They had two hands. And two feet. And there were two of them.
Let me back this up – I don’t think anyone is ready to become a father. Not me, at least. I mean, really? How do you prepare for that – for a new life to be brought into this world that is half of you and half of someone you love. It’s a nine month wait, and you can read all of the books you want. You can plan out a baby room, build it to keep busy; buy clothes, you can prepare as much as possible – but then your child (or children!) are born and you probably don’t know exactly how to respond because there isn’t much a blueprint for it because everyone takes it differently, and there’s no realistic kind of practice – just the real thing.
All the emotions, all the feels… all at once.
I have a friend that says, “You’re never ready, but you have to be.” He says it about a completely different thing (cagefighting), but that’s his way of saying you are or you aren’t and more often than not that is going to ring true.
You’re never ready, but you have to be.
say it with me.
You’re never ready, but you have to be.
No-one can say how you react under pressure until you have been under pressure, until you’ve been tried and proven. Childbirth as a father is a different kind of pressure, fraught with emotion and anticipation and reaction.
It’s the most terrifying experience I’ve ever been through, and I was barely involved; I was just there.
It’s a new experience in a lifetime of the mundane, in a lifetime of what immediately has become mundane; just because everyone before me has been a father doesn’t change the fact that that was my first time.
Just because I’ve done this or that or faced this adversity or that stress or overcome some momentous hurdle in my life to get here; this new life is the next big thing. The newest and the coolest.
The chillest and the illest.
Childbirth is new to any first-time parent, to any first-time father. It was new to me.
Both of my daughters were breach in the womb and delivered via c-section earlier than expected, at thirty-four weeks instead of the usual forty. The little one hadn’t been growing; a month before, a visit to the doc had her weight estimated above three pounds based on a bad measurement; and my wife’s periodic visits to monitor their growth were canceled based on this measurement by a tech and a doctor we wouldn’t normally see, as ours was on vacation.
The stand-in’s mistake, surely. Her next visit a month later showed our baby hadn’t grown.
We delivered in a leisurely manner, not emergent or an emergency, but soon after the lack of growth was discovered. Scheduled for 10:30 am, we waited while a more emergent delivery was conducted and then my wife and later I, were conducted to the delivery room.
A complication, one of many, being early at thirty-four weeks, but many more babies had been born more premature than this; another complication, a heart condition that would require, at a much later date most hopefully, open heart surgery; this being present in the little one and throughout the pregnancy a source of constant concern and worry.
This concerned me. The big one was healthy as could be; the little one had a heart condition, potentially fatal, and had been deprived of nutrition in the womb for nearly a month.
I don’t pray.
I’m not a praying man. I’m not religious. I don’t believe in leaving anything to the whims of chance or fate if the same immutable deities that may or may not exist have given me the ability to change the situation in my favor.
Here, for one of the many times in my life, there was little I could do.
So. . . I prayed.
I prayed for both of them and my wife, and then I prayed some more, all while waiting – once I was conducted into the delivery room, I was barraged with a multitude of sounds and sights and smells, and it happened. It all happened so quickly.
Caesarian-section delivery is anti-climatic compared to the nightmares we all watched in eight-grade health class. Overall the delivery itself may have taken fifteen minutes; the prep time took longer. There was a surgical incision, there was blood; my wife didn’t feel a thing.
We could have talked about the weather; we probably did.
Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Other-person delivered our babies at 1:26 and 1:27 pm, big and little. Pink, which is what you want, and rare at Denver’s altitude. Covered in white goo (vernix), and soon crying weakly, their lungs capable but not fully developed.
Pink, healthy babies, which is rare at Denver’s altitude. Both of them with two hands, and two feet, which is actually pretty normal if you haven’t heard.
I also have two hands and feet and such, and as such, was not altogether surprised. . . Beast genetics here, bruh. 😛
The big one was pink and healthy, the little one was…pink, and healthy, skinny but not unhealthily so, and soon both were crying and upset, ripped from a placid and relatively pleasant existence into an altogether strange and unfamiliar one.
The big one was introduced to mom in delivery and I went with her to the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit. She held my hand. Hearing my voice, she opened her eyes, which is rare in a newborn, and looked around, not seeming to really see the world around her, but her eyes finally looked in my direction, and I think she saw me for the first time, my gentle words drawing her attention as much as my smiling face ever could.
I couldn’t stop smiling. 😀
She went to sleep. She was the cutest thing I ever did see; i spoke to her nurse, who assured me she’d be well taken care of.
I went back to delivery to check on the little one, and the little one was doing well. I went with her to a temporary home in the CICU, the cardiac unit.
Once there, the little one opened her eyes, which is rare, and small pupils looked around, in my direction, in another.
She looked at ME.
She reach out a hand and I reached out mine; she held my hand with all the strength she could muster, like she’d never let go, and she fell asleep hearing my voice saying sweet nothings, the same voice that had read to her in the womb, telling her how much we loved her and how much her mother and I waited for these moments. I told her how we worried, about her, her tiny, gentle heart, and her sister as well.
For a moment she smiled, holding my hand, and I knew everything would be alright.