola and I were both ready for the entire process to be over. She was roughly the size of a cruise liner and could no longer bend over to put on her shoes, which barely fit on her swollen feet. It was like trying to shove a watermelon through a funnel. It was exactly as messy as it sounds.

The 24-hour mark from the doctor’s prediction came and went, and we got desperate. Lola wanted a baby, and I didn’t want to go to work that Monday. The stakes were high. To get the infant out, we tried every trick we could think of. We went for long walks, and I offered the baby various bribes. Apparently the kid wasn’t interested in beer and half a pack of M&Ms. It’s just as well because I wasn’t really going to share. Babies always know when I’m lying. In a last ditch effort to get things moving, Lola did a bunch of strenuous chores by herself. I wanted to help, but she needed the exertion to induce labor, so instead I played Xbox while my pregnant wife scrubbed the bathroom. Being a good husband is tough sometimes.

If I was truly a good husband, I would’ve let my wife rub my feet and make me a sandwich, too.

Finally, on that Saturday night, the baby cooperated. It was the first and last time anything went right. The contractions began at dinner and got serious after we put our two daughters to bed. The doctor had warned us this labor could go quickly because of the collateral damage my wife suffered from our other kids. There was a chance if Lola yawned the baby could fall out, so we made our final preparations to head to the hospital. We were ready for everything. That’s when the power went out.

For those of us living in the 21st century (It’s possible this article is being read by people hundreds of years in the future or by time travelers visiting the present day) let me explain: When the power goes out, it gets really, really dark. It’s the kind of blackness that could hide anything from muggers to saber-toothed tigers to mariachi bands. That last one might not seem scary, but if I’m ever in a dark alley and I hear a group of guys playing traditional Mexican folk music, I’ll run like hell because there is something seriously messed up going on. We waited a few minutes to see if the power would come back on, but it didn’t. As far as we could tell, modern society had collapsed and transformed the world into an electricity-free wasteland. It was a bad time for the apocalypse because I needed to charge my cell phone. Unsure of what to do, we groped our way to the front porch, which was a much more defensible position in the event of a mariachi band attack.

I’m not saying all trumpet players are serial killers, but all serial killers play the trumpet.

We live downtown, so our house normally stays bright from the street lights, even in the middle of the night. This was a new level of darkness my children had never seen, a fact we didn’t realize until they woke up and panicked. Our 4-year-old Betsy got up and led our 2-year-old Mae on a vain search through the dark house for my wife and me. Betsy finally heard us talking on the front porch, but she couldn’t get the door open. Her arms are weak and girly because like most preschoolers she’s too lazy to lift weights. When the knob wouldn’t budge, she reasoned the unlocked door must actually be locked, so she twisted the mechanism. My wife and I didn’t realize the girls were awake until we heard the click behind us that sealed us outside. It was one of those precious moments when I realized why some people choose not to have kids.

Our keys for the house and the car were on my desk inside, and my wife’s contractions were getting closer together. I had two options: smash in a window or negotiate with terrorists. Betsy didn’t have many demands. Her main request was not to be eaten by monsters in the dark. Somehow I had to convince this hysterical girl to reverse the locking process. Putting on my best fatherly persona, I calmly coaxed her to let us in the house by repeatedly screaming, “Unlock the door!” Eventually, my subtle message got through, and she let us back in.

Our arrival in the house didn’t calm the kids down. We didn’t have enough flashlights for everyone, so we turned on color-changing LEDs meant to go inside pumpkins at Halloween. They provided some illumination, but they also made every room look like a haunted house. When my sister arrived to watch our kids, Betsy proceeded to tell her about shadows that weren’t her shadow that moved on their own. My sister promptly fled to the porch. I don’t know what happened next, but I presume she was ambushed by a mariachi band and never heard from again.

After we successful dumped our terrified children on someone else, Lola and I headed to the hospital. By then, her contractions were only three minutes apart. After numerous tests, the nurses told us it was false labor. Much like everything else in my life, our grand adventure was for nothing. We made the drive of shame home, and four days later the doctor induced Lola in a completely uneventful procedure. And that’s the anticlimactic story of how we got Lucy. The end.

She hasn’t confessed to it yet, but I’m pretty sure Lucy caused that power outage. Kids are pretty devious in utero.