Saturday, August 09, 2008

Remembering Day One

Yesterday marked the three week anniversary of John Henry Kelly the Second. So many generous people have done so many nice things for us and we feel so blessed. It's all been so amazing, and I'm starting to see now why many people told us, "Life will never be the same."
I have no plans to go back.

I was going through some of these photos from past weeks and thought I might put down some thoughts about day one before they too fade into the blissful blur that life is becoming.

(I promise this won't take as long as day zero did.)

After Anna, our doula, left the hospital, they had to take John Henry down to the nursery and told me I could come along and watch. I forget why we had to go down there, but we did. They put the little guy under another warmer and a woman who's English I could barely understand started telling me something about how to change his diaper. I nodded. I actually started nodding off. I was so tired. I was now well past the 24 hour mark of marathon awakeness.

The woman walked off and I stood there next to the warmer and stared at my boy. I stood there and tried to battle the sleep that was trying to overtake me. I talked to him and told him how glad we were that he was here. I just wanted to be by my kid so that he would know that he was loved and not just another diaper to change in the nursery. I don't think I made it more than 3o minutes before the woman came back to do something else and I told her I had to go upstairs to check on my wife. This was true, of course, but the real reason was that I needed to get out of there before I passed out on the floor and woke up in an entirely different part of the hospital with a concussion sustained due to the fall.

Back with Nikki in her room, she informed me that Celeste Wright was on her way over with some food for us.
"Sounds good." I muttered as I looked around for a place to lay down.
"You look tired, my love. Are you okay?"
Keep in mind this is coming from a woman who has been up all night and just given birth the old-fashioned way less than two hours ago.
"Yeaah... just kinda tired." I was wiped out. If Nikki had sneezed she could have knocked me over.
"Here, lay down next to me," said my loving wife as she made a spot next to me on her bed.
I would have followed her in to a lake of fire and brimstone.

Our nap was short lived. I don't think I was asleep for more than a half hour before somebody else came in and insisted Nikki do something else that was vital to her well-being. Apparently "rest" and "sleep" had not proven clinically effective in the most recent studies.

Celeste Wright was our first friend on the scene. She came in with two bags of groceries from Whole Foods she had picked up to save us from the horrors of hospital food. It was well received. The hospitals in Manhattan should really just provide take out menus. Nobody eats that stuff.

Turns out Celeste ran into Nathan Bowen as she was asking someone what room the Kellys were in. Nathan, who was running on fumes himself, was instantly confused as to what Celeste was doing there looking for us, but it didn't take him long to figure it out and go from confused to overjoyed. He came in the room and gave me a big hug. I was only sorry I wasn't able to surprise him for about a millisecond, because his excitement was (and always is) rather contagious.
"This is incredible! This is absolutely unbelievable!" he shouted.
"I know it. How's your wife?"

Nate gave me a brief rundown of how their labor had gone after I filled him in on ours. For being on the same timetable, our wives had very different experiences. Sarah Jane was convalescing from a marathon of drama that fortunately ended up falling on the mostly positive side. We were all grateful, and Nathan and I immediately tried to figure out how we could get our wives into the same room to convalesce together. One of the nurses was very excited for us and said she would try to make it happen.

It was all so extraordinary. Who would have believed it? The only thing better that participating in the exquisite wonder and overpowering joy of seeing your firstborn child come into the world, is sharing the experience with one of your best and closest friends of all time. If ever you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. I went down the hall to find Sarah Jane and her little girl. They both looked wonderful. I felt so surrounded by life and love. It was as if angels were singing it all around us and there was no longer any place we could ever go where the joyous refrain would not be heard. It was marvelous. Talk about the cup runnething over.

Apparently, Anna's judgement call to leave for the hospital when we did was worth everything we paid her (even if she hadn't insisted on giving us discount due to Nikki's quick delivery). The place was packed. It wasn't to the point where they were delivering babies in the hallway or janitorial closets or anything, but we were told that they needed our delivery room because women were starting to deliver in triage. Yikes.

The same nurse who had woken us up from our nap told us we needed to get all our things together to move to another room. I asked her about moving into a room with our friends and she acted as if I she hadn't heard me. Perhaps she didn't. She was very intent on something.
Nikki turned to me and said, "I think they want to put us in the hallway. What's up with that?"

I was trying to muster up my gumption and resolve for a showdown with the nurse when she came back and told us to hurry again.
"I got you room. You very lucky. Wait right here. I bring the chair."
I was so confused. I didn't know whether to be thankful or perturbed. And what was she saying about a chair? Packing up our things again as quickly as we could became the priority for the moment, and my gumption took a back seat to my delirium.

We were coming out of the room, me with all the gear and the Whole Foods bags, and Nikki dragging her IV next to her, when the nurse rolled up with a wheelchair.
Nikki was very nice about it.
"Oh, I don't need a wheelchair. I'm fine. It's okay."
"No. You sit down," the nurse insisted.
"She's alright. She can walk," I said. This time my rebroadcast of my wife's comments was both necessary and justified.
The nurse wouldn't hear it.
"You can't walk. You need the chair."
Nikki wasn't nice anymore.
"I don't need it! I'm not sitting in the chair! I can walk!"
"She doesn't need the wheelchair," I added, just in case there was any doubt in the nurse's mind that you shouldn't mess with a woman who showed up at the hospital dilated to a nine. (Duh.)
The nurse was dumbfounded. She looked at the chair like she didn't know what to do with it.

In hindsight, I guess we just should have told her that Nikki didn't have an epidural. They're probably not used to women who are capable of self-locomotion a few hours after childbirth, much less those who prefer it. The nurse got over the chair thing and directed us across the hall and over to our new room. Nikki was having a hard time with her IV stand. It had five wheels on the bottom and only one of them worked. We just shook our heads and followed the nurse.

Once in our new room we introduced ourselves to Nikki's roommate, a nice woman named Jackie who had delivered a boy she named Enzo, short for Lorenzo, I believe. Jackie had undergone a fairly serious C-section. I remember hearing her showing off the staples they had put in her to some of her visitors.

Nikki and I promptly fell asleep on her bed. It was bliss. The rosy glare of the neon lights combined with the soft blare of Jackie's daytime television programing to soothe us off into lullaby land.

When I woke up, Nikki was already awake and doing something. Our little boy had been brought in and was sleeping himself at the foot of the bed, all wrapped up in a blanket and in a clear plastic tub. Instantly the love was back. I just wanted to look at him.

Not long after, we were graced by the presence of my boss and office mates. The entire staff of Bottom Line Training and Consulting, all three of them, made the two-avenue trek over to the hospital to pay us a visit. It was great to see them. It was like two awesome realities that I might never have put together were colliding, and I couldn't have been happier had actual family members been there. Brent and Sara were so excited by the little guy. Dave told us the stories of most of his kids births, which helped me keep a good perspective on the fact that this kind of thing really did happen to everyone, even here in Manhattan.

The gang took off and Nikki sent me on an errand to get her some things the hospital couldn't provide for her. It was a beautiful July day. Very warm. The late afternoon light gave everything a glow that seemed to help welcome the weekend. Oh, yeah. It was Friday. Wow.

I wandered along 58th Street and over to 9th Ave in a cheerful daze. All the hustle and noise of the city was still there, but I felt different. I looked at the people who didn't know and understand what I understood, that didn't experience what I had just experienced. I almost felt I was no longer one of them.

I was a father. And life was never going to be the same. As I wandered along in the heat of the late afternoon, a feeling tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "This is how it was meant to be. Fatherhood is exactly right and good. You will be a father forever, and that is how it was meant to be."

I felt enlightened and exhausted, weary but blissfully contented. I hadn't felt so calm, so much like myself since my wedding day, a year and some change earlier. I don't know if I would have noticed the feeling if I hadn't been so tired, so warm and slow. It was as though God had been trying to let me in on the big picture for hours, days, maybe months or years. He just needed to beat me up in the most beautiful way he could to get my eyes to start opening. Thanks, Father.

Later that evening and back at the hospital, we called Nate and SJ to arrange a little play date for our children. The hospital was starting to slow down, the people on the night shift were coming in to replace the day shifters. We thought it would be easy enough to take John down to see his friend Nora, but were slowed down by some staff who obviously weren't used to newborns going on field trips to other floors. Eventually we made it down to see them. Proud dads took pictures while sleepy moms compared notes. Swaddled babies slept and would have to wait for a future play date to acknowledge each other.

We went back upstairs and got a few smiles from the nurses and attendants who heard that two friends had delivered on the same day. I said a long goodbye to Nikki and my first born son.

I left the hospital with Nate and we rode the train up to 86th Street together. We couldn't stop shaking our heads.
"Yeah... Wow."
He jumped off and waved, "See ya tomorrow!"

When I got home I remembered that a few people had called and asked if they could help with anything, and saw that our neighbor, Claudette, must have let them in. I smiled when I saw that the floors had been swept, and that someone had brought some flowers and put them in our plastic pitcher. I saw that the dishes had been put away and the ones that had been in the sink had been washed, and I was touched at how such a little thing could make such a difference. When I saw on the fridge the list of food items that had been prepared and left inside it for us, I just started to cry. I just cried. I was so grateful for everything. For absolutely everything. And when I needed something for my leaky face and I pulled out the napkin from Whole Foods that was still in my pocket, I totally lost it.

I think I wept for about 2o minutes straight. I fell to my knees and cried and cried and cried. I can't remember being that overcome with gratitude and love. Ever. I just sat there and poured my heart out to God for everything. All the blessings and kindnesses. All the joy and congratulatory smiles. All the things that could have gone drastically wrong but went perfect instead. All the things that couldn't be put into words, or even coherent thoughts, but we're flowing in and through me and gushing out of me. Thought my face mostly.

I got up had a glass of water so I wouldn't get dehydrated from all my fluid loss. I crawled into bed and very quickly fell very sound asleep.

Day one, complete.


Sarah Swensen said...

Thanks for sharing Cameron. Sounds like an amazing experience! I'm truly so happy for you both.

MOM B said...

It is so nice to hear about John Henry's birth from his daddy's point of view. I cried too.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog, and I don't even know the two of you, but this post made me cry. Thank you for sharing. I wish your family only the best.