I became a dad over ten weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to write about the experience this entire time. That should be a good indicator of how becoming a parent can upend your expectations (and I’m just a dad—we have it easy). Not to mention, as I’ve always said, it’s just so very easy not to write. Also, did you know it’s a law in America that at least one parent is required to blog about their experience within the first year of having a child? You get an extra tax credit if you combine it with a novelty Twitter account and get a book deal.
Truly though, I do consider myself somewhat of a writer and I’ve been intending to get to this for a long time, but the longer I waited the more I had to write about so I’m going to try to hit one thing per entry to make it easier for myself. So here we have: The Beginning! How did it happen? Well, you see, when a man and a woman—no, too basic.
My son Del was due on Tuesday March 21st and things had been going generally pretty well. My wife had been getting weekly scans due to her Advanced Maternal Age, which starts at 35. It’s also known as a geriatric pregnancy because we hate women and want them to feel terrible about their choices. Anyway, that means that in order to catch any complications that could be more likely with a mom who’s not a fertile high school kid or whatever, there are more checkups. We went in on the Thursday before the due date and it looked like her fluid was a little low. It had been on the low side for a while but this was the first time it approached levels they’d want to take action on. Those actions being 1) inducing right then, which even though the due date was five days away knocked us to the floor; 2) going upstairs for an IV; and 3) going home and drinking a ton of water. The hospital called my wife’s doctor and she said to send her home. So, we stuck with our plan of seeing Logan in the theater while we could still see movies in the theater, and Amy drank water like it was a dare. She waddled down 9th Ave to the movie theater and back and I’m certain someone thought she was already in labor. Our son was riding pretty low in the saddle, so to speak. We climbed over mounds of snow piled up at intersections from a snowfall a few days back. We really wanted to get in one more child-free activity.
We got home after the movie, which we really enjoyed and thank god at least one film finally understood the character while Hugh Jackman was still playing him, and we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. The plan was to go back to the hospital first thing in the morning and see if Amy’s fluid was back up. If not, inducement was a certainty. We weren’t going for a natural birth or anything, but we were worried that inducing could prolong the whole thing and we really wanted that last weekend! Seeing Logan was just one of the things we’d had planned while we were still hot youngsters in the best neighborhood in the best city in the world, and not some dumb parents who loved their kid or whatever. We needed to pack in more activities! We needed to become perfect people before trying to raise a child! We needed time!
I had pushed a film shoot with a good friend, something we’d been working towards for years, to the weekend before the baby was due. Really trying to beat the buzzer. So I would either make a short movie the next day, or I’d become a dad. Both things required a little planning the night before, and I didn’t feel like doing anything. Amy didn’t either. We sort of drifted around the apartment, aimlessly watching MTV Classic, talking about how we were putting everything off but not really doing anything about it. I finally made a lame shot list and we packed a bag for the hospital and went to bed.
Sure enough, after barely consulting the scan the next day, they told us to go upstairs to the delivery floor and get ready to do this. We proceeded to wait three hours in the lobby up there while they found a room. Amy insists this was a tactic to take our mind off what was about to happen, because it just pissed us off. It was successful. We had time to reach out to family and let them know what was up. Plenty of time to complain to each other about sitting in a sad hospital lobby for three hours. And then we were off to the races! I wasn’t sure if the room they brought us into would be the room where it happened (which used to just be a normal phrase til Hamilton), but when I saw the little newborn care station in the corner I realized my son was going to be in it at some point in the overwhelmingly near future and I got choked up in a good way. We had a great view of the Upper West Side and it was a sunny day. We settled in. Then we quickly heard the woman in the next room in the throes of what sounded to be a painfully natural birth. Our eyes were wide. A nurse walked in and we mentioned that and she said “oh don’t worry, she’s having a natural birth. It’s her second.” After a few more cycles the woman’s groans were met with the cry of a new baby. I got choked up again.
A quick word on nurses: they are angels who walk the earth among us mere mortals. Amy and I have both been lucky enough to avoid any major hospital time, so this was our first prolonged interaction with nurses, and they have seen everything and answered every question and allayed every stupid little fear but they still make you feel like you’re totally normal for worrying about the slightest thing or asking the silliest question. They all got invested in us and knew that we were really hoping Del would hold off until March 18th, because St. Patrick’s Day is generally a waking vomit-soaked nightmare in our neighborhood and we’d love to keep his birthday from being associated with that. They knew how bummed Amy was to be missing the Beauty and the Beast remake which came out that day (another sore point of that three-hour lobby wait—we totally could have gotten in a 10 AM screening). The postpartum nurses dealt with some pretty personal body things and made us feel like we could in fact take Del home without getting Child Protective Services called on us, so we owe them a great deal.
We settled in the room for what we assumed would be quite a long night. The TV was on MSNBC and I made sure to change it so that Donald Trump played no part in my son’s delivery. We thought the Food Network was a good neutral choice. Amy eventually turned it off because after she got her epidural she had to stop eating. We chatted with nurses, Amy rode out some pretty intense contractions before that epidural got set up, and I went out and got myself a burrito. We watched an episode of The West Wing on Amy’s laptop. I eventually dozed off a little after midnight in a rather comfy chair they provided for the partners.
Around 2 AM or so (yay, we made it out of the St. Patrick’s Day danger zone!) the doctor came in and said Amy looked ready to go. Like, right then. So I woke up and put on shoes because it seemed important to me to be wearing shoes for whatever was about to go down. Amy asked one of the nurses if it was probably going to take a couple hours, because we knew several moms who had to push for at least a few hours when they were induced. “Um, no, I think this is going to be pretty quick.” We got into position—my job was to hold Amy’s left leg, which had been knocked completely out of commission by the epidural (this had caused a few funny mishaps when she tried to move it and it just fell off the bed). It only took three contractions and Amy was amazing. Seven minutes later Del was in the room with us. There was a point where he wasn’t, and then he was, and there was no time in between and it was astonishing. I’ve thought about it a lot and that is the best word I can use to describe it. We didn’t get the whole movie moment where the exhausted mom tearfully cradles her new child on her sweaty chest. The doctor put him right onto Amy and we just looked at each other like “what? Is that it? Is he ours?” He was perfect.
We didn’t make it to the recovery room until 6 AM or so. I honestly have little memory of the intervening time. I awkwardly held Del for the first time, we took pictures, I called my mom. We all rolled upstairs to the room Amy would spend the next two days in and she got orientated by a nurse while I followed Del to his first bath. At this point I’d been awake for almost 24 hours and my services were not really needed at the moment (a common theme for dads in the early days). I watched drowsily as a nurse washed my screaming red son, thinking “I can just leave the room and go sleep next to Amy, right? Am I a terrible person for thinking that? I can’t leave my son alone. But he’s not alone, this lady knows more about him than you do at this point.” I eventually sat down in that room and dozed off while they finished checking him out and put him under the warmer.
I managed to sleep a little more in the chair by Amy’s bed. At some point I got up, got breakfast for myself and some coffee and checked in on our cat Tommy (our dog Omar was with a very good friend of his just down the street). It felt different to walk around our neighborhood. I was a dad now. This wasn’t just where I lived, it was where my son was born.
Amy’s dad got a last-minute flight when he found out we were inducing and got to hold Del less than 12 hours after he was born. We all sat around and stared at Del. It’s what you do with new babies. It’s what you do with 10-week-old baby too, and I assume an 18-year-old graduating high school. Amy tried to figure out the nursing thing. It turns out feeding a baby is a huge ordeal, who knew! Partners were not allowed to stay overnight unless it was a private room, which we weren’t about to shell out the cash for, so I guiltily left at 11 PM after being awake for 41 hours and slept more soundly than before or since. Amy is again a champion for dealing with a newborn and her own body in a dark strange room by herself. Mothers are the heroes of the world.
After two days in the hospital we took Del home. I brought the carseat with the assumption that we’d catch a cab the few blocks from the hospital to our apartment, secretly hoping that Amy would be up for walking because I had no idea how to go about getting a carseat into a waiting cab in traffic. We left the hospital, looked at the cars backed up on the street and Amy said “do you just want to walk? I think I’m good for it.” So we walked through Hell’s Kitchen on a bright cold day carrying our new son and a bag full of hospital goodies and everyone seemed to know he had just been born. A guy in a construction crew, clearing slush from that snowfall out of an intersection, stopped and said “Hey, how old’s your baby?” “Two days.” “That’s great, congratulations!” Classic NYC. We got him home, showed him all his stuff, sat down, looked at each other and said “what now?”
I’m not sure we’ve answered that question yet.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.