My View from South Hill
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
When I was about to be born, my father drove my mother to the hospital and then was shooed back home by the doctors and nurses to wait for news. While waiting at home, he put on his best white shirt -- his way of expressing respect for the importance of the moment. Eventually the doctor called to say he was the father of a healthy baby boy, and my dad drove back to the hospital to see my mother and me. For the next day or two, he never got closer to me than a look through the window of the nursery.
It was a bit different for the birth of William Thomas Rochon this morning. The birthing manual provided by our doctor indicated that I should go to the hospital in a shirt that I would not mind getting dirty. There were moments in the delivery room when I wished I had been sent home to wait, but those days are long gone. Not only was I present for the birth, but in the twelve hours since then I have never been more than four feet from my son.
Unlike the mystery of birth when I was born a half century ago, Amber and I had long since learned the sex of our child. We already knew his health status on many dimensions thanks to the results of a variety of tests. We had not only listened to his heart, but watched it beat. We had counted his fingers and toes, and even looked at his face. We thought we had already met him prior to birth, thanks to the miracles of technology.
We could not have been more wrong. Digitized pictures in utero do not approximate the encounter of another life at the moment of birth. No matter what else has changed over the last half century, it remains a time-stopping experience to hear the first small cry of a tiny baby newly emerged into a very big world. That first cry penetrates a parent's heart with the realization that this life is ours -- not in the sense of possession but in the sense of responsibility.
Amber and I are both pretty stoic under normal circumstances, but that first cry moved us each to tears. We had been told again and again by friends and well-wishers that this would be a transformative moment in our lives, a "before and after" watershed event. And we knew this would be true. But until this morning we had no idea what that would actually mean in terms of our thoughts and emotions.
Happy birth day Liam.
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