It’s Go TimeBy Jeffrey Pillow
May 19, 2011
It’s 4:35 AM and I’m running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off. Up and down the stairs. Up and down. Up and down. Back and forth. All the while the orchestral “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Antonio Rossini is playing in my head as if plucked from a scene in a Looney Tunes cartoon when Elmer Fudd is chasing that whaskily wabbit Bugs Bunny through the forest with a double-barrel shotgun.
I shit you not.
Except I have made up impromptu words that go like this:
Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God God God
Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God God God
OH MY GOD… Oh my God God God
Rewind back a few minutes.
4:30 AM: My wife wakes me and informs me she’s in labor.
Not as in I-am-going-to-work-now labor.
The conversation goes a little something like this.
WIFE: I think I’m going into labor.
You, question mark.
This is what my wife later tells me I say when all is calm and we’re sitting opposite one another in our hospital beds.
“You,” as if someone or something else in the room was getting ready to give birth.
My dog Motzie is fixed, so it’s obviously not her.
The television has no genitals, so it’s definitely not it.
I don’t have a vagina, so it’s definitely not me.
I’m pretty sure I would have recognized if it were me anyway. I hadn’t even bought any cute maternity clothing for work. It’s definitely not me.
And I have a penis.
That always makes giving birth difficult.
Unless you’re Thomas Beatie.
So there I am: 4:30 in the morning.
I wasn’t expecting this even though it’s been nine months coming.
Our first child isn’t due for two-and-a-half more weeks on April 27.
It’s April 11.
And the kid has my genes.
I’ve been determined there’s no way this baby is arriving on time if it has my genes. I’m never anywhere on time. I even have this funny scenario in which following my death—whenever that is—at my funeral, I don’t arrive on time.
It plays out like this: Everyone in church is mourning my loss. Tears are flowing. Family, friends – they’re all sobbing and boohooing their eyes out. The preacher stands in the pulpit at the podium or whatever it’s called in church. He looks out into the crying crowd. In walks a guy from the side door dressed in black. He’s holding a note. He walks over to the preacher and hands him the note. The guy walks back toward the side door and out. The preacher clears his throat and addresses the congregation, delivering the following:
“I’m sorry but I’ve just been informed Jeff is running a few minutes late and will arrive shortly. Until then, he has asked that his friends and family join in a hymn together. Please turn to page 368 in your hymnbooks as we sing, “Holiday in Cambodia” by Dead Kennedys, followed by an a capella rendition of “Nervous Breakdown” by Black Flag.
I’m putting this in my will. I’ve told my wife that if I die before she does, this has to play out exactly as I have written. If not, I’m going to come back as a ghost and haunt her. (Not really)
That shit will be hilarious.
Tears go to laughter. Quite the send off. Quite the exit. Just how I want it.
“Oh, that Jeff,” someone will say. “He sure knows how to get a laugh out of someone [pause] — even in death.”
Yet it’s April 11 and my kid is on the move down the birth canal.
I quickly pack a few clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, clean underdrawers, deodorant, cell phone charger, and my bottle of Citalopram, which I call my chill pills because without my chill pills I’m fucking crazy I tell you. Crazy.
I take it for depression. Have since about six months after my dad’s death.
Leukemia. Age 59.
I saw my dad die before my eyes over a two-month span, then held his hand as the machines went beep and his soul ascended.
Two years later I still can’t face the fact my dad’s dead.
And here I am, about to become a dad myself.
I run back downstairs, open up my laptop, and type an e-mail to my boss.
“Not gonna be in this week. Having a baby. Not me. My wife. Some proofs will be coming in if you could take a look at them and sign off. They’re good to go. If you need to make any changes (which you shouldn’t), the InDesign files are located in the Comm. Info folder. Here’s my cell number if you need me but don’t call me for the next couple of hours. In labor. Not me. My wife. Holy crap!”
Rewind back again to me sitting in bed, my wife delivering the news she’s in labor.
“Did you call the hospital yet?” I ask.
“No. I will now.”
“Come in at 7:30,” they tell her. “Come sooner if your body tells you to.”
Flash forward less than two hours later.
6:20 AM: “I think we need to go now,” my wife tells me as I finish up my e-mail to my boss.
“Oh crap, I haven’t eaten anything yet.”
Yes, that’s right. I’m thinking about food at a time like this.
“We can stop by McDonald’s if you want.”
“We can? Are you sure there’s enough time? I’d rather you get to the hospital than me a chicken sandwich and extra hash browns.”
At this point, my wife is freaking me out with her breathing.
“Breathe in and out like they told us at our child birthing classes,” I say, trying to soothe her. But on the inside, me, I’m hyperventilating. On comes the “William Tell Overture” again. Bugs Bunny shoots down a rabbit hole.
Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God God God
Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God God God
OH MY GOD… Oh my God God God
“Yes. We have time,” she says. “You need to eat.”
See how wonderful wife my wife is? Always looking out for the nourishment of her husband even at times such as this. She continues:
“You can get into a funk when your sugar is low.”
Now the truth comes out.
“I don’t want you in a bad mood with all this about to happen. It could be a long day, a long couple of days in the hospital.”
She’s right. I do get into a funk when I don’t eat on time. And I eat all the time. Like six meals a day. It’s the only way I can balance my sugar. Even when I played basketball in college I was like this. Before the game in the locker room, I’d eat a Snickers and drink a half bottle of orange juice while Coach gave his words of wisdom. At halftime, I’d eat another Snickers and finish off my orange juice. Otherwise, I’d get the shakes – like Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias.
But I’m not diabetic. I’m hypoglycemic.
I put my dog in her crate, tell her to be a good girl, that she’ll have a new best friend soon, and scat.
6:30 AM: We stop by McDonald’s. I pull up to the drive-through window and order a chicken sandwich, two hash browns, and a large Coke.
“$4.29. First window please.”
I pay. Onward to window two.
It’s taking longer than usual to fulfill the order. I’m a very patient person, probably too patient in my day to day life (they say patience is a virtue), but I want to say, “Can you guys please hurry it up? Just this one time. It’s an emergency. My wife is in labor.”
But I imagine the 18-year-old kid who is waiting on me, stop and say rather coldly, “Then why the fuck did you stop for breakfast dickhead?”
And he’d have a point.
A very valid point.
Out comes my combo meal. Peace and chicken grease Mickey Dee’s. We’re off to Martha Jefferson Hospital.
I use this as an excuse to drive like a bat out of a hell down 29, just like in the movies. Then I picture a cop fly up behind me with his siren on to which I stick my arm out of the window and wave for him to pull up along side me. Then I say, “Officer, my wife is having a baby. Can you please escort us to the hospital?”
He nods yes, flashes his lights, and I roll my window back up, turn to my wife and referencing the cop, say, “Sucker.”
We (“we” as in me following behind sucker cop) bolt down the highway, going through red lights like it ain’t nobody’s business. I smile for the asshole traffic camera they just installed at the intersection of Rio Rd. One day I’ll put the photo the Police Department sends me in my baby’s scrapbook.
But none of this happens. Because this isn’t the movies. It’s real life.
But I continue to drive like a bat out of hell, weaving in and out of traffic, beeping my horn at any car in my way and yelling at them, “Get out of the way you slowpoke prick. My wife’s having a baby.” A very cautious, alert bat out of hell I might add. Okay. You got me. You called my bluff. So I’m not really driving like a bat out of hell. I’m going 55 MPH in a 45 (technically, I am breaking the law) and there is hardly anyone on the road. I’m not weaving in and out of traffic. I’m not beeping my horn. I’m not yelling.
6:45 AM: We arrive at Martha Jefferson Hospital on Locust Avenue. I pull up to the Emergency Room entrance. A security guard approaches and opens the door for my wife. He tells her where to go. I tell him where to go (hell) and to stop looking at my wife’s cleavage (she’s pregnant. Her breasts are full of milk, nourishment for my soon-to-be first child, you stinkin’ perv). Actually, I do none of that either. He isn’t even eyeing my wife. He’s very polite like some child’s nice grandpa.
I park the car, strap on all our bags like I’m some oversized coat rack made of pine, and make my way to the Maternity Ward.
It’s Go Time…
You crack me up. The William Tell Overture is a perfect accompaniment to the chaos (mostly internal) that you describe here. You’re wife is a goddess for thinking about your blood sugar and encouraging you to eat. I’m glad no cops were involved. And I’m really sorry to hear about your dad.
On another note, SUPER GIGANTIC HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! WOOO!!
Wait… what were the five take away lessons?
1. Eat before wife gives birth
2. Have hospital bag packed early
re: “Wait… what were the five takeaway lessons?”
Not there yet. This is only Part I. Gotta break this up. If I ignore my wife and child for more than 10 straight minutes, my wife will have my hide. Not to mention, I feel really bad if I’m at my computer when I could be ogling my baby. I know. It’s pathetic. But it’s true. I will say this. A sneak peek into 1 of the 5 involves bathroom door locks.
Oh, and here’s a picture of me reading to her. Yep, already sharing photos. We’re reading about cannibalism in the Andes.
She’s so tiny! Look at her! Look at you! Squuuueeeeee!
I know, right? I could just gobble her up.
Like a hammer on glass.
William Tell Overture: Ultimate panic theme. It’s like speed metal with oboes.
Food: My wife and I see eye to eye on the blood sugar thing. She’s like that too. You let both of us miss a meal by more than 10 minutes and we’re the two grumpiest human beings on the planet. It just so happened she was in labor and food was the last thing on her mind.
Dad: It’s OK. One day I’ll be able to sit down and really think about it all. I’ve started to numerous times since he passed but it just sends me into a downward spiral. Guess it’s still too early.
Thanks for the congrats. It’s a special feeling being a parent. There’s nothing like it in the world. When Annabelle looks up at me, it melts my heart like a Hershey’s bar in the sun.
This piece is gloriously written!
You wrote it on two separate levels at the same time.
I’m following the Bugs Bunny you and the serious Pillow through entirely different experiences simultaneously.
I loved this story!
Not exactly literary nonfiction but to try and write literary about the experience of having your first child and for it not to sound like every other experience of having a first child would be boring I thought, so I said screw it. Tackle a serious subject but be funny. I can be a sentimental mushbag offline. Thanks for reading. And it’s about time I included Bugs Bunny in one of my stories. The Looney Tunes were/still are a cornerstone of my life. I’m a little partial to Daffy though.
I happen to know the second half of this will involve a baby, so I’m going to first say congrats to you and your wife.
This was a great piece. And it’s good you ate; your wife was right; it can be a long time there with no food.
Awaiting Part Two!
Indeed it does (involve a baby).
I ate one of my stashed-away hash browns a few hours into the delivery.
It’s only “$4.29 for a chicken sandwich, two hash browns, and a large Coke? Man, I gotta reintroduce the MD’s drive-through to my life.
Yeah man, the Southern style chicken biscuit breakfast combo is the way to go. The trick is to let the guy know that you want to include the price of the additional hash brown into your combo meal. It already comes with one. But you see, you can get two hash browns for $1 off the dollar menu. They just split the difference that’s added.
Oh, here’s what the Southern style chicken biscuit looks like: http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/full_menu/breakfast/southern_style_chicken_biscuit.html
I could stare at it all day. It rivals Chick-Fil-A in tastiness.
i like that you call your choneys “under drawers”. congrats on the wee tiny beautiful little animal.
Dear Pixy – I love that you say choneys.
it’s one of my favorite “boy-centric” words.
ps – can’t wait to see you on the tnbus. : )
@Gloria: You took the words right out of my mouth.
@Pixy: Choneys. That’s my new favorite word for underdrawers, pronounced underdraws. Thank you for the congrats.
Ready for Part Two JP — bring it!
Your kid? ADORABLE!! Great daddy daughter pic. She’ll want a copy of that, so save it.
How come you don’t use a picture of you for your gravatar?
@Dana: I’m scheduling to write Part II between a diaper blowout and a breastfeeding session. Last night I got a couple of minute when my wife took Annabelle to her bookclub with her. She wanted to show her off to her old chums from school where she works. She actually does really well out in public. And she already loves Red Lobster. Can you blame her with those garlic biscuits?
I may have to update the gravatar too. She makes me a real sap. I could stare at that picture all day. The funny thing is, I didn’t prop her arm up like that. She naturally does that from time to time. It was her “Tell me more” look.
Dude, this is awesome. Big, huge congrats (I’m at work and the internet filters are blocking the photo, so I’ll look when I get home)! Is the William Tell thing going to segue into you referring to your daughter as a wascally wabbit?
You know, that’s a good idea for a nickname: wascally wabbit. I think I’ll use it when I get home. It flows a little better than sugar nuts. Thanks for the congrats. It’s a life changing experience. It’s amazing really how quick it changed me. It was instant. Like some Carnation Instant Breakfast. As soon as I held her the first time I thought, “How on Earth could I have ever been mean to my parents in my life when once upon a time they held me in their arms like I’m holding Annabelle now?” Seriously. I felt like a real ass at that moment thinking that. But as they say… Karma. I’m sure I’ll get payback during the teenage years…. and it’ll break my heart.
And she’s already adorably cute – I love the little pose, resting on her elbow.
Greg and I were living in NYC when we had our first child. We ordered a car service that never showed.
I was sitting on my birth ball on the sidewalk breathing through my labor pains, as Greg and a woman
from our hall attempted to hail a cab. If someone had told me it would still be two days until our son
was born, I’d have stopped at MD’s too.
I’m calling it her “tell me more” pose. And this photo is totally getting framed. I may even make a poster I love it so.
Whoa, so you were in labor two days? Oh man. That is intense. Another couple went through a similar situation as that on the same day we had ours. Upon discharge, the hospital arranged for us to have brunch with them. All I can say is, we were blessed to have such a smooth delivery. Knock on wood for the second one. And what’s up with Greg? He couldn’t have called up Ronnie McD and ordered a Big Mac? Shame.
…and thank you for the congrats.
Congratulations. What a swell thing to put in her massive journal/album/video file you’ll make to document her life.
Now you’ll be able to show her solid proof that you’ve read her some classics and tell her when she’s a teen, ‘You were so sweet and innocent and receptive when I was reading you Ulysses in my arms.”
When she’s majoring in English lit in college, she’ll be the only student to proclaim, “Ulysses. Yes, I read that at 6 weeks old. Pretty good book.”
Congratulations, again, Mr. Pillow.
I’m a man of few words. (Only time that’s ever been said)
And thank you. She’s a sweetheart. And if there’s one thing I learned early on, it’s this: newborns can cut the cheese as loud as a 53-year-old man after eating a 1/2 lb. of country ham.
Wow! See, this is what I miss out on by being childless.
Congrats, Mr. Pillow.
It really is one heck of an experience. Having her just lay there, stretched out on my chest as it rises and falls — had to beat that feeling.
Haha–I loved this bit, too.
Big ol’ congrats! Your sweet Annabelle will treasure this years down the road…
Looking forward to part II…
I love the song! I sang it out loud as I read it! Love the frantic nature of this piece, Jeffro. Awesome!!
Can’t wait to meet your little girl in part 2…
And because of Matt’s suggestion, her new nickname is “whaskily wabbit.” It’s very fitting. I plan to play this song at her first birthday and on the morning of her high-school graduation.
Congrats, Jeffrey! Yes, that song sets the pace. I rushed through this in one breath, stopping only to curse at those slow-poke pricks in traffic.
You read it as I intended then. When I was reading this back to my wife, I sounded like the guy from the Micro Machines commercial. I will forever identify the “William Tell Overture” with the birth of my daughter. She will also be forever linked to southern style chicken biscuits and hash browns. Thank you for the congrats. There’s no feeling like it.
i love this, jeffrey. it’s both moving and hilarious. i can’t wait to read more! (though you might be slightly busy. . .)
Thank you. The goal is to knock out Part II by the end of the month. I had a breather in there to write this one. Allison took Annabelle with her to her book club, so I busily pecked away at the keys.
[…]Jeffrey Pillow | Five Takeaway Lessons I Learned While Waiting on the Birth of my First Child: Part I | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…