OG DAD: Stir Crazy



Jesus, this fucking waiting! It’s like, if I were paranoid, I would actually be wondering if this baby-to-be kind of hates us. Or, more accurately, hates me.

What going on there in Wombville? Has she heard me fart? Why is she shunning our invitation? Last to leave the party in mommy-gut…

Being the type who never acknowledges stress or emotion, and instead drives blithely into phone poles while chewing his tongue, I have, during this (massively long) wait for our overdue daughter, developed a festive rash on my face. Think pepper spray victim, or ringworm, but more garish. It’s the kind of look that makes strangers back away slowly at the supermarket, groping for Purell.

What happened, see, during our last visit to the baby doctor, was that she mentioned, casually, that there was a mini-outbreak of leprosy in Austin. Well, actually, more of a minor plague… Okay, one lonely case. But still. Less than three hours later, I began to break out in fire engine red blotches, lumps and pustules across my forehead. And let’s not even talk about the itch. (I once had a pal in first grade who wiped his ass with poison oak in the woods. I imagine now my face feels like his sphincter felt.) Seriously, I am so itchy, I stand in front of the mirror with a cheese grater, thinking Should I?

Anyway, that night, between painful contractions, false alarms, and bloody panty-liner panic (a result of the membrane stripping), my girlfriend offers a bit of old racetrack wisdom, suggesting the best thing for an out-of-control rash was—what else?—a nice hot oatmeal bath. All well and good, except that, not being a look-at-the-label type, E grabbed the organic oats off the shelf, then dumped them around me in, as Mitt Romney would say, severely hot water.

So, voila! In three minutes, like some lost episode of The Lucy Show, there I am, sitting in a batch of beautifully congealed, ready-to-eat oatmeal.

“Well,” said E, blessed with an unimpeachable deadpan, “should we add raisins or just dump you in the disposal?”

All of which I mention, not to hammer home the fact that life, on occasion, imitates sitcom. But to demonstrate the depths to which two humans, unable to really go anywhere or do anything, having been told that childbirth is imminent, will descend. I mean, where do you want to be when your water breaks? The circus? An Olive Garden? Watching a Vin Diesel movie?

No, we’re playing it safe. Staying at home, in a palatial three-micro-roomed rental in Hyde Park, Austin, scoping MSNBC, trying to write, snacking out on elaborate avocado-walnut-and-mystery toast concoctions, reading, or walking our Basenji all day. (Writers, you know, have a little extra free time.) But, speaking of Basenji, I heartily recommend this breed for anyone who wants a dog but does not, you know, want a dog-dog. They don’t bark, they sleep like cats, they tend to have the same face as  the late-inning alcoholic Judy Garland, and best of all, you can wear them around your neck, like their original owners, Gambian antelope hunters, were wont to do in ancient times. How do I know this? Google, of course. You tend to do a lot of Googling when you’re cooped up waiting for your fucking baby to be born. (Wait—did I just write “fucking baby?” Jesus! Strike that from the record! I already love that little scoop of ice cream more than life and living. I just wish Satan would move things along.)

Speaking of Google, did you know that Benjamin Franklin invented tampons? Stick around!

After an afternoon spent alternately studying her belly-globe—“hey come here, feel how hard this is!”—finishing Joshua Mohr’s insanely great novel Termite Parade, absorbing coverage of Obama’s Gay Marriage announcement, E Googled Crystal Ball, her fave political commentator,  and found a photo of her mouthing a dildo at a Christmas party, thereby cementing her girl-crush. “I love her,” she says, showing me the picture, “she’s brilliant as shit, and she knows how to have a good time.”

I have to agree. “Show me Wolf Blitzer fondling a sex toy, and maybe that bearded minge would be halfway watchable.”

And so it goes. The proverbial elephant in the room is the unborn newborn herself. But we talk around it, puttering like addled rest home residents, already sleep-deprived, not from some wailing crumb-cruncher, but from the weird festering pressure of knowing what’s in the mail. E is terrified—as who wouldn’t be?—of the pain to come, and, simultaneously, terrified the pain won’t ever come. What will come, what keeps coming, are drops of panty-staining blood, mysterious rib anguish, palpitations, shuddering fetal kidney-kicks, and so on. “Oh Jesus… Fuck!” she’ll shriek, “it feels like someone is wrenching my uterus out with a claw-hammer.”

Now it’s evening. E’s belly is a roiling maw of agony, her feet swollen as a marathon dancer as she and I go about the business of repacking the “hospital bag” the doctor advised us to pack, making sure we know where the car keys are—I can’t swear it’s not early senility on my part, but they keep surfacing in the freezer—and, last but not least, helping haul her newly ample ass off the couch, to look for her baby-papers. These, while too complicated to describe, are nothing compared to the Cord Blood pack. We’ve signed on to save the umbilical cord blood for stem cell purposes—who knows when you’ll need a batch?—but the red tape involved alone is enough to incline one to brain surgery, preferably lobotomy. (January Jones, apparently, freeze-dried her placenta and munches it like corn chips, but we’re still on the fence about placenta snacks.)

In any event, here we are, in a private cocoon of expectation, literally waiting for agony, for ecstasy, for whatever combo platter of lifelong joy, obligation, pressure, weirdness, fun, and crushing debt is to come. The greatest moment of my life—and excuse me if I’m all dewy-eyed, but cynics, as Voltaire once said (or was it Cher?) are just failed romantics—the greatest moment of my life was feeling my now-grown daughter’s tiny form on my chest, when she herself was newly hatched. And the prospect of going through it again, of getting the opportunity,  what can I say, to do it on the natch, is just too much. The first time, thanks for asking, there was some heroin involved. And now, well now, call me a wild man, it’s more about 4 a.m. guacamole and 2 p.m. naps. But a man’s got to what a man’s got to do.

But who am I kidding? If that fucking baby doesn’t get here soon, I’m going to need an epidural myself.


Rumpus original art by Jason Novak.

Jerry Stahl has written 8 books, including Permanent Midnight, Bad Sex On Speed, and I, Fatty. His new novel, Happy Mutant Baby Pills, is now out from Harper Perennial. More from this author →