When we last left off, dear readers, I had haphazardly awoken one day to find out I was going to have a baby. Despite not being married, not financially secure, not mature enough, or not part of the couple having said baby, I had embraced the idea of having a wee one running about. I was excited at the prospect of there being a small version of my friends, and curious to see how it would change us as a family. Yeah. We're a family.
Please recall (and how can you really forget with how many times I've said it) is that this was NOT MY BABY. I felt like this was a Talking Heads song: "This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! And I think to myself how did I get here?" I had been living with my married friends for about a year at this point, and had known them for way longer. There were few secrets between us at this point and nothing was really taboo.
In other words, the awkward passing by in my underwear was LESS awkward.
We had our routines. We had our norms and traditions.
For example, I'd come home from a day of tutoring, and I'd make dinner at around 6:30 or 7. We'd eat while watching recorded tv or while sitting at the table, and we would talk about our day. Despite our busy schedules, we tried to make this a nightly thing during the week.
I remember the first time this was interrupted on account of the baby. They had a meeting with a "doula". I had zero idea what that was, and I still really don't. I guess it's a birthing assistant…? Let's be honest, I didn't care. I was making shrimp and pea risotto and… what? We aren't eating shrimp anymore? Or any fish? Well fine! I'll just throw it all out!
This baby wasn't even born and it was already tearing us apart!
In fairness, playing Manny was actually pretty easy. At first. All I had to do was carry things that Mom otherwise couldn't carry. Then came slight changes to our groceries like no more fish. Or cured lunch meats. Or was it uncured? Then I had to stop buying wine and beer.
I changed my eating habits to "pitch in" and make it easier on her.
Then the bigger changes came, and not in gentle waves. These were soul-crushing tsunamis. The first came when I had to change rooms. I was situated in the guest bedroom upstairs, next to my friends' room. That, obviously, would make an ideal nursery. Only problem is there was no other room for me to go to. Solution: turn the loft into a third bedroom. A third, much tinier bedroom on the second floor that had no bathroom. I now had to walk upstairs to my old bathroom or downstairs to the guest bathroom if I had to pee in the middle of the night. I know I could could use the exercise, but these stairs didn't agree with me. I thought I should not constantly fall down them, and they thought otherwise.
I had to move all of my stuff, including my bed, dressers, etc. down a narrow flight of said treacherous stairs into said tiny room. I also had to paint my new room. But this nursery also had to be painted! We sat and painstakingly picked out the color scheme, procured the materials, and got to work.
Did you know paint fumes are dangerous to pregnant women? I did not! So we kept her off of that floor. And turns out that my buddy also deemed that dad shouldn't be around the fumes, leaving me to finish it up on my own (note: we eventually hired professional painters to come in and finish it all up, and redo the whole house as I was not skilled on a ladder or at corners).
The next few months were full of reorganizing, baby proofing, baby prepping, assembling baby furniture, and otherwise being the best goddamned manny money could buy.
I wasn't being paid.
Seriously, if this baby came the next day, I could be bags packed, in the car, and at Cedars Sinai in twelve minutes flat. But the baby was NOT coming the next day. There was nine months of this waiting around with my thumb up my ass. Not literally, of course. I needed all ten fingers to help out.
The worst change of all resided in my friend, the mom-to-be. She was obviously growing more, well, pregnant. And she was not your ideal pregnant woman. I'd have been happier with a woman who got emotional, and teary, and loafed about watching TV. You know, how a man who has never seen a pregnant woman might write her into a movie.
No, instead she would waddle about, trying to do everything, while bitching about how "dumb" being pregnant was. A surly pregnant mom. The only joys she got were taking jabs at me. It had to be funny to outsiders looking on, as I was not married to this woman. Hell, we didn't even get along half the time. We were like a brother and sister, constantly insulting and berating one another.
It would go something like this:
Mom: Ugh, this is dumb.
Me: What is?
Mom: Other than your stupid face? Being pregnant.
Me: Okay. It's dumb?
Mom: Yeah. It's dumb! You try it.
Me: I can't.
Mom: Yeah you can't. You'd have to get laid first, dummy.
Me: But even then, I --- what are we even talking about?! What do you want?
Mom: A beer.
Me: You can't have a beer. And this is Starbucks. Try again.
Mom: … I don't know if I like your attitude! I will slap you in front of all these people!
Barista: Do you guys need a minute?
Mom: Hiiiiiii. No, we're fine. I'll have a latte and this idiot will have an iced coffee.
Me: Help me.
It went on like this, for months in my friend's absence. He was gone on business and all of his responsibilities were now mine.
Wait. Not all of them. Ew.
And as she tried to carry something, or stay up late into the evening to do some work, or otherwise be on her feet all day and not eat, the burden of telling her to knock it off fell on me.
We carried on this way for nine solid months. She'd fight the notion of being incapacitated by pregnancy, and I'd fight her and cook, clean, and build. I was nesting.
It was a weird feeling. I didn't HAVE to do any of this. But I took it upon myself. Was I just a good friend or was there something else to it? Was I growing up? Was I tapping into some neo-paternal instinct? And when the hell could I have a glass of scotch again?