He’s wearing the dark blue “daddy jumpsuit”. He’s about to become a dad for the first time. Staring at the wall in front of him, he anxiously waits for us to call him in the operating room to join his wife giving birth.
He looks up from his phone for a brief minute as I introduce myself. I let him know I am here to help take care of his baby. I ask all the easy questions. Is this your first baby? Is this a boy or a girl? Do you have a name picked out yet? I see his eyes dart back to his phone. Not great reception down here, I say. Don’t worry you won’t miss anything. We’re just getting everything set up for the baby.
I stand next to the surgeons as they scrub in. I wait to sneak in and grab a pair of splash goggles, a mask, and a fingernail pick. All three of us scrubbing up to the elbows to become sterile in order to welcome this new baby into the world as aseptically as possible. All three of us women, mothers.
I follow the doctors into the OR, donning our sterile gowns, gloves, and I stand near the sterile drape that covers everything except a window onto mom’s abdomen. Her husband can come in now, says the surgeon as she makes the first cut.
He sits next to her. Holds her hand. She says she’s nauseous, she can’t breathe. Her nervousness is clear now to all present in the room. He is now becoming anxious as well. The doctors use easy, clear language to remind her that this is expected, normal in fact. Almost to baby…announces the doctor.
The head is delivered first, followed by bulb suctioning of the nose and mouth, a strong tug on the head and neck and the rest of the body follows. And we’re out, I say. Time is called out. Then the cry.
I take the baby from the surgeon’s hands and carry him to the radiant warmer to do my job. Apgars 8/9. Which is an easy way to say I didn’t have to do much.
I ask Daddy to trim the cord. I remind him to take pictures. I point out 10 fingers, 10 toes. I answer his questions. I encourage him to touch his son. To talk to him. I wrap him up and take him over to Mom. They hold their new son together. Tears flow freely from her eyes. She is overwhelmed with joy and responsibility. He is beaming with pride.
I explain to Mom that we are going to head over to the recovery room and wait for her there. Daddy come with me, I say. He kisses his wife’s forehead and comes with me.
As we walk out of the operating room I ask him to place his new baby into the bassinet. I remove my gown, gloves, and mask. I let him know he can pull off his mask as we walk down the corridor. I hear a deep sigh. The sigh to say, Oh thank God it’s over. Oh thank God he’s fine. Oh thank God she’s fine. Oh thank God because that was horrible waiting! Oh thank God we’ve made it!
The deep sigh is what every Daddy does after they take off their mask. As if it’s the end to a marathon or something. And yet, it’s just the beginning of a marathon of questioning, wondering, loving, connecting, disappointing, encouraging, serving, and teaching.
After Mom is settled into the recovery room, I nestle her baby skin to skin on her breast. I cover them with warm blankets and remind Dad to take a few more deep breaths, because after all this is just the beginning.