In my last post, I mentioned Anne’s unbelievable talent for diaper bombing. Someone asked for an elaboration, so Anne whipped up this flow chart. It explains how she decides whether it is her turn or my turn to change that next diaper. (Note I=Anne and you/your=Rob).
As a new parent, I have heard some iteration of the following advice about 15 million times:
“Parenthood is unlike anything you’ve done before. You’ll never truly understand until you’ve been through it.”
As someone with literally zero experience with the logistics of parenthood (e.g., changing diapers, cleaning spit up out the little crevice between the underarm and the chest, or wiping projectile diarrhea off the ceiling), I was concerned.
Once I got started, however, I realized it all seemed so familiar. I wondered to myself, “Rob, how can you be so calm in the face of all these new experiences? Where did your parenting prowess come from? What in your life made you such an expert at parenting?”
And then it hit me: The late night wake ups, the incessant crying, the bodily fluids everywhere, the nagging sense that there was something else I should be doing, the disconnection with the outside world.
Being a new parent is exactly the same as pledging a fraternity or sorority.
If you’re a new parent, just imagine yourself as a pledge of Delta Alpha Delta (D.A.D.) or Mu Omega Mu (M.O.M.). Don’t panic, it will all be familiar.
You lose all control over your own time.
My first night as a pledge, I awoke to my phone at 3am. I answered.
“Yello?” I said.
“Pollak, you fuck. I need you to bring me a pack of cigarettes and a yoo-hoo.”
For the next few months, I had no control over my schedule. At any given hour, I could be forced against my will (on a completely voluntary basis, of course) to go searching for a taco, to bring a case of beer to someone camping in the woods in a nearby state, to walk miles just to be yelled at for not going fast enough, or to hold a match while reciting–in alphabetical order–the names of people long deceased.
Now, as a parent, I feel the same sense of uselessness when I shut my eyes. The second I enter REM sleep, a whimper will sneak its way out of the bassinet, a stream of pee will make a triumphant escape from the diaper, a bombastic fart will echo across the room, foul-smelling poo will makes its presence known. And just like that–bleary eyed and hallucinating–I get out of bed and figure out how to make it stop.
You get drenched with bodily fluids.
Before becoming parents, everyone insists that they will not end up covered in human feces, but at some point it’s bound to happen.
New parents tend to go on and on about the time they aimed their kid at the Diaper Genie while the kid let loose a barrage of machine gun style diarrhea that obliterated the walls. Not surprisingly, pledging can also include odd rituals that involve feasting on bodily fluids and super soakers of urine.
Don’t believe me? A quick google search of fraternity hazing and bodily fluids brings back a mind-boggling smattering of hazing ideas that can keep young men occupied for years to come. I’m guessing you’ve never had a vomlet before, have you?
You can’t go anywhere without telling everyone exactly where you will be and when you’ll be back.
Similar to the loss of control over time, new parents and pledges both lose the ability to disappear from the face of the earth. No more sneaking out for a quick nine after work, or over to your girlfriend’s dorm room for a quiet afternoon. You now have to account to the other pledges for your whereabouts. Some societies even make you travel in packs at all time.
With a new kid, you no longer can just get up and go. Everything becomes a process. I once got caught in a long checkout line at CostCo and Anne texted me 74 times.
[Anne didn’t really text me 74 times. I completely made that up. I normally assume that this kind of joke is clear, but Anne is in an interesting hormonal place because she recently gave birth. She might rip my head off, screaming “I never fucking texted you when you were at Costcooooooooooooooo.]
[For the record, Anne’s not in an interesting hormonal place right now. I dramatized that as well for another joke. She’s very loving and caring and is an excellent mother].
You stick a finger in someone else’s asshole.
With a baby, it’s to wipe or apply ointment. With a fraternity, it’s to do the The Elephant Walk.
You have to wear ridiculous outfits.
During pledging, you may have to dress in certain colors or costumes. It’s not surprising to see pledges dressed in drag or even running around campus in the nude. Likewise, new parents must wear Baby Bjorns, Bert and Ernie shirts, and often force the newborn to dress in similarly ridiculous costumes. Anne wants our baby to be Oatmeal for Halloween.
You constantly clean up after someone else.
One of the best things about being a baby or a sophomore in a fraternity is that you don’t have to lift a finger. Whenever there’s vomit on the floor, just cry or pick up the phone to call mommy, daddy, or that pledge to clean up your mess.
You are forced to listen to terrible songs on repeat all day.
I’ve heard stories of pledges sitting in a room blindfolded listening to Journey on repeat for 20 straight hours. It doesn’t sound half bad now that I’m rocking out to the Bubble Guppies theme song for 93 straight hours.
To make matters worse, I only know the lyrics to one song. So my poor baby has to listen to me sing the first verse of twinkle twinkle little star until he can’t take it anymore and pretends to go to sleep so I’ll shut up.
Every once in a while when all hope is lost, something wonderful happens.
Both parenting and pledging have moments that are pretty damn hard. Maybe you even question whether you can hack it. It’s in those moments–the ones that often come at 4:30 in the morning–when you awake to another in a long line of stressful activities.
But this time, instead of the usual hazing or, well, hazing, you get a surprise keg party or a sweet little smile. Then, BOOM. You’re sucked back in because, in the back of your head, you think that even the worst moments might be one huge mindfuck on the way to a happy ending.
On August 14 at 6:07 a.m., my golf career officially came to an end. That’s when Anne and I welcomed our son, Owen Michael, into the world.
For the nine months leading up to that momentous occasion, I ended every night by whispering into Anne’s belly. “I can’t wait to meet you,” I’d say. “But please, oh please, pretty please, don’t come on August 14th. That’s the day when daddy gets to play a really nice golf course.”
Kids. You know? They never listen. 1 week ago, I didn’t think anything in the world could be better than playing a beautiful exclusive country club for free on a cool summer morning. (sorry Anne). But then I saw this for the first time:
And in that one moment, when I looked into my son’s eyes for the first time, I could feel my life changing forever. I felt a sense of purpose, of pride, of protection, of parenthood. And then, I had the most amazing realization: If I hurried, I could still make my tee time.
EXCLUSIVE: My First Interview
To commemorate the birth of my first child, a masculine child, I’m bringing back my “Interview with a Dad” series to answer all your pressing questions. My first subject, Ryan, is back. But this time, he’s the one asking the questions. Here’s what Ryan had to say for himself.
Ryan: Congratulations, Rob! I’m so happy for you.
Rob: I wrote that part.
Ryan: I know, but the rest will be the things that I really asked you. So let’s get to the questions.
Ryan: Biggest surprise so far?
Rob: I never thought anything in the world could prevent me from responding to emails at the precise moment I received them. Even if someone were to chop off my hands, I could just get one of those straw microphones to dictate my responses. So I was quite surprised that having a new baby somehow prevented me from responding.
I was also surprised by how much my kid sucks, and even moreso by the power of his sucking. One of the books we have suggested that the dad put his finger in the kid’s mouth to soothe him when he cries. I tried that, and the next thing I knew, I was pulling my shoulder out of his throat.
Actually, there was one other thing that was the quite surprising. After the onset of labor, when I was blitzing through the house grabbing every last thing we could ever need, Anne decided that she should take a quick shower and blow dry her hair. I was in full on panic mode, and Anne decided to clean herself up and make herself beautiful for the hospital. At least it worked – her hair looked fucking amazing until a little but of her vomit got caught in it.
Ryan: One thing that happened from the water breaking to the birth that you wish you could take back?
Rob: Nothing. But I imagine that I’ll say something in this blog post that I’ll need to take back. Maybe the vomit comment. Or the sucking thing. She’ll probably think I mean that he sucks, like “Man, what a jerk. That guy totally sucks.” When what I really meant was :
Rob: I’ve spent the last three hours thinking of a good response to this question. And believe me, I love taking shots at Anne. But she was amazing throughout the whole process. I mean, I guess if I had to pick something that was kind of mean, it would be the moment when she said, “Rob, I wish I never married you. I hate you and I hate your face and I hope that you burn in the pits of hell for ever and ever. Oh, and I hope that when you arrive in hell, you find this waiting for you:”
Ryan: Did you cry at any point during that?
Rob: No. You did a great job of preparing me for what to expect during labor. I’m basically a pro at this parenting thing:
Ryan: On a scale of Jodie saying yes to going to the junior prom to getting your socks wet on a log flume, how excited were you to see balls?
Rob: Good idea to reference two things that no one who reads my blog will understand. For the uninformed, I went to the junior prom with Ryan’s now wife. She loved me at the time. I also once got my socks wet at Great Adventure. I was pissed because my moron friends thought it would be a good idea to ride the log flume at the end of the day. I told them, right off the bat, that it would be stupid to ride the log flume because then we would be wet for the whole ride home. No one likes being wet and cold, including my son, who cries every time he has a cold wet diaper. That’s my boy!
So to answer your question, I was very excited to see the balls. I was especially happy when the doctor said, “it’s definitely a boy.” One of my biggest fears about not finding out was that the data would be inconclusive at the time of birth.
Ryan: What’s the first thing you said to Owen?
Rob: Wow, I wish I remembered this. I think I said, “Hi Owen! You have daddy’s hair!”
Ryan: have you been mad at him yet?
Rob: I mean, he did make me miss that tee time. Also, every day when I get home, we go through the same routine. I hold him for a few minutes and we have a blissful moment of love. Then he pees on my shirt. Then I change him. Then he immediately pees again. Then I change him. Then he starts crying. I sway and make idiotic noises to soothe him, but nothing works. Then he shits on me. Then I change him. Then I finally sit down and he gets this big smile on his face. I’m pretty sure it’s his way of saying, “that was fun, right pop?” Then he shits on me again. Then I change him. Then I hand him to Anne and he doesn’t go to the bathroom again until she hands him back to me. It’s not that I’m mad at him, but I know he’s doing it just to fuck with me.
Ryan: Has he been mad at you?
Rob: I think I crushed one of his balls once when I was changing his diaper. He didn’t like that very much.
Ryan: What’s the best thing about him so far?
Rob: When he falls asleep on my chest and snuggles in extra close while we watch golf together.
Ryan: what’s the worst?
Rob: That he can’t talk yet. The hardest thing so far is that I know he’s trying to communicate with me, but I don’t understand. Just try to imagine how mad Anne would get if we had this conversation:
Anne: Rob, I’m cold. Can you please turn the AC off.
Rob: Um…. Do you want to take your sweater off?
Anne: No, I’m cold. Please turn the AC off.
Rob: Milk? Do you want some milk? If so, I’ll go get your mom and have her bring it to you.
Anne: Is it fucking cold in here, or is it just me?
Rob: [sticks finger in her mouth] Is that what you want?
Anne: The AC. Off. Turn it off now.
Rob: [smells Anne’s ass] Did you poop?
Anne: This is really pissing me off.
Rob: [pulls Anne’s underwear aside and peeks] Any pee in there?
Anne: if you don’t turn the AC off right now, I will murder you.
Rob: Let me get your mom. I think it’s her turn.
Anne: I don’t want my mom! I’m just cold, you asshole.
[Anne takes the baby, Rob walks out of the room decides its cold, turns the AC off because he’s cold]
Anne: Thank you.
Rob: See, I knew you just wanted your mom.
That’s what it’s like when Owen cries. I have no clue what he wants, but I know he’s trying to tell me. It’s so stressful to not be able to give him exactly what he wants at that exact moment to make the crying stop.
Ryan: What’s the nicest thing someone said to you after the birth?
Rob: “He looks just like Anne.”
Ryan: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten since the birth?
Rob: “Whatever you do, don’t blog about your child. Respect his privacy and let him decide on his own whether his images or stories should enter into the public domain.”
Ryan: Did you stay in the north end zone?
Rob: Nope. I saw everything. The hospital didn’t do much in the way of delineating the end zones. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. And, frankly, I’m glad I got to witness everything. It’s unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I have a whole new love and respect for Anne, and think I’m not forbidden from ever getting mad at her again. When the delivery was finished, Anne said to the doctor, “things really seemed to get easier when you started sawing me open.” As a witness to everything, I can assure you there was no saw.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be married to such an amazing woman. One who can endure 16 hours of pain, stress, and sawing, deliver the most amazing baby of all time, and remain so god damn beautiful throughout. I think all women can learn a valuable lesson from this: Even when you’re in the throes of labor, there’s always time for a quick blowout.
I learned a lot about life in 9th grade health class. I learned that condoms go on bananas, drugs are bad, and girls immediately get pregnant if you look at their boobs instead of their eyes.
Through a lot of trial and error — and one horribly embarrassing conversation in which I insisted that the Fallopian tube was part of a trombone — I now realize that health class didn’t teach me everything. Particularly when it comes to pregnancy. That’s because a wrestling coach who was coerced into teaching one semester of health may not have been the best person to teach me.
All of this is just a long winded way of saying that my wife Anne and I have spent the last few years trying to have a baby. It all started when we realized that there were times when kids could actually be cute. (Overalls, yes. Spit up, no. Sunglasses, yes. Afterbirth, no.).
And since the entirety of my knowledge of human biology came from that health class, I was surprised at how difficult it was to add a little one to the family. Believe me, after we pulled the proverbial goalie, we gave it a valiant effort:
As it turned out, you don’t get a baby just by watching clips of trains driving into tunnels, geysers erupting, or fireworks exploding in midair. The real process involves way more than that. For many people, it can take years, involves elaborate scheduling, and includes a monitor that measure ovulation on a 3 point scale. If you pee a 1, you watch reruns of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. If you pee a 3, well let’s just say that one time Anne peed a 3 while she was in Delaware and I was summoned across three state lines. It was perhaps the greatest moment of my life.
And for us, none of that seemed to work, so the process involved asking for medical help in the form of in vitro fertilization (IVF). As if pregnancy wasn’t already scary and overwhelming enough, the IVF process is complex and intimidating. When Anne first called to set up an informational meeting, the nurse walked her through the schedule of an entire IVF cycle, our child’s birthdate, the theme for his first birthday party, the song he’d dance to at his wedding, and the massive inheritance he would receive from the proceeds of my million dollar blog.
If you’re freaking out at the level of oversharing that’s happening in this post, don’t fret. My intention in writing this post is to remove the veil of secrecy that prevents people from talking about this process and to help others navigate it. Because, for me, it took a while to realize that the lesson from high school Health class — that pregnancy is easy — turns out to be wrong. Pregnancy and fertility are way more complex and terrifying than I had ever imagined.
Orientation and Background Testing
If you also didn’t pay attention in your high school biology or health classes, then you may be in for a surprise when you start the IVF process. Thankfully our experience began with orientation, which consisted of an extremely patient nurse walking us through an interminable powerpoint presentation.
After the orientation we were herded into the blood room. I call it that because it’s the room where women go to provide vial upon vial of blood to a staff of nurses who constantly ask for their birth dates. That first day, I watched a nurse remove 25 gallons of blood, one 2-ounce vial at a time, from Anne’s vulnerable little arm. The experience looked terrible, and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to participate.
A moment later, however, the nurse asked me if I was Jewish. She probably had racially profiled me based on my massive schnoz, superior intellect, and yamulke tan. I answered yes, but was unprepared for what happened next. She sat me down in the chair, alcohol’ed up my arm, and stabbed me in the vein with an olympic javelin sized needle.
Moments later, when I came to, a group of amorphous blurs in scrubs were shoving smelling salts in my face. My shirt was sopping wet with sweat, and I had achieved a level of paleness that bordered on translucent. Our IVF experience was off to a great start!
Because I had thoroughly embarrassed the family, I was pleased to find that, from that day forward, my only responsibility was to hold Anne’s coat. Anne, on the other hand, was the subject of constant examination. Most of which involved a small army of doctors sending the Hubble telescope into areas of Anne’s body that she would be uncomfortable having me mention on the internet.
Up next: Part 2 – Actually, there was one other thing I had to do… My trip to the Boom Boom Room (Follow my facebook page to receive an update when I post)