Archive for May, 2010
The question, for weeks now, had been the same. “Now, when is your wife due?”
“May third,” I’d answer.
Their eyes would light up with the math of it. “That’s coming up! Are you excited to be a new father?”
Then, I’d pause. For a while now, I’ve had a standing policy to answer mundane questions with an appropriate amount of honesty. Case-in-point, if I run across a co-worker in the break room, and they say, “Good morning, Miles. How are you?”, I feel I owe them an honest, insightful answer. This breaks the monotony of an otherwise forgetful conversation. It shows that I’ve taken a little time to respect their question with an accurate answer, instead of some boilerplate placeholder emotionless response. It also often leads to a deeper, more interesting conversation. It leads them to offer me an equally courteous answer in response.
Sometimes the answer is “I have a headache, but it’s not too bad.” Sometimes the answer is “I am FANTASTIC.” Sometimes the answer is just “Good”. And sometimes there is a pause.
The pause, that infinite sigh of self-reference, can throw people off when their question is just “How are you?” When the question deals with the vast expanse of newly adopted fatherhood, I think they understand a need to pause. Typically, I’d offer back an obstacle course of my emotions: nervous, excited, anxious, scared, really scared.
The truth was that I couldn’t boil down my thoughts into a concise, conversation-appropriate statement. I knew a baby was coming, a baby who would need me (in some capacity) for the rest of his life. I knew there would be long nights, frustrating days, and a cavalcade of questions and worries. Oh, and I couldn’t stop it, no matter what I did. This would be the rest of my life. “Excited” was far from the first emotion that came to mind. “Oh God Help Me” was closer.
Months ago, I’d discussed with L&S a paternity plan, using my vacation days. My plan was to initially take 10 business days off to spend with Holli and the baby. Tentatively, that time was scheduled to start May 3rd, his due date. Of course, they tell you that no baby comes on their due date, but you can’t help but hang a lot on that date. Then I got the call that Holli was being induced. The call was Wednesday; the induction was scheduled for Thursday.
Suddenly my emotion went from “Oh God Help Me” to the simpler “Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God…” In talking with others, the only eloquence I could muster was, “It feels really real.”
We made peace with our former lives that night. We knew this day would come; we’d known for months and months. Still, it now felt like we had a single day to wrap up all our loose ends. We enjoyed an elaborate meal at Dairy Queen. We tidied the house. We got little sleep.
The next day, April 29th, at 7:45am, we began Labor. There were some frightening moments, but none that we couldn’t make our way through with each other, intermittent SMS messages to family, and quick updates to Facebook and Twitter. The entire process, which I won’t recount here, finally ended on April 30th at 1:29pm with the appearance of a small, purplish little man.
Ian was here.
Holli’s first words, upon seeing him, were “Oh, he’s so beautiful!” in the plaintive, emotional tone of a loving mother. My first words were almost unprintable, but I mustered a child-friendly “Wow…” instead. Then began pictures, measurements, tests, crying, wrapping, and holding.
I’ve held other babies, but it’s nothing like holding your own. I was a little nervous. Friends or family would ask if I wanted to hold their infant, and I’d usually decline, saying, “Oh, I’m not so good with babies.” I’m not sure why, exactly. I guess I didn’t want to discover that I’d be bad at it. Here, however, in the hospital, I had to hold him. Holli was still being worked on by the doctors, and I didn’t want poor Ian left alone under the lights. The nurse offered him to me effortlessly, and we just fit. His 6-pound, 11-ounce body with its 20 and a half inches of length tucked easily into my arms. Nothing has felt as natural. This was my first moment, my first pause, with my son.
I can’t yet express all of what it feels like to be a Dad. I feel that will be a later missive. I can, however, express one thing; I feel a strange kinship with God. During the Saturday evening of our hospital stay, we attended Mass at the chapel in the hospital. During the service, I fixated on an oft repeated phrase, “God gave his only son.” Mere days earlier, I’d been given a startling context to that statement. I had a son, whom I’d fallen in love with instantly, and I thought for a second what it’d feel like to have to send him to suffering, ridicule, and death. I could now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with God and say, “I don’t know how you did that. You’re a stronger man than I.”
Every day has been a chance to learn more about Ian: how he makes faces when he sleeps, how he takes long pauses while feeding to look around with shifty eyes, how he hates being cold, how he screams during his bath until the shampoo, how he seems to know when we desperately need him to be a good boy and then quiets down and falls asleep, how he seems to have always been with us unrevealed.
I feel fortunate that I was able to take ten days off from work. When I made arrangements, I thought it was important for Holli that I be around for that amount of time. I now think it is equally important for me. Tiny dark balls of dread weigh my stomach when I think of having to go back to work, not because of what I’ll go back to but because of what I’ll leave to do so. Unlike a pot of boiling water, Ian grows up even as you watch him; I hate to think of how quickly he grows when I’m not there to watch him. After all, he doesn’t pause for anything.
The past week has been incredible. Holli’s mother, Carol, has been a huge help in preparing meals, doing laundry, doing dishes, and a thousand other tiny things that we’ve asked of her. Yet, she won’t be here forever. This coming week will be a departure from the safety net version of parenthood that we’ve been living up until now. I’m hoping we’ve truly learned something from our safety nets: the nurses, the doctors, the family members. To all of our safety nets, Thank You. Our baby wouldn’t be as healthy and happy as he is without your help. Also, keep your phones nearby.
I’m looking forward to establishing our “new normal” with Ian. I’ve already started paring down podcasts and RSS feeds to be more efficient in my listening, watching, and reading. Every show in our Hulu queue will get scrutinized. Our other pleasures will get evaluated and measured, and some will get eliminated. Thankfully, Holli and I have the benefit of having lived a fairly boring life hitherto, which shan’t require much change, overall.
Ian has hit the Internet hard. I suppose it just makes sense, given his parentage. His picture went up on the Sanford Health Cradle Roll, though they got our message wrong. There were supposed to be quotation marks around “God is gracious”, because that makes it a pun. I’ll leave it to you to figure it out.
Right now, the greatest concentration of Ian Greggory will be Flickr. Flickr allows us to upload photos and videos at the same time with the same speed and ease that we need. Plus, I’ve already paid for a Pro account, so I might as well use it.
- Introducing Ian Greggory – a collection of images from the hospital recounting his first several days of life
- Ian’s First Bath – a small snapshot of what it’s like to bathe him
- Ian’s First Week – a collection of images from the rest of his first week of life
He’s also had his first professional photo shoot. We had a session with Scott Meyer of Scott Meyer Photography, who did our wedding, and he got some great shots of Ian. Read his blog post, and expect us to share more of those images later. He wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough, and a couple feedings at the studio helped keep him collected. Honestly, our biggest concern was the downtown parking meter.
If you want to keep up with this little guy, keep watching this site. I (Miles) will be blogging here a little more often, when it applies to sentimental Dad stuff. We’ve got a new category for Ian Greggory, and we’ll try to keep it updated appropriately, if we can keep up with him.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pause with my son.