A deep sigh tells me I'm making a fool of myself. Even before I finished speaking. The look of disbelief the midwife gives me confirms my uncomfortable feeling. I now know I am the male nitwit who knows nothing. Help! Will somebody please translate this baby-speak! I used to think I was rather well informed about parenthood. Heaven knows, we talked about it for hours on end. But as it turns out, I know nothing at all. Nothing about anything that matters, that is.
I know I should keep my mouth shut to avoid any further slipping up. Instead, I put my foot into it over and over again. That's why I would like to address all male readers, to help them avoid embarrassing moments at the midwife’s. Back to our own midwife. If you think such visits are only concerned with the growing belly, you’re as naïve as I was. It’s about the future as well. About deliveries (and I’m not talking about pizzas), napkins (not those you wipe your fingers on), and rompers. Rompers? You heard correctly. Rompers. When I first heard the word, my face became one big question mark. It was an English word, obviously, but it might as well have been Chinese. A pair of rompers? Of course, there are quite a few babies among our acquaintances. But as far as I know these wear ordinary clothes. Such as trousers, a sweater, socks. And yes, I’ve seen nappies being changed. But the term rompers did not occur in my vocabulary.
So I will explain. A pair of rompers is a small suit that’s worn over the nappy and underneath the baby’s outer garments. It has buttons at the bottom to facilitate the changing of nappies. And that’s when I made the remark that resulted in that sigh and that look. ‘Aha, so it’s like a bodystocking.’ Wrong. The two garments couldn’t be more different. One cannot compare the baby’s suit to sexy women's lingerie. The two are worlds apart.
From that moment, I made an agreement with myself not to make any more silly mistakes. Which doesn’t mean to say that I have become a voracious reader. I am leaving that to my wife. I limit myself to the popular books that poke fun at young, inexperienced daddies. For example, I’ve memorised the top five of things not to say while your wife is in labour. For example, ‘Is that ever going to return back to normal?’ or ‘Wow, that's a nice bit of skirt’, about a nurse. You might as well hang yourself on the spot.
I have to admit I visited a haptonomist for tips during labour. I was against it. I don't like all this quackery. But my wife insisted. And once I arrived, my feelings of apprehension were confirmed. The stuff he kept underneath his desk was covered in dust. Not a good sign, I thought. And even his words were dusty. My, did the man have vague ideas. When he asked me to get undressed and lie down on my belly, I gasped. My wife let out a choked chortle. But I wasn’t going to be a spoilsport and took off my clothes. Fortunately, I was allowed to keep on my underpants. He was going to touch me. Not a pleasant prospect when you’re belly-down on a table wearing just your boxer shorts. He poked my sides while venting a stream of theories. And all this was supposed to help me help my wife during childbirth, allowing her to relax. I had to learn about the different ways of touching. As if I don’t know. One thing’s for sure: I was never going to allow him to touch me again!
In the end, my wife joined prenatal yoga classes. She went alone. If I learned one thing, I have learned to stick to my own specialities. Millions of babies are born every day. Nobody is going to make me believe that all daddies have read all books, visited haptonomists, or practiced the art of puffing. I’ll be contributing in my own way. I will. I know what a romper suit is. I know what not to say. The rest of the baby-speak I will leave to the experts. I will limit myself to doing the occasional test in a women’s magazine. Such as ‘What type of parent are you?’ The result? I won't speak of it. But I still believe that I will learn. Eventually.