Sarah was breathing strangely in bed the other morning, and I asked what was up. “I think I’m having this baby,” she said. My heart stopped. It’s go time. And I’m ready.

For the next hour we tried to figure out whether or not she was in labor. After consulting multiple books, and timing what we imagined were contractions, we’d reached our conclusion: She had gas.

Which begs the question: How does a woman know what labor feels like when she’s never had it, and no one seems to be able to explain it adequately?

She has since cried wolf dozens of times: at the dinner table; in a movie theatre; on Lake Shore Drive; at the Berwyn stop on the red line. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and apparently when you’re 38 weeks pregnant, everything feels like labor.

I’m a putz if I don’t take each alert seriously, but I’m a schmuck for believing it every time. This morning, just as I was walking out the door to work, Sarah told me she was feeling kind of … off. “I think the baby is dropping,” she said, but she didn’t look convinced.

“Are you sure?”

She didn’t know, so I kissed her goodbye and told her to call me if anything weird happened.

If this were a sitcom, her water would’ve broken just after I walked out, and she wouldn’t have been able to reach me because I forgot my cell phone, and by the time I got to work and checked my messages, she would be pushing furiously on the kitchen floor, while a kindly plumber/electrician/mail carrier who happened to be there was forced to deliver the baby. Then I would rush home,  kicking myself the whole way—perhaps breaking a few speed limits on the way— get pulled over by a cop, then tell him my wife was in labor, and get my own personal police escort all the way home. I would storm in the door and arrive to a clean, crying bundle being placed in my arms, and a wife who loved me more than ever. Then we would name the kid after the plumber/electrician/mailman.

In real life, it was another false alarm. Thank God. Our mail carrier’s name is Flossie.

* * *

Most hospitals allow—or even require—you to register up to 60 days before the anticipated birth of the child. The idea being that you won’t feel much like doing the necessary paperwork on The Day Of, while your wife is about to burst in a plastic chair in the waiting room. So we registered, and while we were at it, we decided to be a good little Bradley Couple and take the free tour of the U of C’s maternity ward.

We liked what we saw, though the other couples taking the tour just made us sad. Most looked painfully young and scared to death. One couple, both of whom arrived separately, looked like they hadn’t seen each other in months. 

“At what point should I come to the hospital?” one young woman asked. “When my water breaks?”

The tour guide gaped at her for a beat—did she just ask what I thought she asked? Finally, he suggested that she maybe ask her doctor, which either confused or scared the young woman, based on the grim look she exchanged with her man.

It was a valuable two hours. Before the tour, Sarah and I considered ourselves a couple of kids pretending to be adults; afterward, we realized how well prepared we are.