Our theme for the month of March is “Part Two.” Writers were challenged to choose a piece they’ve previously contributed to the post calvin and revisit it, perhaps writing a sequel or reflecting on how things have changed.
Matt’s original piece is “Bootleg Baby.” He writes: “Anticipation has now come to its close, and we’ve met our beautiful little girl.”
All too often, events unfold in a way you never imagined. Not until you’re steeped and lathered in a moment can you actually perceive the feeling—and sometimes even then you become so numb that the experience evades you. Only in reflecting and meditating back on the moment does clarity set in.
I first met my baby girl on Wednesday, March 14th at 9:50 p.m. CST. My wife, Maria-Renee, had her labor induced the previous day, despite showing no signs of contractions and very minimal dilation. A scan had revealed higher levels of amniotic fluid than the doctors were comfortable with, so science was employed to deceive nature into initiating birth. Nature was stubborn, and Maria-Renee bore the brunt of a gruesome, artificially-driven labor that ultimately stalled and failed to progress. She had divined the week before the event that came next: Caesarian section.
After donning scrubs and waiting eons for the nurse to fetch me, I shuffled into the operating room. It was cold, and the pale white tiling gave it the look of an abandoned subway station. An occultish circle of masked men and women bustled and shuttered, gazing down at what I presumed to be the body of the woman I loved. The anesthesiologist caught my eye, and he offered me a stool next to Maria-Renee’s head. I stared into those glimmering hazel brown eyes, firm with strength but tinged with dread. Fogginess overcame me as tears spilled across the lenses of my eyes. “You’ve got this, love.”
As the ritual of surgery commenced, it was clear the anesthesia was insufficient. Due to Maria-Renee’s impeccably healthy blood pressure, any dip caused by medication was a dangerous gambit. After she uttered groans of pain, the anesthesiologist flushed her with some other drug, and she began to relax. He eventually elected to place a mask over her mouth, feeding her something to quell the pain. I grasped her hand, knowing there was nothing I could do but be there next to her while she suffered.
Suddenly there was a shout from across the curtain they had affixed to keep curious fathers from peeping and fainting. “Are you ready to meet your little girl?”
Then came the sound of infant wails.
“Baby, do you hear her? Can you hear her?”
I stared into her eyes, seeing fear and confusion, and Maria-Renee gave the smallest of nods. Then she slipped away; the gas finally took her under.
I was jolted by the sound of the doctor. “Do you want to meet your little girl?”
At first, I froze, paralyzed by the idea of leaving Maria-Renee’s side, but my heart was convulsing at the idea of meeting my daughter. Eventually, I meandered over to the exam table, the screams of my daughter ringing in my ears. I stared down at the beautiful little lady squirming on the table, then I stared back at Maria-Renee, wanting nothing more than to see her eyes gazing over at our little girl, a smile painted across her face. But her eyes weren’t there.
My heart tore.
Never had I been overcome with such a surge of euphoria accompanied by petrifying fear and grief. I had not endured an ounce of suffering, save for mild sleep deprivation, and yet I was enjoying the gift of meeting my child in her first minutes of life. Meanwhile, my beloved was plugged into legions of wires, enduring the disorientation of a drug-induced slumber.
I was elated.
I was devastated.
I was in love.
I have never questioned my love for Maria-Renee, or the untempered pride I have for her. But never had I been more gripped by the deep, instinctual, primal drivings of adoration than when I feared for her, and when I mourned her absence from one of the most magical moments of our lives.
I wonder if this birth story set the stage for parenthood: a constant tug between joy and fear. Isn’t this precisely what love is? It’s magical and horrifying. It’s exhausting and invigorating. It’s vivid and confusing.
And it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.
Matt Coldagelli (’14) majored in English writing and psychology at Calvin. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and adolescents. He watches an absurd amount of TV and is a certified craft beer snob. Matt lives with his lovely wife in Oak Park, IL.