We’ve been living in wait of our next big life transition, knowing it was coming soon. We became aware in September of last year it was coming. It has slowly grown into more and more of a reality. If the baby came on the due date, I would be called away some time on Thursday. On Wednesday afternoon, at the end of the work day as I was closing out all my computer windows, Allyson called. She had gone into the doctor to check on some strange stuff she’d been feeling. The doctors decided that with her blood pressure where it was, it was time.
I packed up everything: the go bag, comfortable clothes, snacks, the computer, the tablet, the mindful birthing book. Since Allyson had the car, I needed Hope to take me to the hospital. Our conversations went all over the place. I told Hope about loose ends that needed to be tied up at work. We talked about what would soon be happening. We talked about random things too, probably music and weather. My brain was going in a thousand different directions, trying to do a bunch of things before it was totally immersed in one thing. Hope took good care of us, getting extra Cliff bars and chocolates for the nurses, bring up stuff from home we forgot.
With Allyson’s blood pressure elevated, our doctor thought she might need to be induced, but she began to dilate and have contractions on her own. We came into this with a sense of reality that anything could happen with this birth, but Allyson wanted to begin trying to deliver naturally. We wanted to begin with the least invasive, the one that used the least amounts of drugs if we could. Allyson wanted to experience as much of labor as she could stand. She wanted to be as present as she could to welcome our child. Considering all that, it was a relief that she wouldn’t need drugs to begin labor, that her body was doing what it needed to do. We began calling and texting family and close friends to let them know the wheels were in motion. The Sun was setting, but our day was just beginning.
The Tillamook Regional Hospital has a birthing center that accommodates lots of different ways of giving birth. They are open to walking around, soaking in the jacuzzi bath, watching a movie, rolling on an exercise ball, canvasing the room with pictures that calm you down. For the next 7-8 hours, Allyson and I would rotate through activities to help her relax and be present, to help her breathe and manage the pain of contractions.
We took slow walks around the hospital. We did breathing exercises as Allyson relaxed in the jacuzzi. I showed her videos from our most memorable trips. It was such a tentative time, such an exhausting time, but it was also so intimate and romantic. I remember swaying with her in the dark hospital room to Otis Redding’s, “These Arms of Mine.” It felt like we were on a date together. I felt in love with her in a fresh, new way and in a deep, old way. Allyson had such a grace about her as she dealt with contractions. She seemed to be tapping into to some deep, subconscious womanly knowledge. Those moments have left a deep impression on me, they will be some of the most memorable of my whole life.
But, by 4am Allyson was only dilated to 4cm and she was exhausted from being awake about 20 hours, so she made the decision to get the epidural. From there, we were to wait until she was dilated enough and the body started to do what it knew how to do. Allyson was at about 9cm, and they told us we would be pushing soon. I looked at the clock and figured the baby would be arriving sometime near noon. But, Allyson didn’t dilate much farther, and the baby’s head was not advancing. The doctor’s explained that things weren’t fitting together right. They recommended we do a c-section before we got into a dangerous situation.
Allyson was wheeled away to surgery, and I was suited up to join her. They put up a curtain at Allyson’s chest level. I stayed on the side so Allyson could see me, so I could talk to her. On the other side of the curtain, doctors were opening her abdomen, to pull out our child. I had Allyson list the 2017 Cubs by their starting positions to distract from the knowledge we were in surgery. As she made it to the outfielders, we heard a cry. It was Aura.
This was a surreal moment, the moment we first heard the voice of this person we had known only through vibrations, ultrasounds, and movements within a womb. We had only known her in small ways, and suddenly here was a new way on the other side of the curtain. Soon they lifted her up over the curtain and we saw our daughter for the first time. I was led over to the table where they would do their preliminary doctor exam stuff, and I introduced myself. She was not at all happy to be in this cold, bright new world, but she would soon be placed on her mother’s chest, and that would settle her down. She was able to raise her head up already.
Though I am prone to get reflective in these weekly posts, I’m finding it difficult to get too philosophical at this point on the birth of my child. So many people have asked me if it’s everything I hoped for or if it’s what I thought it would be. Having heard from so many parents that parenthood is full of surprises, that you shouldn’t go in with too many expectations, I’ve tried to approach fatherhood without wanting it to be something or expecting something out of it. So, I don’t really know how to answer those questions. I’ve gone into this much more focusing on how I want to be a father. The ways I want to respond to my child and who I want to try to be. I don’t exactly know what I hope for out of this, and I don’t think I want to know. I just know who I want to be in this, and to that end I am pouring myself into it. The pouring has been an incredible experience so far. I have poured myself out like this before, but this will be much more ongoing, much more far reaching and deep.
The next day and a half would be a blur of naps on a hospital recliner, visits from about 12 different types of doctors and nurses, and time spent getting to know this new person that Allyson and I made. We continue to marvel at the fact that we both made this little human with all its human body parts. I figured out tricks to calm her. I hum to her. I breathe deeply with her on my chest, hoping she’ll get in touch with her own breath. I put a finger in her mouth. I sing her some of the songs I know best. I hold her close and tell her, “You’re alright. You’re alright.” We watched our first Cubs game together, a victory over the Reds. The first song I played for her was The Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child.”
We are learning more about who she is, wondering what parts of each of us are being mirrored to us. So far, we’ve discovered she is fairly easy going, she likes to coo and squeak. She is strong for someone who weighs 7 lbs 13 ounces, she frequently breaks out of swaddles. She almost rolled over the first night. Despite her general calm, she has a temper that usually gets unleashed when you undress her or bathe her. In this first week, I started calling her our little werewolf, because it seems that this temper comes out most violently after the sun goes down.
On one of these first fits I’ve heard my daughter throw, I picked her up and held her close to me. I bounced her and put her little red face close to mine. I whispered to her, “I will teach you what to do with that fire.”
I wonder how these little aspects of her will carry over as she grows. I wonder if she has her father’s temper. Whatever we share, I look forward to holding these things from our bloodline with her. I am watching, becoming a student of how to help her find what that little fire inside is capable of.