If men were the ones who had to carry and give birth to babies, I’m pretty sure humankind would have died off a long time ago. I knew going into it, that the moment my wife gave birth to our child would be an intense one. And it was. The four days that we were in the hospital were filled with the whole range of emotions. The four weeks that we’ve been home since then hasn’t given me much space to stop and reflect back, but I thought I’d attempt it here on my blog through a few vignettes.
One of the stories about labor that stuck with me was described by the comedian Louis C.K. on a podcast I listen to (WTF with Marc Maron). He talks about this moment right after his wife delivered where he had to decide whether to attend to her as she was cut open in the other room or stay with his little newborn daughter who was lying helplessly crying. It was this concrete moment where the addition to their family instantly became real. He knew he had to stay with his daughter.
I found myself in a similar situation, though there was no choice to make. Just twenty minutes after she gave birth to our daughter, my heroic wife was rolled off into the operating room due to a complication. Watching her be rolled out of the room, still shaking and with tears running down her face, was gut-wrenching, to say the least. I wanted to go with her. Like Louis, however, my role as a dad had begun. I sat with my daughter on my chest, her warm skin touching mine, welcoming her into this world, praying that mom would come back to us soon. We spent this quiet time alone together, she adjusting to a new, scary place, and me adjusting to the notion that this baby was mine.
Mom did come back to us. And we three went to bed that night thankful that we were at one of the best hospitals in the country, as we slowly soaked in our new reality.
Sleep came easy to our exhausted bodies. Sleep that has become a precious commodity now! That morning, I held my daughter in my arms as she slept, with my wife asleep on the other side of me, and looked out a window that featured a beautiful Boston skyline. The aroma from a bouquet of flowers filled the air. It was perfect. I thought more about her; the meaning behind the name that we had given her. The idea that we could finally call her by name. Our daughter was really here. And in this serene, Lifetime movie setting, the tears rolled on down. A coworker of mine had described to me what I was feeling now: with a new child comes a new heart that grows inside of you.
Louis C.K. also talked about how with all the preparation towards the big day it still feels like you’re going to go into the hospital for the procedure and then you and your wife are going to go home together, business as usual. The idea that you are going home with another human being who will change your life forever is just too much to really grasp until it comes. I was struck suddenly with this on the day that we left the hospital. They’re letting us leave now with this baby?! Will we be able to take care of her on our own? There are so many other people and germs out there! My heart raced.
Don’t get me wrong, the thought of finally leaving our cramped little room after being in the hospital for four days was delightful, but it was also scary to think we’d no longer live in that supportive bubble. Our daughter would be exposed to the real world. And our new role as parents would become crystal clear.
Four weeks later, we’ve managed things. We’ve kept our daughter alive and well. (Go us!) Our home feels more complete now. Yes, I’m less rested than I used to be. Yes, every day is new and I have to give up almost all sense of control, which can be difficult. But honestly, I’m feeling more at peace these days. The anticipation and all that goes into preparing for a baby is nerve-wracking. The time has finally come. Challenge: accepted. New chapter: commence.