It was a mild September Sunday. I was languidly perusing the pages of a book when I was startled by a cry from my wife on the opposite end of the house. As I hurried to the location of the sound, she met me in the kitchen waving a small, plastic wand. “It’s positive!” she declared as she danced about the dining table. I stood there blinking as my world rolled off of its axis. There are some things for which we can never prepare ourselves; the announcement of a child is one of them.
The arrival of a pregnancy to hopeful parents brings with it a kaleidoscope of feelings. Emotion washes over you as intense and irresistible as a tidal wave. Surges of joy and trepidation accompany moments of pride and apprehension as you begin to grapple with a new identity. Parenthood looms over you – promising, threatening, and wonderful.
As time passed I watched my wife transform into a swollen version of that person who danced around me in the kitchen (the dancing had stopped by the fifth month). Morning sickness and mood swings dominated our household as the tiny life within her asserted his presence. Books and videos on parenthood became our primary source of information and many hours were spent in breathless silence as we awaited another kick.
Six months into the pregnancy, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that Stephanie had developed preeclampsia. This meant critically high blood pressure that was a serious danger to both Stephanie and the baby. She was placed on strict bed rest until delivery, and we were warned that the baby would probably be coming earlier than either of us expected.
And that is precisely what happened. On April 21, 2003 (just six weeks later) Stephanie was admitted into the hospital for an induced labor delivery. That night the doctor informed us that he had scheduled the delivery for the next morning and that we should try to get some sleep. My wife followed his orders; I did not.
I became intimately familiar with the ceiling of my wife’s hospital room that night as I gazed up at it, listening to the seconds tick by on my wristwatch. I was overwhelmed with a feeling strangely akin to the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood. In a matter of hours I would be a father. The thought exhilarated me and terrified me at the same time.
Sunrise came and flooded the room with light. April 22 had arrived and so had the nurses to escort my wife to the delivery room. Pain, fear, and wonder ensued and at 10:00 that morning I was handed a bundle of blankets that had a tiny face inside staring up at me. And this is the point in this narrative when words can no longer fulfill their function in conveying true meaning. At that moment I experienced such emotion that to try to describe it would only risk sentimentality.
Perhaps the only way to explain it is to say that at that moment I felt as though I were holding an extension of myself transformed into a new person. A life that was indivisibly linked to me in its origin, yet completely individual in its actuality and potential. I was astonished by how fiercely I could love a face that I had only seen for a few moments. I wanted to tell him all of this. I wanted him to let him know how incredibly special he was; how much he had changed me. But I could not find the words and he would not have understood if I had.