Jan 25, 2005

who's your daddy?

So I became a daddy a few weeks ago. There are so many interesting aspects to parenthood that I'll have to make a few posts over the next month. For now I'll just focus on the question I had before Sophia's birth; How does the event impact you?

I suspect I've never read a good description of the impact a child has on your life because I doubt there is a good one. So I'll try and lay out my emotions during the whole process.

My first emotion was anxiety. I was completely across the other side of the US when I got the call. I knew this beforehand obviously but it didn't help any. I felt certain I'd never make it in time. It was going to take 14 hours to get there and things had already moved rapidly. I let that feeling go quickly as it seemed a little selfish and a poor way to start the event. So when I arrived at the hospital and saw my wife hooked up to an epidural, belly still full and nobody else in the room I was a little confused.

Things hadn't progressed that rapidly. Baby and host hit a speedbump along the way and once an epidural went in all progress ceased. They mercifully let my wife rest for a while. The scene was calm so I was quite calm. I just sat next to her and stroked her hair.

Most books prepare you for the birth but to be frank I look back and realize they are useless. I'm sure every birth is unique in many ways. The processes were laid out but the actual event didn't seem to jive with what I was seeing, hearing, and thinking.

Time to get going. Time to push. What the hell am I doing? I'm feeling useless. I'm trying my best to be supportive but there's an aspect of drill sergeant that needs to be applied at this point. How do you be both? I do my best. 3 hours of heavy lifting later we were going nowhere. That's disheartening. We were 24 hours in. Maybe a little more. My wife is exhausted. She runs marathons. I know she doesn't quit easily. But I sensed she had nothing left. The doctor mentions suction. Not a comforting term. She then mentions c-section. Well I know damn well I didn't read that section in the books.

A hillbilly accented narrative runs through my head. "I'm tellin ya there jus aint no way that head is gonna fit through that hole. Aint gonna happin. She just can't grab a hold of that baby. Darn sucker just doesn't have any handles on her"

My brain starts to process the fact that 50-100 years ago probably my wife or my baby or perhaps both are going to die. There was only one exit door back then and if a square cog is going through a round hole then there are some heady decisions to be made. C-section suddenly sounds comforting. I'm both a little scared but also relieved I live in a time of modern medicine.

The suction attempt goes a lot quicker than expected. 10 seconds quick. 'Well that isn't going to work' the doctor casually offers. I was looking for a little more than 10 seconds to get my head around the fact they were going to gut my wife. There really is no emotion at this point. There's one option left, and it's not terribly dangerous. Gory yes but not high risk. My wife clearly needed more than 10 seconds as well but before we know it there are 4 or 5 people actively doing things to my wife, machines, and each other. Shaving, iodine, injections, plastic wrap, curtains, motion, beeps. It's all done very calmly though. I tell my wife it'll be over soon, half calming myself.

The knife slides in. My head is peeping over the curtain. My face must have made some kind of expression because my wife whispers, 'talk to me so I don't have to think about it'. I don't remember what I said. At this point I'm a robot. Perhaps my engineering background took over and I'm viewing this as some kind of experiment. It is truly fascinating. My wife says, 'don't look you'll pass out'. I know I won't. Clamps go in. More cutting. The blood is minimal. Surprisingly civil. Clinical. I keep whispering to my wife. Alternating between meaningless sentences and peeks over the curtain.

'Ready?' I hear. My head pops up. I almost think one of the doctors is lunging at me. Instead she goes down hard on my wife's belly. Almost like CPR. My wife groans. A baby's head pops (did I hear a pop?) out of the wound and flops to the side. It reminded me of a whale breaching the surface. 'She's out', I say. My wife's eyes are wide open. My wife groans again. Another CPR maneuver. I look up. Screaming. I smile. My wife smiles. There's a baby on my wife's stomach but she is quickly whisked off. I follow without thinking.

This is the point I was most curious about. My wife and I tear up. I wondered if I would. I don't know who to look at. Her or Sophia. It's a different kind of weeping. Not the kind you get from a sappy movie or sad event. I suspect it's not even really like any other 'tears of joy'. It's more an overwhelming number of thoughts running through your head that conveniently purge through your eyes. Number one we made it. Number two I hope she is healthy. Number three what an awesome responsibility I've created for myself. Number four she is the prettiest baby I've ever seen. Number five what an incredible bond my wife and I will always share. Number six what is her life going to be like. Number seven will I be a good or great father to her. Number eight Jesus she is so tiny and so utterly vulnerable. Number... It goes on. It's almost like her life is flashing before your eyes. And it's not linear. All these things coexist at once. Crying seems to help you process it.

I snap myself out of it and do my best to watch the doctors probe and clean her. All the right pieces seem to be there. Nothing missing. No extra bits. She's red. Crying. They bundle her. I take her over to my wife who must feel terribly detached from the events. They are still sewing her up. Her uterus outside her body now on top of her chest. Violence is all she's known for the last 28 hours. Blood, pain, gore, grueling effort. She looks over with a helpless look. 'I can't do anything' she says with her eyes. I feel a little guilty. But I'm calm. Relaxed. Electrically relaxed though. Sleep isn't even in my vocabulary anymore and won't be for another 30 hours or so. I just hold her near my wife and smile.

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