Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dreams of the Golden-Eyed Girl: Cry

It’s quiet now. Outside in the hall I can hear the nurses passing by, soft puffs of air escaping their sensible but comfortable shoes. I sit in a chair next to her bed where she sleeps peacefully and at rest. It’s probably fair to say she has been the calmer of the two of us since we first got here yesterday. I’ve read about expectant mothers entering a nesting phase toward the end of their pregnancies, and for her it seemed to create a sense of peace I couldn’t quite match.

When she first told me that our two would soon become three, I felt my breath catch in my chest and my heart skip a beat. Of course I was excited, that my beautiful golden-eyed girl and I had together created something wonderful, that the two of us would almost literally become one in a new life full of potential and wonder. But a small part of me was terrified. Would I be up to the task of guiding our child through life? What made me think I was worthy to be a father? She could see the worry and fear in me, and in that way that only she has, she was able to soothe and comfort me.

I never worried about her as a mother. The last nine months of preparation and worry seemed to focus her in a way I hadn’t seen before. It was like another piece of the puzzle we had started that night by the campfire was fitting into place, and I could see the picture of our future more clearly. Several times she caught me staring at her, dazed as always that this amazing creature was the other half of my life, and she would just laugh and kiss me. Every time it felt like she both stole and gave me breath. But then, that’s how I feel in her presence most of the time.

We signed in to the hospital early yesterday morning for her induction. The moment we passed through the hospital doors my heart started racing. Would she and our child be healthy and safe? Had we done everything we needed to prepare for this? Would I remember everything I learned in the classes and books that had taken over our lives since we found out about the multiplying little bundle of cells in her womb? And even if I remembered them, would I be the father, the guide, the leader our child deserved? I could feel my face flushing with worried heat, and the intensity rose when the nurse took her to the room to change and get ready for her procedure. Before she left me to the paperwork and last minute phone calls, she kissed me and brushed her hand down the side of my face, her private little gesture just for me that still gives me chills every time. She looked me in the eyes, held my gaze, and simply said “We’re ready,” like she was reading my thoughts in my worried eyes. And as though caught in a hypnotist’s gaze, her words took the heat in my face away, steadied my racing heart.

While the nurse was prepping her for the doctor’s arrival, I called my mom. She excitedly talked of her upcoming visit, reassured me, and cried with me as we both wished my dad could be there to meet his granddaughter with her. Her parents were staying with us for a while to help us when we first brought Lily home. We chose Lily after her beloved grandmother, the one whose ring I had worked so hard to replicate when we first got engaged. She often tells me her grandmother was a huge influence on who she is today, and we both agreed that giving our new daughter her name would be a fitting tribute.

And then, all at once, it was time. The drugs were administered, the nurse helped me dress in scrubs and led me into the room, and the doctor began her work. I stood beside her, holding her hand and talking quietly to her. I told her how much I loved her, how she had changed and completed my life, and how excited I was for us to meet our daughter. Worry flashed through her eyes, mixed with the pain, and I did what little I could to reassure her, pale platitudes in comparison to the quiet strength she had given me over the past months. Over the course of our entire married life, for that matter. The doctor called out for one last push, one last Herculean effort… and then we both heard it. The sound that I will never forget, the sound that changed my life forever, the sound more melodic than any symphony: my daughter’s first cry. Here she was, the combination of me and my golden-eyed girl (though hopefully more her mother), arrived at last to make us complete. While the nurses cleaned the baby, I covered my wife with kisses and tears. And then Lily was in her arms, still squalling in the cold and bright room.

I stared at my new daughter, lost for words or thought or reason. I knew the days ahead would be difficult, that we would be stressed, and tired, and probably snap at each other a few times. I knew the fear and worry would not only not go away, but probably increase as I began my life’s journey of loving and protecting this little life. I knew there would be illnesses, and disappointments, and a myriad of other things I could in no way plan for or expect. But in that moment everything in my head was washed away as I watched my two golden-eyed girls, (for Lily had inherited her mother’s amazing eyes), listened to my wife’s soft whispers to the baby, listened to the baby’s cries soften into small coos and burbles. All my life I had felt as though I was moving toward something, though I could never figure out what. When I met my love, I thought that was it, that her peace and intelligence and beauty were the culmination of all my life experiences. But looking down at the tired faces of my wife and daughter, I realized this was it. This was the sum total of my life’s worth, this little family. I swore quietly to myself, to God, to the universe, that I would spend every day trying to earn this gift, trying to be worthy of these two women and the joy that threatened to fill me to bursting.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur. More paperwork, phone calls, her excited parents coming to see Lily for the first time. I love her parents deeply, and her dad and I have become close since the death of my own. While her mother held Lily and sang to her, her father came to me and put his hands on my shoulders. He looked intensely in my eyes, and pulled me close into a strong hug. We both cried a little, I told him I loved him and how much I wished my own father could be there, and he simply whispered “He is.”

Eventually visiting hours ended. Her parents returned to our house to get some sleep so they could be at the hospital as early as possible the next day. After we both took some time to kiss Lily and tell her how happy we were that she had finally joined us, the nurse wheeled her to the nursery so we could both get some rest. I kissed my wife and told her how proud of her I was, how much I loved both of them, how happy I was that our family was whole. As she was drifting to sleep, she kissed me and whispered “And you were worried.” She giggled a little, her nose gave its little wiggle, and she finally fell into a well-deserved sleep.

So now I sit here in the quiet room, listening to the soft hospital sounds. I’m tired, but I’m still too amped and excited to sleep. I want to walk to the nursery to stare at my new daughter, but I want to be here in case my love wakes. It will be feeding time soon anyway, and then we can float in our little bubble together, taken out of the world’s worries and woes by the miracle that is Lily. I try to read a magazine, but instead find myself thinking about a story I heard on the radio.

Medical scientists had recently discovered that, when a woman gives birth, some of the fetal cells remain in her body for the rest of her life. There was all sort of debate over what this meant, how it affected the mother, and other things way beyond my ken. But there was a theory gaining ground that said the cells protected the mother, guarded her against diseases and disorders. I liked this idea, that a part of Lily would always be with her mother, protecting and loving her on the subatomic level. I am comforted to think that, though I cannot see them, they will always be with my wife. I imagine I can feel their weight around us, just as I can feel the weight of our love, expressed by the weight of our daughter in our arms.


Blogger Rod Cruz said...

Amazing... you've reached another level in your writing.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Crystal Arcand said...

Simply lovely.

12:48 PM  

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