Sunday, September 14, 2008

Right of Passage

At each new stage of life, we go through a right of passage. Wikipedia defines a rite of passage as a ritual that marks a change in a person's social or sexual status. Since parenthood is definitely a change in one's social and sexual status, it makes sense that it would be accompanied by a substantial (read "ass-kicking") right of passage - pregnancy.

I believe that is why pregnancy takes nine, long, miserable months. It takes that much time for a parent-to-be to look at themselves in the mirror and say I am ready to do this - to be a parent. (They are still lying to themselves but after seven or eight months you start believing your own lies.) During those long months of pregnancy, a woman is preparing her body and her mind for motherhood. The process isn't a conscious one most of the time. It just happens. She slowly starts contemplating what "really matters." She puts her shallow ideas about body image, appearance and grooming aside and manages to go out in public even though she is 30+ pounds bigger and covered in acne. She realizes sleep is overrated and stays up half the night waiting for her baby to start kicking again. She stops blowing her disposable income on purses and shoes and instead looks forward to buying Hooter Hiders and Baby Einstein videos. (Uhhh...scratch that. I'll never give up a good purse but I do have three more months for this "miracle" transition to take place.)

Fathers-to-be do not have the around-the-clock preparation for parenthood like women. HOWEVER, men do go through a right of passage in order to prepare for fatherhood. It may not be as intense as a growing belly, morning sickness or labor pains, but for some fathers it can be just as difficult. Fathers-to-be have the important task of assembling all of the baby furniture. The crib, the stroller, the swing, the changing table - it all requires assembly of some kind. From time to time you will hear about the importance of assembling baby furniture together correctly for fear of trapping your child between the headboard and mattress BUT NO ONE tells you that putting together a crib is probably one of the hardest, most frustrating activities.

Saturday at lunchtime, Court generously offered to assemble the crib. When we ordered the crib about a month ago it was on back order until the end of October. To our amazement, it showed up on our doorstep about three weeks ago and since then I have been chomping at the bit to put it together. (I assembled the stroller myself last week and have been pushing it around the house like a toddler pushing around her dolly.)

The crib we purchased came with directions but not the kind that are written in English and that clearly tell you what to do. The "instructions" were just a bunch of pictures that allow you to infer what piece goes where. There were ten drawings or ten steps in all. We made it to step nine and the pieces were starting to resemble a crib. Little did we know that step eight would be the last step we would complete - at least for a while.

Step nine directed us to attach the "sliding" rail of the crib. A crib with a sliding rail is usually a selling point. It allows an exhausted mother or father to approach the crib, touch the rail ever so slightly thus effortlessly lowering one side of the crib so they can access their screaming, starving baby without throwing out their back. Genius. (Unfortunately, the genius stopped there. I don't think crib manufacturers have update the engineering of cribs since the 70s and assembling them is nothing to sneeze at. I now understand why crib manufacturers do not offer crib assembly as part of their delivery service.)

When we attached one side of the sliding rail, the other side would come unattached. When we would re-attach the fallen side, the attached side would come undone. We did this for about 20 minutes, when Court, in frustration, punched the floor. He punched the floor as hard as he could and began squirming in pain. Instantly, I knew he had broken his hand but it took him another 20 minutes of panting and pacing before he acknowledged that his hand might be broken and we needed to head to the hospital.

A few hours and a few pain pills later, Court was x-rayed and splinted. He did indeed fracture his pinky finger. They call it a "Boxer's Fracture" because that is where a boxer would most likely fracture his hand when punching an opponent - or in Court's case, a floor. Court will remain in the splint until the swelling goes down and then his doctor will determine whether a cast is needed. Either way, his right hand is out of commission for six weeks.

The only thing hurting more than Court's hand was his pride when he had to tell the nurses and doctors at the hospital how he had broken his hand. One nurse didn't even blink an eye at Court's story. She told us that when she was pregnant with her first child, her husband was admitted to the hospital (while she was on duty) because he had driven a nail through his wrist while in the process of assembling their crib. Nail through the wrist, broken hand, 24 hour labor - they are all about the same on the right of passage pain scale, right?!

Lucky for Court, the crib arrived early allowing him to break his hand and fully recover before Grace's birth. (I can't believe I will still be pregnant when his cast is removed!) The good news is each of us can now have a hospital bracelet for the baby book! (And Court won't be able to get out of diaper changes or late night feedings!)
I guess Court is ready to be a father since we finished the crib yesterday - broken hand and all! I still have three more months before my "right of passage" graduates me to "parentdom." Honestly, I think Court got the easy end of the deal here!

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