Updated: Sep 23, 2020
The BIG DAY. Sorry fellas, I'm not talking about the day you were at the Super Bowl, although that must have been a big day too! I'm talking about the day your baby is born. I have three girls. Each of their Birthdays were special and a day that I'll never forget. Each day was also a unique experience. Going into those days, I really didn't have any idea what to expect, except what I had seen on TV and movies. Everyone knows you can't get an accurate depiction from that. Also keep in mind that these were my experiences, yours will likely differ. My hope is that this post eases some of the anxiety for future Dads that they may be experiencing around this special day.
My first Daughter's Birthday
When my wife was pregnant, I thought it was a good idea to quit my job, start student teaching AND become a Dad for the first time... all at the same time! So guess what I was doing when my wife was told that she was going to be having the baby that day? You guessed it! I was teaching Biology to Freshmen. Ironically, it was only a couple days before when we had the conversation about me giving her name and contact information to the school in case something were to come up. Little would I know that only a couple days later, she would be calling.
I'm thinking to myself "Dude this doesn't sound very safe!" But I'm also not a doctor, so I try to chill.
The day started as any other. I woke up, got my coffee and went to teach. I'm cruising through my day like any other. Meanwhile, my wife needed to go to the hospital for some tests. She was being tested for a condition known as pre-eclampsia. The condition is dangerous for the mother. Symptoms are high blood pressure, swelling of the legs, hands and feet as well as protein in the urine. While at the hospital, she happened to run into her doctor. As they were talking, her doctor decided to check to see if the test results were in. They were so the doctor took a look at them right away. The doctor told my wife that she was going to be induced and that she was going to have the baby that day! She called the school, and I left and went home to get ready to go to the hospital.
I had gotten our stuff from home and brought it back to the hospital. The doctor induced my wife and we waited, and waited and waited. The induction process varies from person to person. For us it would go into the night. I was anxious. Night passed and into the next day. When a baby is ready to be delivered, it drops lower in the uterus. In our case the baby wasn't dropping. She was just chillin' and had no plans of coming out. The labor pains started to get very painful, thus my wife asked for an epidural. I had heard this word before, but never really knew exactly what it was. So here we go. This is a local anesthetic that is given to the woman to help with pain. This is given to the mother by an Anesthesiologist, not by their OBGYN. Something I didn't know before today. So far so good, no sweat. The Anesthesiologist comes in and says that my wife is going to need to sit on the side of the bed and put her head between her knees so that her back is arched. He is then going to stick a needle in her spine. I'm thinking to myself "Dude this doesn't sound very safe!" But I'm also not a doctor, so I try to chill. Next thing I know, the doctor tells me to step out of the room. This caught me off guard for sure. I'm the dad and the husband, I wasn't just some visitor. Why was I being asked to leave? I complied and left the room and in a matter minutes, they had the epidural in. When I came back in, there was a tube going into my wife's back that was providing the medicine. I was relieved. I thought they were going to leave the needle in her back. They only use the needle to make the puncture, then they leave a small silicone tube to provide the medicine. Not sure how they can train someone in medical school to be like 'Here take this giant needle and stick it in this person's spine.'" Somehow they do.
"In typical dude fashion I was in the bathroom, changed and back out in about 2 minutes."
After the epidural, there was more waiting. Still no baby. Finally, after many hours with not much change, we made the decision to do a C-section delivery. My wife had to sign some papers and then it was go time. I thought that this process was going to take quite a bit of time, we were rolling into surgery after all. The nurses gave me scrubs and told me to put them on. In typical dude fashion I was in the bathroom, changed and back out in about 2 minutes. They asked me to wait in the hospital room as they wheeled off my wife to prep her for surgery. It seemed like it took them a half an hour to prep her for surgery. In reality it was probably not much more than 10 minutes. A nurse came in to get me and we walked down the hall to the OR. She says that when we get to the OR, I will walk up to my wife's head. Easy enough. I get in the OR only to find a whole team of people, most of who I hadn't met before. I'm thinking "Dang where did all you people come from" It seemed like they just materialized out of thin air.
"My wife looks over at the baby, half asleep and says 'She looks like you.'"
There was a giant curtain that was put up so that I wasn't able to see any of the actual surgery. My wife is awake-ish. Keep in mind, she had been induced over 24 hours ago at this point. The doctors are talking casually. I'm pretty sure they were discussing their weekend in between all the medical lingo. They pull the baby out and the umbilical cord had been wrapped around my daughter's neck. The doctors removed it, and everything was good. They hold my daughter up for the first time, and I sit and just stare. like a deer in headlights. The person that was by me had to ask me if I wanted to take a picture, so I did. They get the baby wrapped in a blanket and attempt to show her to my wife. My wife looks over at the baby, half asleep and says "She looks like you". Next thing I know, she is passed out sleeping, completely exhausted. The nurses take the baby over to a baby station while the doctor finished the surgery.
At the baby station, they perform the Apgar tests. These are pretty basic tests in which they check the heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color. They will also weigh the baby and count the fingers and toes. Another thing that they do that you shouldn't be surprised about is they smear this clear goo on the baby's eyes. I'm not gonna lie, I don't remember what the goo was for, but all three of my kids got it, so I think its normal. After these tests the nurse will put a fancy hospital bracelet on the baby, on mom and on me. This is basically your free pass to get into the hospital whenever you want. It also will be used to check that when you go home, you've got your kid and not someone else's. Sounds like a good plan to me. They also put a small sensor around the baby's ankle. This is for the elevators. If that baby gets close to the elevators with the ankle bracelet on, the alarms go off. I'm pretty sure its the exact same kind of thing you get if you're put on house arrest. When everything was all said and done, from the time we decided to have the C-section, to the time the baby was born, it was only like 20-25 minutes. IT WAS FAST.
I am now escorted by a nurse with the baby out of the OR and to the nursery. In the nursery they gave the baby its first bath. That's all I remember about the nursery. I know that other stuff was done too, but I can't remember what. At this point, I am told that I can either hang out with the baby or go back to the hospital room. This part is a blur. I think I waited with the baby and we eventually went to the hospital room. Neither myself nor my wife has held the baby at this point. When she recovers from surgery, probably after at least an hour, they bring her back to the room we started in. Shortly after that, they brought the baby in to see mom. I pictured that at some time in the OR we would get to hold the baby.
Our families were there and we started letting our friends know via text message that she was born. The rest is a blur. I am now responsible for a kid. I can't mess this up.
The Days Immediately following the birth
In the days that followed, I spent all day and night at the hospital. Mom would spend days walking slowly around the hospital to recover from the birth. The doctor continued to check in on mom. People visited and brought gifts. When the doctor decides its time to go home, you'll pack up all your crap on a cart and they will help you get to the car. There was a nurse that looked at the car seat to make sure it was installed correctly. On the way home we were on a two way street. I was driving carefully, but not abnormally, and it was dark already. I remember a car speeding around me very fast even though I was going the speed limit. Not even a day out of the hospital and I'm already stressed about keeping her safe.
When we got home, we introduced the dog to the baby. she was excited. The hospital staff had recommended that I take home something that had the baby's scent on it so the dog could smell it. Overall, the dog was very accepting of the baby. That night she was already VERY defensive of the baby. I was shocked. She would bark at normal sounds of the house. Nothing was going to harm her new sister.
I am writing this post over 8 years after this day transpired. I remember it very vividly, like it was yesterday. Becoming a father was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. The experience is not something that you can explain, you have to experience it.