Labor is also Difficult for Dad
I dreamed about the birth of my baby for the entire pregnancy. I expected to be totally overwhelmed with emotion when she was born and my eyes would tear up just thinking of holding her fresh from the womb in the hospital. Well, things went as expected during most of labor. We were both so excited and expectant that despite the pain, even my wife was strangely blissful. However, after two hours of watching my wife trying to push the baby out, I was just thinking "get out of my wife now, kid." All the lovey, dovey, romanticized visions of the birth moment were gone. In fact, I didn't get weepy when the baby was born. I was just intensely relieved and grateful that my wife's pain was subsiding.
What's in a Name?
We named her Martina after my mother-in-law's family name of Martiny. Last summer we attended an amazing family reunion with over 100 relatives in Allegany, New York. Sure, I had to wear a nametag that said "in-law" on it that was only slightly less humiliating then having a scarlet "I" branded on me. Still, I was taken by the family's rich history, diversity and endurance. I also enjoyed our remarkable hike up to the Martiny Rocks on the family's former homestead. It was a walk that Thomas Merton used to make when he lived in the area. I wanted my daughter to feel connected to that history.
Also, I'm a tremendous sports fan and the greatest female athlete I've ever seen in person was Martina Navratilova at the United States Open. She was often reviled by the fans and whenever she played Chris Evert the crowd was strongly against her. Not me. I always rooted for her. More often than not she prevailed in those epic matches with remarkable grace. I'd be proud if my daughter showed those qualities some day.
I'm Blue because she's spitting Black
Our time in the hospital was largely uneventful. The baby was healthy and took to nursing. Mommy was exhausted and hurting but otherwise fine. All of that was a tremendous relief. In fact, we were often told what a model infant we had. Just as I was beginning to relax during that first night and bask in the glory of being a father, Martina started burping like she wanted to spit something up. I grabbed her and put her over my shoulder. As I patted her back, black stuff began coming out of her mouth. My beautiful baby is possessed, I thought.
As this was happening, a fantastic nurse (she taught us how to swaddle, change diapers, hold the baby and calm the baby, all after midnight) came into the room and seized the baby out of my arms. She turned her over on her stomach and began hitting her back hard until Martina began crying. The nurse commanded me to get out the suction bulb. In a panic, I began overturning things in the room until I eventually found it and handed it to her. She suctioned the baby's mouth out and handed her back to me.
In her fairly thick Polish accent she said, "it is not good when baby starts turning blue. You must turn her over and make her cry." I rocked the hysterical baby and said, "Blue, what about the black stuff coming out of her mouth and nose?" She looked on me with great tenderness. "That is dried blood that she gulped in the amniotic fluid. She's a strong baby and probably coughed most of it out. It's a good thing." I took a deep breath. Black is good. Blue is bad.
This is what I call Nightlife
We aren't getting much sleep which is what I expected. However, I must admit that I'm surprised by how blissful some of the sleepless middle-of-the-night hours can be. Last night, our first night home, Martina was screaming her head off at about 1:30 a.m. She had just nursed and her diaper was dry. There was nothing to do but hold her and walk with her and try and let her mother get a little sleep.
Little by little she began to settle down. Eventually, we sat in a rocking chair together and passed the time with me speaking nonsense (she doesn't object to this like most people) and her occasionally looking up at me with her half-opened right eye. Around 2:00 a.m. I tried to put her down in the bassinet, but her shrieks made it clear she wasn't interested. Instead, we lay on the couch together. She fell into a fitful sleep while lying on my chest. She was moving her perfectly formed little hands and contorting her face into every expression a person can exhibit as she snuggled into my warm T-shirt.
If I have ever been more content, it was probably over 40 years ago in the middle of a winter's night when I lay on my daddy's chest and fell asleep listening to his voice in my ear.