Our day starts at 5am. I’ve been ordered not to eat or drink for eight hours prior to surgery – not an easy ask for a very pregnant wanna-be foodie. Ryan wakes early to prepare his most acclaimed dish: French toast. For a boy raised on yogurt nights and take-out, French toast is as gourmet as his cooking gets, but it’s legit. I savor the last few bites, not knowing when I’ll eat again, then take my time getting ready. How do you get ready to become a parent? Sure, there are months of doctor appointments, birthing classes, and a stack of books I should have read, but in just a few hours, I will be a bona fide mama.
Ryan showers and packs our hospital bag. I look over its contents – clothes, magazines, a camera – and determine I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Ryan snaps a picture of my enormous belly, and we hit the road. I answer phone calls of support from my dad and sister along the way, and say things like, “This is our last car ride as two married people!”
Due to a pregnancy complication, Hudson will arrive via C-section, something that utterly terrifies me. I called one of my sisters a few nights ago seeking advice. She had three children, all delivered by cesarean. Her recollection of doctors removing organs and then stuffing them back in did little to calm my nerves. Still, when I get off the car at Good Samaritan, the same hospital I was born in 25 years ago, I feel relief. After all, today marks the end of morning sickness, back aches, and tiny baby feet lodged in my ribs. “I feel like I’m graduating,” I tell Ryan as we cross the parking garage. “Only it’s really more like the first day of school.”
Most of the morning flies by – my mom meets us on the third floor, nurses monitor mine and baby’s vitals, we watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns, and before we know it, it’s time. A nursing student wheels me into the operating room, where the anesthesiologist explains the numbing process in a calm, soothing voice. It’s like listening to Morgan Freeman, and I think that must be why he gets paid the big bucks. I lie completely exposed on the operating table, numb from the chest down, when a nurse ushers in Ryan, dressed head to toe in sterile doctor garb. The only time I’ve seen him look this excited and terrified is the night he proposed. He asks how I’m doing. I smile and nod, “I’m okay!” Taking this as their cue, the resident and my doctor begin.
A blue sheet blocks the procedure from view, and we’ve been warned not to look at the overhead lights, as they are reflective, and we have weak stomachs. Instead, Ryan and I lock eyes and nervously smile at each other. While painless, I can feel the pressure of our baby boy being pushed down toward the incision. Nine months of anticipation have led to this moment. The doctor pulls his little body from my own, and suddenly, the most beautiful high-pitched wail pierces the cool O.R. air. The sound of our newborn babe exercising his lungs for the first time sends a flood of tears surging forward. Hidden behind a blue veil, I feel like a blind man with my sense of hearing left to compensate where my sight cannot. The shrieks and gasps that will soon keep me up at night create a perfect harmony. That’s our baby, I think in disbelief.
The nurse waves Ryan back to where they are cleaning and weighing. “This kid looks incredible!” he exclaims.
The anesthesiologist standing near my head concurs, “He’s going to be a looker.”
“Really?” I ask through tears, “but newborns all look weird.”
He assures me, “No, he’s a good one.”
I’m relieved. If he had an extra finger or foot, surely someone would have said something by now. Finally, Ryan walks back to me, baby in his arms. He left my side an imposter, a child playing dress-up in doctor clothes, but returned a natural, a father effortlessly calming his son. “He’s perfect, Ryan. He’s perfect,” I say it over and over.