He was terrified.
All the months of bravado crumbled when he got the call that his wife had gone into labor. She had been at work when her water broke, and someone was rushing her to the general hospital. Was she okay, he wondered? The caller had been in a hurry and hadn’t given many details.
His wife’s first pregnancy had been difficult, and she had miscarried at 6 months. It had been the worst day of his 28 years of life. He hadn’t known what to do, what to say to comfort his disconsolate wife. He was himself filled with grief, thinking about the perfectly formed male child, who had arrived too early and stillborn. For no apparent reason.
A year went by and his wife became pregnant again. For her sake, he had kept his fears at bay, pretending confidence that she would carry this baby to full term. Compared to the first pregnancy, this second one had been so easy that it made him nervous. But he had become good at hiding that fear.
He breathed a little easier when they made it past the 6-month mark with no mishaps. When he was out drinking with his friends, he spoke loudly and proudly of his soon-to-be-born child. He couldn’t let anyone see how terrified he was. Each time those fears tried to push to the forefront, he would shove them back into deep, dark corners. Until now.
He drove to the general hospital in a frenzy, revisiting everything he knew about childbirth. It was a good thing that his wife had carried the baby to full term, wasn’t it? But childbirth was the riskiest part: so many things could go wrong. She might die. The baby might die. They both could die, and then what would he be left with? He didn’t want to lose either of them!
The early evening traffic swirled around him, slowing his progress through the city. He was almost at the hospital when he realized that he wouldn’t get to see his wife for hours. They didn’t allow men into the Labor & Delivery Ward, so he would have to wait in a dimly lit obscure wing of the hospital, worrying about her.
A woman’s unearthly scream tore through his open window as he pulled into the hospital parking lot. Terror washed over him in waves, and he backed out of the parking lot. He drove madly and blindly away from the hospital, not caring where he went, as long as he got away. He couldn’t stay. He couldn’t wait there, knowing his wife was nearby, but not being able to see her.
Darkness settled like a blanket over the city as he drove around in circles, going nowhere, assailed by all sorts of doubts. Was he really ready to be a father? Did his job pay enough to feed and house and clothe another human being? Was he a good role model for a child? His child! Was it a boy or a girl? He was pretty sure he could handle a son, but did he know enough to raise a daughter?
Finally worn out from his relentless thoughts and the aimless driving, he headed back towards the hospital. It was approaching midnight when he pulled into the parking lot for the second time that day. With trepidation, he stepped into the badly lit check-in area at the main entrance and asked after his wife, praying for good news.
“Congratulations, baba!” said the nurse. “Your wife and daughter are in excellent health.”
With that, she led him to a ward with several beds. The lights had been dimmed and everyone was asleep. He walked quietly behind the nurse until she stopped by one of the beds. His wife looked exhausted in her sleep, and the sight tugged at his heart. He was happy to see a smile playing about her lips.
Then he noticed the crib by his wife’s bed, in which lay the tiniest human he had ever seen. She, too, was asleep. Wordlessly, the nurse lifted the baby from her crib and placed her in his arms. Just then, his tiny human opened her eyes for a few moments and looked right into his soul, blinking drowsily. With that one look she had him wrapped around her little finger. Love flooded his whole being, and all his fears evaporated.
He was a father! This little human was a part of him, a miracle of life! She closed her eyes and fell asleep. He cradled her gently, and wept for joy.
Image: Miguel Ugalde