Our situation meant that we heard you before we saw you. It mattered not for we cried instantly and deeply at your little lungs screaming your arrival. In the crowded theatre, it was only your mother and you and I and our universe was complete. As the medical staff rushed you over to a table I looked at you and you were perfect- strong, handsome and magical. Whilst only being mildly aware of it before, at that moment I knew what had been missing from our lives.
When your mother told me she would be induced at lunchtime on that Friday I was transformed- excited, nervous and with an already fizzing brain. Dropped off at the hospital by Poppy and Nanny, we both laughed at the gruff sign hanging above an empty floor space in casualty, “Under no circumstances remove this chair.” I remember vaguely the last time I was here, when my football career ended after clashing heads at Jet Park about a decade ago.
The plan was for the induction to commence at 7pm but it was nearly 4am when your mother’s waters were broken and then the contractions which would bring you to us began their rhythmic and undeniable movement. As your mother worked selflessly and focussed her love on you, my feelings for her expanded to dimensions I had not previously imagined.
The sun rose brightly on the gum trees outside our window and we continued. There’s a strange, almost surreal pause in your labour after breakfast and I go for a quiet walk; the early light is soft and clear and the day is crisp. Back in our room, the monitor told us of your heart’s urgency and as it accelerated, black thoughts lurked at the periphery of my mind.
Lunchtime approached on that Saturday and a playful wind rushed about the foothills and gullies surrounding the hospital. Your mother remained unshakeably determined and we anticipated the final stage of your labour. As she toiled and toiled, my helplessness and admiration for her were vast. I applied a cool flannel to her exhausted face and silently wished for your speedy delivery. Looking back, I can see that Leonie the midwife tried to divert us from the problem she alone could see developing by talking. How she talked! We could only listen and instantly forget everything about her family and its broad and gnarled tree. You seemed so close and we became hotly anxious.
Suddenly our room was crowded with unfamiliar but furrowed faces. What had seemed a natural progression was, it seemed, being wrenched from us. We were to go to the operating theatre and if a last examination suggested that you were unlikely to emerge, then a Caesarean section would occur. The rush of doctors and midwives is menacing and the irresistibility of their anonymous hurrying scares me.
Your mother’s bed is wheeled away urgently. I’m ordered into scrubs and then sitting like a child on the corridor floor, fumble desperately to put on my blue shoe covers. I can’t remember the last time I was in a medical theatre but I do recall Humphrey B. Bear on a fire truck along the road below, waving, I hoped, up at me. In our operating room I notice the bulky electronic monitors, a sombre black and white clock and procedural posters on the walls and windows. A gentle bonhomie murmurs about the dozen staff and this reassures me.
A nurse teases the anaesthesiologist about being too short to adjust the elastic cord tied to the top of the monitor- the same cord which is presumably holding your mother’s tummy for the Caesarean. The primitiveness of which strikes me but these, I remind myself, are expert professionals who perform these tasks often. A few wear Crocs- gaudy plastic shoes- some Kermit green- and I think that this would probably not occur in an English hospital and, again, am happy for Australia’s isolated informality.
I’m sat down on a chair by your mother’s head. A nurse clears the tangle of electrical cords and cable which feed your progress to the screens behind us. “You’ll be surprised how many dads hit the floor,” she quips. Hoping I’m not one, I resolve to be strong. Still more delays. Some of the staff sit and chat quietly. The epidural is no longer functioning because the protracted ordeal has loosened it and we’re informed that a general anaesthetic is likely. How cruel, I think, that your mother has laboured so long and hard- it’s closing in on a whole day now- to be denied the miracle of your arrival.
It’s a relief when the spinal tap becomes effective and surgery begins. I know that it is almost time for us to meet you. A nurse helpfully told me to take in our camera and that she will let me know when to be ready. Another asks if I’d like to cut your cord. I’m panicked and worry that competing tasks could mean that none are achieved and the moment will not be captured. In this state of agitation, I have a rare moment of clarity and decide what my role should be.
Lisa, the midwifery student, agrees to take the camera and I’m relieved. Our situation meant that we heard you before we saw you. It mattered not for we cried instantly and deeply at your little lungs screaming your arrival. In the crowded theatre, it was only your mother and you and I and our universe was complete. It’s important to me that I symbolically usher you into our family. A nurse hands me some scissors and suggests that umbilical cords are like fresh calamari! I heed her advice and am firm in my action.
Gazing at you, I feel as if I’ve known you forever. It’s astonishing. You are long and lively and new, so amazingly new. You’ve inherited your features from both of us but importantly, you are yourself. I’m thankful that your mother is awake for this and that the blind conspiracies of the last day have dissolved and allowed her this moment of devotion and awe. My senses tingle and collide in previously unknowable ways. We stare and beam at each other and love you.
Dearest Alex, you are here.