Cool the jets, birth isn't rapid-fire

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID: I've sort of become obsessed with detailing every possible scenario surrounding labor and delivery of Dawson.

"What if I'm at home and you're at the office," I say to Bob. "Or what if I'm at the office and you're at home. Or you're driving from home to the office. Or you're in a meeting; or we're shopping in Cape but my hospital bag is at home; or we're out of town; or it's storming; or both our cars are stolen at the precise moment I go into labor, or ..."

This can go on for hours. There are so many factors to consider -- and that's just in getting me to the hospital. Once we're actually there, I have a whole new set of issues to sort through. Bob (as usual) takes a practical approach to all this. He knows -- all the books say so -- that labor for a first-time mom takes hours usually and that the first few of those hours should be spent at home. The key word for me is "usually." What if I'm not usual? What if I'm less of a '77 Buick and more of a Mustang -- 0 to 60 in seconds, you know?

My focus over the past few months has been on ensuring that Bob is available by phone 24 hours a day. Up until about a month ago, we didn't have a landline phone on account of our universal dislike of telemarketers. But sometimes, Bob's cell phone signal wasn't strong enough at our house for his phone to ring when someone called him (namely me). So I insisted we have the landline installed. And, being the forgetful guy that he is, he often walks out of the house without his cell phone, so I'm constantly nagging him to make sure it's in his pocket before he leaves.

And I'm programming in every place he could possibly go -- the gym, direct line at the office, the grocery store -- into my phone just in case. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'm pretty sure this is all about control. I've got a strong feeling I'm about to face a situation in which I'll have very little of it. So all of this planning beforehand is a way to make me feel like I have some sort of grip on the reins. Hold on. It's going to be a wild ride.

HE SAID: My cute and talented wife is a meticulous planner. Always two or three steps ahead of me. It's one of her numerous wonderful qualities. She loves planning vacations and getaways, and now pregnancy.

I'm more of an in-the-moment person, which makes me a good worker: I can focus on jobs to be done and generally ignore things like hunger and nagging until the task is finished. It also makes me fairly good at adjusting on the fly. I react well to unplanned things, with the rather large exception of arguments with my wife. I never seem to think of counterpoints until the next day when it's too late.

Anyway, my wife and I take a very different philosophy to life, and pregnancy planning is no different. I tend to think that Callie will take days, perhaps weeks, to give birth, so I'm not too worried about my whereabouts when she begins Phase One, as they call it in the books. There's a small chance the baby could come quickly, and if he does, I somehow doubt Dawson will come too quickly for me to get home and to the hospital. If not, we have good emergency personnel in our town, at least I think so. And we'll have a good story to tell. Besides, women didn't have to go to hospitals in pioneer days. I'm confident that our good EMTs will know how to handle a birth in the one-in-a-million chance that Dawson shoots out like a rocket while I'm at work. Still, my wife is right. I have some planning to do.

Arrangements to make, phone numbers to program in. My wife makes me a better person in many ways and this is one of them.

Bob Miller is the Southeast Missourian managing editor. Callie Clark Miller is considering implanting some sort of GPS tracking device in his neck. Reach them at bmiller@semissourian.com or cmiller@semissourian.com.

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