Life-changing moments are just that. Obviously. They change your life and have a lasting impact on you for the remainder of your days. I have experienced many such moments, yet very few have had a positive impact. One such positive impact occurred on Friday, December 3 1999.
That day, at precisely 12:00pm, I became a father.
December 3rd 1999, was the ending of an incredibly long journey. My ex and I first found out she was pregnant while we still lived in Michigan. It had already been decided that we would be moving back to the Cincinnati area and getting married before we found out, and we followed through with those plans.
Five or six weeks in, I can’t rightly recall, we had an appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The doctor was unable to locate the heartbeat, instead hearing only erratic echos of the heartbeat. The fact that there was a heartbeat was good. The fact that they couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from was not so good. They scheduled an ultrasound immediately to determine what the abnormality was.
Unfortunately, their next available appointment was exactly a week into the future, and they made us wait every second of it. That week was the most excruciating week I can recall. We spent that week agonizing over what could be wrong. Was our baby deformed? Was there something wrong with his or her heart? Was the baby in danger? What’s the deal?
It felt like years passed by during that week, but we finally arrived to have the ultrasound. They popped my ex up on the table, squirted that cold, blue jelly stuff all over her belly, and started scanning her innards. I stared intently at a screen full of indiscernible static. I fought the urge to find a set of rabbit ears and begin adjusting them.
After just a few seconds the ultrasound tech told us with a chuckle that she knew why there had been trouble narrowing down the heartbeat the prior week. She directed us both to look at the screen. She gestured toward the monitor with her free hand, “Here’s a baby here,” she said, then moved the little ultrasound wand across my ex’s belly, “and here’s another baby here.”
My heart stopped, dropped, and rolled. My jaw hit the floor. My ex was leaking tears of joy. It literally took me hours to wrap my head around the fact that my first child had somehow morphed into two first children (I used to joke that the hospital was having a “buy one get one free” sale.). I had been mentally prepared for one child, but two? Two infants at one time I was not prepared for. There was so much to worry about. We weren’t exactly set financially. We were living with her Aunt and Uncle at the time. She was missing a lot of work due to morning sickness and my income alone wouldn’t sustain us.
By the end of the day, though, the shock and worry had dissipated and I was ecstatic. My love for those two little fetuses washed away my anxiety and fears. I told everyone. I called everyone. I went to people’s houses and told them. Everyone was ecstatic for us, except for my dad, who muttered, “Oh, shit.” Apparently, he didn’t think we were ready…
Months went by. Doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and stress tests piled up. When you’re pregnant with more than one baby you’re automatically categorized as high-risk. Their due date was December 17, if I recall correctly. They assured us she’d never make it the full 40 weeks. They said with twins they’d happy if she just made it to 32 weeks. They’d be euphoric if she made it to 36 weeks.
My ex made it to 32 weeks. Then she made it to 36 weeks. At the beginning of week 38, my ex finally convinced the doctors that she had suffered enough and they scheduled her to be induced that Friday.
The boys had been given their eviction notice.
I made arrangements at work during the week to take the next month off. When Friday finally rolled around, we had to get up at the asscrack of the middle of the night. Well, not really, but it felt like it. We had to be there at 6am, so we were. I don’t know why, though, because the nurses didn’t come by to start anything until almost 8:00. That was 2 additional hours of sleep I could have used.
They hooked all the monitors to her and one nurse asked the other if they had already started administering the drugs. The other answered in the negative, which I thought should have been plainly obvious since my ex had no IV or any other scary hospital equipment connected to her. “Well, she’s in labor,” the first nurse declared. I thought that ironic since she was there to be induced.
For the entirety of the pregnancy, the doctors had told us that unless both babies were head down, they wouldn’t even attempt a natural delivery. My ex argued and complained and swore she’d give birth naturally, but I told her that we needed to do whatever was best for our children. If the doctor says a c-section is safer if one of them is breach then we need to do a c-section. She reluctantly agreed.
Just two short days prior both babies were head down. I figured they wouldn’t have moved much because a)it had only been two days and b)there was no room to move in there. I was wrong, though. They did an ultrasound to see where the babies were and Baby B was breach. My ex cried as they told her that they would be doing a c-section.
They scheduled the operation and got an operating room ready. I had to dress up in scrubs and wear a goofy mask. They took my ex and I back to the operating room. I had to wait outside while they set everything up. When all was ready, a nurse came and retrieved me.
I walked into the room and halfway up my ex’s torso there was a huge, makeshift curtain so that we couldn’t see her entrails while they operated on her. She was crucified to the operating table. Literally. Her arms were clamped down and stretched way out. At one point she asked if they were still there because she couldn’t feel them. They gave me a stool to sit on, and I sat to the right of her head.
I was so nervous I was shaking. I had heard horror stories of my dad passing out during my birth (I was born Caesarian, too) and I was afraid I was going to pass out, too. I didn’t, though, and was able to witness two of the greatest three things to ever happen to me, both within a 60 second span. At exactly noon, Baby A was pulled out of my ex’s eviscerated belly. I stared in wonder at this infant, my infant, that was completely covered in blood and chalky white amniotic fluid. They cut his cord (which, to me, is one of the weirdest looking things ever) and took him to one of the warming stations to check his health and clean him up. Seconds later, they pulled Baby B out, and he promptly pissed all over his mother’s internal organs. They took him to the other warming station, and began to work on him.
Moments later, a nurse told me that I could come and hold Baby A. In a daze, I went to see him. The entire experience felt surreal; like I was viewing someone else’s life from a first-person viewpoint. I’m a father? These kids are mine?
I picked Baby A up and cradled him in my arms. I just started at him. I couldn’t believe the moment had finally come. I was a father. I was holding my child. I was grinning like an idiot. Love radiated from me like light from the sun. I may have even shed a tear, but don’t tell anybody that.
I took him over to my ex so she could see him. When Baby B was all cleaned up and swaddled in his blanket, I put Baby A back in his warming station and grabbed Baby B and repeated the procedure. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of love I had for these two little people I had only just met. I was riding a natural high that entire day. I was beaming. I couldn’t stop smiling despite my lack of sleep.
The twins were taken to the nursery for a couple of hours before they were brought to our room. I don’t recall if there was a reason for that or if it was just standard operating procedure then.
While my ex was in recovery, I took family members back to the nursery and showed off my babies. They had the little “anti-theft” bracelets around their tiny ankles. Baby A had a pretty decent head of hair. Baby B, not so much. They both had beautiful, dark blue eyes and the cutest little faces.
15 years later and I am very much a proud father of those two boys. They are the best kids you could ask for. They rarely get in trouble, they are both honor-roll students, and they both would do anything for anyone. They love to help and to give. They both have a great sense of humor, though Baby B is a little more outgoing than Baby A. Their capacity to love is unmatched and I still have fun playing with them. These days it’s either sports or video games, but I still have fun with them.
I know I’m not always the best dad, I get impatient at times, but I’m proud of the way they have turned out so far. I hope that they know how deeply I love them. I try to show them as often as I can and thankfully they haven’t reached the age yet where they push me away when I hug them. I’m dreading that day.
Today we celebrate 15 years. 15 years of memories. 15 years of laughter. Of learning. Of, sometimes, annoyance. We’ve had our ups and downs over the last 15 years, but I wouldn’t trade in a single moment with them. My children are, and forever will be, the reason I strive to be a better person.
Happy birthday, boys.