Sunday, April 17, 2011

When pregnancy and anti-pregnancy collide

“Where’s the little guy?” the sandwich artist asked as he slid my footlong down the line.

“Probably picking up some new viruses at daycare,” I replied. We’d become regulars at this Subway when our son Evan was very small, helping to decorate their floors and walls about once a week with whatever shredded lettuce Evan could get his hands on.

After many visits, we became such VIPs that, not only did they agree to sell us select footlong sandwiches for just $5, but we were also admitted into the elite fraternity of people who know the secret difference between two nearly identical menu items.

“What’s the difference between the spicy Italian and the Italian B.M.T.?” I asked one day as the lady assembled my sandwich.

“There’s no ham on the spicy one,” she replied.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess that’s it,” she said.

This revelation explained why you so often enter a Subway restaurant to hear someone exclaim, “Yeeeeow! Sorry, I just burned my mouth on this complete lack of ham.”

Anyway, on this visit, the ponytailed sandwich-maker threw my sandwich into the giant toaster and said, “You know, I’m a dad now, too. My son was just born a few weeks ago.”

“That’s fantastic, congratulations,” I said. “What did you name him?”

I expected him to say a new-sounding name, like Aiden, Hunter or Teflon. Naming children has turned into an art form, where giving your kid a name that someone else might already have apparently turns your child from an original work into a print. It makes sense, I guess. In the third grade, I had two other Mikes in my class, and my resale value plummeted.

“Jacob,” he replied, and I was taken aback. A normal name? People don’t do that anymore. Hopefully, he spelled it Jaykob, or else he might have already ruined an otherwise mint-condition child.

Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about the stress of picking out another baby name, as long as my wife Kara’s pregnancy pillow stands guard. A giant U-shaped fortress, the pregnancy pillow conveniently doubles, after childbirth, as an anti-pregnancy pillow, complete with defenses that are, appropriately, impregnable.

“Are you still over there?” I’ll ask Kara from my side of the bed, the full-length pillow between us towering toward the ceiling.

“Shush,” I swear the pillow says as it pushes me into the bedside table.

In any event, the new father at Subway seemed completely enthused about being a dad. We had a nice little talk about his life as he finished making our order, and he was happy to chat about his new family. Afterwards, I realized that it was probably the most personal information that had ever been transmitted to me across a sneeze guard.

A few months later, I stopped back in and saw him again.

“How’s fatherhood treating you?” I asked.

“Great! It’s so much easier than everyone says,” he replied. My face agreed with him, but my brain did not. Many words come to mind when I think of the work that goes into raising an infant. Most of those words are positive and some of them are not printable in a family publication, but none of them are “easy.”

I’d expected to commiserate with him about how tough it is to raise a baby, but instead I searched my mind in vain for any anecdote that might conform with his conclusion about how easy it is to do something so extremely difficult.

“Except every night, he screams for two hours straight, like clockwork. The doctor says it’s colic,” he said, somehow smiling.

That didn’t sound easy at all. I wondered how he wasn’t curled into the fetal position, hiding under a pile of 9-grain honey oat loaves. But then we got distracted and chatted about other things, and in a few minutes, I was chomping away, trying not to scorch my mouth on the absence of ham.

You can write fresh to Mike Todd at

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