It is told that the moment your child is born, your life totally changes. In the first instant I saw my daughter emerge into the world what happen to me was something I sure never expected: nothing dramatic. I did not know what to expect. I really tried not to expect anything. I wanted to be fully mindful of each moment. What I did experience was pretty awesome raw emotion. I was happy and excited and nervous and soothed all at the same time but there was no immediate or dramatic moment of life changing effects. The experience of the birth, the several days in the hospital and throughout our time at home, each moment changes everything
I work with babies and infants all the time, many very sick or injured. I found I had to focus to realize that my new daughter was not one of my patients. I stood in the newborn nursery during the first moments of her life. I was very familiar with the environment : the warmer she was under, the gear the nurse had out just in case, the hospital cap they put on her head, the blankets she lay upon, I knew all of it well. I looked around and saw other small babies and realized none of these are my patients. This baby is MINE. I touched her lips and kissed her mouth. I would never do that to my patients. I noticed a good vein should she need an IV but then I thought to switch from that and tried to put a connection from my deepest heart to her fresh soul, again, something I would not really do to my patients. I tried to do the things I would only do to my flesh and it began to take root that I am her father. Things were changing. I paid close attention to my own heart and feelings.
My heart was also with my wife as we had had to leave her in the OR. The first moments the three of us spent together were warm as a fire in a winter freeze and just as nourishing. I felt the need to huddle together with my back to the world and shield the two women in my life. We were now a family.
The next several days in the hospital I felt a slow change of orientation. The first night I learned a parents sleep.It was difficult to relax as each little sound she cooed made me want to check on her. During the day I would sit with her in my lap and stare. I was coming to reality of fatherhood. I could not distinguish between my day dreaming, prayer and emotion talk with all the boundaries blurred. I just sat with her much of the time and felt my heart move like a needle in a compass.
In the middle of the night I soothed her to sleep. She was swaddled and tucked into my left arm as I rocked. Her head swayed gently from side to side. It felt like the ocean. The waves have a gentle soothing quality, calming and peaceful. She felt that. And I realized how your life changes. Like most life changing events, it does not happen with a bang. It does not spark like a match. Change happens like the tides. We can watch as closely but you can’t say when it has begun or while it is going on but we can sure tell when it has finished. Suddenly we notice where we are compared to where we were. Nature is full of changes like this. Parenthood causes changes in your heart all but inperceivable to the eye. Difficult to define but easy to feel. I suppose these changes never stop. As Nora grows before my eyes and in my heart.