March 18 th
“Just take this in there and scoop the poop out of the diaper with the spoon provided.”
“Excuse me?” I said utterly bewildered with newness to daddy-hood.
Maybe I should back up a little bit. I know that I’m still very new to this being a parent thing, hell, our daughter is three months old but what this day held in store for me I didn’t sign up for when I agreed to impregnate my wife.
Earlier this morning my wife and I took our daughter to the doctors. I’ve never been a fan of doctors (what man really is?) but I like our daughter’s pediatrician.
“Hey guys, what’s going on today?” Dr. Sloan asked. As doctors do.
“Well,” my wife took control of the situation. As wives do. “Her poops have been smelling like ammonia for the past two days and we’re concerned.”
When she says “we’re concerned” she really means “she’s concerned”. I’m more old school and kept saying, “Whatever she’s got she’ll shit it out.”
“Does she have a fever?” Dr. Sloan asked.
“No.” My wife answered.
“How about a loss of appetite?”
“Has she been fussy?”
This is where I wanted to say, “See, for once, I’m right.” But as always, I wasn’t.
“Well, I’m going to write you a prescription.”
“For what?” I thought to myself. Didn’t my wife just say that our kids fine other than her poop smelling like ammonia? Well, it turns out that you need a prescription to have specialist examine your child’s stool sample. Only in America.
Scribbling on her note pad she said, “When she has her next stool sample, keep the diaper and take it to this address.” She tore the paper from her doctor notepad and handed it to us.
So I did as I was instructed. The next time baby pooped, I put the evidence into a gallon sized zip lock bag and took it to the laboratory. While signing in they place a large sandwich size zip lock bag in front of me. On it, in huge black bold capital letters read the word “BIOHAZARD”.
“Here you go.” I said, while attempting to hand them my zip lock bag full of soiled diaper.
“Ha, ha, ha…no Mr. Lassen. You have to transfer the sample from the diaper into a plastic cup. Just take this in there and scoop the poop out of the diaper with the spoon provided.”
“Excuse me?” I said utterly bewildered with newness to daddy-hood.
“Here are some plastic gloves for you. Bathrooms right there to your left.”
I felt dirty.
I thought to myself, “Let me get this straight. You want me to go and scrape the poop out of my daughter’s hour’s old dirty diaper with a spoon and put it in a plastic cup?” I know times are tough in this current economy but who knew that the first to be let go from laboratories were the “dirty diaper shit scrapers.”
“Make sure to get as much as you can. I find that it’s sometimes better to use the cup itself to scoop up the sample rather then use the spoon.”
I rolled up my sleeves, looked them all in the eyes, “That sounded like a challenge. And I accept you challenge.” I grabbed my bags and made my way to the bathroom. I strategically placed all the items in front of me in order of their use from left to right. First up, the green plastic gloves, so that the shit sample doesn’t get contaminated. It’s odd when the priority is to not get shit on your hands for the shits sake. “Shit getting contaminated.” It just made me laugh. All of us men are really 12 year old boys at heart and I’m no exception. Juvenile moment over, back to work.
I struggled slipping the tiny green glove over my big paw that I call a left hand.
I popped my head out of the bathroom door. “Excuse me. Can I get another glove?”
They all laughed and I was handed another green glove.
Maybe it’ll go on easier if I place it on my hand as far as it go, blow into it and it’ll inflate it?
Before I could open the bathroom door to ask for yet, another green glove, there was a knock at the door.
“Occupied.” I said prying the broken glove off my hand.
“Mr. Lassen, it sounded to us out here like you are in need of another glove.”
I opened the door and the nice man laughing handed me another green glove.
After some careful struggling, I got the gloves on.
The smell that wafted out of the zip lock bag with the grubby diaper when I un-zipped it was… well, it was not pleasant. And I grew up on a farm, so I know “unpleasant” smells. It didn’t help any that it had a few hours to ferment. I placed the plastic cup down, unscrew the cap and place it on a paper towel. I was not about to get shit all over the place except for in the cup or on my nifty green gloves. I unwrapped the spoon from its wrapper.
“What the fuck is this?”
It was a tongue depressor not a spoon.
“Great. Just great.”
While I was standing there in my tight green gloves, scraping shit out of my daughter’s soiled diaper with a tongue depressor I thought to myself, “Now, I know and have known many people with kids, and I have NEVER heard of anyone else EVER having to do this. This is the type of things parents don’t tell people thinking about having kids because if they did, those people would get a hamster instead.”
I came out of the bathroom, mission accomplished.
“Thank you Mr. Lassen.”
“Oh no, thank you for this experience.”
“Ummm, Mr. Lassen?”
“Yes.” I said proudly, expecting him to complement me on my immaculate shit scraping skills. I was wrong.
“This may not be enough. Did you get as much as you could?”
“There wasn’t much to get.”
He reached behind the counter and handed me another plastic zip lock bag with the word, “BIOHAZARD!” written on it. Inside it was a set of green plastic gloves, a plastic cup and a “spoon”.
“We may need you to collect more samples if this isn’t enough to perform all the test. We’ll call and let you know.”
“And that’s one call I’ll be looking forward to. Thank you kind sir.”
“Have a good weekend Mr. Lassen.”
“You to.” It’ll be best if I don’t have to treasure hunting in my daughter’s diaper anymore.
Oh, the things we parents do for our kids. I’m just finding out and I have a feeling that this is only the beginning.
I AM The Hollywood Clown
September 7 th
“Do you know what you’re having yet?”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, close friend or the checkout lady at the grocery store; it’s the inevitable question that always follows once people hear that you are expecting a child. “No, we’re not finding out. As long as it’s healthy we don’t care either way.”
Then comes the look of, “Yah, right.”
But for us it’s true. And I’m sure if you ask any parent that has ever lost a child, they would agree. There is no worse feeling in the world than going to an ultra sound and having the Dr. say, “There’s no heartbeat.” I realize that it was natures way of saying that they embryo was unhealthy and it made the difficult decision for us of terminating the pregnancy. It still doesn’t make it any easier.
An acquaintance of mine had his twins born a few months premature and one of them unfortunately did not make it.
A friend of mine lost her child, days before her due date, because its umbilical chord had gotten tangled up and knotted in utero. She had to still go through a ten hour labor to give birth to a child that she would never get a chance to see it take it’s first steps, to fall in love, to laugh and cry.
One of my cousin’s and his wife had their baby born four months premature and everyday was a struggle for it to cling to life.
Notice, in the three stories above, I never revealed any of the child’s sexes? Does that make any of them less sad?
My wife and I already have a daughter, fortunately a very healthy one, with a very healthy temper to boot. We are expecting our second child in October and every time we hear from the Dr. that everything looks good, I breathe a silent sigh of relief to myself. Earlier during the pregnancy, we had to have some extra test done because the Dr.’s said that my wife’s blood test came back with things indicating that the baby might have downs syndrome. It’s great that today’s technology can give parents a heads up to something of this magnitude so that they can properly prepare both mentally and emotionally for any added challenges to the already difficult job of being a parent. Anyone with a child can attest, raising a child is hard, but raising a child with any sort of health issues makes it even harder. This type of information is important to me. I would take the info of my child being healthy over the info of its gender any day.
There are so few real pleasant surprises in life these days, I think waiting for the day that you’re your child arrives in your life and in your family to find out if you have a boy or a girl is one of the last true surprises. It’s always been funny to me how differently people act toward the baby, while it’s still in it’s mommy’s belly after they find out what it is. It will have a whole lifetime to live up to and to be categorized, like a book in a library, to it’s expected gender role, why not give it 9 months to just be a baby? Why the big hurry? But to some, the really macho guy who NEEDS to have a son because, “only a man can make a man!” (are we still cavemen?) or the people who are control freaks, I guess it is important. Nothing against my control freak friends, you’re fun to watch.
And there are some out there, you know who you are, that really do want a boy or a girl but feel that it’s taboo to admit to it. I can completely understand that if you already have a child and you only plan on having two, that it would be nice to be able to experience the parenting trials and tribulations, that one day become specific for each gender.
To me, there was no feeling like assisting in bringing my child into this world, raising them high (like in ROOTS or The Lion King), and announcing to the world that I have a daughter.
A beautiful and healthy daughter.
I AM The Hollywood Clown
June 21 st
“I see you everyday taking your daughter and dog for a walk,” the eight-year-old girl said while running her tiny right hand along the back of my Shepherd-Rotty mix, Kona, before continuing, “You’re a good daddy.”
“Thank you, Stephanie. We like our walks. We go on two or three of them a day.”
“You don’t have a job, do you.”
And there it was… It was more of a statement than a question.
“I have a job. I’m a daddy.”
“No, I mean a real job.”
In some weird way, I felt the need to defend my situation to an eight-year-old girl. I didn’t quite know how to explain to Stephanie that being a stay-at-home dad IS a job, and a very hard one at that. I decided to keep it simple.
“Well Stephanie, my wife works and I stay home with the baby.”
Not looking up from petting Kona, she responded, “That’s weird.”
I have been home with my Isabel since she was two-months-old (she is now almost seven-months-old). My wife and I didn’t plan that I was going to be the one to stay home and care for our daughter. We had other plans that all fell by the wayside, and we were left with few other options.
What tilted the scales? The economy. Or to be more precise, the lack thereof. Like a broken record, let’s all say it together – THE RECESSION.
I know, I know, at this point we’re all sick and tired of hearing about “THE RECESSION,” but there is no denying that we are all in it together.
My 9-to5 job in the construction trade of seismic retrofitting was greatly affected when banks got stricter about handing out loans back in August of 2008. Ever since then, a 40hr work week was a rarity cherished by all on the crew. When Isabel was born I took one day off to get my wife and new baby settled in before continuing to work while there was work to be had. The jobs were sporadic right up until December 31st, and then they stopped completely.
Lucky for us, my wife was able to arrange working from home for the next three months, so at least we knew we had some money coming in. Our situation is different than that of most people in the U.S.A. We are in the entertainment industry, a very fickle business even without factoring in the current economic situation. She’s a freelance producer/writer and I’m an actor/writer. On any given day, only 2% of actors are working. Unfortunately, I’m usually on the other side of that percentage scale. Since I couldn’t count on me suddenly booking something as an actor, I had to rely on one of my many other skills. Throughout the month of January I got odd jobs here and there doing handy-man work.
“I need you home, Honey,” my wife said to me from behind exhausted eyes a month into her stretch working from home. Between working and caring for our newborn, she wasn’t getting any sleep.
We did some number crunching and figured out that if I worked a 40hr week (which the number of times I had since August of 2008 could be counted on one hand) and paid for child care, by week’s end I would have made $100 for the household. Twenty years from now was I going to remember that $100 a week extra I made crawling under houses all over Los Angeles, or the time I spent with my daughter? The decision was easy. From that moment on, I became a stay-at-home dad.
Here we are, first time parents, living off of one income and counting every penny. And we have never been happier.
In a way, the recession has made everyone know what it’s like to live the life of an actor; forced to live on a budget, constantly looking for work and rethinking career decisions. I’ve been living in a “recession” since I moved to Los Angeles in 1992.
“I have to go home now,” Stephanie said as she kissed Kona on the muzzle.
“You live in that house there?” I asked, pointing across the street.
“Yup,” she said, this time hugging Kona.
Since I became a stay-at-home dad, or a S.A.H.D. (such a misleading acronym if there ever was one), I have been taking daily walks with Isabel and Kona. One of the benefits of these walks has been the privilege of meeting my neighbors. For example, I have noticed a lot of different people coming in and out of Stephanie’s house.
“How many people live with you Stephanie?”
“My mom, my dad, my brother, a few of my aunts and uncles and some cousins, a few friends of my dad…”
I interrupted her because one individual in particular stuck out to me. “What about the man in the truck out in front of your house?” I had been dying to ask someone about him because I had noticed that if the truck was there he was always inside it or on the porch of the house.
“He’s a friend of my dad’s. That’s where he lives. I have to go.” And with that she crossed the street, walking in front of the truck parked next to her house, while the man who lived in it downed a beer and listened to the radio.
He noticed me watching Stephanie run home and he raised his hand up giving me a wave. I waved back and continued with my walk.
“We’re very fortunate,” I thought to myself as I rounded the corner and took one last look at the true victims of this recession.
Before my daughter was born, I asked my friends who are parents for their best piece of advice. It was overwhelmingly the same piece of advice: Enjoy every moment. They grow up quickly.
And that is what I did – and continue to do – everyday.
This is a very special father’s day for me for a few reasons. First of all, because it’s my first one as someone’s dad. Secondly, I can honestly say that I have a newfound respect for my father and all his hard work over the years. Not only did he provide me with a roof over my head and food on the table, but along the way he also showed me how to extend both my arms and my heart to my children, as well as to those around me. He is the very definition of teaching by example.
Recently someone said to me, “You must be a great dad, Jason, because Isabel is such a happy baby. Don’t you ever forget the impact a father has on his children, and I’m talking right from the moment they are born. Know that whatever you’re doing, it must be working, so keep doing it.”
Stay-at-home dads are a rare breed, and it’s the toughest, most rewarding job that I have ever known. I was even fortunate enough to find a “Mommies’ Group” that has opened their elite club to Isabel and me. (I never realized that most mommy groups don’t allow men because of the whole “breastfeeding” thing.) I know that some dads get all “macho” and will refuse to stay home while their wives go out and work. I’ve never understood that mentality, and it’s their loss. My wife and I will do what has to be done for the benefit of our family. Believe me, she wanted nothing more than to be at home with our little one, but she knew that she had to do what was going to be best for our family.
This father’s day I want to celebrate more than to be celebrated. I am extremely lucky and grateful to be a stay-at-home dad, and I hope to make it last as long as I can. Through a true twist of irony, I have the current recession to thank for it.
During these unsure times when you think it’s tough, I want you to remember that at least you don’t have to live in your truck while you wait out the hard times.
Happy Father’s Day!
I am a Stay-At-Home Dad