When I answered the phone, I knew why Jaime was calling before she even said a word. Her pain came in short gusts of breath through the receiver.
“Is it time?” I blurted, but she wasn’t sure. It felt like contractions, more intense than the Braxton-Hicks ones she had been experiencing.
We went through what we learned in the baby classes: Jaime’s water hadn’t broken, and the contractions weren’t 4-1-1, four minutes apart, lasting for a minute and for at least one hour or more.
“Maybe you just have to poop?” I suggested nervously, hoping she wouldn’t respond “I know the fucking difference between shooting a baby out of my vagina and taking a shit.” (Jaime’s never said this to me, but she would.)
Instead, she said, “I don’t think so,” forcing it out between the spears piercing her uterus. She didn’t want me to come home yet, but wanted me to know she wasn’t feeling well and maybe tonight was the night.
After ending the call, I stared into my computer screen, the numbers in the monthly cash flow budget I was working on (Being program director at a writing center isn’t all fun and games–or cheap wine.) melting into a fuzzy glare of black and white. Then, I cried, not like a mourning elephant but like a slow-leaking faucet that annoys you awake at night. The tears, though few, were uncontrollable. I didn’t feel them coming on, that burn in the chest and nose proceeding the usual waterworks, and, at first, I didn’t notice the first couple strolling down my cheeks until one thought hit me: I am going to be a dad. I snapped back into reality, quickly wiped the tears away and took a deep breath.
“You are going to be a dad,” I said to myself like a coach telling a benchwarmer he was in, giving him a chance to prove himself, my inner Coach Flowers piping up. I closed my office door and pounded through my numbers for 2012, the calculator, whose buttons are too small for my gummy fingertips, shaking in my hand.
Becoming a dad shouldn’t be a surprise. (This isn’t Maury, people.) I’ve known about it since April and have been mentally–and physically–preparing myself for less sleep, more student loans (Do you know how much college will cost in 2029?) and a lifetime of joy and worry. But one thing I haven’t prepared for is “the call.” It could come at any moment, and it might not even be a call. We could be sleeping, and Jaime will wake me up and say, “I think it’s time.” Maybe I’ll be running and come home to find her working through a contraction and counting time on her iPhone. (Yeah, they make an app for that, too.) Neither of us have any control over when Baby Mac will arrive. He’ll come whenever he’s ready, and we’ll just have to accept it, but that doesn’t make it any easier for two perfectionist planners.
On the way home, I called Jaime, and after showering, having a snack and laying down, she felt better, and the contractions had subsided.
“No poop?” I asked.
“No, no poop.”
I just wanted to see if I was right.