I woke to a cacophony of beeps, compressions and shuffled steps. Peppered among them were the short, frightful breathes of a woman desperate for the end of this particular journey; freely ready to trade it for the next. The room was dimly lit; a light over my wife, while all others had been snuffed out. I found myself under a sheet and what only the most disadvantaged would refer to as a blanket. Underneath of barely anything, but on top of even less – a twin mattress, unhindered, may have been all of two inches thick. With my frame, I could easily feel it’s. There’d be a sterile procedure in a few minutes, I had overheard one of the nurses say to my wife. Best get your husband up. He’s not permitted in the room during the administration. Leave it to me to be the one sleeping through the beginning stages of labor…
I unraveled myself from the linen and put on my shoes; a quick kiss on the head to my wife prior to heading for the door. It was just past 4:00 AM and there was nothing open. A jaunt around the perimeter of the hospital took just ten minutes. I’d have to improvise. In my rush to leave, I’d separated myself from my phone. I’d have to go it alone, sans social media for the remainder of the time. Fortunately, I’d brought my book. On three hours of sleep, in the wee hours of the morning, its impossibly difficult to read. The time passed, slowly. Eventually, I re-entered our labor and delivery room. Not quite sure of what I’d find, or if I’d be permitted to sleep by the woman who, minutes before, had kindly explained to me that my sleep, or lack thereof, wasn’t really an issue worthy of making the list at that moment. My brain objected. My tongue held steady in the moment. I’d passed that small test. Upon re-entry, I found a subdued, if not relaxed spouse. Our doctor was due back around 7:00 AM. Hopefully with answers, maybe insight is the better word.
As time wants to do in moments of anticipation, the big hand seemed to slow to a crawl at times, leap to a sprint at others. All the while the little hand was curiously disconnected from its usual concerted efforts with its longer, less important comrade. Yes, under such a watchful eye I was convinced both of the lazy lot were Bolsheviks. Lunchtime came. Nothing. No pushing. No sustenance. No baby.
Finally, as we made the lap around 2:00 PM the word came out of the doctor’s mouth like manna from heaven; it was time to push. Again, not having any real responsibility, and knowing even less what to do, I was assigned the left side of the bed as part of the delivery team. 30 seconds. Push for ten. Breathe for 20. Do it again. And again. And again. Between frequent ice chip retrievals and leg support sessions, my wife began to complain of the heat of the room. After adjusting a few times, the nurse began to realize that the temperature readings they’d been taking orally were compromised by the ice chip habit, or addiction, that had been forming. A test under the arm revealed an elevated temperature, that coincided with the baby’s elevated heart rate.
Chorioamnionitis also known as intra-amniotic infection, resulting from a burst amniotic sack for too long, had developed as a delivery complication. As we could see the baby’s head, the doctor quickly assessed that potentially a vacuum (terribly misnamed instrument by the way, its more like a plunger head with a string attached) could be implemented to avoid a C-Section. Immediately at least 3 more people entered the room. The bed manipulated in such a way as to rival the brigade of Transformers – lights turned way up from places I didn’t know existed. Still more people entered. The din got louder. There was an explanation from the labor and delivery person for each new inhabitant. My focus both broad and narrow. I began to forget the reasons for each persons presence. I had not the time to wonder, either. The doctor totally overwhelming me in the best sense of the world with efficient word choice, movement and action.
What seemed like only a moment, but must have been several minutes, resulted in the successful delivery of Quinn Teresa O’Connor to the world at 3:42 PM, tipping the scales at 8 lbs 9oz, and 21 1/2″ long. At the very first sight of my daughter, my world expanded. There was never a thought of “I can’t do this” or, “What do I do here?” I felt totally prepared for being a father. What never occurred to me was the total change of perspective, as if I’d just zoomed out on my life twenty-fold and was now staring at a much bigger expanse of area, now filled with a beautiful girl that I had played a part in breathing life into. What a mental exercise that was, and still is!
In the days, months, and now four years that have followed, there’s not been a day I was paying attention where I haven’t been totally sideways at the thought that this little girl is my little girl. That this little girl has gone from that moment, which I’ll never forget, to this one. That I just spent the last few hours of daylight teaching her how to ride a bike! How did we arrive at this moment? How am I going to deal with first dances, graduations, engagements, and on down the line when no gap of time permits that first moment may ever recede from my memory?
While I’ll never fully grasp that concept, I am eternally grateful to God, my wife, and the host of angels, living and en memoriam that have provided the wisdom, grace and providence to bless me with such a captivating little spirit. I’m completely biased, but there’s not another soul on this earth I’d choose to be the one to make me a daddy. Four years later and my course through time has altered dramatically. I’m also told that this is just the tip of the iceberg. That thought is as unfathomable as any I had, prior to my daughter’s arrival, about the impact fatherhood, my children, my daughter would have on me. I’m strapped in for the ride, not quite sure what I will encounter, praying it all remains just as magical.
Happy Birthday, Quinn. We love you so.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,
What an awesome story…and what a gorgeous girl! Happy birthday, indeed, Quinn – and my many more grace you and your loving father.