The other night I was looking at some old baby pictures of my now, nearly six-foot teenage son with the size eleven feet, hands as big as mine, and the first tentative beginnings of a small mustache. I find it hard to believe that he was once so small that he could fit in my two hands. It seems like only yesterday, I witnessed his entrance into the world with a final push, a gentle slap, a frantic breath of air, and a piercing cry that rattled windows and startled nurses two floors below. I remember thinking how he was possibly the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. His birth was one of those moments that you hold deep inside you as a precious memory that neither time nor life’s unpredictable circumstances can ever erase. I also remember how as he was gently lifted and laid across my wife’s chest, I looked a little closer, stood up straighter, and yelled,
“It’s a boy!”
My son’s birth was certainly a magical moment, but as you all know, as with anything worthwhile in life there are inevitably some bumps in the road. When we had decided to have a child, we went to a doctor and learned that without months of extensive fertility treatments costing thousands of dollars, our chances of having a baby were as high as one in fourteen million. Even with a regimen of drugs and therapy the odds were under twenty percent of us ever being parents. I took consolation in the fact that I had a wonderful stepson from my wife’s previous marriage. He was seven at the time, and was like my own child.
As our lives continued as newlyweds, we often talked about possibly adopting or becoming foster parents to give our son a brother or sister. One day I came home from work after a long hard day to find my wife sitting calmly on the living room couch with a slight smile on her face, an obvious glow, and a strange look in her eyes. When she starting waving a small white device that looked like a thick popsicle stick in front of my face, it didn’t take long before the fact hit me that we had beaten the odds, and were having a true, miracle baby. We decided to not learn whether the baby was a boy or a girl. We would find out in about eight months.
It doesn’t take long for eight months to pass when you’re busy painting rooms, buying cribs and baby supplies, handing out cigars, worrying about your wife, and making late-night trips for pickles and ice cream. We faced another bump, when despite my wife walking five miles a day, the baby was overdue, and his birth needed to be induced. We were soon on our way to the hospital in what I hoped would be a smooth, uncomplicated birth. I guess you already figured that it rarely happens that way.
They placed my wife in a special birthing room, hooked her up to a complicated, computer-like monitor, gave her pain medication, and attached her arm to an IV, which slowly dripped a labor-inducing drug into her bloodstream. “It’s only a matter of time,” I thought, as I left the room to call family and friends, and find a coffee machine.
Well, the smooth, uncomplicated birth turned into twenty-four long hours of labor. I spent the night in an uncomfortable chair, drinking gallons of bitter warm coffee, and intently staring at the device used to monitor my wife’s vital signs. A nurse told me it constantly measures heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and oxygen levels in my wife’s bloodstream. I also learned something very important. If a tired, clumsy, and uncoordinated husband accidentally trips on the wires connecting the machine to his wife; nurses will rush in to revive the patient from what in medical jargon is known as “flat lining.” All I could say was, “Whoops, sorry.”
After twenty-one hours in the hospital, my wife began to deliver our baby. It would be another three hours before my wife would give birth. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what to do. My wife was in intense pain, and nurses were monitoring her vitals, wiping her brow, giving her water and telling her that everything was okay. A doctor would come into the room every few minutes to check on her progress. As the last hour came I had three jobs; Gently hold my wife’s hand, tell her I loved her, and lie to her. That’s right. I lied to my wife for the first and possibly last time in our marriage. For at least forty-five minutes, I kept telling her I could see the babies head, and it wouldn’t be long until he was born. She kept yelling,
“Are you sure you see his head? You’re not lying to me, are you?”
“No honey, I can see it now. It won’t be long. Just hold on a little longer. Here he comes.”
The moment finally, miraculously arrived. The baby, still tied to the umbilical cord was laid on my wife’s chest, and I could see I had a son. Tears were running down my face, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of joy, or relief that my wife was fine, and the baby was healthy. I know that many men want sons. Someone to carry on the family name, to play catch with, to go fishing, or skip rocks with. To teach him what it means to be a real man. To be strong, but gentle, to work hard, do your best, treat people with respect, love unconditionally, and give more to the world then you take from it.
As I held my son for the first time, I realized that I would have been just as happy if my wife had given birth to a healthy baby girl. I know she would have been daddy’s little girl, but I could still take her fishing, and play catch with her. We could go to the lake and skip stones, and I could teach her what it means to be a good person. Who knows; If fate had been a little different, I might have ended up yelling,
“It’s a girl!”