Before you read: As usual this post ended up being much longer than anticipated. I tend to ramble when I’m writing, which, ironically, is the complete opposite of the way I am in person. Therefore, rather than make you sit here and read a novel, I broke it up into parts and I’ll release them all separately. Thank you.
Today Emmy is six months old… I know. Six months. Where does the time go? It dawned on me recently that I haven’t written about her since she was about three months old, and even then I was only writing about events leading up to her birth. I haven’t written anything about her since she’s actually been with us. So, I thought I would catch everyone up. The last six months have been a bit of a rollercoaster. There have been some wonderful moments, plenty of those – but there’s also been times when Captain Morgan found his way out of the liquor cabinet. When Emmy was born I thought we were pretty well equipped. But, as it turns out, there’s a lot out there that no one tells you. So, grab a warm beverage, find a comfy chair and settle in; it’s been six months and Daddy’s got some things he wants to talk about…
I’m not sure where to start so let’s just start…
Right After Delivery
The first thing no one told me was that right after the baby is born Daddy gets to go to Recovery with the baby while Mommy is being put back together. New baby Emmy, been in the world a whole fifteen minutes, is about to be entrusted to Daddy… without Mommy. When the nurse kneeled down next to us and gave us the post-delivery game plan, like a football coach drawing plays in the sand before the biggest play of your life, it went a little something like this – I’ll paraphrase:
“Alright you guys, the baby is out , we’re just going to whisk her over to the baby car wash, give her a good scrubbin’, and then we’ll make sure everything is where it’s suppose to be, no extra fingers or toes, then we’re going to sweep around and hand her off to you! You’ll take her over to Recovery while Mom finishes up here, okay?”
At that last part, I snap to attention, “Wait…”
This lady clearly doesn’t know me. I’m just the Dad. I’m second string. I’m the B team. You don’t put me in the game. No one told me I’d have to go in alone. I’m not qualified for this. I have no mommy-instincts. I have no breasts to suckle.
I really thought I was here to get ice chips.
“The nature of impending fatherhood is that you are doing something that you’re unqualified to do, and then you become qualified while doing it.” –John Green
Recovery is a large rectangle room divided into sections by curtains along one wall. Each one of these sections makes up one “room”. This forms a “hallway” along the opposite wall. Each “room” has one chair. Confused? Me too. Alright, it’s almost exactly like that scene in Seinfeld when George is having his tonsils removed – like this:
The beds wheel in and out. So when I arrived in Recovery with Emmy (without Mommy) there was no bed yet – just a big open area with one chair. The nurse placed Em’s bassinet at the end of the curtain next to the “hallway”. There’s a pretty good distance between the chair and the bassinet. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.
Before Emersyn was born, I studied. I swear I studied. I read the books. I asked google the questions. I read articles about apps for new Dads and I said “Thank you, article” and I downloaded those apps. Most of them are still on my phone. But here’s the thing: now that I’m standing in Recovery with my daughter, in our “room”… with our partially see-through, non-sound proof curtains… with no door… exposed to the “hallway”… and alone… I don’t remember one damn word. None of it. It’s gone. Like the teacher just dropped the test on my desk and I can’t even remember my name.
I’m staring at this face… and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.
So, I just stand there. And I watch her sleep…
And for the very first time, I truly see her. My daughter. My Emmy. And she’s beautiful. I can’t believe it. Her long eyelashes. The curve of her lips. The dimple in her chin. I think she has my nose. She’s so little. How did we do this? How did we create perfection? I’ve never in my life felt like a lucky guy but standing there, in that moment, it was like I understood why – maybe I saved all my luck for this.
She opened her eyes. I watched her watching me. And that was it. I didn’t need anymore than this.
I whispered to her:
I told her I was her Dad…
I told her she was beautiful…
I told her I was happy she was here…
I told her I loved her…
And then a voice rang out from behind me, snapping me back to reality, “It’s time for her shots”…
No one told me about this.
The difference between a first time parent and a nurse who handles newborns everyday is quite drastic. I’m afraid to even touch her in fear that I will break her, the nurse on the other hand manhandles her. Flips her, jerks her, tosses her, spins her out of her swaddle like a top. They poke her, prod her, test her and finally jab a bunch of needles in her leg. I can’t look. It’s too much. Emmy is screaming. My blood is boiling. It was my first experience as a protective father and I did NOT approve!
Once they were done they swaddled her all back up and asked if I wanted to hold her… you know, now that she was all good and pissed off. I’ve spent my entire life avoiding crying babies. They’ve always freaked me out. Anytime I’ve ever been holding a baby and they start crying I immediately look for the closest responsible adult in the room. How do you get them to stop? I had no idea. But now the baby is my own. And she’s crying. And the nurse is staring at me. And now I’m wondering how long I’ve been sitting here contemplating this simple question?
Reluctantly, I agree.
She hands me Emmy.
Please, don’t drop her, don’t drop her, don’t drop her…
She was like a feather. So much lighter than I expected. My arms trembled beneath her. I wanted to hold her as secure as I could but she was so tiny I didn’t want to crush her either. I had so much anxiety raging through me that it took me a moment to realize that she had stopped crying.
Wait, do I have Daddy super powers now?
The nurse was still hovering close by. It was uncomfortable. I call on my new found powers to make her disappear…
It didn’t work.
She asked if I wanted her to take a picture. What I really wanted was for her to take her needles and get out of my face… but that felt a little rude, so I let her take a picture. And look at how tiny she was…
I didn’t have to wait long for my second dose of protective father. And it was a big one.
The nurse took sleeping Emmy back and placed her in her bassinet (at the end of the curtain, remember?). I was still sitting in the chair. ( A pretty good distance away, you remember.) So, she’s over there and I’m waayyyy over here and I have nothing to do, and, well, it was so magical watching her sleep the last time I decided to stand up and walk over to watch her sleep some more. However, this time when I reach her I found something very different.
What is she doing?
She was making a strange, puckery face.
“What are you doing?”, I say to her.
Then, she starts moving her mouth in an odd fashion and a tinge of fear rolled down my back. I started to look for help….
OH, NOW THERE’S NO NURSE. Five seconds ago I couldn’t get rid of you, now you’re nowhere to be found. Perfect.
I turn back to Emmy and now her tongue has joined in. It’s poking in and out of her mouth and I feel a full on panic attack coming.
Is she breathing?
“Are you breathing?”
I think she’s having trouble breathing.
“Are you having trouble breathing?”
I need to find help. I look around and there are no nurses anywhere. There are no blue scrubs. There are no people with stethoscopes around their neck.
I look back at Emmy and now there’s a clicking noise coming from her mouth.
“Hang on, Daddy will get someone!”
I looking around, “Um, is there a nurse? I think I need a nurse.”
Just then, a nurse pokes her head around the corner. “Everything okay?”
“I don’t think so. I think she’s having trouble breathing. Can you help us?”.
This lady starts a casual stroll with a look on her face that VERY CLEARLY said, “I don’t get paid enough to deal with these first time dads every. damn. day.”
I certainly didn’t appreciate it.
Once her casual stroll had finally reached its conclusion, she was standing next to me. She looked over into the bassinet for just a moment, and then turned to me and said, “Honey, she’s just rooting. It means she’s hungry”.
The nurse walks away. I look back at Emmy whose face now looks to be saying, “Are they sending me home with you?”.
How did no one ever mention rooting? The books. The articles. The apps. Friends with babies. Family with babies. Not one time. Well, maybe they did and I forgot. It’s possible. But, regardless, I felt instantly overwhelmed. They were going to send this kid home with me soon. And there won’t be any angry nurses around to tell me it’s fine. How were we going to do this?
After that fiasco, I needed to rest. Emmy was fine. She was in her bassinet breathing properly at the end of the curtain by the “hallway”. I sat in the chair a pretty good distance away.
At this point, I had been up for just about two days straight. I still needed to message friends and family to let them know that Ashley had the baby. So, I decided to take the opportunity to relax and send out some texts… but wouldn’t you know it, my texting was interrupted when out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention. When I slowly raised my head to look, I see that the thing that caught my eye was actually my child’s bassinet… rolling down the “hall”…. ROLLING DOWN THE “HALL”! Unaccompanied. Like a little sailboat lost at sea. This time, the protective father in me said, “I got nothing”. It all happened in a split second but felt like an eternity. My body absolutely refused to move. I could not believe what I was seeing. How is this even a thing? My mouth tried to speak but what was I supposed to say? “Um, excuse me, could someone grab that runaway bassinet, my child is in it”? Okay, yeah, I could have said that but instead I just sat there, screaming internally at my legs to MOVE!!
Luckily, a nurse spotted the bassinet and stepped out in the “hallway” to grab it. She said, “Where do you think you’re going, missy?” and rolled her back to her spot at the end of the curtain where she stepped on the brake to lock the wheels. And then she just went back to doing whatever she was doing before.
What. Just. Happened?
My daughter was rolling down the hall! How do you just casually grab her and roll her back over here like this happens every day? Am I in a cartoon? Did we give birth in the Leaning Tower of Pisa?? I’ve been a dad for like an hour! Is this my life now?
In my defense, I told them not to put me in the game. Second string, I said. B team, I told them. I had a solid plan to get the ice chips.
This is the end of part one. Join me next time for part two when we’ll talk about the postpartum experience (or as I like to call it, Baby Bootcamp).