Significant Details

I meant to do this sooner, but since you were born the days and nights have been a bit of a blur. In conversation I’ll reference something as if it just happened to find out it was a couple of days before. So between this jumble of memory and the fact that today marks your first week with us, I thought it would be a good place to start with these letters by writing out what I remember about your birth. Hopefully by the time you’re old enough to read this I’ll have stumbled across the trick of consistency with my writing output, but for this moment, even though my best intentions are to keep up with these letters, I’m not sure how well I’ll do. I almost didn’t write today, and even though I’m exhausted and in desperate need of a nap myself (you and your mother are currently passed out upstairs) I know that if I don’t start these letters today the time might slip away completely.

So here goes.

You started your arrival early morning Sunday the 23rd. Your mother woke me up just shortly after her water had broken and we decided to go into the hospital, even though steady contractions hadn’t come yet. As we drove through the empty midnight streets we joked back and forth about still not having a name for you and that even though we were making the trip we knew we’d be sent home again until your mother was further along. The parking lot at the Foothills was empty. It’s about the only time of day it’s ever that quiet, so we got a decent spot. We walked in through Emergency and as we were heading down the corridor towards the elevators I turned around and saw a tall, handsome¬† guy dressed up as Thor prowling the waiting area. Red cape, breastplate and all. He cut a dashing figure, and it made me relax knowing that the God of Thunder was nearby in case we needed him. Fun fact: your mother still does not believe this actually happened.

Once upstairs we got the reception we expected. Professional but not too concerned. Contractions hadn’t started yet and you were still a long way off. When your mother went to the bathroom she was discreetly asked by the nurse there if she was in an abusive relationship. She came back joking about it, because there’s nothing farther from the truth, but it made me ask another nurse later on how common it was. It’s not, as it turns out, but it’s a sad statistical reality that a woman is most likely to be abused by her partner when she’s at her most vulnerable while pregnant. I’m not sure why I mention this. It sticks out in my mind as a sobering detail, even though it didn’t have any bearing on what we were going through.

We were sent home, like I said, and told to come back in twelve hours. We went home. We slept. We ate. My parents came over to pick up the dogs and we had a little sit down before we left for the hospital. It didn’t strike me that when I came back I’d be coming back as a father. You’d think it would have, but it didn’t. I was excited. We were still joking around about names, going through a list of potentials, trying a few out. We still referred to you as little baby No-Name.

Once we arrived back at the Foothills (now in the afternoon, so the parking spaces were nowhere near as choice) we were admitted into a proper delivery room with an amazing view of the city. Fall doesn’t last long in Calgary. It seems the leaves are yellow, red and brown for a week or two before they’re all blown down and the branches stick out skeletal towards the sky. They hadn’t fallen yet when you were born. The view was breathtaking and I ended up getting some good pictures. The sky was clear and the temperature was warm. There was a cleanness about the space.

You were induced, which was not the way we had hoped you’d arrived. We had a plan. We’d made a wish list. And while practically nothing in the delivery went according to plan I still feel it went well. You were never in any level of distress that seemed dangerous (at least as it was communicated to me), and while the delivery was painful and difficult for your mother, nothing ever felt as life-threatening as I was afraid it would be. But yes, you were induced, which meant we ended up electing for pain medication, which in turn led to intervention in the last few, critical moments.

I want to take a moment to talk about your nurses. Over the course of the night you had about four or five of them, and all of them were professional and excellent at their jobs. Seriously, I could not have asked for better care for you and your mother. They made us feel at ease and well taken care of, and if I were recommending places for children to be born, I couldn’t give the Foothills a higher recommendation. I also want to mention that your grandmother, my mother, was there with us almost every step of the way, and that also was a great choice. Having been a nurse, she was a great mediator between Tara, myself and the medical professionals. She understood the culture and was calm throughout.

I was also calm throughout, which is not what I was expecting. I was expecting fear, to be honest. A lot of it. But it takes a long time, the delivery process, and fear doesn’t do well in tests of endurance. Fear has poor stamina. It’s a sprinter. But however well I may have behaved during your delivery, the grand prize will always go to your mother. She was amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. In a situation where she had thought she would curse and potentially buckle, she rose to every challenge. If a nurse suggested a different position that might be more painful but more beneficial to your delivery, she took it. She went the distance in a very real way, and having known her for a good number of years now I can safely say I’ve never been more proud. She made a difficult process look easy. You couldn’t have asked for better.

Finally we came to the end. I’m not going to go into too much detail. We can talk about this when you’re older. Some intervention was necessary and all of a sudden everything moved really fast. The pain went from manageable to unbearable and the last five minutes, that last dash, was terrifying. Your mother was scared. She was tired and scared and the last five minutes were so painful that it broke me just watching it. I held onto her, I supported her with the other nurses, the doctor, my own mother, and I tried in my own futile way to make it easier for her and you.

And then you arrived. Despite charting your progress through the nine months of pregnancy, listening to your heartbeat, watching your movements on the monitor, you did not become real to me until I saw you. I didn’t think I was going to watch, but I did, and I’m so glad that I chose to. After feeling the need to sleep creep up on me during those final hours, I woke up in a second. I was crying, probably shaking. And you were here. Shortly thereafter, your mother and I were holding you.

I thought when I began writing this first letter I would go on to talk about your first week, that somehow I could get your birth out in fewer words maybe. But the rest can wait. If I wait too long before publishing this, I’ll go back and tinker too much and you’ll never see it. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Maybe I’ll remember later. The important beats are there. The significant details.

Actually, wait. There’s two more.

The first: after getting you and your mother settled in the postpartum wing, I had to drive home and get some sleep of my own. The adrenaline of watching you being born was wearing off and I was crashing fast. I needed to sleep but I needed to drive safely home. It was a struggle, but I managed it. On the way home an odd thought struck me. I’m not sure if it was the first inklings of what it’s like to be a father (one week in and I’m still not sure I feel like one), but it stuck out and continues to do so in my memory.

You may discover as you grow up, that I have this underlying belief that things should be fair somehow. Hopefully you never notice this. Hopefully I do not pass it along. It’s a remnant from childhood and has done a lot to add to my discomfort over the years. But driving back from the hospital I realized in a very real way that the world was not fair, and that the world’s opinion towards you, that little baby you, was utter indifference. Not hostile, just indifferent. And that the only ones who were ever going to fight for you, to help you, were going to be us. Family. That this was the job now. That very little else could be depended on. That, like Carl Sagan says in his Pale Blue Dot speech, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us…like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.

Which is a downer, to be sure, but it rattled me. The night sky was clear above me and I could see all the stars. I thought about this, about what it meant for me, your mother. What it demanded of us. And while a part of me is not sure I can do this, the better part, the greater part, is going to do his very best to be the help to you that cannot come from elsewhere.

And the second: that bit of business about your name. If you had been a boy we would have had a name for you picked out months ago. It’s still there. Solid. Built to last. But a girl’s name, for us, was trickier. How was it decided? In the middle of things, as it happens. During the delivery. Your mother was going through contractions and I asked about the name and she told me. Tessa Simone. Tessa, because we like it, and Simone, because it was the name of one of her grandmothers. And I found myself unable to argue. That was your name. Being male and going into a delivery room populated solely by women is a strange feeling. It very much feels like intruding. I did my best, but there were things going on that I felt that, no matter how hard I tried, I’d never be a part of. The nurses were, you were, your mother was (hell, even my mother was), but I had to stand a little apart from. And out of that wash of emotions and experiences and connections that I couldn’t firmly understand came your name. A day after you were born your mother thanked me for letting me name you that, which seemed a strange thing to do. It was your name. Like you, it came out of that room. There was nothing I was going to do to change it.

And with that, I’ll pull this first letter (of many, I hope) to a close. You’ve been with us for a week but it feels like you’ve always been here. Your current favorite activities are eating, sleeping and farting. You are really good at farting, as it turns out, which proves to me that you’re more my side than your mother’s. Let’s see if we can keep these letters going, shall we?

Love,

Dad

p.s. Here’s my favorite picture of you with your mother, taking in your very first week.



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William Neil Scott

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