Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my lovely wife gave birth to our first child—a girl—whom we named Evelyn Inez Moeller. On the heels of a miscarriage last winter and nine eventful (albeit healthy) months of pregnancy this time around, to say that we were excited to welcome Little Evie into the world would be quite the understatement.
We live on the West side of Los Angeles, which has many undeniable perks, such as 360 days of gorgeous weather a year, a wide array of delicious restaurants, and easy access to both the beach and LAX. But with those gifts come some of the less desirable aspects of Los Angeles: The rent for a small apartment here could pay the mortgage on the house of your dreams in most other states, for example, and traffic congestion around 5:00 p.m. can break the sturdiest of souls.
But I’ve discovered an entirely new level of questionable Los Angeles behavior: wacky and often unsolicited advice about pregnancy and childbirth. True, bad advice knows no geographical boundaries, but given the quirky nature of many folks who end up living in West L.A., I would venture to guess that we see a disproportional share of it in these parts. As a British expat who had his first child in America recently put it,
“If I were to ask my parents whether they raised me according to Attachment, Tiger, or Parisian principles, they’d wonder what on earth I was on about. Middle-class child-rearing across most of the developed world has become increasingly demented: consumerist, competitive, ideologically charged. And LA’s ‘crunchy’ moms and dads are pioneers, way out west at the crossroads of celebrity and new-age culture.”
So as a service to any soon-to-be fathers out there, here are a few pearls of prenatal wisdom that you will want to ignore:
- If your wife doesn’t have a meticulously detailed “birth plan,” you have failed at life and your child may be taken away by Child Services in the delivery room.
The gap between “exploring the various options afforded to you and your wife” and “obsessing over minute details and then recounting them to anyone within earshot for nine months” is vast. Gentlemen, this is your lady’s show to run, and your job is to stay involved, or at least to pretend to be relatively informed, and then to support her decisions. Neither of you have been through this, so remember that she is just as out of her element as you are the first time around. She will hear a lot of birds chirping in her ear about this or that hospital, doctor, or procedure (i.e. to epidural or not to epidural?). Remind the mother-to-be that having a plan does not mean that she isn’t allowed to deviate as you guys get closer and closer to that amazing moment when you hear your baby’s first cry. Birth plans, like records in sports, are made to be broken. Your wife isn’t weak for straying from hers.
- Modern medicine is the devil.
This woeful gem is typically communicated in a multitude of condescending, passive-aggressive ways. Because of our rebellious, “return to nature,” hipster-influenced culture, a lot of people under the age of forty have convinced themselves that well-furnished hospitals, expertly-trained doctors, and miraculous technology are things that we should avoid at all costs. The implication is that a simpler way of life—i.e. giving birth to your child in your living room, “just like” the Pilgrims did—is a better, more moral way to live. Very few of your friends who think like this will come right out and say that they are better than you, but we all know what they’re thinking. While anyone is welcome to deliver their baby in the same room in which they’ll expect me to come over and watch football (and eat cocktail meatballs), my advice is to trust modern medicine more.
This is especially important if you live in the Los Angeles area, where misinformed parents have been rejecting childhood vaccinations. As the Independent (UK) reported,
“In 2014, there was a spate of whooping cough cases in schools on LA’s wealthy west side: Malibu, Brentwood, Beverly Hills. Not coincidentally, many well-educated, well-off parents in those neighbourhoods weren’t vaccinating their children.”
- You’ve got to find the coolest name possible for your kid!
My wife and I scoured dozens of “Top Baby Names” lists over the months leading up to Baby Evie’s arrival. We collected the ones we liked, debated them, and ended up picking names that meant something to us. Evelyn was the name of my wife’s grandma on her mom’s side, and Inez was the late Grandma Moeller’s first name. Names are important. Nicknames can be fun; my youngest brother, Andrew, loved peanut butter as a toddler and to this day we still call him “Skip.” But in a part of the country where parents either name their kids Apple or allow their children to re-name themselves on a whim, there is something to be said for traditional, family names. I’m not implying that we need to bring back “old timey” names just for the sake of them. But when in doubt, spend some time exploring your family tree and see if there is a person and a name from the past that might suit your child. Make it an experience for you and your wife, and leave that fact-finding door open for when your kid is old enough to learn about where he or she comes from.
As little Evie grows into toddlerhood, we are sure to gather more bizarre advice on how to raise her, but as these first few weeks have shown us, the best advice for new parents is to ignore all of the unsolicited (and often hysteric) warnings about all of the ways you might mess up your child. Trust your instincts, support each other, and give your baby the thing he or she needs most: love.