The first cry of my baby in the delivery room came to mind recently.
It’s a sound I will never forget because: it marked such a big moment in time, but one I couldn’t fully enjoy, just yet, at the time.
Snowfall covered the early morning hours of January 22. Our baby girl was coming five days early. Thankfully, I had gone out to clear off the car and a path leading to it at the onset of my wife’s contractions. Our drive to the hospital — a ride through the Lincoln Tunnel and across midtown Manhattan — was surprisingly smooth. We had the early hour and aforementioned weather to thank for parting the usual waves of traffic and transit.
Upon our arrival at the hospital, a nurse set up mother-to-be with a bed and monitors for her and the impending “her.” It was rather quiet in the unit and the floor, but not long before it seemed we were being checked on too much. Baby’s heartbeat was slowing with each contraction; not a good sign.
Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her shoulders and she would have to be delivered right away. However much time we thought we had, we no longer did. Our doctor had been called and alerted to the situation. Mama was whisked away to get prepped for surgery.
The next perhaps-10 minutes felt both rushed and an eternity. Fathers are told where to put their stuff then dressed in surgical gowns and walked to the door of the operating room. And left. Alone.
Slight glimpses of my other half on the operating table — as the door swung open while nurses shuffled in and out — were my only solace as I tried to keep my thoughts at bay. Breathe. Wait.
From down the hall, the next thing I saw was our doctor. He had just made it — again, the hour and the weather provided him with the same gentle passage across Long Island and into the city. As soon as he was dressed, off he went.
Moments later, I was allowed in and shown to a seat at the head of my wife — who was on the table arms spread to her sides and curtained off from her waist down. I could see her thoughts racing in her eyes and I did my best to smile and comfort with mine. The anesthesiologist checked in with her to make sure she was comfortable and alert; his words were welcome conversation to distract us both.
On the other side of the curtain, movement began and our doctor took charge. I don’t remember much of what was being said, my focus was on my wife. I could see she started to feel things. I knew she was numbed but was bound to feel at least the pressure of the delivery. It soon became obvious that it was more, she started moaning and told them, almost shouting, that she could feel part of it. The doctor quickly told the anesthesiologist to up her dosage and she was calmer and out (or at least “out of it”) in seconds. Holding her hand, I sat silently. Breathing. I think.
Whatever was being said in the room is lost now in the ether. The only thing I heard was the swell to the first cry my daughter ever let out. There it was: She was here. She was breathing. She was okay. For now, at least. I could breath half a sigh of relief. I turned my focus then to my wife.
She remembers very little of anything after her cry of pain. I told her later that they brought our baby over to her and let them touch for the first time. My wife seemingly awoke from her haze and greeted our girl. It was that moment that I at last felt somewhat better. Both were alive and safe.
The nurse who had been with us from the start came over and said she was nearing the end of her shift but wanted to know what we were naming her. I said her name aloud and smiled; our family was official.
Her first cry holds profound to me — partially because it may only live on in my memory. Mama was cloudy on anesthesia. Baby was newly-thrust into life. And, as thankful as I am for them being there, I’m certain doctor and staff went on with their day as if any other. So, I tell this story, because really only I could tell it.