I was told that the drive home from the hospital, meaning the first time I’d have my baby in the car, would be the most stressful drive of my life. They weren’t kidding. The whole drive back, I was watching every car, playing out scenarios in my head of what to do if the car on my left swerved into my lane, wondering if my son was okay even though my wife was sitting right next to him. And for the first time in a long time, I was actually driving safely within the speed limit.
I was also told to have everything ready to go before the baby comes, especially installing the car seat. Well, two weeks before the due date, my wife said, “I think we need to go to the hospital.” I made sure my wife was okay, grabbed the overnight bag and threw the car seat — still in the box — in the back of our SUV.
About 11 hours later, my son was born. And while I still had the “Wait, am I really a dad?” mentality — I still have it sometimes — I realized I was going to have to get this kid home, and the car seat that was still packed up nice and neat wasn’t going to work.
Installing a car seat isn’t to be taken lightly. I’m pretty confident in my installation ability, but this was more important than just about anything else I had ever installed, so I wanted to make sure it was right. Our nurse told me that the local constables are trained in how to install car seats and gave me the number to the constable’s office across the street from the hospital. I thought it was a strange thing to include in a police officer’s training, but I gave them a call and was told to come on over, so I went on over.
A constable that I can only describe as jolly showed me how to install the seat, explaining every detail along the way while I stood there with the handful of brochures he gave me about car seats, child safety, and driving with a child in the car. It was actually very informative, and I’m glad he walked me through the whole process and gave me advice about how to make sure the straps are adjusted properly, what kind of wear and tear to look for, and how to adjust the angle as my son grows. Back in his office, he even rolled back in his chair and slammed into the wall to demonstrate what happens to a child in a car seat during a front-end collision. All of this, in addition to a few stories about his grandkids.
Since the first drive home, driving with him has gotten a bit less stressful. He even enjoys riding in the car, though much like his dad, he does start to fuss a bit when we sit at a red light for too long. And he makes me a safer driver, and even helps control my urge to yell at all the other idiots on the road, so it’s a win-win situation. But even though I sometimes feel like screaming, “I have a kid in the car!” at people who cut me off, I haven’t become one of those people with a yellow “Baby On Board” sign hanging in the rear window — yet.
The New Father: Dealing With Baby Heartburn | Father and Son, One on One | Diaper Changing, Learning the Hard Way | He's Crying and I'm Freaking Out | My Baby Smiled at Me | Food Sensitivities and the Breastfeeding Baby
On Mondays, Travis King will be sharing some of the surprises and learning experiences he encounters as a new father.
– Travis King, CMN Staff Writer
Photo: Travis King