Telling Mr. Blake to Piss Off: A New(ish) Fatherhood Perspective

Eat it, Baldwin.

By Matt

I was doing it again. I caught myself at work staring into space. This time, it was in front of my computer at work. By Thursday afternoon, I guessed this had already occurred three or four times already this week.

Was it because I was tired? No, not that. I’m always tired. That comes with the territory of being a parent. It was something else. I sat there staring at a blank page on my computer screen, waiting for it to fill miraculously. A blank Word document is like the Bat Signal for complacency, so I figured something could be going on.

I guess you can say it was a “low point.” I’ve had them before for various reasons. But for what?

I instinctively put on some Morrissey on my drive home that afternoon. I figured I could get through most of “Your Arsenal” because I-295 coming out of DC was backed up. By the time “You’re the One for Me, Fatty” came on, I realized what was bothering me: I wasn’t where I thought I’d be.

Let me explain.

In my mind, I thought my thirties would be about crushing through my career in history. I thought there would be accolades, awards, publications, and lucrative book deals. To a degree, I’ve had a little of that. But since the birth of Zelda, it’s come to a grinding halt. I am now questioning my love for what I do and my place of employment. I often grow jealous of my colleagues who are succeeding when I am coming up with failure after failure. I think it was Jonas Salk who said, “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” I don’t know. I’m not finding a cure for polio in my research.

Jealousy is an ugly, terrible thing. It’s not my proudest moment, but remember, I said this was a weak point. Without becoming a cliché for my generation, I must implore that the emphasis is on the past tense.

Success.

That was the goal. That was the plan. Throughout my twenties, I adhered strictly to the movie quote made famous by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. In the film, Baldwin plays “Mr. Blake,” a shrewd real estate executive sent in to rile up a group of down and out agents. Throughout his speech, Blake has little respect for the lives of these men. He only believes in two things: money and success:

Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here – close!

That’s me. That’s how I wanted to be. For a while, I was. I never had the suit, but the mentality fit me fine.

After a few hours with feelings of failure and inadequacy swirling around my head, I picked up Zelda from her home care. I was admittedly in a terrible mood, but Zelda seemed in high spirits as per usual. Despite that, I still mumbled my way through the next hour at home. I knew I should stop being selfish and subjecting others around me to it. I wore it on me like a cheap coat. In a way, the feeling was a comfort. If I didn’t feel so goddamned sorry for myself, who would? It’s my right, ok? As I cooked dinner, I looked over at Angela and gave her my fake reassuring smile. She calls it my “Koala Face,” and can see through the bullshit a mile away.

I was as energetic as a hot turd at dinner. Angela said nothing. I think she could feel the heat coming off of me and knew better. I looked over at Zelda, a face full of mashed potatoes. She looked at me and smiled her bit smile. I could see bits of potato sticking out of her prison bar grin of teeth. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was almost as if Zelda was telling me, “Get over yourself dad and play with me.”

Me and My Girl

I melted. I melted fast. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I began to laugh. At that moment, there was only one feeling: love. Love for my daughter. Love for my family. Love for feeling blessed we are doing okay and that everyone is healthy. She was right: get over yourself, Matt. I did.

I picked her up out of her seat and gave her a big kiss. I didn’t care that the potatoes got on my face. She made me feel like I could kick Mr. Blake THROUGH THE DICK at that moment. I’m a goddamn superhero to her. I’m dad. What is better?

There are things we can’t control in life. Where I am in work may be one thing. If I work hard, I’ll get there eventually. In the meantime, I’ll settle for trying to be the best father I can be to the best thing that’s happened in my life. Work is one thing. Life is something completely different. I think it’s time I change my point of view and start living.

At Luray Caverns’ Giant Ass Parking Lot

Nothing will ever compare to having Zelda in my life. She is a lifetime fulfilled. She is my greatest creation, one that makes every accomplishment I’ll ever make in my career pale in comparison. She makes me proud to be a father. What better time to declare it than Father’s Day.

There are still things that matter. We need to work to have money for food and rent. I need to keep my dog and cat fed and healthy (shoutout to the pet parents). I need to ATTEMPT to not be an asshole to my wife. So, things do matter. But in the grand scheme of life, Zelda is the priority. Not the job. Not the prestige. It’s her.

Every time I see her smile I want to be a better fucking person. I try. We all try. But there comes a time when we all have to shut up and just do better for our kids. It’s not about me anymore. It’s all about her. I am ashamed it took me this long to realize it.

I win. I deal the cards. The game is mine.

My life can’t get any better. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Thanks for smiling at me, kid. You saved my life once again.

So, Mr. Blake, I will go home and play with my kid. With all due respect, Fuck YOU.

Here’s to the dads of all kinds who feel the same.

A Father’s Day to My Dad: The Confucian Griswold

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I don’t have a lot of hobbies that I still keep up with. If I did have to say I have one, it would be watching movies. For a young man eager to understand and wide-eyed about the world, they are a visual window into a thousand worlds, both real and imaginary. That principle is true for films about fathers as well. As a lifelong lover of film, I’ve always picked up different character traits and “dad-to-be” pointers over the years in a never-ending search to figure out what it would be like to be a father…without having to be a father. What better way to think about a fantasy life than in an endless stream of make believe? Just like other teen movies, college films, or romantic comedies, the reality was far different than the fantasy world immortalized on the silver screen. Then reality hits. Just like other teen movies, films about college, or sappy rom coms, the reality of life as a father is far different than the fantasy world immortalized on the silver screen.

Which dad would I be? The cheap and uptight kind like Steve Martin in Father of the Bride? Ed O’Neill’s loveable buffoon character in Dutch? The proud yet tortured soul embodied by Harry Dean Stanton’s character in Pretty in Pink? Or (hopefully) not the John Ritter full-on sad bastard of Problem Child.

Some may look at To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch as the quintessential father figure from film. That is wrong. In my humble opinion, the greatest dad in film history is Clark Griswold. Why? Among many other humorous reasons, he reminds me the most of my own dad.

My dad is in interesting guy. It wouldn’t be fair if I compared him to JUST Clark Griswold. That’s not quite his style. Sure, he loves vacations and had the potential to go overboard in “dad mode” on several occasions growing up. It’s not enough. It’s more complex.

If I had to put my finger on it, I would say that he is the perfect mix of Clark Griswold and Confucius. He is a dad who has always given me little pearls of wisdom throughout my life. They were never exactly worth of the Dialects, but nonetheless important. These lessons, at first dismissed as mumbo jumbo by yours truly, have become the guiding principles for my life and, subsequently, fatherhood. I didn’t appreciate them before, but I sure as hell do now. I use them every day in my attempt to be half as good a father to Zelda as dad was to me.

Like Griswold, dad always found a way to tell me these important life lessons while on vacation. So in honor of those long road trips and the myriad advice he gave to me from the driver’s seat, here are the top five life lessons my dad, AKA “The Confucian Griswold,” has taught me over the years about life and fatherhood.

  1. Follow Directions – I think there are always occasions to go by the book, and other times to deviate from the prescribed path. Most of the time in my life, however, I should have listened to my father and followed directions. I can remember him saying it over and over to me as I cried over Geometry homework. How many times did I fail at something when I should have just read the manual first? TOO MANY. Now, he gives me step by step instructions on what to do with Zelda if she is showing signs of sickness. Every time I screw something up as a dad, I think about my own father and his words of wisdom.
Putting together Zelda's crib (WITH instructions)
Putting together Zelda’s crib (WITH instructions)

I recently found out the hard way that following directions will be an important trait to pass down. When we were preparing Zelda’s nursery in the late fall of last year, I figured I could put together simple Target shelves together. You know which ones I am talking about. I’m sure you’ve owned some at some point in your life. Anyways, I felt that I was already a pro because of all the IKEA furniture I put together, so I left the instructions in the box when it came time to putting the Target shelves together for Zelda’s baby books. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I ended up putting the shelves together correctly…just backwards. I wish you could have seen the look on my face when I told Angela with glee that I was done, only to find that I had it wrong and needed to take it apart completely. Apparently it was priceless, but you’ll (hopefully) never get to see it again. That was too rough for words.

  1. Take pictures of Everything – My dad’s vacation outfit is pretty much the same: khaki shorts or pants, collared shirt, and brown Sperry’s. This is hilarious, because I am starting to look like this all the time:

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The only thing missing from that outfit that fits my dad to a “T” is his camera. He takes his camera everywhere. Lord help us if he missed out on a photo opportunity growing up. Of course, we have it much easier today with cellular phone cameras. My dad was hardcore: camera bag, 18 rolls of film, and an itchy trigger finger. But it is nonetheless an important lesson: always be ready to capture a moment that will last a lifetime. My dad taught me that no opportunity is too small for a photo. He has proof. Lots of it.

Every time we come home to visit my parents, one of the first things I always do is look through my dad’s countless photo albums. He has kept a meticulous record of our family from before my sister was born up to their grandchildren. In all, I would say my dad has 60 or 70 of them. My dad always said that if the house was on fire, the first thing he would go for would be his photo albums. As he once told me, “they are the legacy of our family. They are more priceless than gold.”

Of course, this brings up another Father’s Day project for dad: digitization. But having physical print is so “dad” that I can’t fault him for it. For now, you do you.

  1. Keep a Diary – My dad has written in a diary every day for the last two decades. Although I was never allowed to read it, I would sometimes sit in his study and watch him write. For him, it is a way to keep a written record of his life. In some cases, this blog was meant to be a poor excuse for a diary; a digital catharsis. That might be the case if I kept up with it. I’ll work on that.

I would like to keep a diary, like the photographs, as a record of my own memories and personal experiences with me and my family. I hope I can pass that down to Zelda one day.

  1. Make Traditions, Even if They Are Stupid or Embarrassing – As a Kid, my dad loved to embarrass me. The more embarrassing, the better. They came in all forms, shapes, and sizes. The most common were of course staged photographs:

“HEY  MATT, GO STAND BY THAT MIME. HE WON’T TOUCH YOU.” (He did)

“HEY MATT, GO STAND THERE NEED THAT MAN AT THE NUDE BEACH. IT’S HILARIOUS.” (I did, and it was, because he had old gross balls and was listen to a Bob Marley cover band from the sand. Those balls haunt me to this day, and I still can’t hear “Stir it Up” without thinking of floppy testicles.)

Like Clark Griswold, his embarrassments were (and remain) endearing. I think that’s a safe way of saying that it’s always better in hindsight. It’s funny how much I thought it affected me back then, because I find that it’s pretty much all I talk about now.

I can’t wait to embarrass the shit out of Zelda. In some cases, I already am:

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Along those lines, one of the traditions of my family did growing up that I have extended to my family is developing a distinct language. For instance, “stank” might need something smelly to you, but to the Eng family, it means to “be mad at.” An “Eng’s Mix” means nothing to you, but if I told my mom and dad I wanted one, they’d make me an orange juice with ginger ale. Angela and I have developed a distinct language of our own in the few months since Zelda has been born. Here is your vocabulary lesson:

“wipes and dipes” – “You need to change Zelda’s diaper.

“C.W.A.N.” – Cold water at night (aka bringing a glass of water to bed).

“Jamz” – Poop.

“bobo” – Fake, not the real thing (as in using a chicken patty for chicken parmesan, AKA “bobo parmesan).

Don’t get me started on my nicknames I’ve come up with for Zelda: Z-Gram, La, Le, Z Baby, World War Z, Plump, Tubbo, Mini me, etc. to name a few.

  1. Family is Everything – The last one is the most important. It is the guiding principle from my dad that I will never forget. No explanation necessary:

Above all else, family is everything. Work hard, but love your family harder. Nothing else matters.

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Happy Father’s Day. Love you, dad.

Born Slippy (PART II)

This is likely the last post I will make before Zelda is born. This is just me laying it all out there like an exposed wire along the interstate. Read Part I.

Capable and Culpable

If you think about the idea or concept of “pregnancy,” the first thing that comes to mind is likely the mother. You can close your eyes and envision the beautiful female figure and her expanding womb. Picture the child growing inside of her. Picture the growing hands swimming in fluid, waiting to be held delicately for the first time. You may even think about the ridiculous pain of childbirth (I can only assume). One of the last things you would think of is the father.

This will probably not be a popular statement, but there were times when I felt like I was a silent partner in all of this. I felt shut off and isolated. To be honest, I can’t think of many pregnancy blogs out there like this that have the father actively writing about their experiences? If there is one, it’s usually some affluent photographer or media mogul who takes pictures of his kids and gets reblogged on Buzzfeed. I’m not that guy. I’m just a normal dude who listened to Cursive and Bright Eyes too much as a teenager and am acting it out as a thirty-something.

What about my needs? What is the acceptable level of male sacrifice for a pregnancy? Can I keep my penis? If this were the government, I would be the non-essential personnel that gets to stay home every time snow falls on the ground. Like I said in the previous post, keeping a relationship 50/50 is super easy when you are dating, engaged, or recently married. Young love has a way of making everything in the world seem simple. You will enjoy picking up tampons for your lady love when you are dating because their purchase meant you dodged a bullet for another month. Once you throw a pregnancy into the mix, however, keeping everything balanced is damn near impossible. Everything that was once capable turns into culpable.

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There were times when I wanted to tell Angela that any sign of negativity I gave on my end was not necessarily an open invitation for criticism. We were both guilty of that. Sometimes it was hard to stay positive, even if the most positive thing that has ever happened to me was right in front of my face. When could I say I was tired or “over it” without getting the third degree? Can I ever say it without looking like an asshole?

Part of the frustration came with this blog. It is a literal fact that my posts are read 75% less than Angela’s. The numbers don’t lie, and I can’t dispute it. Blame it on the day job, I guess. It’s a completely vain and shallow thing to feel, and I have worked very hard to get rid of those thoughts every time I stare at a blank word document. I cannot deny that this is partly why I have been feeling like a side dish to the main course of pregnancy. I should just chalk it up to A. Angela is a much better writer (truth) B. Her content actually speaks to a larger demographic for women and C. She gets to the point about the issues that matter.

Not that this doesn’t matter – I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think so. I think, dear reader, you get what I mean. I have attempted to provide “real talk” on the blog several times, but most of those posts received little interaction. This one is about as real as I am going to get. I’m pushing hard on the gas, but my foot isn’t exactly on the floor. Nobody needs to hear or experience that.

I am merely just a young dad-to-be who also happens to be over-stressed, under-sexed, under stimulated, and overworked. Plain and simple. I should be allowed to say these things without any blowback. I think Angela knows and understands these feelings. She can’t process them at the moment. I agree. It’s a lot to take in, especially when her own issues need to be addressed as well, and they are more pressing to the health and happiness of our future daughter. Advantage: Angela.

I put on a persona of somebody who likes to push comedy and jokes as a defense mechanism. It has always been that way. I think I’m so fucking clever when I throw in quips during my lectures or class discussions. In reality, I am just trying to buy some time to figure out what the hell I am really trying to say. When it matters, I am very serious. I shamefully struggled to be serious with Angela these past few months. My defense mechanism kept kicking in, and she often found the humor as my way of showing her immaturity and a lack of preparation. She would tell me “Matt, you don’t sound excited…change your attitude,” or “please take this seriously.” That was my cue to metaphorically shut down. I WAS excited. I AM excited. Believe me, I think it’s so rad that I am about to begin the new “Eng dynasty.” I just have different ways of showing it. Here’s hoping I am more straightforward in the future.

I’m a motherfucking onion, man. Only a few people I know have ever peeled all of these layers.

Having a Shit Time

We had a lot of difficulties with communication. There were issues with anger on both sides. Angela’s anger was a clear cut result of the pregnancy, which she addressed with acupuncture. It worked really well. I do have to give credit to my Chinese ancestry for some pretty beneficial ching chong homeopathic stuff. I, for the most part, felt the need to bottle it up. As I am writing this, I am realizing how stupid and unnecessary it was/is. The problem with cramming all of it in a bottle is the potential for overflow. I’m not sure where I put all of it. Most of it is still bottled up, although writing this now is an exercise of release that I am most thankful for.

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The metaphor for bottling up is also a literal thing for me.  All the fear and anxiety had to go somewhere eventually. I usually find myself ending up in the bathroom when the stress gets too high. I’m a fearful public pooper, which adds to the anxiety. Some people stress eat or stress drink (I do both). My main source of release: poop. So all of the jokes and bathroom humor (once again) was just another defense mechanism of humor to explain a real problem. I find myself sometimes going to the bathroom five to six times a day. I didn’t eat chili or Taco Bell on those days, either (I SWEAR!). That’s not normal for a healthy 31-year old. I used to think I had IBS. As it turns out, I was just high on stress and anxiety and needed to get it out of my system. TMI, I know. But now the secret is out. I seriously took three dumps during the Lost finale. I had to go back.

There were times when I was frustrated and wanted to call Angela out on it. I wanted to let her know that I had doubts that would upset her. I wanted to tell her that I often found myself questioning if I really wanted the baby. Was the stress worth it? Was my wanting to be a father a product of my own “daddy issues,” or was it truly genuine? We honestly had given up trying to think about having a kid before it happened. Thanks to an open bar at a work event – EXPECTO PATERNUM. When conversations got tense, I wanted to call her unreasonable or even worse. But I didn’t. After a while, you find its much easier to do hurt to yourself than to someone you love. It’s much easier to put in the hurt early on. If you don’t, I’d avoid the pain and frustration when all the chips are on the table.

I’m not sure if any mother or father has felt this way before with those feelings of doubt, but I damn sure did on multiple occasions.

Ugh. Be right back. I have to head to the bathroom.

Temple of the Doghouse

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I know I annoy the shit out of Angela, pregnancy or no pregnancy. I already mentioned about my defense mechanisms. There was a good two-week period in the late summer of last year where I did nothing but sing “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. That would annoy anybody (besides myself). I’m sure if you are friends with me or know something about me, you have been annoyed by something I did. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m long winded (obviously) and can avoid confrontation in social situations like the plague.

The problem with pregnancy is that everything is confrontation. I got a daily dose of mom and daughter-to-be every day. I felt that I had to be “on” all the time. I can’t do that. I mean, what do celebrities do when their Instagram feed is down and the smiling stops?

Every day is opposite day during a pregnancy. Things that were funny before were soon spiteful and terrible. Things that are horrible were suddenly “ok” and “fine.” I could sometimes get a “whatever” out of her. Those were the salad days. This is the kind of dramatic emotional shell game we often played. It made me feel like a scumbag most of the time. I could repress the self hate, drink some, poop some, and go to sleep hoping the smile on my face looked genuine enough when I woke up. Don’t get me wrong: the smile was sincere and real most of the time. But there were days when I needed a knife to cut a smile into my face.

The question is: do I accept all of this angst that I have written about? Does it make me less of a man or a father, or completely human? I don’t know if all fathers went through these exercises throughout their term? How long should I remain a lame duck before I raise my hand and swear the oath? After all, I’m in it for the long haul, scumbag or not.

Maybe the media is to blame. Television and movies have preconditioned would-be dads about their failure. Take a look at some of the more popular films about pregnancy, and you will find a long list of scumbags, assholes, flight risks, and douches. I mean seriously – look at these films. What is the percentage of time the father figure is a douche canoe?

(All douche percentages are relative)
(All douche percentages are relative)

Maybe I am a scumbag. Maybe there are regrets and admissions. Is it bad to miss the things I used to do? I miss playing music. I wanted to travel much more than I did before (or after) getting married. I keep saying that I don’t want a Ph.D., but secretly I would love to be called “Dr. Eng” to please my father (dem Daddy Issues are creeping).

This pregnancy has been hard for me, but not in the conventional way you may see it. I lost my grandmother last summer, whom I loved dearly and wanted so desperately to meet Zelda. But she couldn’t hold on. She had to be rid of the pain. I do not blame her in the least, but it does make me upset.

I had a few close(ish) individuals skip out on the friendship thing. It first came in drips, but eventually I noticed my friend list shrinking considerably. I am not sure if the pregnancy and our “unfriending” is completely related, but we are nonetheless not on “speaking terms.” It’s really a shame. I hope we can be friends again one day. Maybe that’s on me.

According to one of theses friends (who isn’t my friend anymore), I was whining too much about everything I had to do: balancing life, work, the pregnancy, and the preparation of the coming of Zelda – basically this entire post. She was sick of hearing it. Maybe other people are too. I know it’s pathetic. I want to be John Wayne so hard sometimes, but find myself acting like John Bobbitt instead. But IT IS honest, which is a fucking rarity nowadays. If you’ve stuck along this far and don’t think less of me, I salute you.

I don’t need to hear about the bullshit of working hard and “having it all,” because I don’t believe that. You can’t have it all. You have to make sacrifices. I am confident that the hard work will pay off in my career and family. I will eventually find a rhythm to get back to those things that I used to do or wanted to do. But for now, all of that means nothing. Everything is for Zelda. Everything is for her. This isn’t about me anymore.

I think it’s much healthier to focus on what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be selfish to my child. I don’t want to look to possessions as my gold standard for living. I never want to tell her the price of something (within reason) or make her go to sleep on an empty stomach. I don’t want to see her cry because I skipped out on something for my own selfish reasons. I don’t want to tell her I am disappointed without meaning it. I don’t want to forget to tell her how much I love her everyday. I don’t want her to ever forget how much of a gift she is to Angela and I.

So that’s it. I’m in man. I’m fucking in. No turning back. We are way beyond the tip. This is me whipping it out and slapping it on the table.

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So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers – all false. The truth is that I may be a bad person. But that’s gonna change. I’m going to change. These are the last days of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and moving closer to her due date, thinking clearly and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already. I’m gonna be just like you. The job, the family, the fucking big flat screen television. The front loading washing machine, the smart car, the Bluetooth speaker and electric kettle, good healthcare plan, glucose free diet, dental copay, mortgage, unaffordable starter home, handmade dresses, matching bloomers, Kohl’s jacket, Pinterest fails, IKEA instructions, alcohol dependency, more children, walks in the park, nine to five rush hour, good at first person shooters, washing the dog, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, 401K, tax write-offs, clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead, the day you die.

Childbirth Class Part I: Psycho-Somatic Addict-Insane

PRODIGY

On the insistence of my in laws, we signed up for a birthing class. It’s an “intensive, two-day seminar” to get expectant parents “in the know” on all things baby and birthing. For the sake of scientific curiosity, I wanted to document the entire two-day process from start to finish.

The first thing we did with what little time we had before our 6pm class was go to the McDonald’s down the street. Angela had a pretty tough day at work, so she agreed to go there to eat her feelings. I don’t need an excuse to crush McDoubles (AKA McDubs, Dubs, DJamz), but I probably should. I scarfed my burger in the car as we sped towards the Alexandria Innova Hospital in light to moderate traffic. Innova is also the location where Zelda will be entering into the light world in less than a month. LESS THAN A MONTH. Jesus.

5:40pm
We get to the hospital and walked the very long and brisk walk towards the visitor entrance. The classroom was completely empty at 6:45. This was mostly due to the fact that a. the classroom was hard to get to on the other side of the hospital and b. we had to walk up a long flight of stairs to get to it. Come on. No elevator? Eight months pregnant? No problem!

The RN Instructor greeted us warmly(ish) and told us we had our pick of where to sit. I chose the middle of the classroom, because that is where the cool people really sit. By the time we signed in, another couple had arrived. They were carrying a big bag of what I can only assume was “stuff.” I guessed it had something to do with the class. Were we supposed to bring something this evening? Dammit. It’s like the it’s day of school all over again, and I’ve forgotten to bring my colored pencils. I am coming home with just a “satisfactory” sticker for the day.

5:50pm
More couples begin to show up. All of them have bags of “stuff.” Angela swears up and down that we did not need to bring anything. Eventually, a couple shows up WITHOUT a bag. Phew. At least we will not be the only assholes that have not come prepared. [Update: We didn’t need to bring anything.]

6:03pm
The class is just about full. Looking around, I am noticing that most of the women in here at least “look” like they are around Angela’s age. That means that some of these women are going through the ridiculous notion that they are “advanced age” and a “high risk” pregnancy. I hate that. All because she is 35.

6:05pm
Where the hell did the damn teacher go? I want this to start on time. I am usually in bed by the time this thing lets out (9pm).

6:08pm
The room is now completely full with couples. There are some women who look like they are at the start of their second trimester, while one woman in the back with a British accent looks like she is about to burst.

6:15pm
The class FINALLY starts. Within the first few lines of her opening statement, she has already made reference to the difficulties of dealing with a baby “once the father comes home from work and you need to prepare dinner.” So much for women’s lib, right?

6:20pm
Everybody is going around the room and introducing themselves. It was also a time for the women to open up about some of the main questions they had about giving birth. There was a constant theme of two words: pain and tearing. I think that could be a central theme of the evening. (Angela takes her pen and writes two words on the page: Natural Childbirth…oooOOOoooOOoo)

The RN just mentioned how your ribcage runs the risk of expanding and never completely going back into place. Damn. Being a woman is the worst! She keeps using words like “bend,” “stretch,” and “break.” Over and over again. What’s that? Oh, it will bend, stretch, and then fucking break. Let’s all laugh about busting your hymen because the kind of breaking that has the potential to happen will make that look like a picnic. I am pretty sure that my penis has retracted into my body. I am sorry for everything, ever. I might need to call my mom on my break to tell her I understand.

6:22pm
What the hell is a mucous plug?!

6:24pm
The teacher is mentioning Warning Signs for women during pregnancy. One of the bullet points is “vomiting or diarrheal lasting 24 hours or longer.” I’m sorry for everything, Angela. I feel like I should go put on a Smiths record and really think about the choices I have made in life.

6:35pm
We watch a short video about a woman in pre-term labor. She had her child at 32 weeks. Being that I was also a premature baby (3 lbs., 4.5 oz. at around the same time frame), this all scares the living shit out of me. It would be like Angela having the baby…tonight. No. No no no no no no.

No.

6:40pm
Nesting: This totally explains why we had to spend the whole damn weekend arranging things and throwing stuff out. It was cathartic for Angela. It was necessary either way. We threw away at least 100 pounds. of Angela’s former possessions. That is putting it nicely. These items have been purged on two other occasions (her move from her parents’ house and her move from our last house). How a bag of used tissues made it up here, I will never know. BUT SHE BLEW HER NOSE WITH THESE TISSUES THE NIGHT OF THE KMFDM CONCERT!!!!

Anyways.

6:43pm
They finally graphically explain what the mucous plug is…

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6:50pm
“Water may release in a trickle or gush [. . .] the liquid could be green, yellow or brown.” Hamburger churns in stomach.

6:55pm
“Have any of you seen your cervix?” (crickets)

Apparently, there will be a mirror in the labor and delivery room, just in case we want to get a peek. Score. She then proceeds to us powdered donuts to explain the 3cm dilation of a cervix. I used to really like powdered donuts.

7:00pm
She is now using a sock puppet to further explain effacement and dilation. This all looks so painful. I used to like puppets, too. It’s a long road to 10cm.

I think my penis is done. I am trading it in. One-way postage. It’s only been in hour and I can’t keep my toes from curling every five minutes. It must be my weak mind. Obi Wan would have a field day with me.

7:05pm
So, I am apparently supposed to cut the umbilical cord. She is now going over the need to “push out your placenta.” It looks like a giant bag of redness coming out of your body. It actually closely resembles a face hugger from Alien.

A woman in the room asks what contractions are like. Her response? “It’s like menstrual cramps….x100.” Ooof.

7:11pm
I have counting 17 times she has mentioned “vaginal bleeding” in the last ten minutes.

Apparently when you are 7cm dilated and need to go to the hospital, a woman is likely to feel “serious” or “focused.” I think that’s a really nice way of putting it. I don’t think those emotions are going to be going through her head at that point. I feel like it’s all going to be a bit like the labor scene from the first Look Who’s Talking.

7:25pm
Internal rotation is important. It’s like a good spiral on a football. Zelda, I am telling you right now: you better come out like a perfectly thrown Kirk Cousins TD pass come February. I like that.

The human body is so beautiful and terrible. We talk briefly about natural childbirth, and the questions are immediately thrown to the importance of an epidural. When I think of natural childbirth, I can’t help but run through the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Unfortunately, I think Morgan Freeman will not be in the greater DC area to give birth to my child. It’s a shame. He truly is the great one.

7:30pm
Take note: your child will be “warm and sticky.” We watched our first of two childbirths. This particular woman did it standing up with a midwife. When the baby came out, so much came out with it. SO MUCH.

7:40pm
Ten-minute break for Chex Mix/Soda/Rethink my life.

7:50pm
We are about to watch a full childbirth, or the “greatest hits” at least. I feel like I am sweating, but not. Let’s call it ghost sweat. I am ghost sweating in anticipation.

We start to watch “Christina’s Birth.” This video reminds me of those poorly shot, grainy videos we watched in sex ed. Everything seems kind of scripted and a bit inauthentic. But oh shit, it was authentic. We watched that baby come out Christina, crowning and all.

8:15pm
The video is now over. I think I’ll be able to tough it out and keep my burger in me. We move to discuss what we should pack in “our bag” for the trip to the hospital. One of the suggestions is a “mix cd.” I don’t think Innova Alexandria is ready for “Birth Jamz 2016.” It’s going to be the hottest mix tape to drop this year.

8:25pm-9:00pm
We finished the evening by practicing some breathing and meditation exercises. The floor was very hard and cold, and I had to lean up against the bottom of a heater. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable, but I could not begin to think how uncomfortable Angela was (very, apparently). The meditation was kind of meh, so I won’t go over that.

The breathing exercises were interesting. We tried four or five different types of exercises. Everything from short breaths (Two in, two out) to the standard 4 and 5 (four in through the nostrils, five exhales). The one I found really interesting was the classic Lamaze breathing (hoo hoo hee). Everybody started to do it out loud. I swear, the first thing that came to mind was the opening to the Prodigy song “Breathe.” I leaned into Angela while we were doing it and whispered “Psycho-Somatic Addict-Insane.” She laughed. After sitting hard for nearly 45 minutes, I think she needed it. If you think about it, that entire song is about pregnancy breathing methods. I mean, the song is called “Breathe” after all.

Let’s hope less ass-sitting and more Prodigy lyrics. I wonder if we can fit “Firestarter” into our birthing plan.

Don’t Be a Dick

I expect you

You are about to witness the strength of suburb knowledge.

The first book Angela and I bought after we found out about the pregnancy was What to Expect When Your Expecting. Heralded as the “Pregnancy Bible,” the book has sold over eighteen million copies since it first debuted in 1984. Every couple has it. LITERALLY everyone that is pregnant owns this book, and I only use the word “literally” when I am being completely serious. It is truly the Tide sample/Frampton Comes Alive of pregnancy books. Double Live Gonzo, dude.

As one would assume, most of it provides an overview of what women will experience during the course of their nine month pregnancy. Angela read it almost cover to cover within two days, commenting that it was both “straightforward” and “no nonsense.” Most reviews of the book say the exact same thing. What to Expect serves its purpose without pretension.

I wanted to be “in the know,” so I started to read it the moment she put it down. I was delighted to find there was a special section just for expecting fathers towards the end. The “Fathers Are Expectant, Too” chapter gives several pointers and suggestions about what men should do when their lady is preggo. As Angela said, it’s fairly straightforward, with such discussion titles as “Dealing with Her Symptoms,” “Feeling Left Out,” and “Surviving Her Mood Swings.” I read it quickly and put the book down feeling no less smarter about pregnancy than I was before I began.

Other books of a similar subject offer little help. The unofficial What to Expect for fathers (What to Expect While Your Wife is Expanding), is more humorous than informative. The first item brought up in the book’s main section (“What You May Be Concerned About”) discusses the horrific possibility of NOT having constant sex during the pregnancy. It’s as if they assume that a man’s genitals shrivel up when the blue line crosses the other on the pregnancy test. Worse than that, these authors have probably convinced countless men in the process. No, just no. I don’t want to be a punchline, just a good father.

There are good books on the subject out there, I just haven’t found them yet. And to be honest, I don’t know if I need to choke down the generalities anymore. Too basic. Too straightforward. The pumpkin spice latte of fatherly advice. To make matters worse, I think what these authors are basically trying to say to every expectant father is to NOT BE A DICK. That’s what it all boils down to, really. Why couldn’t they just say that and save 20 pages of material? How many trees can we save if we just said what we are all thinking? The earth mother weeps for you, mom and dad.

If I had to write my own book on expectant father’s, it would be one page long and simply read “Don’t Be a Dick.” Done.

It’s pretty simple. It has become my guiding principle since I first realized it. I have found over the past two and a half months that my needs are far outweighed by Angela’s. She is the one carrying my child, so naturally I should be the one who should shut up and focus on her issues from time to time. Let me first say that I’m not submitting to becoming a doormat. I am simply recognizing that life is far more difficult for her than it can ever be for me at this point. If I follow this one guiding principle, my reward is pretty sweet: a healthy baby girl. Why would I not make sure she is taken care of?

As a rule of thumb, I always make sure our conversations do not sound like I’m complaining about something, because she has a fetal trump card that is Aces high ten times out of ten. For example:

Me:  “Oh man, I am really tired. I worked really hard today.”

Angela: “I know you do. I’m sorry you’re tired. I love you.”

And the full translation:

Me: “WAHHHHHHHHHHHH WAHHHHH WAHHHHHHH.”

Angela: “SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place when I can vent about my troubles with her. I think what is important is understanding WHEN to lay down those cards. I made the mistake very early on in the pregnancy of attempting to get frisky. I think I said something along the lines of “love making” or “physical connection” (maybe I was worried my testicles would shrivel up?). She shot me a look like:

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From then on, I understood: DON’T BE A DICK (even when she doesn’t want it). And the funny thing is, she doesn’t have to be. I know she is interested in it. How the hell did we get into this mess in the first place?

I don’t think Angela want’s to get sexy. I think she wants to hear things that make her feel sexy, and those words usually don’t relate to how she looks or feels. Those words can include, but are not limited to:

  • “I’ll do the dishes and cook dinner”
  • “How many McChicken’s do you want?”
  • “I want you to get your rest”
  • “Let’s go shopping for makeup!”

You might not want to do these things. I can honestly say that the thought of fast food makes my stomach turn because of the frequency in which I have procured such vittles over the past two months. The most valuable things I learned thus far about pregnancy are not in any book that I know of. Here is my short list:

1. Make Her Laugh

We have been through a few rough patches over the course of the pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take a few moments to do the “Mike Dexter” dance from Can’t Hardly Wait in my underwear to make her smile a bit before bed. A little smile goes a long way, especially after she spent the course of the day eating laxatives like candy and throwing up every hour.

2. Leave Her Alone

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Let me be clear: I am still TERRIBLE AT THIS. Whenever she wants to be alone, I feel the need to attach myself to her like a lamprey. I tell her I am restless and writhe around the bed like a chicken with its head cut off. I know now that the time she spends along might be special time with our growing daughter, and I want to respect that. It’s not all the time, but painfully obvious when it does occur. I think the best thing any guy can do is leave enough space to be heard but not seen. She’ll let you know when she wants you there.

3. Know When to Smother Her

As much as I want to give her space nowadays, I have found that there are times when she wants to be bombarded with affection. No, I am not talking about sex. A peen does not affection make. I am talking about kisses and snuggles and the magic that comes with watching a child develop before your eyes. I can’t describe it any better than that: it’s magic. I have to keep asking Angela if she is a wizard.

Above all, it is important to not be a dick to your partner. Make her laugh and feel special. Let her know that you will always be there and can’t wait to meet your child.

You Hate Our Pregnancy and That is OK

d7e14310c0261a3c5f84b11d7f8e91f4WELL, it has already started.

For many of you that have had children in the Internet age (can we say Web 2.0 anymore? Is that still a thing? I need to look it up on “the google”), one of the most pressing concerns a new couple has when they add a plus one is the fear of losing friends. It becomes a faustian bargain they make with themselves: do I post pictures of the pregnancy/baby, or do I keep my friends?

You start to see the signs. In the age of vague-booking, it’s a lot easier to see. I mean, it is literally in your face every time you log in. The other warning signs are there:

a. The same group of friends like or comment on posts about pregnancy
b. People begin to post about how much they dislike couples who post about pregnancy (or post links about it)
c. You can feel their distance, even when talking to them online

And if that isn’t enough, they do the most final thing anyone can do to end a friendship: they will unfriend you. This recently happened to Angela and I for somebody we have spent a fair amount of time with. I won’t go into the reasoning behind the unfriending, because I don’t want to be THAT person.

But I will say this to everyone who has felt anything from letters a to c above: This was all part of our plan.

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For months, Angela and I paced around our house trying to figure out how to properly find a way to piss certain people off. It was maddening. I thought I was a man who had all the ideas. I thought I was creative. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I couldn’t figure it out.

Having a child has nothing to do with becoming a father. I don’t think that is important. Well, maybe like five percent. It has nothing with my life long desire to be a father and watch something beautiful I created with a woman grow up. No, not at all. Truly, it was our deliberate choice to only get pregnant because we wanted to piss YOU off. So, with the recent news that some of our former friends are upset at this recent development. I am here to report that everything is going according to plan. No no. There’s no need to say anything now. Shh……hush now, sweet child. It will all be over soon. Let  me just smother you with this pillow of pregnancy pics.

But seriously, bravo. Thank you.

We worried so hard about finding the right way to piss you off. We first thought of both starting Crossfit and taking Instagram pictures of us working out. No, not good enough. I need a direct injection of hate.

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So we did. We then explored the idea of being crazy political fanatics and posting our own personal politics on Facebook ON BLAST, threatening our own friendship solely based on our political persuasion. Again, a fatal miss. We decided against that too, although that is always a solid backup. In the end, we found that having a baby was the only way to properly anger everyone at the same time. When we were in the process of getting pregnant, I was screaming out your name while listening to Zack Attack’s “Did We Ever Have a Chance.” Why? Why all the fuss? Because I felt the gods would hear our cries and grant us with a tiny friend ender. The gods have spoken and heard our cries for help.

So, this is an appreciation post. Thank you for showing us that you dislike our decision to become parents. Thank you for the friends who, despite this, are still attempting to feign interest in our lives. You poor bastards. Those crazy assholes who are all like, “I value Matt and Angela as good friends, despite their happiness of getting pregnant.” Ugh. You sad sacks of monkey shit. The real winners are the ones who outright despise our guts, or think less of us already for making this decision.

Life uh..uh..uh…finds a way. So does finding out who your real friends are.

Pizza the Hut

On our way out of Target Monday evening, I noticed Angela looking into the distance at the nearby cafe. It wasn’t sadness that I saw in her eyes…it was longing. What the hell could she want so badly in a Target cafe? I scanned over to my right and ignored the nice lady who tried to sell me a Target card for the 56,956th time. In reality, I didn’t need to look with my eyes. I looked with my nose. As I smelled the all-to-familiar smell of my childhood, Angela let out two words. The words were low and silent, like a silent whisper you tell your lover in the throws of passion. Those two words were “Pizza Hut.”

Pizza the Hut is going to send out for ME.
Pizza the Hut is going to send out for ME.

The aroma of Pizza Hut is intoxicating. Like Subway, the smell emitting from the cafe is unmistakably distinct. It’s like riding a bike for your stomach – you always remember. I hope scientists are working on a way to make the scent of Pizza Hut into a cologne or body spray. Either way, it would smell better than Axe. Don’t stand here and deny that Pizza Hut is not the best of the fast food pizza chains. Sure, there are few sit-down restaurants available now…and it’s true that for every Pizza Hut closing, there are four other Little Caesar’s opening up. But I did not want to “bite bite” or “sip sip.” I wanted to taste what I smelled. I needed to feel feelings. And my feelings du jour was Pizza Hut. It’s the only restaurant other than McDonalds that I can pinpoint my childhood to: Book It personal pan pizzas, Land Before Time toys, and the occasional arcade game of Joust while my family waited for our “Bigfoot” piece of rectangular onset diabetes.

The next day, Angela prompted me to get some pizza for dinner. Shocker. She read my mind. I read hers. We are legion, for we crave the Hut. After a bit of debating on what we wanted on our pie (cheese and sausage), I was out the door and into the dark abyss that is Route I in Alexandria.

I came home with the goods. Angela dug into the first slice with a ferocity akin to a junkie getting their fix. I can’t even be mad. After eating healthy over the last few days, I knew she craved something greasy and carb-based. I want to describe how we felt when we ate it. It was a lot like this dance, displayed in the 2000 suckfest Down to You (which I watched last night, because I apparently hate myself):

down-to-you

People who work out have “cheat days.” Why can’t  my pregnant wife? The difference is, Angela is feeding her animalistic need for cravings, which I feel is totally justifiable. At least she doesn’t have to post 56 similar photos of doing squats or WODs like some of the lovable dbags I am friended with on Facebook. I would rather watch her lift a slice of cheese pizza to her mouth any day…just not everyday. I have to sample the product as well, and this junkie has already OD’d on too many pizza pies to begin with. I am the Tom Sizemore of pizza eating. Still, before we talk to Dr. Drew, I think we can indulge in some deliciousness every once in a while.

SHHHH

World’s Okayest Dad

Well, it is official: I am going to be a dad.

This is truly an amazing thing. It has now been two months since Angela and I first found out and it is still a new and welcome surprise to wake up to every day.

zelda announcement

To be more specific, we are going to have a girl. We plan to name her Zelda (for the obvious reasons you can assume). Zelda Elizabeth Eng. I like the sound of that. I like the sound of me telling people I am going to be a dad. It sounds good to me, and not in the arrogant way friends of yours on Facebook will casually drop hints that their band or work/job accomplishment du jour is superior to everything else within their tiny ecosystem of self loathing. Although most of the family on my Chinese side wished that this upcoming bun in the oven was a boy to carry on the “Eng” family name, nobody disputes that our daughter will be magnificent. Somebody is going to call me “daddy,” and not in the creepy way somebody with “daddy” issues uses it in the throes of passion. I am talking about the little girl with her hand grasping my finger while we walk kind of way. It’s the promise of undying love and affection. It’s truly something I have always wanted.

I can say the previous statement in full honesty. Even when there were those times in my twenties where I thought it would come prematurely (pun INTENDED), I knew I wanted it. Since my teenage years, I have always had two of the same dreams. One of these has since gone away. The first dream was that I wanted to be a rockstar. Christ, my AOL screen name was “deancainrockstsr.” UGH. How lame and conceited is that? Unfortunately, that dream was put to bed with an extra dose of sleeping pills. I am totally okay with that. I made my peace with that one years ago. The second dream was being a dad. That specific dream was one I could never let go of. Thankfully, I waited for the perfect person, who became my perfect wife, and is now going to be the perfect mother. Check and mate.

Now that my dream is coming true, I have plenty of time to synthesize all my wishes and dreams. This is not the kind of lamentable afterthought you have while you take a painfully long piss at a bar and stare deeply into the tiled wall in front of you. This is the kind of insightful reflection that keeps you up at night (but in a good way). I think this profound feeling of pleasure I possess inside of me would feel completely different during the three core stages of my adult life, roughly when I was 18, 25, 28, and 31). The newly minted 18-year old adult in me, having special knowledge of my impending fatherhood, would undoubtedly feel this way:

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The post grad school, single working adult version of me at age 25 would be more shocked and scared than anything else…kind of like Brad Pitt in Fight Club seen here:

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For a while there after we started to get serious, Angela and I were concerned that a baby might get in the way of our budding relationship. Of course, if it did happen, I think I would have been happy. The recently engaged, almost married 28-year old version of me would be as surprised as he was excited:

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And last but certainly not least, we get to the current version of me, who welcomes our child with open arms and is completely at peace with pretty much everything, minus a few hangups about the use of the designated hitter or the incessant need for reality television to continue to both disgust and delight me simultaneously. Thanks to my friends this weekend, I figured out the most appropriate gif to culminate this gloroius moment:

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BABIES EVERYWHERE.

I knew that Angela would be a good mother. CLEARLY that is why I stalked her outside of a hotel in St. Louis five years ago. Even with her stories of teenage angst that will undoubtedly pass on to our daughter, I am positive that she will own her new title as much as I hope I will. I love a good challenge, and fatherhood seems to be the quest this player has never completed.

Maybe it’s just me, but this is the happy time. These are the salad days: the time we always hoped for. Although this is only the first in a long series of contributions to this new adventure in life spelled out in painfully plain English on this blog, I look forward to the future more now than I ever have before. Eleanor Roosevelt famous said that the future “belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

I strongly believe that, because the picture inside my head looks amazing.