The Birth Story TOLD BY DAD
Written by: Ryan O'Connell. Husband of Amy O'Connell. Father to our daughters. Enthusiastic supporter of Our Family Fiat. Resident Filmmaker at Life Teen. Basketball fanatic. Generally hilarious. Sucks at Wheel of Fortune.
My wife is a savant when it comes to remembering details. So my version of the day our daughters were born is going to seem like a five-year-old's recalling of the Christmas morning he got a shiny new guitar from Santa Claus. Except it wasn't a guitar, it was a three-string ukulele with splinters; and his uncle Tim just left it in the living room on accident after a night of heavy drinking and angry caroling.
So let's just focus on what I do remember, and pretend that I remember it exactly the way it happened.
First of all, when Amy found out she was pregnant, I was on a trip filming a documentary with my coworker - and our good friend - Leah. She tried to wait until I got home to tell me, but she couldn't help it and I don't blame her. It was about 10pm when she called and I was exhausted from a long day of filming, starving, and had a pretty bad headache. I had ordered some internationally renowned pancakes at the local IHOP - which were just placed steaming hot and sexy right in front of me - and was in no mood for chit chat. Suffice it to say I was an insensitive ass monkey at the worst possible to be such a monkey. The conversation went something like this:
"Hi Sweetie. Did you get the text I sent you?"
"No. I have pancakes."
"Oh, well it's a bigger file so it's probably taking a while to send."
"Can you stay on the phone with me until you get it."
"Can I just call you back? I'm starving and exhausted and I have a headache."
"Just wait a minute please."
"No. I'll just call you back. I love you. Pancakes. (click)"
Of course, I had no idea what she was trying to send me or wanted to tell me.
The message showed up a few minutes later - a video she recorded of herself in the car telling me I was now a dad. Naturally, she just wanted to be on the phone with me when I watched the video, and saw her with that magnificent smile that showed excitement, shock, and terror all at the same time.
I was overwhelmed with that sense of emotional vertigo that tells you your entire world has shifted and nothing will ever be the same. I was thrilled. I was in awe. I called her back an apologized profusely; carefully explaining to her how insensitive I become when in the presence of pancakes. She will never let me live it down. I don't think she really gets IHOP.
For now, I'll fast forward past the earth-shattering revelation that we have twins, all the crazy stuff that happens to a woman's body that I didn't know about, and a man's relentless inability to say the right things at the right time, and we arrive at delivery day via planned C-section.
The morning of was such a rush of getting things together for the hospital that I didn't really have time to just sit and reflect on the enormity of the event before us. It didn't occur to me to be anxious or afraid until the moment they wheeled Amy into the operating room and told me I couldn't go with her right away. That was tough.
I stayed in the hallway, covered myself in scrubs and sat on their infamous "dad chair" - the only chair anywhere near the operating room. It's specifically designed to facilitate a feeling of maximum uselessness while the nurses smile at you like a storefront puppy as they pass by.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was invited in.
With Amy's torso poking out from behind a suspended sheet, and the delivery team mucking around mysteriously on the other side, It looked like a freaky horizontal puppet show was in mid-rehearsal.
Amy shocked me with how calm and smiley she was the moment I walked in. I was all prepared to give her a pep talk and clam her nerves, but the drugs had already done a damn good job of that. The first thing I asked her was "are you okay?" And she said, "I feel GREAT!" She meant it with every fiber in her being. Gotta love modern medicine.
I sat on a stool next to her head - only able to see past the sheet by craning my neck - and held her hand. I honestly thought it would take a while to get the girls out of her - like they were going ice fishing in her belly and had to try a couple types of bait. But the doctor had cut her open the minute I sat down and promptly had both hands inside. I didn't think I would look, but curiosity got the best of me. It was fascinating and seemed oddly detached from the woman whose hand I was holding.
I think the doctor had Adelaide out within two minutes of me coming in the room. It happened so fast I didn't even have my camera settings right and I struggled with my focus ring to get one decent shot as they held her up.
She cried immediately to my great relief and I couldn't believe she was ours. I was frozen just watching them clean her up and take her to the scale. It was like watching a National Geographic special on childbirth. Before I even got to touch her, they pulled out Clairvaux and I got some better pictures. She looked exactly the same but a little bigger. They brought her over to her sister. It was so surreal I almost forgot I was in the same room until one of the nurses said, "you want to come over?" I touched them gently, and took some closer pictures. They were screaming in unison. Then the nurses brought them to Amy and placed them on her chest. Pure joy for both of us. There was so much life and detail in their brand new little bodies and faces that it felt impossible to take it all in.
As we were heading to the recovery room, my mom and sister had just arrived and got to see Amy and the girls pass by very briefly. They were both so excited and my mom immediately teared up. Seeing their joy brought me even more joy.
A little bit later I got to snip off the excess umbilical cord that Clairvaux still had. It felt like cutting through a gummy bear. It was weird. It was wonderful.
The four days in the recovery room were much tougher than I thought, but also a great opportunity for bonding. The nurses were mostly kind and helpful, but I was surprised at how much I had to improvise when it came to caring for our little ones, and helping Amy. Between me just figuring things out and the nurses giving advice, I felt like I learned more practical skills in that time period than in any four day period in my life. Sleep eluded me almost completely - making the time feel more like one really long day.
Amy was in so much pain. I honestly was so ignorant about C-sections that I was taken by surprise as to how tough the recovery was. But she was a champ, and I just wanted her to feel better so she could fully enjoy our little ones.
On the day we left it felt like getting them safely into their carseats took all afternoon. They were so tiny the seats nearly swallowed them up. I've never driven more slowly or cautiously in my life (and hated other drivers so much).
I was so grateful to have Amy's family there to help us with the transition (and they surprised us by cleaning our whole house to perfection!). I'm sure that intense feeling of "now what?" when we brought them home would have been a lot worse if it wasn't for them.
All-in-all, the whole experience was a little bit better than pancakes.