It happened in the evening, when we were watching TV. My wife stood up to go to the bathroom and a gush of water hit the floor. Her water broke, as they say.
It was a couple of weeks before her due date and a suitcase was not yet packed. I quickly packed one as she called the doctor to let him know.
“He told me to meet him at the hospital,” she said nervously. So we did.
The hospital was surprisingly warm in both appearance and atmosphere. My wife and I arrived somewhat excited. Soon we would be seeing and holding our son.
As the routine of pushing continued into the night and drugs were given to cause contractions to help her along, things began to grow slightly dimmer. Not just in lighting but in tone. After many long hours, there was no real progress.
Talk of a C-section began, the one thing we had worked so hard to avoid. We had taken Bradley courses to learn about what she should be eating. We had diligently counted grams of protein. We had basically done everything the instructor had told us to do. Despite this, she had developed extremely high blood pressure and had been ordered by the doctor to stay in bed for nearly a month. Now in spite of all our efforts, we were being told that a C-section was inevitable.
Quickly she was whisked away to the operating room where she was prepped for the procedure. I was brought in near the end in order to help keep her calm. My son was removed with very little fanfare. When I saw him, he was bright pink and healthy looking. Someone weighed him and measured him. Someone else asked me if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. It was a bit like scissoring through hard rubber.
Then the chaos began.
As they carried my son away and wheeled my wife into another room, it became clear to me that she was unsettled. She was asking where the baby was with marked distress in her eyes. “She’s not going to clam down until she sees the baby,” I told a nurse, which seemed the most natural conclusion in the world once I had voiced it out loud. She rushed him to her, and she saw her baby for the first time.
“He’s so beautiful,” she wept.
Then he was gone again, and she was being moved to yet another room. She started to moan and writhe. I was standing out of the way as several nurses worked to get her settled. Suddenly an older nurse reached over to press her abdomen. A gush of blood poured out of her. I was one of the most frightening things I had ever seen.
Immediately she was rushed to the ER, and i was directed to the ER waiting room where I spent an agonizing hour thinking the worst, and worrying about my newborn son who was not with his family.
Word finally came that she was stabilized, and I next saw her in the ICU where she was in a worser state than ever. She was clutching a bed pan, her eyes rolling back in her head. I did my best to calm her down, and implored the nurse to help her somehow. The nurse told me she was on a lot of anesthesia. “She’ll be fine when it wears off,” she said.
Then, knowing there was not much more I could do for her at that moment, I left to go visit our son.
At first, they were not going to let me see him. According to the rules, we had to have a room to take him to and my wife was still in the ICU. The charge nurse must’ve seen the disappointment and anguish in my eyes. She took me into the nursery and sat me in a backroom where I could hold my son. And feed him his bottle. And learn to change him when I heard him unleash his first poop. The total feeling of love and devotion was immediate and overwhelming. “Don’t worry,” I said to him quietly. “I’ll always be here for you.”
The next few days are a blur of the joy of being with and taking care of my son, and helping my wife to recover from traumatic surgery. Soon we were packing him into his car seat for the first time to take him home with a little bit of fear and much happiness.