My earliest memory as a child is when I was two and a half years old. It was the middle of the night, and I woke up and realized that somehow, I had lost my pillow, so I waddled into my parents’ bedroom down the hall, but they weren’t there. The bed was still made, and I remember thinking that maybe they were at a party. I went back to my room, found my pillow, and crawled back into bed.
Come to find out, that was the same night that my baby brother Todd was born. I can still picture the bunk beds that I slept in, and the darkness of my parents’ room, and as I revisit that memory every now and then, I start to see what it’s like to be a Dad.
I’ll never forget the birth of our first child. It was a bitter, cold January night in Texas, and my wife Sharel had been having contractions off and on for the last few days. She had been so uncomfortable and had been having a hard time sleeping for days and weeks before, and now that the moment had finally arrived, we were giddy with excitement. At 9 pm, the intensity of those contractions increased and became more regular, so we grabbed our bags and rushed to the hospital.
After examining my wife, the nurses admitted her into one of the Labor and Delivery rooms, where they hooked her up to an IV and attached two monitors to her belly. They gave her Pitocin to help with the dilation of her cervix to speed things along, and made her comfortable, bringing her heated blankets whenever necessary.
She rested as best as she could, and I did what I could to comfort her when her pain got intense. I held her hand and lightly stroked her arm, and fed her ice chips whenever her mouth became dry. We smiled at each other and whispered phrases like, “Oh, that was a big contraction!” and “You got this” and “Should I get the nurse?”
I remember her parents arriving around midnight and spending some time with her before her mother had to leave. It was just too hard for her to see her daughter in pain, so they spent most of their time in the waiting room. Occasionally I would wander out to give them updates, but I mostly stayed by Sharel’s side. I can still recall the feelings of helplessness and worry whenever my wife’s face would pinch tight from the pain. My focus at the time was on helping her to breathe through the contractions, or fluffing her pillow whenever it got too flat, or asking the nurse for another heated blanket.
Around 8 am the anesthetist came and gave her an epidural, which seemed to take the edge off. The nurses continued to come in and examine her, and around 10:30 they finally announced that Sharel was dilated to a 10 and almost fully effaced.
The baby was coming!
We didn’t know the gender because we wanted to be surprised, and we never regretted that decision, even though our family and friends thought we were nuts. Today, people have these elaborate gender reveal parties – some of which go horribly wrong – but we wanted to keep it simple.
Anyway, the nurses positioned my wife on the bed so that she could push, and thus began the most intense hour of her life. Between pushing and resting and pushing some more, the baby’s head finally emerged. I witnessed it all by her side as I helped with the delivery, and when our baby girl finally entered the world at 11:34 am, the tears flowed down my face. The delivery nurse quickly washed her off and wrapped a warm blanket around her and handed her to me, and one of the most intense feelings of joy and happiness washed over me. She was beautiful, with dark hair and bright red skin. She was perfect!
As Sharel got to hold her, we both looked at each other with relief on our faces. As monitors were switched off and florescent lights were turned down, we basked in the glow of parenthood. The adventures that awaited us, we did not know. But at that moment, when we felt such an overwhelming love for this tiny infant, we knew that our lives would never be the same again.