March 5, 2014
My wife and I had our second son, Leo, last week, and since this is the Eat the World issue, I'm going to put this out there straight away. We did not eat the placenta. I did get a pizza when I got home from the hospital, so hopefully that's good enough. I'm also going to be honest here; I never wanted more than one kid. My wife, on the other hand, has two brothers and didn't want our boy Jonah to grow up an only child. According to my wife, the life of an only child is an empty and lonely one. Only children spend their lives dreaming of a sibling to provide some counterpoint and lend meaning to their lives. And only children are weird. They're selfish and fragile creatures with little backbone and a penchant for glorious displays of whining. She also didn't want to name the boy Jim, as that is a terrible name.
At this point I feel I should mention that I am Jim and I am an only child. It wasn't until I heard it from my wife that I realized what a horrible existence I'd been suffering. I always thought it was cool that I had my own room and didn't have to share my G.I. Joes. The only downside I saw was that, without a sister, I never got an Easy Bake Oven and the endless supply of lightbulb-baked cookies that came with it. But apparently all this life-satisfaction was a grand delusion and those G.I. Joes were just stand-ins for the phantom limb that wasn't my sibling. I'd also really loved my relationship with our first son, Jonah. He was the center of my universe and I didn't see the need to bring anyone else into the picture. Plus, he's just about 3 years old now; in 15 short years, I was set to get my life back. Oh, to be able to say "fuck" in my own living room again. Having another one would hit the snooze button, another three years of cursing like Bill Cosby. In 18 years I'll be 59 and I'm not even sure I'll know what to do with my life when I get it. I'll probably take it to the park to feed squirrels with me. Flarn!
And, spoiler alert, having kids is hard. First, they're expensive. We need a bigger car, we need a bigger house, and it turns out they eat and you need to put clothes on them, at least in the wintertime. You can kiss sleeping in goodbye. Our older boy wakes up at seven a.m. these days. He wakes up at seven on school days, he wakes up at seven on Saturdays, he wakes up at seven on holidays, he wakes up at seven when I'm hungover, and he's not content to wake up and get some reading done (since his feeble child-brain is incapable of reading). Nope, he scampers down the hall, climbs up onto our bed, and sits on my head. Sometimes he pushes his face into mine and bites my nose. I love him, but the boy has terrible breath. What I'm saying is, kids suck, and babies are even worse. Babies have stomachs the size of a walnut, which means they need to eat about every 11 minutes or so, and they make a sound that is hard-wired to the human central nervous system. Do you know how much sleep you can get when there's a tiny life form that looks like a prop from The Ghoulies going off like a car alarm every 11 minutes? It was not something I was looking forward to doing again.
Have you ever gone anywhere with a baby? Probably not, because going to the mall with a newborn requires more gear than Neil Armstrong took to live on the moon. Car seat? Sure, I get it. Diaper bag? Oh, of course. With the stroller, swaddle, bottles, bibs, binkies, blankets, and about 7,000 other things that you'll need to round up, I think you're going to need a second minivan. And remember, you've only got an hour before you have to head back, because nap time! Oh hell, let's get a babysitter. That will be $1,300? Well, I guess that's fair to watch TV while this drooling monster, er, umm, I meant bundle of joy, sleeps.
But before you even get to the baby, there's the whole pregnancy thing. You know how people say pregnant women glow? That's because they are lit with an inner rage. Screw the Navy SEALS, the next time we need to send a strike team deep behind enemy lines, send a squad of women in their third trimester and tell them it was the terrorists that left the socks on the couch. Then there's everyone's favorite party game, "Why Are You Crying?" They say it's the hormones, but I'm not talking about my wife here. I got so emotional I found myself weeping at reruns of Three's Company (Oh, Mr. Furley, will you ever find love?). Not to mention I had just lost most of the 35 pounds I gained during our first pregnancy, but during this second one? Found 'em!
So why the hell did we have another one? I asked that same question about 19 times a day and generally had nary a clue. Then my wife went into labor. For those of you who've never had a child, there's something they don't tell you about. Birth involves a fair bit of poop. Baby poop, mother poop, truth be told, a dollop of daddy poop, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. We were trying to move to the labor tub when a wave of contractions hit Jessie, my wife. I have never felt more necessary in my life than I did standing there, Jessie's head buried in my shoulder while I held her up and she pushed. We made it to the tub and I sat behind Jessie, arms around her, willing her to birth our son. There is no triumph in the world like the moment your baby breaks into the world.
A few minutes later, Leo sat on a little table under a heat lamp. That's what they do, apparently. Jessie was back in bed, exhausted and glowing, though there was no sign of rage, only joy. I put my finger down, our baby wrapped his incomprehensibly tiny hand around it, his beautiful face, the size and color of a ripe Roma tomato looked up at me, and my heart filled the room. That's when I remembered why we did it. Some studies have shown that people without kids are happier than people with them and, as a father, I have no doubt that those studies are right. I know these boys are going to bring with them a fair share of pain and struggle, but when our boys met for the first time and Jonah stopped pretending he was a roaring dragon long enough to give Leo the gentlest kiss I've ever seen I realized: I wouldn't trade them for the world. But to be clear, there's no way I'm having another.
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