"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
On the Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin
|Cheryl, under spinal anaesthesia and on the table.|
In the evening of September 6, 2013, my wife and I was waiting for the arrival of a long expected stranger. She was lying on a tall, narrow table in the middle of the theatre. The lower half of her body was anaesthetised and hidden a world away behind green surgical drapes. I sat beside her, just a whisper's breadth from her right ear. Without her notice or mine, it had begun.
On the other side, a silent orchestra of muted pressures and tugs was playing. The beeping of my wife's heart kept time. Occasionally, we hear the metallic clatter of instruments being placed back on a tray and the hiss of the cautery wafting over to us accompanied by its warm electric scent. I knew that song and had seen it played in front of me a hundred times. I even played it myself before though not as ably as the one we were paying audience to. Before this, I told her in jest that I wanted to look inside her and read her entrails when they open her covers like a book, but when the occasion came, I found that I could not tear myself away from her side
Suddenly, the wet smell from within the amnion percolated the room followed immediately by the noise of liquor amnii being sucked up thirstily through a Yankauer. Cheryl's body was rocked to and fro as they worked to extricate our child through the window they opened in her abdomen and at 4:23 PM, after the elapse of a breath held impossibly long, we heard the climax we waited 41 long weeks and a day to hear - the strong stark cry of our newborn son as he emerged from water and darkness into light and air. After his umbilical cord was cut, he was quickly placed into the hands of a waiting nurse and brought through a door into an adjacent room where he would be cared for.
I smiled at the mother of my child through my surgical mask, my eyes asking. "Go with him," she said.
It was a strange feeling, to want so much to go but wanting just as much to stay. It was as if the love of my life split into two persons, each going in a separate direction. A second of inertia later, I broke my inner stalemate and hurried after our newly arrived little stranger.
He was placed under a baby warmer where the remaining fluid from his private ocean was sucked out of his tiny airways and wiped from his tiny body. A blue tag bearing his mother's name was clipped around his left ankle before he was swaddled in a cocoon of green fabric. Now, warm and dry, he had ceased crying and was breathing calmly but cautiously. His face and cheeks were flushed pink from the excitement of being born. Slowly, he opened one eye - his left - and peered out into the world for the very first time.
|His first baby picture. 3.87 kilogrammes of cute.|
I watched as his pupil moved this way and that curiously - or what looked deceptively like curiousity - before fixating on me. I leaned in closer to him because neonates are extremely nearsighted and could only really see about a foot in front of them, and they love looking at faces more than anything else so I pulled my surgical mask down. I realised, with a slight thrill and pride, that I was the first person he ever met on this side of life. His father. His old man. Me.
Sound penetrates into the womb far more than any other stimuli during pregnancy. When he was still dreaming deep within the motherverse, I had talked to him and even read him stories. I know that he was not capable of remembering anything I said or recognising my voice distorted through inches of mother - but chances were good that he could remember the cadence and rhythm by which I speak.
"Welcome to the world, Darwin," I said softly to him. "Welcome to life, my dear friend."
I rubbed his brow with my thumb and kissed him gently on his little head. When I looked up again, I saw that the nurse had been watching me, smiling, and I smiled sheepishly back. The nurse then picked Darwin up and headed back into the operating theatre with him. We are going to meet your mother now, kid.
Mommy was still lying on the table whilst the surgeon stitch her up. The nurse thrusted Darwin's rump at her asking, "Boy or girl?" I met Cheryl's eyes and laughed quietly at the back. I warned her that she was going to meet her firstborn genitals first.
"Boy," she answered, smiling like I had never seen her smile before. Then, the nurse lowered Darwin's face down to Cheryl's and she kissed him on the cheek.
"So soft," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "His face is so soft."
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