Every superhero has an origin story.
Some include dying planets, dying parents, or radioactive spider-bites. But yours was different. I was driving home from King of Prussia, and your Mom called me.
She didn’t speak. “Lin, what’s wrong?” I asked, but she only responded with heavy breaths. It was Saturday, September 27th and you weren’t due until October 10th. You couldn’t be coming now. We weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready.
We took three classes to help prepare, and somehow I knew less than I knew before. I pushed the anxiety aside. How did I convince myself? By telling myself it was a false alarm. But I should’ve known better. Just like months prior when your impatience initially showed its face. No one can ever tell you not yet.
The anxiety return as I opened the door to our place in Manayunk. The ceiling fan and light in the dining room were on. The rest of the house was dark. “Lin!” I screamed out, but no response. I charged up the steps and looked into the bedroom. She wasn’t there. I looked in your room, and she wasn’t in there either. I had no idea where she could be and then I looked in the bathroom and saw her sitting on the toilet hunched over.
We moved your Mom to the bed, and I began to text our Doula. I told her the symptoms and she let me know that IT was happening. Debbie told me to ask the usual question of how far apart the contractions were but your Mom didn’t know because the contractions she felt weren’t the kind our class taught us about.
Your Mom got in the shower (for what seemed like hours) allowing the hot water to hit her back. Then as she got out I had her bounce on the exercise ball. Debbie the Doula said this would help with the childbirth (but she didn’t warn us that this ball would haunt us for months). It was then that I noticed a dark patch on the ball. I told your Mom to stop and I looked. It was blood.
At that moment we were no longer waiting for a certain time between contractions. We were going to the hospital. Problem is we lived in Manayunk. I had to run five blocks up a hill to get to my car. A car I parked because I convinced myself this was a false alarm. Debbie gave me a call and in a calming voice said, “Tim, listen to me. Breathe. Just breathe. Lin’s going to be fine. Just repeat after me, and breathe. She’s going to be fine.”
I drove the car back to our place and loaded the pre-packed bags in my trunk. We are off, albeit really slowly (side note: you’ve been in the car with me a ton of times, but for some reason when your Mom is in the car I drive a lot slower. Maybe that’s the Pennsylvania driver in me coming out, but this time? I was going 10 miles under the speed limit. I was driving like your Grandmom).
When we arrived at the Pennsylvania hospital I felt a sense of relief. This is where the professionals take over. That relief faded when I discovered the hospital doors were locked (strike one), the valet service was only on weekdays (strike two), and the parking garage had a power outage (strike three). A security guard came out and took your Mom in a wheelchair as I had to find a place to park.
I drove around looking for spots until pulling into Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Grabbing the bags, I ran slightly over a quarter mile from one hospital to the other. I went up the elevator and once I was cleared by the nurses who pointed me in the direction of your Mother, I heard her…
“Hey, you! Get back here!” She screamed as a doctor exited the room, “I need to poo!” I was confused and, quite frankly, scared. What the hell did I miss in the time I was trying to park. I barely had a chance to sit down before they began to wheel her to another room because the main event was about to occur.
It was there that I saw her completely exhausted, but even more resilient. It was there I saw her doing something you can never prepare someone for (it was also there where the sight of her pain and lack of progress caused me to leave the room and momentarily faint in the hall… but let’s stick to the important stuff).
So much happened that it all blurs together. I remember the nurses’ impatience, I remember your Mom screaming “I hate you, Cameron,” before profusely apologizing, I remember her gasping at the ring of fire “What the fuck was that?” she yelped. I remember Debbie speaking words of encouragement as she put lavender on her pillow. I remember your head crowning before retreating back inside your Mom.
I also remember how people have always said that when your child is born you fall in love with them that very moment. That everything changes. Yet that’s not what I felt. There was the realization that there was no going back to normal. That everything was going to be different. That you were an absolute stranger who came from us.
I cut the umbilical cord and handed you over to your Mother. She was exhausted not only from giving birth to you, but from carrying you, and pushing you out into the world. With God’s help, she did something that a man could never do. She brought life into this world. The sight of such power was bewildering.
The part of writing this now is putting everything in place because it feels like you were always here. We just didn’t know you yet. And as you got used to this us you let your personality be known from the beginning. You refused to be swaddled, you refused to sleep in the bassinet, and you had a bowel movement down your Mom’s arm.
I remember that first night when the nurses stopped checking in so frequently, and neither of our families knew you were here yet. It was just us. Our first night as a family and you were our little secret. Eventually, we let the world in through phone calls, social media posts, and texts. Letting our newfound light find its way.
When we left the hospital we realized how little we knew. We were sent back home with the most precious thing in the world without a clue of how we would keep you alive. Luckily, your Nana was with us for that first week.
That first night home you cried. A cry so powerful, so relentless that we had no idea how to stop it. We tried nursing, tried walking, tried holding, and it wasn’t until we handed you over to your Nana that she settled you back to sleep. She was our safety blanket until she had to leave.
There are thousands of books, blog posts, and opinions about parenting but the truth is no one knows anything. All we truly know is that it’s not easy. Each child presenting an exception to a (far too long) list of rules. We found things that worked and your Mom proved herself to be a superstar as she nurtured you as if this was the role she was prepping for her entire life.
Through years we saw first eye contact, first smile, first roll, first crawl, first night in the crib by yourself. Each first was a monumental achievement which highlighted how much we take for granted every day. We saw you grow and become you.
You tell stories. You dance. You play drums. You like the Steelers (and think the Eagles are trash). You love Paw Patrol, and Word Party, and Elmo, and Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show. You love to make art. But these are just attributes and not who you are.
Sometimes I watch you and I’m in awe. I can see glimpses of myself in you, but my awe comes in the form of how you aren’t like anyone else. That you are your own person. That makes me happy (even if it can be frustrating) because we aren’t letting you stick to limitations.
Remember this summer when you were scared of rides? Now, look at you. These are just snippets. Just moments and new ones occur faster than I can recall the old ones. So instead of being stuck in the past, or being anxious about the future, I’m planting my flag firmly in today.
I am proud that I am your father, and I can’t wait to see you continue to grow, learn, and become something completely brand new.