Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The day I became Daddy

Yesterday Brielle turned five. That meant she ate a cupcake for breakfast, wore her fuzzy pink “Birthday Princess” crown (not that she hasn’t worn it night and day on many other days and nights), announced, “I’m five!” to various strangers and pretty much glowed all day long.

It also meant I’ve been a daddy for a half-decade.

This is one of those things that trips me out either way I look at it. On one hand, I cannot believe that a young, free, newlywed such as myself could have been doing the parenthood thing for this enormous span of time. Nearly half of the dozen years we’ve been married, we have been married with children. In a couple months, we’ll be taking Brielle to kindergarten.

No way.

In another instant, I wonder that I have not always been a father. I think about life before Brielle, and draw a blank. What did we do for entertainment before we had live dancing girls? Where did we spend Saturday mornings before we enrolled in Cradle Roll and Tiny Tots Sabbath school classes? What cluttered my back seat before yogurt had bonded Cheerios to the upholstery?

You mean it’s only been five years? A measly seventh of my life?

On a Tuesday not unlike yesterday—a warm morning with the promise of summer vacation on the wind, the dry heat of the mountain soil injecting adventure into the air—I loaded my wife and a strange collection of baby stuff, most of which I could not name, much less use, into our white Xterra. An empty infant carseat was strapped in back (utterly devoid of Cheerios).

Rachelle was ready to have the child out of her abdomen. We had a date with our OB, who had agreed she was ripe enough to induce before the expectant grandparents left for Jamaica.

I played with the camcorder as we got into the car, readying myself to be journalist, cheerleader, Lamaze coach…and something…something else. What was it?

Oh yes, that. Somewhere in the fuzzy corners of my imagination, like a mortal trying to picture eternity in heaven—or hell—I supposed that presently, I would be a father.

We checked in, joked around on the video, and finally got down to business. Pitosin works, but works slowly, I’m convinced, on a child with a will as strong as Brielle’s. She was in no rush to say hello to the cold, cruel world, and Rachelle progressed slowly through the day and into the night.

Knowing my penchant for fainting over finger pricks and blood draws, I left the room when it was time for the epidural. We didn’t need to occupy doctors with more than one baby that night, I thought. It turned out that this was one of the hardest moments for Rachelle, and she wished I had been there.

I remember with dread leaving Rachelle’s room while she slept to correct papers and calculate grades on my laptop from about 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The school year was over, but my least favorite part of teaching was still in my face. I have always hated the process of turning students’ thoughts, ideas, creativity and hard work into cold numbers, and then adding those numbers up to come up with one of five letters.

Here, as my wife endured holy labor, doing grades seemed especially profane.

I was just exporting all this profanity to floppy disk when the word came that Rachelle was awake and making progress. (Please pardon the Male-ese. She might put it, “I was in agony like never before, turning myself inside out and WHERE WERE YOU?!”)

The contractions came quicker and quicker, and I just wanted it to be over. I put all my energy into rubbing Rachelle’s low back so hard that it would be sore for days after she came home. Finally, the doctor was telling her to push. I was delighted. The end was in sight.

Rachelle’s pain climaxed, and my delight clashed with her torture.

But finally, a terrific cocktail of fluids and tissues began to gush from my wife. Again, I was delighted—this was almost over. I would not have to watch helplessly while Rachelle suffered anymore.

From this nasty pool emerged the most beautiful infant face I had ever seen. The severity of contrast between birth and baby added wonder to the miracle. I have come to regard that moment as a metaphor of our existence in the universe—in the midst of chaos, entropy, decay, our planet is a beautiful exception.

My Brielle. She was beautiful from the moment I saw her. Beautiful and loud.

They cleaned her off, let me cut the end off the already clipped umbilical cord and wrapped her in a hospital blanket. They put the tiny bundle in my arms, and she began to quiet down. Her blue eyes stared up at me, clear and curious, it seemed.

It was all over.

It had really begun.

Remember in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, how at the end when he sees the Whos singing even after they were ripped off, the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes? I am certain mine grew about five in that moment.

Five. I can’t believe it’s been five years already. I can’t believe it’s only been five years.

The stuff of eternity just doesn’t make sense in terms of time.

Happy birthday, sweet big Brie! Thank you for helping God grow my heart every day of your wonderful five years. I love you more than I ever imagined possible.


MoziEsmé said...

Happy birthday, Brielle!

It's amazing how much a kid changes your life . . .

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
I've been catching up on a bunch of your blog entries. They're very good. I'm proud of you, in more ways than one.
-Bob T