Even nine months of erratic crying and unpredictable cravings did not prepare my husband for what lay beyond pregnancy. Fatherhood came abruptly to him, and by surprise, four times. It announced its arrival with phrases like, "I'm fine. Go get something to eat," then a change of heart, "Don't you dare leave this room," and a softening of heart, "Have you called your parents?" eventually topped off with, "I can't take you talking on the phone right now!"
Dazed and confused, thinking, My life will never be the same, and fearing that I, having recently directed foul and venomous words at him, would come up out of the better after him if he didn't obediently follow orders - "Don't lose sight of our baby" - my groom chased after the nurse toting the highly prized bundle. His first official duty of fatherhood was to correctly identify, without a doubt, which one of those tiny, swollen-headed newborns belonged to us.
Remarkably, despite his abundant experience with the way babies come into the world, he never bothered to tell his own brother about what to expect at the culmination of pregnancy. He defensively explained his oversight to me, saying, "Unlike women, men don't have a compulsion to endlessly recount and compare birth stories."
In truth, though, as he stood by my brother-in-law peering through the wide nursery window, it occurred too late to my beloved that he omitted sharing critical highpoints of fatherhood. "Which one is yours?" my husband asked.
Rows of clear Plexiglas bassinets containing hours-old, sleeping babies faced the nurses on the other side of the room. The two men studied the swaddlings, immediately ruling out the pink ones. Finally, my brother-in-law pointed at the third bassinet from the right, proudly proclaiming, "That's him."
His wife's parents joined the men to gaze at their first grandchild. "He has your eyes," gushed the grandmother to the father. "His nose is from our side of the family," beamed the grandfather. "He's a good looking kid for a newborn," expertly added the father of my children.
About that time, a nurse saw the four adults smiling and gesturing. My husband's brother motioned that he would like to check-out his child for a visit. She nodded, well acquainted with the eagerness of new parents.
Presently she wheeled the bassinet through the door into the viewing area. "Now don't get offended," she instructed the novice dad. "This is routine procedure. We do this with everyone. I need to check your bracelet against the baby's, Mr. Morris."
Stricken, my brother-in-law, Mr. Adams, looked at his in-laws and sibling, who all stared back, aghast, and in a small, tight voice said, "This isn't my baby."
The busy nurse didn't hear him and added insult to injury, grabbing his arm and checking his bracelet. "You're not Mr. Morris. This isn't your baby. I'll need to see if I can find your baby, Mr. Adams." She briskly retreated, taking Baby Morris with her.
A lump the size of Asia formed in my brother-in-law's throat. His wife's parents had witnessed his first unfortunate foray into fatherhood and would certainly make a report right away. My husband tried to help, saying, "If those babies weren't labeled, no one would know who they belong to. I mean, look at all those squished-up, red faces, and they're wrapped in blankets up to their cheeks and stocking caps pulled down to their eyebrows."
Then he started laughing, "But man, you broke the cardinal rule of fatherhood: Don't lose the baby."
Happy Fathers' Day to every dad who bounces back from his mistakes to be better than ever.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)