The most significant, profound, and incredible moment of my life happened while I was pacing back and forth in an empty hospital hallway a little after 6pm on a Sunday. My wife, because of various medical issues that I won’t get into, had to deliver our twins via C-section. Despite our fervent wishes, we were assured by a team of doctors and specialists that the smartest and safest route would be to administer general anesthetic (put my wife to sleep, in other words) and take the babies out surgically. Sadly, this meant I couldn’t be in the room and Alissa, worst of all, would be totally unconscious for the birth of our kids. That’s not how we planned it, but I’m already discovering that the most honest book on parenting should, in fact, be titled “That’s Not How We Planned It.”
They took my wife into the operating room, brought me to the hallway outside, and gave me a folding chair to sit on. I was terrified, nervous, excited, overwhelmed, and sweating profusely. I knew I’d be waiting for about 30 or 45 minutes, and I filled the time by reminding myself to breathe and not puke. Or am I supposed to puke and not breathe? I couldn’t think straight, my mind was swimming. I can remember, through the mental fog of anxious excitement, thinking briefly about the odd dichotomy hospitals present. I’m in a building full of death and sickness, and here is where two new lives will begin. Tile floors and fluorescent lights and people in masks with rubber gloves, and this is where our lives will be forever transformed and our babies will make their dramatic entrance into the world. Maybe the hippies are onto something, I thought, maybe we should all be born in the forest, amidst the squirrels and the birds. Maybe — but then I lost my train of thought. Anyway, I was obviously in a frantic state. I’m fully aware that hippies are never right.
A stream of surgeons, doctors, and nurses walked passed and into the OR. Each would offer some sort of friendly and reassuring greeting, although I could have done without the one particular doctor who gave me a hearty “Good luck.” Dude, you’re about to cut my wife’s uterus open and extract my children, I really don’t want to hear the word “luck” come out of your mouth right now. This is childbirth, not poker. I pressed my ear against the door, hoping to hear the action unfold. Bad idea. I could make out muffled voices with only a few phrases coming through clearly. At one point, ten minutes in, I thought I heard the words “no” and “heart” uttered by someone in some context. Naturally I panicked, thinking that one of my children had been born without a heart. Don’t worry, I apparently misheard.
Then it happened. I heard a cry. It was a cry very much like a thousand other cries I’ve heard before. But this was different, it was new. It was our child. I didn’t know which one, but I knew there probably weren’t any other babies in that room so it had to be one of ours. This was it. Alissa was a mother. I was a father. This was the moment. They were here. Everything changes. I thought of a quote from a CS Lewis book: This is the moment that contains all moments. And it was. There was nobody around me in the hallway, but I knew I had to say something profound. Unfortunately all I could get out was a gulp and a “Holy sh*t.” Shakespeare himself couldn’t have said it any better.
A couple minutes later they opened the door. A nurse came out and smiled, “Come meet your kids, dad.” That was easily the most surreal thing anyone has ever said to me. I walked in, my legs were shaking. There were a dozen people in green hospital scrubs busily rushing around. And then I saw them: My son and my daughter. They were beautiful. I couldn’t believe how perfect they were. These helpless little people, little angelic works of art. I loved them instantly. I didn’t think that was possible. I was wrong. I loved them and it was real, it was intense, almost painful. I can’t explain it. If you have kids, I don’t need to explain it. If you don’t, I hope you get to feel this love one day. It changes you, it really does. This is the greatest experience life has to offer, and it’s a gift a million times better than I ever deserved.
The joy was quickly mixed with fear when they told me the babies had to go to the ICU. They needed “a little help breathing,” I was informed. They said it so casually, as if they were just telling me that my socks didn’t match. I guess they were trying to keep me calm. It didn’t work. I know the doctors were helping but, honestly, I kind of wanted to punch them in the head when they took my kids and put them in something that looked like a glass aquarium for a gerbil, and carted them away from me. Everything was fine in the end. They kept Luke and Julia in the NICU for a day until their vital signs normalized. Now they’re perfectly healthy. Alissa came out of the anesthetic about an hour later. They finally let me see her once she had regained consciousness. She didn’t get to see her kids until later that night. I can tell you that my wife has been every bit the Super Mom that I expected her to be and more. Our kids are blessed to have her. She’s absolutely awe inspiring.
And that, in 5000 words, was the first few hours. There might not be anything unique about the story, but it’s still the most remarkable thing that has ever happened to me. Now we are making our way, one day at a time, caring for our children. I can tell you one thing that I’ve already learned: When dealing with newborn twins, all you need is love. And diapers. And caffeine. In that order.