1) It is so rarely about you, or your family. Everyone wants to make it about them. "Have the child on my birthday," or "Don't have the kid on my birthday!" Concerns evolve around pet projects, and distrust builds. Listen for things like, "He won't have time for thing X anymore," which means, "I am concerned about how X will be, not about the person doing X." Otherwise, it would be, "Hey, let me know if you need help with anything."
2) Support comes in unexpected places. My office is awesome about it, my church less so, and my local congregation is also awesome. Some close friends fall away because they don't know what to do, and some distant ones really step up. Me, I find this more interesting than offensive, and (for example) know that those friends who become more distant will become close again in time. Let's be honest, pregnancy is a weird thing, and not everyone is comfortable with it (and that is okay).
I also know that my wife's pregnancy is hard for some people, but even though it is hard and those people may have trouble being around us, they are still rooting for us and happy for us, even if it is bittersweet for them for some reason. To them I say, "It is more than okay to feel that way: we have been there and we understand."
3) Unsolicited advice comes from weirder places. The jokes are some of the worst, and each is unoriginal. I have almost begun to believe in a collective unconsciousness, an Akashic Record of bad jokes that people draw upon when they see a pregnant woman. It is like these jokes are so wrapped up in who we are as humans that we cannot help but tell them each time we see a pregnant person, or discuss pregnancy with a father-to-be.
Older men, in particular, are fonts of deep knowledge and certain well-meaning-yet-horribly-misplaced guidance. The most common thing for my wife to hear these days is "I hope you don't have them here!" (wherever "here" is: a restaurant, a shoe store, a gas station, etc.). When I try to imagine the reason for this piece of advice, I am stuck with one very common image that must be at the root of this fear: I believe that they are universally afraid of getting their shoes wet by being too close to my wife when her water breaks. In their mind, it will create a deluge of biblical proportions, and there will be no ark to save their loafers. Who would not fear such a thing?
Here's the funny thing: the best advice seems to come from people who have no advice. "I got nothing, but I wish you luck," is probably the single best thing to say to me at this point. Kudos to those who recognize that my experience is likely to be different than anyone else's.
4) There is an incredibly strong notion that a "perfect family" is one girl child and one boy child, and that having twins that are one of each somehow magically makes your family perfectly complete. Often the revelation of the sexes is followed up with an expression of how perfect one boy and one girl is, along with an assurance that we can now stop trying for more.
I cannot tell you how pleased I am that I have their approval to stop having sex.
A funny side note: a whole lot of people ask, "Are they identical?" right after I say, "We're having a boy and a girl." I will let that sink in for a moment. . . Before mentioning that I now get people off the hook rather than letting them squirm by immediately following up with, "and you would be surprised at how many people ask if they are identical." I prefer to watch people get a joke, rather than be one.
Related, there is the deeply personal question that goes unspoken when someone asks, "Do twins run in your family?" This is actually a polite(~ish) way of asking, "So, were you on fertility treatments?" Some people actually follow up with that question, which is just too much information for me to provide. I have taken to responding with, "No, my wife just ate a lot of cheese." This mostly serves to adequately confuse.
Also, were you aware that twins are "such a blessing?" And that having a boy and a girl requires that phrase to be repeated with more emphasis? Indeed, that is the case, I hear. A lot.
I am so glad I didn't get a substandard matched set of one sex now.
5) I am so unprepared that words fail to describe a single way in which I am unprepared, but I should know that I am unprepared and that I am just going to be unprepared. Also, my life is definitely going to change.
Typically, this sort of thing is mentioned to me as if I am not aware that rearing children is likely to be surprising and to involve change. Let me just say right now how thankful I am to receive such specific, targeted knowledge.
Things I have done to prepare myself:
So, since I am not prepared and cannot be prepared, clearly I have spent my time doing nothing, right? Just because that is the logical thing to do when someone tells you that there is no use in trying, it is not what I have done. In the hopes that someone else may find my unorthodox training methods useful, I wish to outline them in brief:
A) I have memorized Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"
No, really. It was the start of something important, and I have moved on to other favorites of mine, like "Kubla Khan," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," "The Highwayman," "The Lambton Worm," "Gilgamesh," "The Lady of Shallott," and many more. I need lyrical things to speak to them, and to read to them as well. Language is tricksy, so they should hear well-made nonsense and epic works. Sure, things die in most of those stories, but they gotta learn that life isn't all skittles and beer somewhere, right?
|Some Selected Recordings|
|The Lambton Worm (Mp3)|
B) I have researched changelings extensively, and put measures against them in place.
I am a firm believer in teaching our children about the unseen allies out there who aid us, but I don't care to paint a purely rosy picture of that unseen world (and certainly the lore is full of perils we can only glimpse from the corners of our eyes). If I ask my children to grow up with a knowledge of that world, I must also take it seriously. So, I have made two little icons for the nursery, each of which will serve as a home for a house spirit, and each of which is armed with iron, just in case someone wants to trade our kids out.
That black iron is a hand-cut hobnail. The two figures (I am calling them "changeling-bane" for now) are specially charged with keeping my kids from being spirited away until they are old enough to take care of themselves.
C) I bought a blue canary nightlight
Problem: the outlet by the lightswitch is behind a dresser.
Solution: Maggie has asked me to re-wire the current switch to put an outlet on the same plate. In progress. She is also looking for a picture of a lighthouse for the opposite wall.
Don't get it? Watch this:
D) I have started setting up their college funds.
This is mundane, but I want them to leave their college with as little debt as possible (none, if it can be done in 20 years). Making this a priority is vital, and it will be a priority for me for the next two decades.
E) I have been carrying around a 15 pound weight when not doing anything else.
Babies are tiny, but I figure I should get a head start. After all, even before they weigh 15 lbs, I will bet their squirming makes it seem like they are more. It isn't the weight, it's the flailing, right?
F) I went on a bear hunt. No, really: check out my entry on it!
But if you have been reading, you know that already.
G) I did all that other crap already.
By this I mean I set up the cribs, did all the laundry on all the baby stuff, assembled dressers, packed my bags for the hospital, kept up the dishes and kept my wife fed, painted the nursery and refinished the floors, preregistered our admittance to the hospital, wrote "thank you" cards to (we think) everyone, and got our car seats in. In other words, I got us to the point where we can bring the kids home (I.E., they will let us leave the hospital with them and we can put them somewhere when they arrive).
There: I have done all I can. Now, it's just waiting.