What Happened When My Son Was Born

Please be patient with me. Last week I witnessed the birth of my first child. I’m still moist with joy and exhaustion.

If you must know, I’m recovering from watching my wife push out our baby. I’m not kidding. Nothing prepares you for that job. Ditch digging, thief chasing, pulpit pounding, paper writing- nothing readies you for the uselessness of a man when a miracle unfolds. What happens is, you’re full of pride at having made a person and full of confidence that everything will be fine; yet you are helpless, and as the minutes turn into hours your spine gets tighter and tighter until it launches you to the moon.

That was me in the delivery room- the solitary male in a crowd of eleven, clutching Dani’s limp leg, holding it high and separate, stroking her naked skin, counting to ten again and again, watching her lips curl back like a wolf, telling her it was almost over, wondering if it was almost over, glancing over my shoulder toward my mother and her mother and my sister and her sister, and then across the bed where the nurses had dressed the doctors in what appeared to be HAZMAT suits while other nurses monitored heart-rates and IV drips, and all I could control was the Pandora radio station on my IPhone- about which Dani had hollered mid-contraction: “Turn that off unless you’re connected to Wifi!”

She pushed for two and a half hours. And I don’t mean delicate pushes like you’d expect from your wife. I mean sweaty moan-y pushes like you’d expect from a soldier with a sword in his liver. And her moans kept getting louder while her tears kept growing larger until they were the fast rolling drops that would make any husband panic.

Soon enough the baby started poking through. His hair came first, dark and thin. A sopping wet tuft and a trickle of blood. He scooted forward and backward with every push and release. In and out like the twitch of a tongue.

All the eyes in the room focused on the crux of the V. It was like we were waiting for the entrance of an unknown celebrity- the open runway, the camera flashes, the intense focus on a bright red curtain behind which someone important waited. I wiped Dani’s sweat, whispered in her ear, pressed my forehead against hers when the moans got sharp.

During one moment in particular I drank in the the entire room. Women in motion like synchronized chaos, the rise and fall of voices with every push, the counting and cheering, the use of bars and pulleys and mirrors, my mom’s steady breathing cues, the beep-beep-bop of the computer screen, 126, 126, 127, everything’s good, everything’s great, the empty IV and the nurse who replaced it, Mel and Ray scrunched beside me- sharing Dani’s leg, patting my shoulder, locking eyes with us both.

I wanted to spread myself across the entire room. I wanted to stand at the foot of the bed so I could catch my baby and at the head of the bed so I could hold Dani’s hand in case she needed to break my fingers. And weirdly, I wanted to huddle up with the doctors when they whispered among themselves. And when two nurses rushed out of the room and returned with antibiotics I wanted to drift over to the corner where I could lock arms with both moms and we could all clench our helpless teeth in unison.

That’s when an unexpected inkling arose. “Hey wow,” I thought, “this is WAY too much to absorb!” That was the whole revelation but the revelation kept growing throughout the entire delivery. Every push, every trail of blood, every tuft of baby hair that widened into a baby head- it was all fraught with such precarious, miraculous life-and-death intensity that it stole my ability to cry. It stole my ability to laugh. All I could do when my son burst through was nothing- but gasp in helpless, flabbergasted wonder.

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Look. I’m not the kind of guy to get swallowed up in a moment. I’m the kind of guy who swallows up the moments. I jump forward or backward in my mind if the present moment can’t live up to it’s billing. Or, if I must remain present, I try to infuse it with craftier beer or unexpected thrills or anything to make it pop.

Usually the only time I’m fully in the moment is when something happens that I didn’t see coming. Like a truck, in the opposite direction. That’s when I feel my heart pulsing in my forehead and the cold skin of my palms against the wheel. That’s when I notice how gentle the threads of my jeans are when I jerk my foot to the break, when the rumble stripe rumbles, when the back-draft whips my hair while I recover. That’s when I’m in the moment.

But the birth of my son turned out to be a big enough moment to consume me. I felt every sensation you could imagine- just as screechy as if my sedan was careening across the highway.

We’re home now and I’d be back in control of all my moments if that delivery room didn’t change me. Unfortunately, my son is already teaching me about the sacred nature of ordinary moments. For example: what if it isn’t only the spectacular moments that are too much for me? Like, what if every moment, however mundane, has more life gurgling within it than I could absorb? My kid sure makes it seem possible.

I’ve been thinking about those mundane moments as I watch him. Over the last 12 days he’s been nestled in the crook of my arm, gazing up with the exact foggy-eyed wonder that crossed my eyes in the delivery room. And just like the delivery room was for me; now all of my sons gas cramps are alive and immediate and overwhelming.

Which is how I felt when he came to life. It’s been reverberating in my bones like existential vertigo. But it got me thinking about how often Jesus riffed on the mysterious Kingdom of God- how it’s present and distant and inside and outside and already and not yet. And for a brief flash the Kingdom of God sounded to me like the mundane moments of everyday life.

That’s when I thought of Martha and Mary and how Jesus jived with Mary’s mundane life but questioned Martha’s. If that’s a valid litmus test for faith then perhaps true spirituality is nothing more than to witness the moment-by-moment unfolding of life, to accept our cradles in the cosmos, and to receive each inexplicable moment as a treasure which can only be partially explored.

That sounds too easy. And maybe it is? I’ve been watching my son and I’ve noticed that his secret for living in the moment is his helplessness. It’s precisely the fact that he cannot change his own diapers that keeps his senses bright while I do it for him. If he could do it himself it would just be another forgettable shit.

But nobody springs for the “I’m helpless” paradigm. I don’t. (Who knows, maybe that’s why I need a truck to barrel toward me to feel alive these days.)

What I do know is that an elegant relationship is already forming as a result of my son’s helplessness. He needs me and I find him irresistible. We both live in the moment, his needs get met and my love swells, he learns to trust while I learn to be attentive.

I hope me and him go on like this forever! I’m the luckiest. :)

Let’s Have a Baby! (Dani’s Side of the Story)

Click here for Matt’s side of the story!

babyLast Saturday at 11:59am I awoke from a 10 hour peaceful slumber and decided “I wanna have a baby.” Maybe it was the 1 a.m. Chinese takeout or the mindless scrolling through baby pictures on Facebook during the wee hours of the night but either way, I knew it was time.

I announced my decision to Matt who was in the living room working on his blog. His reaction was happy alarm. Happy because he’s wanted kids for a year and alarmed because until that moment I’d always expressed my desire to have kids like my desire to have an appendectomy: an unexpected pain in the ass but once it’s over you’re glad you went through with it. My reasons were pretty logical, “kids are too much money! I need my 12 hours of sleep. How can I give my all to my job and a kid? What if we try and can’t?”

I knew my proclamation would warrant a LONG conversation with Matt because he would need to get to the bottom of WHY the change of heart. I love my husband more than anyone in the world and I am grateful for his desire and ability to dig and dig and dig into the depths of my heart and soul in order to pluck the teeny tiniest specks of truth and emotion that may or may not lie within. But sometimes I prefer to not ask why and just do. This is why we need each other.

Anyway, we began to dig. He was pretty sure it was because I felt more secure. I was pretty sure it was because my womb was getting dusty. He wondered if it was because we were optimistic about his writing. I wondered if it was because I’ve always wanted bigger boobs. We talked about the serious reasons and the not so serious reasons.

usIt was a good talk and at the end I found myself thoughtful. Why did I have a change of heart? I’m still terrified about the idea of being a mom. It’s such a big job. I usually think I can do anything and succeed. I use that philosophy to motivate myself to work hard and give something my best. Applying that philosophy to having kids doesn’t seem realistic. First, it’s a 24/7 job, you can’t succeed at something 24/7 can you? Second, kids aren’t goals you complete or tasks you accomplish, they are living, breathing, impressionable little beings that we would have the responsibility of nurturing, raising, and letting go of. How do you do that? (Shout out to my mom and dad, I think they did pretty good with me, but they sure had to give up a lot in order for that to happen.)

Once you take the plunge there’s no going back. It’s not like I could just wake up one day and decide not to be a mom anymore. I could decide not to be a musician, a student, a nurse, a friend, and really even a wife. But somehow, even in my wildest dreams, deciding not to be a mom after you already are a mom is not an option.

Maybe I’m not really ready if I’m thinking like this, but when will I be? What does it mean to be ready? All the practical things are lining up. I like my job, I like my husband, together we do OK financially, buying a house is on the horizon, and we have amazing friends and family to help us on the baby journey. What about the emotional part though? Can I still be a little afraid and unsure or do I have to be confident and certain before we get pregnant? All I know is that something inside me does want a baby, a little life to invest in, to cherish, to build memories with even if it means late nights, poopy diapers, and thankless years of sacrifice (Please remind me of this).

pregnant mattRight now we are taking it one day at a time. I started taking prenatal vitamins, planning a pre-pregnancy doctor visit, and of course we are practicing the baby making part so we can perfect it for when the time actually comes. It’s been a few weeks and the idea of getting pregnant in the next 6 months to a year hasn’t gone away which is ground breaking for me. Still there is a lot to talk about and think about and advice we could use. We shall see…

Click here for Matt’s side of the story!

Let’s Have a Baby! (Matt’s Side of the Story)

Click here for Dani’s side of the story!

baby boySo, out of the blue Dani decides she wants a baby.

Look. You’ve got to understand. Dani does NOT want a baby. She’s told me a million times. She’s told me in the car. She’s told me in the kitchen. She’s told me in bed while the candles are lit. She’s even told me while using that weird hot thing to straighten her hair.

She always says the same thing. She says, “Matt, I love our life. We can do anything we want. I don’t ever want to change that. Is that OK? Is it OK if we never have kids? Can you imagine how hard kids would be?”

Nobody believes me when I tell them that. NOBODY BELIEVES ME!

They’re all like, “Yeah, yeah, sure Matt, but she really wants a baby.” Or they look at me like they know, and they say, “Ah, it’s a security thing. How much money did you say you make?” That one always stings a little. Or they say something like, “That’s impossible. Women want babies. What did you do to her?”

After a while you start to wonder about your wife. And women in general. Like, can they ever be understood? They seem to have a crypto-security-program running in their heads that keeps you from figuring out basic stuff like why they randomly stopped drinking coffee right after you bought them a new coffee maker, or why they threw out your leftovers from Outback after only four days in the fridge, or why they stopped wanting to have sex with you right in the middle of having sex with you.

prenatal pillsOperating with slightly outdated information all the time tends to make a guy feel a little dumber every day. Especially with how the women explain the new information to you. It sort of feels like it was always out there in the Universe to be had, but somehow you lacked the mental acuity to snatch it up.

Anyway, the point is, that’s why it rattled me when Dani said she wanted a baby.

I remember it. It was in the morning. She was looking out a window. She turned to me, easy as pancakes, and she said, “I think I want a baby.”

Now, usually, I need to dig into statements like that. I like to know where they’re coming from. But I got overwhelmed by the coolness of the news. I started envisioning a fat white mini-me who wanted me to teach him how to eat his eggs and how to shovel snow and how to be a man.

And then I started feeling proud of myself for hanging tough through the indecipherability. Like I deserved some credit for Dani’s change of heart. I had wanted a baby for a year and never once been pushy. I stayed sweet and gentle and kind, you know, like how I am, and I kept hoping that the sweetness strategy would change her mind before her uterus petered out. So when she finally said it, I jumped up, ran over to the window that she was looking out of, and I hugged her tight. All I said was, “Really? You really want a baby?”

And she said yes. And she had tears in her eyes. She said she was even more happy now than before, and that life was finally feeling normal, and that she was very proud of my writing, and that it was time.

And she’s kept saying that for the past few weeks. She even started looking for houses to buy. She bought those prenatal vitamins and everything. And on Easter she set those vitamins real prominently in the bathroom so one of our moms would find them when they came over. Sure enough, my mom found the vitamins and came out of the bathroom holding them behind her back.

gradThere was an eruption of delight and both of our families were kind of staring back and forth at each other with a mixture of joy and relief. A few people were muttering things like “finally” and “I thought it’d never happen” and “no way.”

After everyone left I started to get a weird feeling in my gut. It sort of hit me like it hit me when the leftovers went missing. Like, “Hey… I wanted those leftovers.” But it was different. It was like,”Hey… how come when YOU want a baby all at once we’re storming the baby-making castle.”

And I told her that. And she said it was kind of a dumb way to think about it. But then we had sex for practice, so everything was OK in the end.

Click here for Dani’s side of the story!