While in college, I tutored the following subjects for two years: Anatomy & Physiology, Biology (general and Advanced), and Microbiology. Yet there is one area I was never made privy to: the timeline of the umbilical cord. Going into the last weeks of childbirthing class with my wife, I suddenly find it psychologically incommoding I never learned that following labor and delivery, the umbilical cord is not cut all the way down to the bellybutton.
Yes, all the way down to the bellybutton.
Maybe you’re like me and didn’t know this.
Or maybe you aren’t.
Suddenly, I feel like the dumbest person on Planet Earth for not knowing this.
For the last 36 weeks, I have been a bit scared of having the honor of cutting my baby’s umbilical cord.
“Who needs scissors,” I told my wife when she was around 24 weeks. “I’m using my teeth. Look at these incisors.”
Then I grabbed the air with two hands as if I was holding an invisible rope and started gnawing.
Humor comforts me in times of the unknown.
Note to future dads: Your wife probably won’t find this amusing.
What if I didn’t cut far enough and my baby had an outie? I remember back in the summer days of my youth thinking that kids at the pool with outies looked funny.
Or what if I cut too close and my baby has the ultimate innie, a three-inch deep crater that will collect lint for all eternity? All this time, I’ve been terrified I would cut the umbilical cord much too close to my baby’s stomach and cause some nightmarish infection, thus subjecting my first born to weeks of antibiotic treatment and various hypoallergenic ointments 3x a day.
All because I cut the umbilical cord too close to the bellybutton.
And it would be all because of me.
The man she would grow up idolizing and compare all men to who ultimately could never measure up .
Or at least this is what I like to tell myself.
Then I learn the real story: that after I cut the cord—not all of it, just some of it—a clamp is placed on the leftover upright noodle and remains clamped until a week or so later when said umbilical cord dries up and falls off.
“If you’re lucky,” our childbirth instructor said, “You’ll go to pick up your baby after a nice, long rest and you’ll see the umbilical cord lying there in the crib.”
Just lying there?
In the crib?
Like a fat earthworm that has baked in the hot sun?
Shouldn’t someone have sent out a mass e-mail to all expecting parents that along with taking your baby home, you also take home part of the umbilical cord?
Look, I’m not grossed out by this.
Actually, I am slightly.
But why is it I didn’t know this?
When I told my mom that Allison and I were expecting she didn’t tell me about the umbilical cord.
Neither did those Biology textbooks.
Then again, we never did get to the very end.
Science is sort of like history in that regard. You never get to the Civil Rights Movement or Vietnam, nor do you get to the nitty-gritty in concern to the timeline of the umbilical cord.
Whereas I’m the youngest of two children, my wife is the oldest of four. She knew this already. Maybe all women do. Maybe this tidbit of information is something all women receive when they get their ears pierced.
Allison’s youngest sibling is nine years younger than her.
“I remember when I was a kid, Emily [her sister] and I would go into the nursery each morning to see if Carrington’s umbilical cord had fallen off yet,” she said to me while we were eating some 80/20 Angus Beef hamburgers I’d cooked up.
“What do you mean you’d go in and see if the umbilical cord had fallen off?”
“It dries up.”
“What do you mean by ‘it dries up’?”
“It dries up and falls off.”
“Yeah, falls off.”
“The umbilical cord?”
“What did you think happened to it?”
“It stayed at the hospital . . . with the placenta.”
So let this be a lesson to all you expecting first-time fathers out there. When you go in the nursery to snatch up your baby for a good rocking and see what appears to be either a turd or a chewed up cigar in the crib, Red Auerbach has not returned from the dead and been watching over your baby at night. That’s your baby’s dried up umbilical cord stump.
And let this also be a lesson that I am apparently not the right man to talk to in regard to tutoring you for any Biology class, especially Anatomy & Physiology.
As for me, I guess it’s about time I get some shuteye. As the story goes, there isn’t much of that in my near future. But it’s all gravy.
Here’s to first time knowledge and dried up umbilical cord stumps.