Last Monday, October 31, 2011, my wife and I were joined by my mother-in-law for our weekly appointment at Willis-Knighton Bossier City in preparation for the birth of our first child. Our previous check-ups indicated we were on track for a due-date delivery (November 5). Little did we know, we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. Dr. Leslie Dean (an absolutely brilliant OBGYN) examined my wife’s vital signs, along with the heartbeat of our baby. He was experiencing a decelerated heart rate, so Dr. Dean committed Shari for overnight observation.
This caught us off-guard (though it really shouldn’t have), since we expected to be induced the following Monday. I needed to drive home to collect our ready-packed bags, so I began my 12-minute journey to the house. As I turned onto our street, my mother-in-law, Tanya, called me on my phone. I assumed they had forgotten to pack something, and either she or Shari needed me to find something. However, as I answered, I could hear in the tone of her voice that something was wrong. “Ryan,” she said, ” you need to be quick. His heart rate decelerated again, and they might have to take him in for a c-section the moment it happens again.”
I went into panic-stricken terror mode. There was absolutely no way I was going to be anywhere but the side of my wife during the birth of our child.
I rushed into the house, bags flying through the air as I literally ran through our cozy little house as my very confused dog watched. I slung everything into my car, zipped onto our road, and began a run of terror from Haughton to Bossier City. Note: I am a defensive driver by nature, and rarely go 5 MPH over the speed limit. I don’t appreciate speeders who endanger the safety of those around them, especially in neighborhoods.
I drove at a safe speed throughout our subdivision, but as it came time to merge onto I-220, I became an absolute madman. My hands trembled and tears were welling up in my eyes as I alternately prayed to God and screamed at my fellow drivers. With my emergency blinkers on, I zoomed down the interstate at an entirely unreasonable speed, which in retrospect was absolutely stupid. BUT I COULDN’T MISS MY SON’S BIRTH!
Luckily, Shari and the baby stabilized, and Tanya called me again to assure me that they weren’t expecting to wheel Shari into surgery any time soon. I rocked back and forth in my seat at the red light, patting the wheel, praying, and sweating profusely. At this moment, I get a call from my dad, who I recognize is chuckling for some bizarre reason. I was not chuckling.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Shari’s okay. The baby’s okay. No one is doing anything yet. I see you rocking around in your car — just settle down.” Every syllable seemed to be laced with something between the aforementioned chuckle and a giggle. I still wasn’t chuckling.
I finally reached the room, with bags in hand (minus the several items and additional bag I forgot in my mad rush). I was there, along with my family, when our incredible nurse, Kelley, came in to tell us that Raylan’s heartbeat had once again decelerated, and Dr. Dean’s partner, Dr. Gomez, was on the phone to explain to my reluctant wife why a c-section was absolutely necessary. An hour later, I sat next to my beautiful wife, an anesthesiologist at her head, a surgeon at her abdomen, and nurses everywhere.
I held my wife’s hand as the procedure began. Shari was blocked from seeing what was happening due to a small sheet that formed a 6-inch curtain just below her chin, but I was able to see much of what my perspective did not permit by looking into a reflective surface on the opposite wall. The procedure is absolutely incredible, but I remember very little of it.
Suddenly, Dr. Gomez said, “Oh, look at all that hair!” At this moment, I looked at Shari, who began to cry heavily. Almost immediately, our screaming, crying son came into view. The first thing I noticed was his hair: it was a mixture of my wife’s dark blonde hair and my family’s Irish-red strawberry-blonde(ish) hair. I followed along as the nurses cleaned him, snapping pictures and fighting away tears. But then the moment for which I’d waited 28 years came: I was allowed to hold my son.
The moment that he was nestled into my arms, a barrage of overwhelming emotions and thoughts flooded my mind, and though it might sound cheesy, the most powerful impression was this: Now I have a better glimpse of the incredible, powerful love that God feels for us. As I cried profusely, I finally understood that all the cheesy cliches that I had always heard were true: this is a different, powerful love — distinct from anything I’d experienced before.
The following days have been spent with my son, wife, and family. We’ve experienced an incredible outpouring of love from our church family and friends. They’ve brought us meals, showered us with gifts, and generally shown more excitement than I thought possible. We’re incredibly blessed, and we know it.
Raylan is keeping us up, filling diapers, crying, staring, frowning, smiling, and making life a wonderful adventure. As I write this blog post, he is lying in his car seat (he seems to prefer it), swaddling in warm blankets, and wearing one of his two LSU beanies. Shari and I are happier than at any point in our lives prior to his arrival, and we can’t wait to see what this parenthood thing is all about.