We cleaned the house daily for at least a month prior to the big day. I was often asked to wipe down the cabinets again and I lovingly did so, every time. I suppose there was also a degree of fear involved as her mood swings during that last month were glorious. We’d be enjoying our Sonic footlong chili cheese dogs (the food of choice for the first baby) when suddenly I’d get in serious trouble for the way I parked. I also got in trouble if I ever took a bite of fried rice while standing up.
So I knew to keep my head down and wipe those cabinets. I also started parking down the block and walking home. And I made damn sure to pile enough fried rice on my plate so I could eat every bite while sitting.
Two weeks before the due date we went in for her routine weekly check-up. They estimated the baby’s weight at that time to be over nine pounds and warned us that babies typically gained the most during the last two weeks of pregnancy. Because of this, they suggested that we schedule time the following Monday for labor to be induced. We agreed to that and made the necessary arrangements. When we left I called all my buddies and told them that we were probably gonna break the Texas record for biggest baby ever. They were all so excited.
We were scheduled to check in at the hospital at 5:30 am on Monday morning. We left the house at about 5:20 and I stopped at the Toot n Totum (an Amarillo landmark) to get my coffee. Somehow, this spurred another mood swing, so I hurriedly poured from the first pot I saw. It was probably some dumb breakfast blend, but I’m used to making sacrifices.
They began inducing at about 8:30 so I assumed we’d have it all wrapped up by lunch. At 10:30 nothing was happening. 11:30 and nothing.
Noon. Nothing. I started watching a John Wayne movie.
They gave her another round of medicine at about three o’clock so I held out hope to eat supper with the baby. Four o’clock labor check: Nothing. One more shot at 5:15 but still nothing. Don’t they know this baby is gaining a pound an hour by now so we’ve got to get this taken care of soon?
At 5:30 the doctor came in and said we had two options: We could either shut it down for the night and start the inducing medicine again in the morning, or we could do a C-Section that evening. My wife was exhausted and we didn’t really want to wait another day while this little giant baby was getting bigger and bigger so we agreed to the C-Section.
You know when they say “everything was a blur?” The next hour was one of those times for me.
The doctor said “OK, great. I just need you to sign this waiver and you need to know that this is a major surgery so there’s a chance we’ll cut your wife and we might cut the baby and hell, we might even cut you while we’re at it” as she looked up at me.
“There’s also a chance everybody could die and this could all go horribly wrong but it usually doesn’t but the power could go out and we’re slinging knives around in the dark. Don’t worry, we do this all the time but you just need to know that there’s a slight possibility that everybody’s gonna get cut. Ok? Any questions? If not, just sign right here, but remember, all you might get cut up real good.”
She then started throwing things at me and said “Sir, you need to put on this Haz Mat suit that’s 3 sizes too small. It’s not our fault you’re taller than the average elf. You also have to wear these paper shoes and this mask and this baker’s hair net because we want you to look as ridiculous as possible.”
While the doctor is throwing this outfit at me they’re loading my wife onto a gurney and hooking her up to all kinds of new machines and she’s looking at me with a little fear in her eyes and I try my best to be a strong man wearing a hair net and paper shoes. We walk down the hall and I hold her hand. We bust through some big doors and they take her into the room and tell me to sit down on a tiny metal chair. An older lady is sitting in a chair next to me, fanning herself with a newspaper. “Oh mercy, mercy, mercy” she keeps repeating.
I’m trying to stay calm and gather my thoughts when she asks me “You having a baby?”
“I think so” is all I can manage.
“Us too” she says. “I brought my daughter in because she was having stomach pains and I knew it was probably bad Thai food but then they come tell me she’s having a baby and oh mercy mercy mercy.”
Before I could answer, they called me into the room and I told her good luck as the doors shut behind me.
The room was very bright and there were about 18 people scampering around. A big curtain was up and I could see my wife’s head poking through with a tiny metal chair next to it .They told me to sit there. I rubbed her hair as I sat. Somebody had a radio on. The nurse felt it necessary to give me a play by play of what was going on and the curtain kept moving. Is somebody playing basketball back there? Why is this curtain moving so much? Is this some weird puppet show?
The play by play lady told me they were almost there and asked me if I wanted to stand up and watch and I shook my head no.
“Oh come on” she said as she grabbed me under the arms and lifted me up. I almost passed out.
There was some guy up on a table yanking on my wife and baby like he was trying to pull a mesquite tree out of dry caliche. He finally got her out and held her up like Simba and everybody clapped and they did all the stuff and talked about how big this baby was but she wasn’t too big, not even 8 pounds and I saw waaayyyy too much so I woozily sat back down. I told my wife she was beautiful I think but couldn’t tell for sure and we didn’t break the Texas record, but that was ok.
Our baby was crying and they took her to the incubator thing and cleaned her up and put stuff in her nose and did something to her eyes and they were all so nonchalant and happy about it. The doctor came around the curtain and talked to us but I can’t remember what she said. I assume she was just letting us know that everybody didn’t get cut. They called me over to the incubator so I gave my wife a kiss on the forehead and stumbled across the room.
They were still doing all the stuff to her and she was crying and then they finally wrapped her up in the little burrito blanket and told me to take her to the nursery. They handed her to me and pointed the way. I really didn’t want to drop my baby in front of all these people so I gathered myself and walked toward the nursery, holding my little girl for the first time.
Naturally, she’d been crying since the Simba show, and continued to cry as I held her in my arms. Generally I’m a man of few words so I awkwardly made small talk with her as we walked.
And then I told her I loved her.
She immediately stopped crying and opened her beautiful blue eyes and we met face to face for the first time in the hallway on the way to the nursery.
And that was it. I was all in.