By Laura Diamond
So the Family Man asked me to offer the world of fathers some words of wisdom – what should dads know? I consider the question — I confess I come up blank. It is hard enough to know what I should know. But Family Man was asking, and I needed an answer.
I decided to go to the source. I asked my husband. I began by buttering him up. “I can’t think of anything useful, because you’re so perfect.” He saw right through me, scoffed, snorted and rolled his eyes. But then, proving my point, he gave me the perfect prompt: “Tell them Dads should know what labor pains feel like.”
No doubt. Let’s back up a week. Last Sunday, 2 a.m., I awoke to find my husband not in bed. We’d already been up many nights that week with our six-year-old son Emmett suffering from a stomach virus. Now Emmett was sleeping through the night again – but where was Christopher? I got out of bed, stepped lightly downstairs, and whispered his name. “In here,” he groaned. I found him on the living room floor, prone and writhing. “I think I need to go to the hospital.” He may have had the same old virus as Emmett, but he had a new appreciation for the kid’s mettle.
I drove him to UCLA/Santa Monica E.R. They hooked him up to an I.V. and gave him drugs. Not strong enough. “Give him morphine!” I begged, channeling Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment.
I watched him reeling with the pain, unable to be still, leaning over the hospital bed, body swaying, unable to focus on anything but the pain, and an unbelievable thought occurred to me: he looks like he’s in labor.
He said something to that effect to the nurse, a young woman who probably hadn’t yet experienced the joy of childbirth. But holding the torch for the sorority of womanhood, she verbally knocked him down without a thought: “No. Nothing compares to labor.” My husband dutifully apologized for the breach. It’s like denying the Holocaust, or uttering certain unmentionable words: It’s just not done.
I wanted to come to his defense. I wanted to tell her, “You know what? I’ve had two babies, and I’d give this man an epidural if I could.” But she was the woman in charge of his I.V. I didn’t want to piss her off.
We came home, morphine in his veins and vicodin prescription in hand. He had a new appreciation for what I’d experienced 10 and 7 years ago with the birth of our sons (without the benefit – or responsibility – of a baby at the end of the experience, of course.)
And me? I have a new appreciation for what he gives us every day. He is usually the life of our party. But thanks to this punk virus, his bright light is dimmed. He’s tired. He’s uncomfortable. He’s not himself. We all feel it. The kids ask him to play baseball, go on bike rides, and he has to decline. The energy in the house is gone. We miss him. We’re waiting for him to come back.
So what should dads know? They should know they matter in every family moment. They should know the zing they add to a morning, making breakfast and riffing on the Sports page. They should know that no matter how mommy-centric their kids might be when it comes to sharing hugs or secrets, when he’s down for the count, the joyfulness fades palpably. Dads should know that they deserve some down time to get rested and revived. Dads should know that their families are rooting for them to get their groove back. Dads should know how much they mean to us.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know about the labor pain. Just don’t tell a woman you hurt that much. It’ll get you nowhere.
Laura Diamond is the mother of two (frequently healthy) boys. She is the editor of the best-selling anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, and is now at work on her first novel. Read more of Laura’s essays at Laura Diamond Writes On…