My life changed forever at 7:57 AM on June 15. Bethany’s abdomen and uterus were sliced open, and Catherine Margaret Hampton made her grand entrance into this world. As Dr. Perkins held Catherine up over the sterile drape that blocked Bethany’s face from her exposed innards, I stared at my offspring and thought, “Wow! She looks normal”—a romantic thought, I know. Many people told me that even if my baby were really ugly, I wouldn’t even know it, and I’d think she was beautiful. While these people are sweet and idealistic, they are also wrong. I knew that if my baby came out looking odd and funny, I would love her like crazy and pray that she grew into her giant nose or stuck out ears.
I probably thought she was going to be odd-looking because for some reason, I had the idea in my head that Bethany and I weren’t allowed to have a normal, complication-free birthing experience. I was sure throughout the pregnancy that Bethany would get eclampsia and have to be on bed rest and be dependent on Magnesium supplements to keep her from seizing and dying or that the baby would have a horrible shoulder dystocia where it gets stuck in the birth canal and would end up paralyzed.
Catherine was transverse and required a c-section, but Bethany and I were okay with this and didn’t consider it too much of a complication. It was part of our birth plan. When one of our friends who’s a little bit granola asked Bethany what her birth plan was, Bethany informed her it was “to get the baby out and have her be safe and healthy.” The friend scoffed at Bethany and informed her, “Oh, you really need a birth plan.” I don’t think she realized that Bethany was serious. We both figured Bethany would end up with an epidural, and if it was needed, she’d get a c-section, and as long as she and the baby came through healthy and whole, we were good.
The whole time in the hospital was a little bit surreal. Even when I was watching the nursery nurses clean her and measure her and give her a bath, it seemed hard to believe that she was ours. Maybe it’s because I’ve held and swaddled and snuggled so many other babies in that nursery. While they were getting Catherine ready to meet Bethany there was another baby crying, and I instinctively picked it up and started rocking it because that’s usually what I do when I’m in the nursery examining the babies that are my patients. I felt a connection to Catherine because I knew she was mine, but the connection seemed more in my head than in my heart; however, as the hours passed by and as Bethany and I sat together holding Catherine and looking at her, I quickly realized that this kid is mine forever and always. Due to this undying love, any medical knowledge I have immediately became irrelevant in regards to Catherine. I sat and stared at her in the nursery while the doctor did her newborn assessment just sure that there was something massively wrong with her. I was sure that she was going to be deaf because she didn’t always respond when I talked to her in the womb. I was the one frantically texting our pediatrician the day after we brought her home because she hadn’t pooped or peed in 12 hours, and I was convinced it was my fault because I’d been tired during the night and waited 3.5 hours instead of the recommended 2-3 hours to wake up Bethany to feed Catherine. As she started to get a little bit more jaundice on her first day home, I was convinced she would get kernicterus and be traumatically brain damaged forever. I also was wearing some trashy travel deodorant while we were in the hospital. I know that babies recognize their parent’s scents, and as my newborn daughter nestled against my shoulder, I was just sure that she would now expect her father to smell like a frat house and that the familiarity with this scent would most certainly give her an attraction toward trashy guys.
My friends in the medical field who already have children tell me this is normal, but they’ve also warned me that it doesn’t usually get any better for the first few years.
This whole baby thing still terrifies me just a little bit, but I am so excited to be a father. I think I’ll follow the advice my mom gave me a few days before Catherine was born. I will just take it a day at a time.