When I first held my son, he looked up and whimpered before nuzzling my chest. It was a kick to the tear ducts, and I felt like time stopped as my heart expanded into a new dimension.
My father goggles are welded on. The little man is a complete upgrade over me: better-looking, smarter, funnier, kinder, and bursting with expression…built by the finest in plant-based nutrition and genetic material from the Eurasian subcontinent. His face belongs in the dictionary next to the word, “Prototype.” An orchestra should play Handel’s “Messiah” whenever he bestows a room with his presence.
Several hours after my son’s arrival, the nurse came in.
Nurse: Your son is due for a hearing test. It’s down the hall, should I take him or would you like to bring him?
Are you serious? My baby’s first time away from his mother, and you’re asking if I want to be there? Of course I do! How can I not? Do parents actually refuse this?
Me: I’ll wheel him over.
I took a firm grip of his clear plastic bassinet and backed into the hallway. Realizing it was my son’s first foray into society, I went into Asian tourist mode.
Me: This is the hallway, it connects all the rooms. In that room is the lady who came in right after your mommy. She was in paaaaaaaain. That room is where they keep the fentanyl. They need to lock it up or else the doctors will take it for personal use. There’s the doctor who delivered you. There’s the nurse who gave you your first bath. There’s a Mexican guy. His people are reclaiming America by outbirthing the rest of us.
We rolled into the testing room and queued up behind a Korean woman with her new daughter.
Me: Hi. Congratulations.
Woman: Are you Korean?
We’re off to a bad start.
Woman: (Looking at my son’s placard) How many weeks was he?
Me: 41. Fully cooked.
Woman: (scoffs) Weeeeeell, mine was 37, but she’s already bigger. (9 lbs, 12 oz)
What the…did you just…oh hell no! I don’t think so…Homey don’t play dat! She even threw in an “already,” as if my son is lagging behind. Aren’t we supposed to exchange platitudes about how cute each other’s babies are? My first interaction with a fellow parent and she’s touting her kid’s plumpness as a sign of superiority. Something’s wrong when a woman so obese has a baby of that size at 37 weeks. Diabetes anyone? Okay…calm down…she may have psychological issues with the birthweight. It’s projection or whatever. If anyone deserves a break, it’s someone who just shoved a human through her peehole. Gosh…she’s still looking at my son like he’s a lesser life form. Gotta say something.
Me: How tall is your baby?
Woman: 18 inches.
Me: Oh…mine’s over 20. So he’s not necessarily smaller, he’s just…
I wish I had that Evie Garland power to stop time and assess my options. On one hand, don’t be mean. On the other hand, she scoffed at my boy!
Me: Less fat.
Option 2 was “leaner,” but I went for the “F” word. Took me 30 years to be able to pull the height card on someone. Thanks son.
After an awkward silence, the technician came to wheel the woman’s daughter into the testing area.
Tech: We’ll be a few minutes, you can watch through the window. (to baby) Say bye to mommy.
Woman: (to baby) You pass that test.
Me: (puzzled stare)
Woman: What is your son going to be?
Me: Haven’t thought that far ahead. What about your daughter?
Woman: She is going to be a doctor. Maybe work here. Good benefits.
Me: What if she doesn’t want to be a doctor?
Woman: She doesn’t know what she wants.
Was Amy Chua’s book bankrolled by therapists and divorce lawyers?
More awkward silence. I did a quick reswaddle, during which my son had a bout of flatulence.
Other kids fart. My son blows B-flats out of his asshole. Is he smiling because he feels gas relief or because the sound was funny? If it’s the latter, he’s in great shape for the hearing test.
Tech: Ma’am, your daughter passed.
Woman: What percentage of newborns pass?
Tech: Most newborns pass the hearing test. It’s to screen for hearing impairment.
Woman: Does she get a score?
Woman: (disappointed) Oh. K.
Poor baby girl. I wouldn’t mind being slightly hearing impaired with a mother like that. Good luck at Kumon fat camp.
My son also passed. The tech noted that my son appears very observant, which made me happy because in Tiger Dad land, I’d want him to be a Supreme Court Justice.
Later that day, I passed by Tiger Mom’s room and overheard an argument between her and her husband. I stopped walking, pretended to check my phone, and eavesdropped because I’m nosy like that. Husband kept raising his voice, saying “shut up,” “my kid,” and “what’s wrong with you?” I gave their door one hard pound to interrupt his yelling and walked along.
The L&D unit is the medical version of Disneyland. His wife just gave birth and he treats her like garbage. Can’t imagine life at home. The mom must want her daughter to be a doctor so she won’t have to put up with a husband like that. When she said her daughter “doesn’t know what she wants,” perhaps she fears that her daughter will share her fate. I feel kind of bad now. I have everything I want in life, I’m who and where I want to be, and I have far better luck than I deserve. Maybe I shouldn’t have sniped with that woman. Last thing she needs is more self-doubt and feelings of isolation. It’s like that quote I read on a poster a long time ago, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Nope, no regret. She should stand up to her husband rather than take her misery out on strangers, and you don’t scoff at babies.
A few hours after my son aced his pass/fail hearing exam, we were due for our second adventure: his circumcision. I felt guilty because little Mark had just learned the art of feeding and passing out in a comfortable position.
I was nervous about the procedure for two reasons. First, an errant snip could mean the end of my family name. My dad’s four brothers have five sons among them. Those five male cousins of mine have only sired female children with no plans for more. Since Team Y won the Great Sperm War of 2012 and my son is the sole carrier of the family banner into the next generation, we couldn’t afford any mistakes.
Second, an errant snip significantly lowers my son’s quality of life. The penis is every man’s treasure, and one is effectively neutered if he doesn’t have confidence in it. Men love to play the game. We enjoy a good chase. However, the flowers, jokes, compliments, and door-opening are for naught if we can’t perform sexually…and women won’t shop at a place that advertises goods that aren’t in stock. I don’t want my son being dragged into Bloomingdale’s as a penance for not getting it up. Thus, I prayed to several spiritual figures in hopes of a smooth procedure.
God, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, Osiris…please let this go well. If any sacrifices need to be made, I offer myself as tribute.
No lightning bolts hit me between the legs, and I took this as a good sign.
I brought my little man to the operating room where he and three other newborn boys were simultaneously pinned down like the Vitruvian Man. In came the doctor, a portly black man with impeccable dental hygiene.
His gums are so perfect. So pink. Like…watermelon. Was that a racist thought? No…it’s the only apt comparison I can come up with. He speaks so well. I don’t mean for a black guy, I mean for a human being. His diction is stellar. He should read audiobooks. Like Morgan Freeman.
After inspecting the other boys and clearing them for foreskin takeoff, the doctor arrived at our station to inspect the restraints and supplies.
Doctor: How are we doing here?
Me: All is good. Please have a steady hand, I’m already envisioning grandkids.
Doctor: (chuckling) Not to worry. We use the most advanced methods here. Let’s see…ok, ok, ok…hmm.
What do you mean “hmm?” That’s not the reaction a penis is supposed to get. Is something wrong? Is it crooked? Is a ball missing?
Another “hmm?” This can’t be good. The doctor looks at penises all day and my boy gets the “hmm.” Whatever the problem is, blame his mother.
The three other fathers curiously looked over at my son’s crotch to see what the freak show was. In any other context that would be felonious behavior.
After a few seconds and another “hmm…”
Doctor: This one needs a bigger clamp.
Whatever this man gets paid, it isn’t enough. If he’d used the wrong clamp and cut too much off, my son would endure pain and suffering throughout his life. Can’t put a value on that. Gosh what a great lawsuit. I’d sue everyone in the building. And win millions of dollars…and live on my own island…and eat three Michelin stars a day. We’re just talking a tiiiiiiny bit of skin…snap out of it, your son wouldn’t be happy.
Son: I can’t get it up.
Me: But you have a Ferrari!
Not worth it.
The deities answered my prayers. The procedure was a success and thus unfit for civil litigation. I wheeled my son back to the room with a wide smile. My wife was rested and walking about, so I crawled onto the hospital bed for my first sleep in 40 hours. I reclined the bed all the way, slipped on my earphones, and fell asleep to “Beatles for Sale,” the first album my dad and I sang along to.