On this Father's Day, I remember the birth of my first son. An amazing moment that will forever be cemented in my mind, along with the strength and bravery of my wife (but that's another post). I'll also try to relate it to my growth as a writer.
After I was reminded by the nurse to take some photos. I cut the umbilical cord. It was much tougher to cut than expected. I looked at my son and back at my wife. This little bundle of flesh was completely and totally dependent on us as parents. I never imagined loving anything as much as I cared for this little human being. The feeling of love was immediate, intense, and overwhelming. It was a feeling that was incomprehensible before that point in time, and at the fear of being cliche, it's beyond words.
The nurse whisked him away and placed him on a scale. Again she reminded me to take pictures. He was screaming his little heart out. His eyes were open as his little arms and legs swam through the air. I imagine he was trying to make sense of this tidal change in the world as he knew it. For nine months he got used to a warm and quiet space that slowly became more cramped. All of a sudden he's in this new universe. His eyes opened to new colors, shapes and bright lights. His hearing no longer muffled by his mother's flesh and fluid. His skin was enveloped by the cold dry air of the hospital room. How anyone survives this traumatic event and goes on to live a productive life is beyond me.
The nurse placed him under a heater. I put my pinkie finger in his hand, which he closed by reflex. There he was naked and alone. Separated by this chasm of space between him and the woman that carried him for nine months. Between screams, his little lungs filled his chest cavity with the cold dry air. His mouth was open, his tongue and neck vibrated as he screamed louder than I had ever heard anyone scream. The nurse tags him and wraps him in a blanket. And takes him to his mother.
Though the nurse worked quickly, that moment took entirely too long. So long that I had enough time to contemplate the mixture of emotions that forced the tears that flowed down my face. I loved this child so much that I wanted to protect him from anything that could harm him. And yet, there he lay alone. He was scared, crying and cold, and I couldn't make it stop. As the nurse worked, I couldn't take his fear away and I couldn't change that which was the cause of his discomfort. It terrified me. I had never felt that helpless, and no moment in my life since has come close to that feeling of sheer ineptitude. This boy would rely on us to guide him to adulthood and I couldn't help him in that specific moment in time.
That moment passed and it got better. I still cringe every time the cold mean world hurts him. Though no where near as intense, that moment returned when he fell down stairs and split the skin on his forehead open. He yelled from the pain as blood gushed down his face. It returned when I accidentally dropped my coffee and it squirted into his eye. "Daddy, my eye," he yelled. When at the playground, some inconsiderate child rips a toy from his hands, taking some of his joy with it. Yes, given time I can comfort him, fix his wounds, and in the end make it better, but there's this singular moment that exists where I am that helpless new father again.
That moment passes. These cruel world slaps to his face and ego are learning opportunities. Sheltering him would not be helping him. That's a lesson I had to learn, even as I still cringe when the cold hand of reality rears its ugly head at my child.
In my writing, I need to just let it out into the cold cruel world. I have to shut down my inner editor and just let the story and words flow. I can't help it in that moment in time. I need to let it cry, breathe, and experience existence. There is always time after that moment to make things better.
By the way, my second son hardly cried when he was born. One two to four seconds and he was done.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY