Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First Born

Despite our best efforts, we as individuals cannot truly understand what another person experiences.  This is especially true between men and women.  Despite science and study, a man cannot really understand what a women experiences as her body goes through multiple stages.  Frankly, we have no point-of-reference.  That is, we have nothing with which to compare certain processes.  By far the most extreme is pregnancy.  Not just child-birth, but the entire process.

Carol's "cycle" had always been unpredictable.  And, her Gynecologist had suggested that she would probably be unable to have children.  So, it was quite a shock to us to learn that not only was she pregnant, but that she was four month's pregnant!

Always a planner, I was shocked to learn that I had less than 5 months to prepare for an event previously thought impossible.  So, while I was frantically trying to find ways to save money, learn something about what was needed, locate and purchase appropriate accoutrements, attend the hospital's mandatory training, etc, etc, Carol calmly proclaimed "it will be OK".

In truth, I was probably preoccupied with all the related "stuff" because they were things I could understand and deal-with.  Sure, I felt the baby 'kick', but it remained difficult to comprehend an abstract concept to which I could not relate.

February 7th, before the alarm sounded; Carol's "water broke".  Over the next 12 hours or-so, I learned that I was very afraid of the entire birth process.  First, they had to "induce" labor.  The, when she was fully dilated,  The Dr. tried to use forceps to grasp the baby by the head, and pull him out.  Having met several people who had been physically or mentally damaged by forceps delivery, this really scared me.  When that didn't work, I was chased from the delivery-room, and they began preparing for an emergency Caesarean Section.

My mother's heart stopped during a C-Section delivery of my youngest brother.  At the time of my brother's birth, of course, I was completely ignorant of this fact.  And, of course, my mother survived.  However, during the course of life, I had become aware of this close-call.  And frankly, having my wife undergo the same procedure scared me beyond belief.

I don't really know how much time elapsed.  But, I completed several self-guided foot-tours of the hospital before I had worked-off most of the adrenaline.  Some friends dropped-in to visit and see how things were going.  Seeing my nervous state, one offered a cigarette.  I've never been a smoker, but apparently smoking serves to calm their nerves.  Eventually, I was called to meet my son.

Through all of the preparation, worry, nerves, etc, I had been focused on Carol.  To her, the baby was very real and something to which she had bonded, both physically and emotionally.  And, I understood what was happening physiologically.  But the "realness" of the baby was beyond my grasp...until I saw his face.

Shaun was bundled tightly, as is the norm in a hospital.  He was very awake, and his left fist was nestled under his chin.  He had the appearance of someone in a foreign circumstance intently trying to observe and understand everything around him.  He seemed aware and suspicious, yet calm.  I was immediately captivated.  The nurse later told us that she should not have allowed me to keep him as long as she did.  But, she could tell that this was a very important moment for me.

Sometime later, as Carol began to emerge from the anesthesia, I was able to introduce Shaun to her.  In stereotypical fashion, she began counting fingers, and making sure he was "all there".

To any soon-to-be fathers who may read this, I can offer no advice, only this warning: a baby will change your life more than you can begin to imagine.

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