This was news to me. He wasn’t supposed to come for two more weeks. The day before this I told Reba that I wasn’t planning on going to the beach party since it would be at least an hour drive back from the beach in the off chance she needed me. She had been put on bed rest (which she didn’t obey; not even close) a few months ago due to these early contractions she was having, and I didn’t want to risk anything. But she said I was being silly, that there was no chance the baby would come this early, and that I needed to go.
I sped home, stopped at the apartment to grab a quick shower and a few things for her, then onto the hospital. Not too long after that, they wheeled Rebecca (who, as corny as it sounds, truly does glow when she’s pregnant) into the OR, and set up a curtain over her torso to protect my inexperienced gaze from the scene of the crime. Reba was scared, which is understandable given what was soon going to be done to her body. I’m amazed at the fortitude of the female race; treating pregnancy and birth upon pregnancy and birth as not too big of a deal. Men are brave in their own way, but not in that way. I’m certain The Creator gave this task to the right half of us. Having another human grow inside you and then pushing it out through a tiny orifice, or having it cut out of your stomach; that’s heady stuff. I will always stand in awe of women for their role in perpetuating humanity.
Behind the Fainting Curtain I tried to make casual conversation with Rebecca to distract her from her anxiety. “So have you heard Jay Leno’s zinger about Rosie O’Donnell and the Sasquatch?” No, I can’t remember exactly what my material was, but I think I told her about the beach and the Ipod and the dweeby but buff husband of the HR lady who awkwardly had his shirt off all day long even when everyone else was clothed because he was in his 40s and super buff and this was the time to show everyone (and who can blame him?). Then, just from looking at Rebecca’s face, I noticed her body being tugged around quite a lot, which surprised and nauseated me some. In these fancy days of sharp scalpels and Japanese robots I don’t expect a whole lot of pullin’ and pry-barrin’ and forcin’ in surgery, but the “experts” seem to feel differently.
After a minute of this the Dr. said “Ok dad, you better stand up and get the camera ready.”
I stood and peered over the curtain in time to spy them pulling out the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. He was bloody and purple and shriveled like all babies, but the miracle of this event and my involvement in it overwhelmed me. I had heard it was common for fathers not to feel an instant bond with their offspring so I didn’t know what to expect, but I wasn’t surprised at being immediately overcome with the purest love and most primal connection with this baby.
Many people will say their wedding day was the best day of their life, and my wedding day was awesome. But when you really get down to it, weddings are symbolic things. You knew and loved your spouse for some time before your wedding day. I think the birth of one’s first child is the most singular and meaningful thing that will ever happen to a person. One second they aren’t there and you don’t know them, the next second they are and you do and you’re totally responsible for them. Nothing in the human experience can rival that.
I was concerned with how roughly and hurriedly the nurses were treating my young squire, but I deferred to their judgment in this matter. After a bit of bathing and debuting Oliver to his overjoyed mother, I followed him into the room where they do all the, I don’t know what to call it, processing, I guess; the weighing and measuring and pinching and prodding. Eventually the nurse left and I was alone with my boy. He was a calm, angelic baby from the start. I doubt the next fifty-some years of my life will offer me a sweeter, more serene, more profound thirty minutes than those I had singing and talking to my little boy and stroking his face as he lay looking at me through sleepy eyes. I couldn’t get over my duty to this baby. I needed to work hard to become a stellar example, a great husband and father, because this little fellow deserved all that. I still feel this. I’m light years away from where I want to be as a person but nothing motivates me to shed my flaws and mediocrity more than the thought of my doe-eyed darlings.
Oliver is three and a half now. He makes me laugh every day, which is one of the best things someone can do for me. He is an endlessly unique, fascinating, beautiful little boy. Part of me is curious to see him grow and age. Part of me wants to eternally freeze him where he is. I don’t like the flippant and insincere way I often hear people use the word “humbled,” so I don’t use the word lightly, but the thing that humbles me most in my life is the undeserved privilege I’ve been given to be his daddy, and I will always cherish that first day I had with him.