When it comes to discussions of all things parenting-related, I can’t help but notice that the focus is almost always on the mother’s perspective. So in honor of Father’s Day this year, I’d like to present Part 2 of my interview series with my husband, Nick, about his experience as a parent.
What was it like being at the birth this time?
(Note to readers: Our first birth was a C-section.) Did you get bored? Was it traumatic?
I did not get bored at the birth. The whole thing was much more dramatic than the C-section. The first inkling that things were going to be markedly different than last time occurred about a half-hour after we arrived in our birthing room.
You were lying on the hospital bed looking all beatific and life-giving. I imagine we were both thinking about the incredible thing that was going to happen — the creation of human life — when a bunch of midwives rushed in and said, “OK, baby’s heart rate just dipped down, so we’re going to have to move you onto your hands and knees. And, by the way, here’s an oxygen mask for you to start breathing through.”
The whole scene quickly went from beatific to nerve-racking and a bit macabre, almost like something out of Blue Velvet.
But then the actual birth — which happened after the hours and hours of drama involving whether to have an epidural (I was glad you had one), Felix’s incessant heartbeat slowdowns, the fact that he had to be suctioned out by his head — was super-fast and somehow triumphant-seeming.
I totally cried. Then I almost lost it in panic when they whisked Felix away, after the requisite photo op, to the baby ER without a whole lot of explanation. The next three days were like coming down from a bad trip encompassing all the drama and fear about Felix. But after the traumatic birth, it quickly became obvious that Felix was actually going to be OK.
Did you feel better prepared this time around?
Yes. I’m not as prone to emotionally reacting to all the messed up situations you get thrown into as a parent. A notable exception: I again wasn’t prepared to deal with the inevitable lack of sleep, but I’m simply less willing to put up with it this time round.
With Lydia, we’d both stay up all night wondering, “Why is she crying? Is she OK? How can we make her feel better?” This time, when Felix is crying in the middle of the night, my first thought is, “How can I make him stop crying so I can get some sleep?” I think about the situation of a baby crying at 4 a.m. in a much more pragmatic way with this second baby.
One of my friends suggested that with the second kid, the focus goes more to logistics. Do you agree?
I think that’s definitely true. The logistics just literally take up all your time; there’s no time for existential crises. Plus, the particular crisis you mention (“Where has my life gone?”) has already been answered by the time the first kid is 3 months old: Your life as you knew it is gone forever — which isn’t to say that you have to meekly give up all your pre-kid interests.
I’m still having lots of fun playing music. In fact, I get pretty irritated with people who use their kids as an excuse to lead completely hum-drum, hermit-y lives. Everyone will undoubtedly go to the CC Club less after having a kid, but I think you should still make it a point to pursue some of the interests you had before having kids.
What surprised you after we brought home another baby?
You already wrote about this, but the whole pairing off of you with Felix and me with Lydia was unforeseen (at least to the degree that it happened). It really is like two separate couples for a while after a new baby is introduced into the mix. To wit: When we’d hear a generic baby howl from upstairs at 11 p.m., we’d jokingly ask each other whose “ward” was making the noise. If it was Lydia, I’d go up; if it was Felix, you’d go up — a clear division of labor.
What would you tell a friend who was thinking about having a second child?
Make sure you absolutely want one. There’s nothing wrong with having one kid. You’re an only child and you came out fine. I have some other only-child friends and I think they’re fine people and not spoiled or self-centered as many uber-breeders would have you believe. I think all the cool things about having two kids (them playing with each other, hand-me-down jeans, etc.) happen later on, so there’s some delayed gratification in having two kids.
I don’t think anyone could pay me to have a third!
Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband
Nick and two children. Send questions or comments to