On this day one year ago, I became a father. For 23 hours after her water broke in our living room while watching an episode of Flight of the Conchords, my superhuman wife was in labor without anesthetic.
Though we’d binged pain management visualization exercise videos on YouTube with me taking ample notes, when the time came, Charria already seemed to be someplace else.
“Ok — blue. What are some things that are blue?”
Now, I’ve never had a contraction, but from an outside point of view, they seem to be when someone stabs you from the inside, but with varying sizes of knives and various twisting motions. They seem to start out like a thumb tack, move up to letter opener, and then end with a twisting Crisis Core Buster Sword from Final Fantasy. (Yeah, I had to look what it was called, too.)
Still, I gave Charria my hand…and she nearly broke my fingers. What had normally always been a balanced hand — that perfect blend of silky smooth yet utilitarian — now felt like it could have pulverized granite into sand. My pinkie and middle fingers felt like they had been clamped in a vice as my wedding ring sank deeper into their sides.
“Yeah, only give her a few fingers,” the doctor said with complete nonchalance. “Otherwise, she may break your hand.”
Each time I would step out to keep family updated, I’d hear Charria before I’d ever see her. The pain had seemed to sideline her conscious awareness. She later said she did not remember certain parts of her labor. Just a low painful moan was our only indicator that she was still awake — almost like an “om” mantra, only instead of meditating, it sounded more like she was trying to digest broken glass.
Though agonizing for hours, her eyes glimmered like a child on their way to Disneyland.
“I can’t wait to meet our boy.”
By the time the doctor gave her the green light to actually push, Charria shot a glance that said, “I’m way ahead of you.” Suddenly, the attendants went from helpfully hovering mode to “this room is about to get incredibly messy” mode. Everyone donned smocks, tables covered with instruments were rolled in, and the bed Charria had called home for nearly a day suddenly did a Transformers morph into — “now with kung fu birthing action.”
We were blessed to land a medical midwife who came highly recommended by both Charria’s best friend and our rabbi. As the baby came down lower and lower, our medical midwife had Charria assume a number of positions until they found one that was most comfortable and effective. Some included pulling on a sheet that was tied around a bar, another position entailed her on her knees while laying over a “birthing peanut” (something that looks like a Planter’s Mr. Peanut pool toy), to what finally seemed to work — using myself and a nurse as human stirrups. With Charria’s right foot on my hip and me holding her knee, I had for a front row seat to the birth of my son. After the doctor had placed me in position, she said, “Yeah, you can’t much closer than that!”
Now, despite preparing for this moment for over nine months, nothing could have prepared Charria or me for the moment he arrived. Though Charria had writhed in pain for hours, her reaction was utter disbelief at what her eyes were seeing.
“Did that just happen?!” She exclaimed, seemingly in utter surprise that a baby was hiding in there.
I couldn’t say anything. I just stood there as tears rolled down my face as joy rendered me into a delightfully sobbing mannequin.
Upon being given to Charria, our boy’s eyes darted around the room as to mirror Charria’s sentiment from another perspective. What just happened? Where am I? Who are you?
After I regained control of my body and was introduced to my son, I went out to deliver the news to our anxiously-yet-patiently waiting family. I also revealed his name, something we had held back in telling anyone until he was born.
Returning to the room, Charria seemed to have returned to us from her pain-induced mantra. She was now a fully-aware mama with Amir staring back at her from where we cradled in her arms. She beamed with contagious serenity as Amir carefully studied his mother. While this was happening, the medical midwife was busy putting humpty back together again with what looked like an upholstery needle used to sew saddles. To Charria, her motherly high made this experience seem like an aggressive pedicure — her sweet motherly words to her baby occasionally accented with an “Ooh, that pinches.”
After just a while, a burrito-wrapped Amir was taken to a nursery due to lower-than-usual body temperature. As he was placed under what I imagine was a giant french fry lamp, we were escorted to another room we would call home for another day or so. The emotional high of welcoming our baby boy into the world began to succumb to the fact that we’d both been awake for nearly 48 hours. This ordinary hospital room looked like a suite in a five-star resort to our tired bones. We both settled into our sleeping areas — Charria into a much more comfortable bed than the Transformer one, and myself onto what I can only call a “sleeping bench.” Still, it felt like Sealy Posturepedic.
For some reason, we thought that Amir would require a night’s stay in the nursery to remedy his body temperature issue. As selfish as it sounds, we were both quite ok with this, as we couldn’t keep our eyes open. However, about 30 minutes after crash-landing into our room, there was a knock at the door — a nurse with Amir in tow. She left him with us and then seemed to evaporate.
Now, I thought I had come to terms with being a responsible adult. However, when Amir was left with us — two first-time parents — despite being 30-years-old, you may as well have left this baby with a 15-year-old version of myself based on how I felt inside. I had read the books to know what to expect. I had the knowledge of how to be a parent to a baby. Still, both of us just stood over his bed, utterly exhausted, staring into his gorgeous, peaceful, sleeping face…shocked that they just left him with us. It almost felt like medical negligence. The sensation persisted even past the moment of buckling him into the car and driving him home — a voyage that felt like I was driving a truck filled with nitroglycerin.
A voice in my head echoed. You’re a dad now.
Through every diaper blow out (how does it get so far up their backs?), every sleepless night, every “we can’t do that — we have a baby now”, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My own dad was right — being a dad is the greatest job in the world.
Happy birthday, Amir. Dadda loves you.