Publisher's perspective: Class is in session for daddy-to-be

After almost eight months of my wife’s pregnancy, we’ve been through a few educational adventures in furniture assembly, nursery preparation and wardrobe navigation. I’ve even read up a little on being a good daddy-to-be courtesy “The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion: A survival guide for expectant fathers.”

OK, well I’ve read most of it. Err ... would you buy ... some of it?

At any rate, I really thought I was ascending the learning curve of soon-to-be fatherhood in leaps and bounds.

Boy, was I wrong.

Little did I know the final month and a half or so leading up to the arrival of Baby Willard, a.k.a Danger Bear, would subject me to the most vigorous learning environment I’ve endured since CH 211 Organic Chemistry in college. That’s a class for which I earned “D” during the first go-round. It is the one that effectively broke my interest in pursuing any career related to a field of science.

Somehow, I suspect that at this stage in the pregnancy curriculum, there isn’t going to be any changing of my major from fatherhood back to football. There is no “dropping” this class. The only thing left to do is suck it up, immerse myself in the seminars and become the best possible father-to-be, labor coach and supportive spouse I can be.

Hey, at least I’m trying to get my head “right” about the whole situation.

The first class was a 100 level course — “birth of a father” — and honestly, it was a breeze. Me and four other guys spread out in a semi-circle in a classroom at Catawba Valley Medical Center’s HealthFirst Center at Valley Hills Mall. The professor, a guy who is a family physician in Hickory, offered insight into some of the things we could expect during pregnancy and child birth. He briefed us on decisions we’d have looming. Admittedly, certain decisions were a little, ahem, uncomfortable. Maybe we’ll have a girl, and I won’t have to face some of that unpleasantness.

Even with a little bit of seat squirming, the class was pretty laid back. I think I made an A.

Next up was Infant CPR and Choking, and let me tell you, that is where reality meets the road. I mean the prospect of Danger Bear choking or going into a cardiac arrest is a sobering subject if ever there was one. Fortunately, the wife was with me on this 200-level educational adventure, and thanks to some helpful instruction by the nurse at the HealthFirst Center, we’ll know what to do if an emergency arises. Push hard, AND fast.

The subject is serious enough that I will probably need a refresher a few times before any on-the-job tests occur, but I know the right knowledge is crowded in my mind somewhere between valuable insight related to the role hops, yeast and malt play in the life of man.

I give myself a B in this class with the understanding I need to perpetually work to improve.

Those courses completed, we’ve moved on to the 500-level senior seminar, Lamaze. Because this course is still in progress, grades haven’t been awarded, but I do know class No. 1 was reminiscent of my American History lecture course in college.

That’s right, I fell asleep. Now wait a minute, hear me out.

Nap time didn’t come until the instructor turned down the lights and turned up the relaxing mantra music designed to help the class’ pregnant wives focus on breathing methods that prompt relaxation.

Needless, to say, when the lights are out, and I’m laying on my back and breathing deeply to peaceful nature sounds, I don’t have a lot of problems “relaxing.”

I managed to stay awake up to that point, through all the anatomy details and information about how Danger Bear is positioned in mama’s tummy and what constitutes pre-term contractions. The videos that featured people actually experiencing labor pains were a little weird, but I guess that will help prepare me for when my wife starts making all those grimaces.

Class two was even better — SNACKS! Not only that, but there was a longer period of time spent with the lights turned down and we focused on breathing as well as tips for massaging my woman to help put her at ease. Somehow, I think that might come in handy even after baby arrives.

More importantly I’m quickly learning that comforting and supporting my baby mama is my No. 1 job as pregnancy “coach,” and I admit I can’t wait to earn my whistle and stopwatch for game day.

There’s still a couple of Lamaze classes and a hospital tour left on the schedule before the baby is here, and I know there is still plenty to learn and experience, including a video of a live birth. Not sure I am ready for that one yet, but I guess it is all good knowledge and experience to have when the final exam comes around some time in early June. Hopefully by that time, I’ll be at the head of my class, and prepared enough to know how to answer when I get the first look at Danger and announce to the world the child’s gender. Is it a boy? Is it a girl? That’s one test I know I can pass. Hopefully.

Michael Willard is the publisher of The Observer News Enterprise.