On some levels ten years is a long time. With today’s life expectancies it’s somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of a lifetime. For me, however, the last ten years have flown by. I’ll explain.
Ten years ago last night, Adrienne and I were in the hospital because of an unusual heartrate they had detected in a yet to be born Avery, my eldest. It seems that her heartrate would slow every time my wife had a contraction. They said that they would like to keep her overnight to monitor. Before too long, they decided that they would like to induce labor and get Avery out for safety’s sake.
That was definitively not how it goes on TV. There’s supposed to be ‘broken water’ and a rushed car ride and a wheelchair with screeching tires into a delivery room. Here was supposed to be cigars in the waiting room, and glad-handing and a spanking to get the little tyke crying. It was supposed to be quick, a cacophony of noise and sweat and then a relaxed couple of days in a recovery room bonding with the newest resident of Larkbunting Drive. This didn’t feel like any of that. This felt decidedly like TV lied.
Some of this will be new, even to my wife. When the doctor informed us that Adrienne would be induced, things started moving really quickly. As a first time dad, none of this was welcome. To those who have never experienced this, there is an assembly line of people who vie for your extremely pregnant wife’s attention. There’s questions and instruction and injections and then when all of this is done there is hours of labor. I was left on an island, an island of confusion and pant soiling fear. At least that’s the way it was for us. For the sake of expediency that the night itself had none of, I’ll make the labor part short, after hours and hours of labor, they decided to go cesarean. That is when the real fun began.
Adrienne opted for an epidural as she had been exhausted during the labor and also, why not? She was then wheeled into the operating room. The doctor began her incision and Adrienne yelped. More meds, stat! It becomes important later. The rest of the C-section went normally, at least through the eyes of someone who had never seen one. Avery was born and she was beautiful. She had a full head of hair and a quiet smile. I had just enough time to show Adrienne her daughter and then Avery and me were whisked off to a room where they would begin prodding and measuring my little girl.
Here is where it gets dodgy. Two things were unbeknownst to me: the first is that when a baby is born, the clock is ticking for their desire to eat. The system seems to be “get ‘em out, get ‘em cleaned, get’ em weighed and get ‘em fed.” Best laid plans of mice and men. I sat with Avery and both my father and my father in law. I was proud but still frightened. This was the first, post birth, “what-the-hell-have-I-done?” moment. I sat there with this new little life in my hands and considered how much better off she would be being raised by wolves. The nurse who measured Avery was kind enough to let me know that it would be a couple of minutes and they would get Avery fed, that this was important, and that it would happen relatively quickly.
Fast forward 45 minutes. No Adrienne, no feeding, no nurse. I sat there with this little angel as she expressed her displeasure with the delay in the only way she knew how. Funny thing. There were a handful of other babies in the room and they decided that is was time for them to eat as well. The noise made my teeth hurt. I didn’t understand what was going on or why my wife wasn’t there. All I knew was that I was an hour into being a dad and buyer’s remorse was creeping in.
It turns out that the doctor was concerned that she had nicked my wife’s bladder during the C-section and it was important to make sure she was okay. I was brought in to see Adrienne and she was out of it completely. The combination of effort, hours awake and the cocktail of pain management substances had left her near incoherent. The nurse took my little one from me and tried to get her to latch on to Adrienne. In this, the nurse failed to realize that Adrienne couldn’t move her arms. She had literally handed the baby to my wife and walked away. My daughter still owes me a ‘thank you’ for catching her as she rolled off of my wife’s lap. From there we were brought to a recovery room and I changed my first meconium diaper. For those who haven’t seen this substance, imagine tree sap mixed with blackberry jelly and crude oil. After that we all drifted to sleep. A couple of hours later, Avery woke and started screeching. Adrienne and shot up simultaneously and looked deep into each other’s eyes. It was that moment where I recognized that Adrienne, who is so often my rock, was having the same “what-the-hell-have-I-done?” moment. This will be news to her, but her panic comforted me. Ten years ago yesterday I wasn’t a dad, ten years ago today, I was.
The lesson here girls? First of all, happy birthday Avery, and thank you Adrienne for the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, yes even better than the Millennium Falcon I got for Christmas in 1980. I suppose the lesson here is about fear. I have never been more afraid in my life. It is a fear so specific that I can remember it distinctly a decade later. The catch is that fear isn’t always a bad thing. If it were, you wouldn’t have any sisters. Yes I was afraid, terrified really, but your parents would dip their toes back into that water again. You know why? Because you’re worth it. You are a generous, kind, funny little girl. You are smart and beautiful and thoughtful. You are so special you made us have a Macy and a Darby too. That’s a lot of pressure and you handled it fantastically. Happy Birthday little girl. I’m very proud of the big ten year old you’ve become.