I spent all day Saturday painting furniture for the baby room, which I figured would buy me a free pass to watch the AFC championship on Sunday. It was shaping up to be a great game: The Steelers had won 15 in a row, and the Patriots hadn’t lost a playoff game in years. An hour before game time, I asked Sarah who she thought would win. She looked around the basement at little piles of unfinished projects here and there, and answered: “Me.”

I spent the day building a crib and assembling a day bed.

My only glimpses of the game came while I was folding laundry or carrying boxes up and down the stairs. I think the Patriots won, but I’m not sure.

On the bright side, the baby room is starting to look like a baby room. A big colorful rug, a white dresser, a rocking chair, et cetera. When I opened the dresser and found it full of little clothes, it really hit home. “Wow,” I said to Sarah like an idiot. “Another person is going to be living here.” Meanwhile, baby presents are starting to arrive, and because no one knows the gender, they are careful to make the presents unisex. Sarah’s cousin in Rochester sent some kind of crocheted blanket with a creepy clown on it that should scare the living shit out of a boy or a girl.

So thanks to my perfect brother-in-law Ben, I was forced to sign up for some kind of “Boot Camp for New Dads,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The Web site described it as:

“… a unique father-to-father, community-based workshop that inspires and equips men of different economic levels, ages and cultures to become confidently engaged with their infants, support their mates and personally navigate their transformation into dads.”

In other words, it was going to be an embarrassing three hours, and I was dreading it.

Boot Camp was in a lounge on the third floor of the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine at the U of C Hospital, and of course I got there late. Five dads-to-be and three dads with their new babies were on couches, looking awkward. About 45 seconds after I had taken off my coat, Billy, the guy in charge, asked if there was anyone who had never changed a diaper. I raised my hand, figuring every other guy would, too.

I was the only one.

Next thing I know I’m kneeling on the floor, and before me is a six-month-old, Sophie, looking up at me and waiting for me to get moving. I opened up her diaper, and recoiled in horror to find the most poo I had ever seen in one place. It looked like a yellow curry bomb had gone off in there.

It was on her butt. Her back. Her neck. Her privates. Her hair. Her clothes. The carpet. A light hanging from the ceiling.

Someone handed me some wipes and I began daintily cleaning her off. Soon, she looked almost hygienic. “I think I’m done,” I said.

Sophie’s dad, Rusty, was watching sleepily. “Dude,” he said. “You’ve got to get underneath all those folds of skin, too.”

I glanced over at him. “I don’t know her that well.”

He pushed his daughter’s legs wide open. “Well, get to know her.”

Sophie didn’t seem to mind, and neither did Rusty, who was pretty generous in letting a total stranger stick my fingers in his daughter’s most personal places.

I have to admit, I learned a lot in three hours. Like:

  1. How to write up a birth plan
  2. What to pack for the hospital
  3. My wife will expect a “push gift,” i.e., baby bling-bling, shortly after she has delivered.
  4. Apparently, I am required to make multiple mix CDs of Sarah’s favorite music to be played during labor.
  5. I need to print out a list of everyone we want to call from the hospital with our eventual good news.
  6. Cell phones never seem to work at hospitals.

Before I left, Billy asked if I’d be willing to attend a class with my baby in six months. I said sure, though I had a hard time imagining I would allow some dumb guy like me anywhere near my precious child. Guess we’ll see.