Friday, March 29, 2013

For New Fathers: Bathroom Duty

All the fathers I talked to glazed right over the real duties of a brand-new Dad.  I won’t do that to you.  Here’s duty #1.

Duty #1:         Bathroom duty.  

It probably shouldn’t have, but bathroom duty took me by surprise.  I didn’t expect to have to take my adult wife to the restroom every time she needed to go.  I was primed to have a regular bathroom task in about two years, when Jonah reaches the age of responsibility.  I didn’t expect to be pressed into duty this early. Before you judge me, place yourself in my shoes.  I have never been around a woman who has had to go to the restroom, post-delivery.  Never. 

Since we spent a solid 24-hours in the hospital—she, having a baby and me, sitting around—Sunday was in a good amount of pain, and I was in good enough shape to continue sitting around.  The first night Sunday let me sleep, so she called a nurse to help her go.  After that, I was on duty. 

Here’s how it went the first time.  I was resting, or holding Jonah, or watching television or talking to someone in the room, or any of the four activities you can enjoy in a hospital room.  (Resting, holding a baby, watching television, or talking.  Some argue that a rousing game of bocce ball is the fifth activity that can also be enjoyed in a hospital room, but bocce courts have been banned in U.S. hospitals since the widespread bocce scandals of the late 1980’s).  Sunday saw me doing nothing, so she asked, “Matt, can you help me to the restroom?”  The way she asked, though, showed that she had been through a 24-hour delivery process, ended by a C-section. 

I felt very sorry for her.  She, in turn, welcomed my pity.  Quickly stopping whichever activity I was enjoying in our hospital room, I went to her bedside and physically moved her legs to the edge of the bed while helping her slide her body so that her feet touched the floor.  She wrapped her arms around my neck as she stood up.  Here’s where it was great.  I got to support her body a little and we got a quick snuggle.  At this point, we had gone without “snuggle time” for about a day-and-a-half.  When she was ready, she shifted so that we were standing beside each other and so that we could begin slowly, very slowly, walking to the restroom. 

When we actually got into the restroom, with Sunday “in position,” I did something that I never thought I’d have to do.  Never.  In that small restroom, with the toilet, trash can, and shower crammed into the space of a tiny janitor’s closet, in that small restroom, I slowly kneeled down in front of Sunday and pulled her undershorts down around her ankles.  Most people would call a woman’s “undershorts” panties or even underwear, but those words don’t describe them.  They’re undershorts and they look like they’re made of gauze. 

So, as Sunday completed her restroom task, I was busy doing another something I thought Id never do:  I cleaned up the mess.  I didn’t know this, but women who have just given birth tend to make a mess. I didn’t know about the mess. Nobody told me about the mess.  I claim ignorance, so that’s why this is important to say:  new dads have bathroom duty, even if it extends into the hallway or bed.

I’m trying to be discreet here, but let me tell you that growing up in an all-male household didn’t help.  I got a really quick education.  A Master’s degree in mess.

Although I wasn’t comfortable, I was expected.  Expected to help, expected to console, expected to clean up.  I was even expected to understand.  I could do the first three.  I was pretty weak on the understanding part, though.  Sunday didn’t care.  She just wanted help using the bathroom without having to hear complaints or sighs of frustration.

In my effort to offer something I thought she needed, I attempted to comfort using my favorite method:  humor.  After helping her get up from the toilet, I hugged her gently and whispered into her ear, “You wanna fool around?”  She didn’t laugh. 

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