Archive for the 'Advice from Victoria' Category

Sarah’s birth day

November 3, 2010

Andrew Hicks

November 3, 2008
7:57 am

I’m standing in scrubs at the doorway of a hospital room. My mom and in-laws are in a family waiting area across the hall. About a half-hour ago, one of the nurses told me she’d be back for me in five minutes. The commotion of several pairs of feet starts to rattle up the hallway. I stick out my head just in time to seeĀ a handful of hospital techs and nurses dart by, and I overhear enough to know they’re scurrying to the room where my wife is under spinal anesthesia.

A nurse stops and addresses me: “Dad? You ready?”

It’s one of the first times I’ve been called dad. It sounds foreign. I follow the nurse, who assures me everything is going great so far, down the hall and into a service corridor. She makes sure my Michael Jackson face mask is in place and pushes the button that swings open the double doors to the surgery room.

I step inside. Bright lights overwhelm my vision. I hear the gentle hissing and beeping of machines. I hear the organized chaos of team communication between doctors, nurses and a slightly creepy anesthesiologist with a clipped German accent. The nurse directs me to a stool on wheels. I slide into place next to my beautiful wife, whose caged eyes flash from overwhelmed and pensive to surprisingly calm and cognizant. She takes my hand as I remark how crazy this all is.

Her face, looking over at me with a faint smile, fades into hospital gown-covered shoulders and an abrupt blue sheet-curtain. Beyond the curtain, the Caesarian is well underway. Tiffany asks, “Baby cry? Hear a baby cry?” I tell her not yet, they’re still getting her out. German Anesthesiologist tells Tiffany she “vill feel a lot of press-shaw.” The doctor and the nurses start to calmly repeat the same mantra, “A lot of pressure, a lot of pressure,” as if these are the time-tested magic words that will bring forth baby.

I tell my wife I love her. She tells me the same, then asks about the baby cry again. I think of it as a delirious response to the spinal block, but she’ll later tell me it was the one thing she was focused on. She’d had worries about bad reactions to anesthesia and Sarah being stillborn. She knew if she heard the baby cry, everything would be fine.

Someone announces that they see a head. The curtain is blocking all the action. I look into the reflecting glass of a medical cabinet on the wall to my left. There, I can see the flurry of movement by well-trained hands, then the silhouette of a tiny body being lifted from its mother’s womb. A quiet, quick second passes, then… we hear the baby cry. A stuttering, hesitant billy goat bleat that soon escalates into a full-blown, hyperventilating wail.

“Baby’s crying?” Tiffany asks me. Yes, I tell her happily, choking back tears. The baby’s crying. A voice on the other side of the curtain announces that it’s a girl. Another voice announces the time — 8:06 am. I squeeze my wife’s hand and brush her left cheek. I’m also in charge of making sure her drool gets collected in the maroon plastic kidney-shaped bedpan. Side effect of heavy anesthesia, the drool.

“You might wanna get your camera out there, dad,” says the head nurse, a lady whose name I’ll soon find out is Victoria. Over the next few hours, she’ll embody the patient but wizened stance of someone who spends most of her work week giving basic parenting advice to people who mainly don’t know what they’re doing and don’t listen. Victoria kind of reminds me of an infant caretaker version of Michael Caine’s character in The Cider House Rules, minus the abortions and ether addiction.

I feel overtaken by emotion but somewhat numb at the same time, like I’m watching something happen to somebody else. I snap photos of the cleanup, the weighing, the measuring and the fingerprinting. I take mental note of the vital stats: 8 pounds, 1 ounce; 22 1/2 inches long.

Victoria asks if we have a name picked out. I tell her Sarah Grace. She indicates that she approves. All this time, my wife’s midsection is opened up behind me, and I try to avert my eyes. I’m just too curious, though, and I take a couple long stares at her exposed organs and intestines. A year and a half ago, I’d never met even this woman whose insides are all mangled from giving birth to my baby. This is intimacy.

Newborn Sarah has stopped baby-crying by the time she’s in her first diaper, wrapped in a hospital blanket and deposited in her mommy’s arms. German Anesthesiologist obliges us with a photo of mom, dad and baby. I get the camera back and frame mom and baby. A notice comes on the display screen, telling me the batteries are as good as dead. I have no backup Energizers in the pockets of my scrubs.

Nurse Victoria shoots me a look of death when she realizes baby’s first photo shoot has come to an abrupt, premature end thanks to dad’s inadequate planning. Eight minutes into fatherhood, and I’ve already earned a permanent slot on Vickie’s extensive shit list.

We get back to the hospital room, and Sarah — already taking her first nap — gets passed around to three grandparents. I change batteries in the camera, and along with everyone else, I take as many pictures as possible. Then I excuse myself to call my dad and a few close friends, wandering up and down the hospital hallways while I spread the news.

My mom finds me minutes later. Tells me I should get back to the hospital room because Tiffany’s about to breastfeed Sarah for the first time. It’s just me, her and our new baby in the room. Sarah latches right on, a true natural.

Now, I come from a small, reclusive family. I only have one brother, two years younger than I am. I didn’t grow up around babies, and I never really planned on having my own. Older couples I befriended would always tell me I’d change my mind when I met the right woman, and I shrugged it off until I did in fact meet my perfect counterpart.

We were barely boyfriend and girlfriend when Tiffany and I took her best friend’s 2 1/2 year old to Six Flags with us one afternoon. Watching Tiffany act so tender, patient and maternal with a cute little girl changed my mind in an instant. I knew she was the only possible mother for the children I never thought I’d have.

That said, on Day One, I hold my baby like she’s a glass grenade that will self-destruct with any contact or movement. I’m still a week away from changing my first diaper. I’m about a year from feeling like I remotely know what I’m doing as a dad. But when I collapse on the couch in our hospital room, with an hours-old Sarah sleeping on my chest, I feel an overwhelming, proprietary love I didn’t know was inside me. This newborn girl has changed me in an instant.

I love you with all my heart, Sarah. Happy second birthday, sweetie pie.