As of March 4th, I have been officially inducted into the role of father. My son was born after about 18 hours of active labor, 3 hours 17 minutes of which was exhausting pushing on the part of the wife. We ended up having to get induced since we were overdue (41 weeks) and the baby wasn't moving quite as much as he had been. The labor was long and initially quite painful for her - which is why the man or woman who invented the epidural deserves the Nobel Prize and an annual salary of at least $1 million, as well as a grateful hug from every man on the planet who is able to not sit by in complete uselessness as his wife struggles in agony. I was fortunately able to sit by in complete uselessness while my wife struggled with discomfort and pressure. I tried to help, and God bless her she says I did, but I felt awfully ornamental.
Unfortunately, the little tyke came out with a giant caput succadeneum, a scary rubbery blue and breathing rather poorly. The neonatalogist came down, took one look at him and promptly admitted him to the NICU thinking he might be septic. Blood cultures were drawn, he was given some fluid resuscitation and he was started on an aggressive course of antibiotics. With this, my largely superfluous role during delivery transitioned into a somewhat more utilitarian role since 1) I know what all the means, 2) I know the right questions to ask and 3) the title "doctor" no longer impresses me. I saw him about an hour after delivery and he looked better. The next morning, he looked great. So good, in fact, he didn't even really look like a newborn. The conehead was gone, his color was excellent and he was very active. All the cultures came back negative and the rest of his labs looked good, so he was able to come home after 2.5 days in the NICU.
Now, people say having a baby changes things. They can, and do, describe in horrifying detail the ridiculous roller coaster you are about to jump onto. You listen and smile and nod and think "yeah, this is going to be a big change" which is akin to comparing the Grand Canyon with a big hole in the ground. Just like the Grand Canyon, having a baby is marvelous and deep, but looking down into that sheer abyss right in front of you is also terrifying and you cannot help but ask yourself half a dozen times an hour "what did we just do?!" This became especially acute when the true definition of colic finally came home to me. For those who do not yet have children, you will learn to fear this word as I do. And mine is just a "little colicky". But at the times he is not crying or sleeping, he is incredibly alert and attentive. His hands are always exploring and his face moves through a dizzying array of expressions. I have been told by those more experienced with children than I that this means he is intelligent. Right now, it makes him incredibly cute and gives him personality.
He is a unique, little creation, an image-bearer, a person, a self. He will turn into someone very different from me and I get to be in on the direction he takes. I get to be in on his discovery of the world and himself. And I get to be in on the discoveries going on in me that only he could reveal. For instance, one night when he was tenaciously clinging to wakefulness, I spent about an hour walking him up and down the hall so he wouldn't cry and the wife could get some much needed sleep. I too, was tired and growing frustrated that every time I stopped he would begin to wail. As my frustration and fatigue were reaching a peak, I had a revelation about my own behavior. How many times has God walked me back and forth after my own repeated failures? How frustrating my obstinence, how grating my cries? And yet all I receive from Him is love and mercy. I saw my son in a new light at that moment and the nature of our relationship changed. What awesome responsibility and what a privilege of delights is fatherhood.