What a difference a year makes.
Christ, look at where I was last year. Just for fun, here are some of the pertinent pull quotes from that article:
“There’s nothing quite like Halloween to bum you out about infertility.”
“…my Halloween celebrations the last two years have consisted of me closing myself off in my office and getting bummed out all day.”
“But when the actual day of Halloween rolls around and I see so many other dads living inside of my fantasy while I’m still so far away from it, it makes me insane with jealousy and desperately sad.”
“I hate everything today.”
“Despite all of this malaise, I sincerely hope everyone had a Happy Halloween. More than that, I hope next year I have one, too.”
Much to my surprise and delight, that last statement has actually come true. If you would have told me last year that just one year later I’d be celebrating my fourth day with my new daughter, I’m not sure I would have believed you. That’s how amazing this process has been.
I’m not sure if I’m going to chronicle the experience of watching my wife go through a Caesarian section and the ensuing four days in the hospital because I don’t need to live my ENTIRE life on the internet. As a point of reference, I didn’t write about my wedding, my honeymoon, the vast majority of our infertility experience (believe it or not), or much of the pregnancy. Some things I like to keep to myself, and it’s likely this will live among those things. Suffice to say, it’s been the most amazing few days of my life. So, here are a few bullet points.
* It’s a cliché to say the moment you first lay eyes on your baby is indescribable (and somehow an even bigger cliché to point out how much of a cliché it is to say that it’s indescribable), but the whole thing is so overwhelming, you’re basically left speechless by the enormity of the event. I could barely think, let alone speak, upon the sight of my brand new daughter, I just took a shitload of photos. I’m happy I did because when I look back at them, I actually have an anchor that triggers my memories and they come flooding back like a wave of warm feelings that blanket my entire consciousness.
In the recovery room, I stared at her and my wife (who was still numb and drugged to high hell) and I just started weeping huge tears of joy and relief. Surgery is scary anyway. Surgery where they pull a live human out of your wife is fucking petrifying on so many levels, I felt like I wanted to vomit the whole day before, for several hours afterward, and even a bit well after my adrenaline finally inched out of my body.
* That said, so much of this process is ridiculously mundane. We rolled up to the hospital at about 5:30, and had to enter through the Emergency ward (as instructed). There, you talk to the intake nurse, the security guard, and whoever else just happens to be hanging around at the end of the graveyard shift. You make tortured small talk with everyone which is just excruciating as the seconds tick by ever so slowly until your life changes forever. The small talk in the operating room, however, is welcome and helps to put you at ease. We chatted about restaurants in our neighborhood. About 15 minutes later, my daughter was born.
* I generally like to keep this fairly anonymous and a bit generic, but I just have to throw a plug out there for Rose Medical Center. At every step of the process, everyone from the doctors to the surgery team, to especially the nursing crew, to the hospitality staff, to even the custodial team was incredibly helpful, thoughtful, conscientious, caring, and wonderfully supportive of us during our time there. We were so grateful for the level of care we received, Kristin and I were genuinely sad to leave them. True, there was an element of fear associated with leaving the nest of the most qualified set of caregivers you’re likely ever to be surrounded by, but we felt incredibly attached to them thanks to their warmth, professionalism, thoughtfulness, and kindness. I cried when I left, and cried again when a congratulations note signed by all of our nurses arrived today. I’m crying again just thinking about how lovely these people were.
I adore everyone I had the privilege of working with at Rose, and cannot recommend their care highly enough. Thank you to everyone who made this experience as wonderful as it was. We are emboldened by your care.
* Something I remember literally NO ONE telling us about having a newborn: Your baby might get a little baby period a few days after she’s born due to the mother’s estrogen levels. You can imagine how freaked out I was to find blood in her diaper, relieved when the pediatrician explained that it’s normal and why it occurs, and then pissed that I remember no one alerting us to this. If no one tells you, hear me, your baby girl might have a little period after she’s born.
* Diapers – something I was concerned about. Never had changed a diaper in my life before this week. Seemed gross and weird. You change maybe 4 diapers, you’re good to go. It’s just part of the job, and it doesn’t even faze me anymore.
*Also, for those of you who had me in your pool for who got to find the first BLOWOUT, you win! I, however, did not. Even though diaper changing is largely pedestrian already, finding a blowout is not fun just for the sheer amount of labor involved in cleaning the kid up.
* This was my daughter’s Halloween outfit, and it’s freaking adorable.
We took her to the pediatrician’s office, and one of the ladies who worked there said, “Oh my god, she’s wearing a tutu. She’s 4 days old wearing a tutu. Carol, you’ve got to see this baby wearing a tutu.” The pediatrician’s office collectively ovulated looking at this outfit.
* And then 5 hours later, she had her first blowout, and I threw that outfit away. Trick or treat!
* One non-baby-related story… While everyone was celebrating Halloween, Kristin and I stayed home with the girl. We watched a couple of movies, ate some delicious enchiladas our friend had brought over, and had a very nice night. As you might imagine, Kristin has been dealing with some health issues as she recovers, so I was dispatched to Walgreen’s for some remedies. While standing in line, a guy dressed like this was in front of me:
Despite only seeing the movie once, I recognized that as Charlton Heston’s character from Soylent Green. The checkout clerk, who was approximately a 45 year-old black lady, asked this guy about his costume. Here’s about how the exchange went:
Customer: Have you ever seen Soylent Green?
Customer: It’s this sci-fi movie from the ‘70s, and I’m like the detective in it.
Clerk: Why do you have crackers on your belt?
Customer: They’re not actually crackers… (at this point I was DYING for him to say “They’re PEOPLE. Soylent Green is people!” He did not.) It’s actually like a key part of the plot that gives away the whole movie, and makes sense if you’ve seen it, but… [sigh] no one gets it.
Me: I got it, man.
Customer: You did?!? That is so awesome, man. You have no idea. So fucking huge.
Me: Well, I’m the guy who’s usually explaining his costume to people every year. (He looks at me trying to discern a costume from my flip flops, jeans, and black golf windbreaker I threw on and panicking that he can’t place it) Not this year though, I got a 4-day old at home with my wife and I’m playing the role of an exhausted new dad.
Customer: Oh… Well, congratulations.
Had I been a little bit more cogent at that point, I would have told him about my Baseball Furies costume from six years ago that’s from, yes, a 1970s sci-fi movie called The Warriors. See?
It’s nice to know that even though I’m not dressed up, my spirit of wearing esoteric costumes that fucking no one gets is alive and well. Godspeed to the Soylent Green guy. I hope he found at least one dude (I mean, it’s obviously going to be a dude who gets this, right?) he could bond with. I’m sure he didn’t.
* This has been my favorite Halloween ever. I love this little girl, I love my wife, and I love that I am fortunate enough to be in a radically different headspace from a year ago. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.
And I think it only gets better from here.