After Mel’s false alarm, we met with her OBGYN and he moved her C-section up one week.
The day of Mel’s surgery, everyone got up early, around 7AM, even though the surgery wasn’t until noon. We ate, and packed, and talked about the baby. What she would look like. We announced it on Facebook, “We’re having a baby today!!” And received about a million likes.
And then we went to the hospital. Once again, Mel was stripped down and placed in a gown. She was poked and prodded and hooked up to a bunch of sensors. I was asked to change into a thin white jumpsuit that came with a mask and a hat.
The nurse was a woman in her early 40s, with highlighted brown hair, and a large jaw. She was a straight-faced woman, who sat at the computer and asked question after question: “When was your last period?” “Does anyone in your family have a history of this or that?”
“Have you had intercourse in the last 24 hours?” she asked.
“No!” Mel said.
“That would’ve been awesome!” I said.
Mel rolled her eyes, and the nurse gave me a stone cold look that seemed to say, “You need to take this seriously.”
She gave me the same look after she asked Mel if she’d ever had herpes, and I said, “I’m glad someone finally asked that question.”
Before she left the room, I held up the jumpsuit, booties, mask, and hat, and asked, “Do I wear this stuff over my clothes?”
“Yes. I’d really appreciate it if you did.”
She hated me, and suddenly I felt the need to explain myself.
“Sorry,” I said. “When I get nervous, I make bad jokes.”
The nurse gave me a curt smile. “Obviously.”
Once dressed, I waited outside the delivery room for what felt like eternity. I sat in a chair, dressed in the jumpsuit and hat, with a camera around my neck. I felt like a tourist in a space suit getting ready to take photos of some bright white planet.
I felt out of place.
Once I was allowed to come in, all I could see was Mel’s pregnant stomach bulging out beneath blue surgical material. Her face was behind a blue screen they’d erected across her chest. This was to keep Mel from looking at the procedure, and I planned to hide behind this screen until the surgery was complete.
There were a dozen people around her, doctors and nurses, I didn’t have names for all of them, but I had to assume that they all played some role in the birth. Some held this, others monitored that. I had to assume one was a photographer, the other an agent.
I thought about my earlier fear of Mel giving birth in the car, and realized that if that had happened, I obviously would’ve needed more people.
The doctor was about to place a scalpel against Mel’s stomach, so I looked at the floor. When Tristan was born, the doctor said, “Daddy. Come see your son.” I looked around the screen only to see my son half out of a large gaping wound in my wife’s stomach.
I almost passed out.
I sat next to Mel. On her head was a tin foil looking hat, and her arms were stretched out on planks, like she were on a cross. I held her hand, and together, we listened to the pings and pops of the machines, the suction of hoses, and the chatter of everyone in the room. Mel looked nervous and hopeful at the same time.
She was obviously happy to be getting the baby out, but at the same time I think she shared my fear that there would be complications. Norah, our second child, was born with under developed lungs. She spent almost two weeks in the NICU. It was a terrifying ordeal. Mel and I both lost a lot of weight from stress, and it caused us to delay having another child for almost five years.
We heard a cry, and we both smiled because Norah hadn’t cried. Not much, anyway, because she couldn’t breath. We smiled at each other as the cries got louder.
“Did you hear that?” Mel asked.
“Yes,” I said. “We should probably get used to that sound. We’re going to be hearing a lot of it.”
Aspen was born on May 8th. She was 7lb 5 oz.
She was covered with a surprising amount of white crud, much more than our previous kids, and as I held her for the first time, I said, “You look like a booger.”
This was the first thing I said to her.
I think that makes me a poor father.
Aspen made a small O with her mouth and cooed.
The doctor stitched Mel up, and nurses removed the blue surgical material, and she was naked, stretched out across a table, people all around her. Below her navel was large incision. Her stomach was smaller now, and my first instinct was to cover her. But I didn’t because I didn’t feel it was my place to do so. In any other instance, at any other place, I would’ve covered her. But for some reason, in a hospital, this seemed strangely normal. Several people helped move her from the surgical table, to a stretcher, and Mel smiled the whole time. The nurses made jokes, and she laughed. And all I could think about was the fact that a 7 lb. baby had been ripped from her, and now she was naked before strangers, and yet, she smiled.
I’ve never even had surgery. I’ve never been laid out naked before a group of strangers. I don’t even like changing in a locker room. I couldn’t help but marvel at Mel’s strength.
Mel, Aspen, and I were moved to a recovery room. The nurse checked Mel, while I held the baby.
I introduced myself to her.
“I’m Dad,” I said. “And her, over there, that’s your Mom. You have a brother, named Tristan. He’s seven years older than you. He might end up being more like a father than a brother. And Norah, she’s your older sister. You two will be sharing a room. She has lots of dolls. I’m sure you two will love and loathe each other.”
I looked up at Mel. She smiled back at me and said, “You’re a cute dad.”
And I looked back at her and said, “You’re the strongest person I know.”
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley