My daughter Violet is 8 weeks old today.
Time has slowed and quickened depending on which day you ask me. Everything has changed. From the smallest task to a love between two individuals which suddenly manifests itself into three...nothing is the same.
And for this I’m thankful.
What I’m about to share is my story. My wife Lauren has her own and it will be hers to tell when she wants and to whom she wants if she ever wishes to do so. The birthing process is traumatic. While I would never dream of comparing what a woman goes through in labor to her spouse’s experience of witnessing such an act, I will say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to endure physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Lauren was in labor somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 hours. Because of numerous reasons, it came to the point where her doctor recommended a cesarean. Again, speaking from my perspective, I had not planned for this. Standing in a room listening to what the next steps were going to be my mind was more reactionary than anything. Reflecting back now, I don’t believe I fully comprehended what was going to happen. I was entering into the “great unknown” with no references from which to pull from.
While Lauren was being prepped, I was given a set of scrubs and told to wait in the hall (I managed well enough until I got to the beard, at which time I had to don a second cap, inverted, to cover the facial hair). I sat in that hallway for what felt like an eternity. I watched hospital personnel come and go, some acknowledging my existence while others hurried past. When someone finally called my name and brought me into the room I was shocked at how many people were in there. Before being able to do a headcount, I was escorted over to Lauren and placed on a small stool beside her head. From her chest down a curtain had been drawn to prohibit her, and me, from watching the surgical teamwork.
As the birth of Violet began to unfold, so much happened and most of it was far from pleasant, but again, that is Lauren’s story to tell. All I feel comfortable with sharing is that as a spouse my role was to be as present and as affirming as I could while watching what appeared as organized chaos commence around me. They say every birthing story is unique, and Violet’s certainly was. So many variables come into play and sometimes you don’t know what you’ll do until you’re presented with certain circumstances.
With my head beside Lauren’s, I watched her fight pain and nausea as nurses and the like moved back and forth and discussed everything from medications to such trivial things as lunch menus. Thinking back, I’m aware that for those who work in hospitals, this scenario is something they do every day. My critique of their competency is that I wished they realized this scene for Lauren or I was anything but “normal.” Understanding that I believe would do a lot towards patient care in medical practice settings.
I remember them asking if I wanted to peek above the curtain to see Violet enter this world and I declined. I do not regret this decision. In that moment my entire being was transfixed on Lauren. She had been through so much and to watch her continue was both encouraging and heartbreakingly excruciating. I’ve always known I loved my wife, I would do anything for her, but watching her go through this broke me. I would never categorize myself as the macho type looking to solve all types of problems or too proud to show emotion, yet in the moment I realized I had little power to do anything; a true recognition of helplessness. Besides holding her hand and stroking her face I could do nothing but watch in the hope that those in the room with me knew what they were doing.
Enter Violet. Up from the depths she arose from a baptism of water and blood, a shared act we humans never fully recover from. She was shown to us and quickly swept away to an adjacent table where she was weighed, cleaned, and “beat the hell out of.” At least it appeared that way. Massaging in the hopes of coaxing her along to take in air and push it out. She cried slightly but was strangely quiet, something she hasn’t been since. After sucking out fluid she was swaddled and handed to me with a small toboggan (for you northern folks, it’s a hat) on her head with plenty of hair sticking out from the back.
Let’s be clear, she was perfect. Through her Ilotycin smeared eyes she looked at me and our bond was sealed. She was half of me and yet she had all of me. Holding her I leaned in to show her to Lauren, bringing her close so she could see a face that looked so much like her own. The doctor, nurses, and anesthesiologist team were still attending to her, so I, the most unprepared for this moment, was left to hold Violet in my right arm while simultaneously placing my free hand on Lauren’s arm as she continued to have negative reactions to the medications she had been given.
Afterward while Lauren was being moved from the birthing room to the recovery unit, we had a short moment to ourselves in the hall. I tried to choke back tears that flowed effortlessly. Some tears of joy, but mostly tears of concern for her. Going through this had solidified how much Lauren means to me. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but while I know it would be possible, I can’t imagine doing life without her. She has simply become a part of me that I recognize as the best of me.
Now here we are, 2 months later. Violet cries, she eats, and she poops...and she’s beginning to smile. Some people say that it’s the crying of a baby that breaks them, but for me it’s her smile. There’s wonder and hope found in those moments. There is a swelling of compassion that causes me to question all the artificial moments I’ve tried to create in my life over the years. This child is real. The love I have for her and her mother is real. I couldn’t have experienced this without them.
And for this too, I am forever thankful.