September 3, 2015

From Gerald R. Lucas

Dear Henry,

You were born today, just about seven hours ago: 1:22 pm. You weighed 3 pound, 1.4 ounces, 16 inches long. Your mother was in her 30th week of pregnancy, so your appearance today was a surprise. You were about two months early. Welcome.

Your mom didn't feel right last night. You were usually active, moving around like you wanted to join the party or needed to play “Tom Sawyer” on an invisible drum kit. When you weren’t moving as much, your mom got worried. She didn't sleep well, and she went in to see her doctor as I went off to teach.

I was in the middle of teaching Hemingway’s “Indian Camp” when my Apple Watch buzzed with a phone call. Since I was teaching, I silenced the alarm, but fortunately class was almost over. Something told me it was important. Then, I received the scariest text of my life: “Come to the hospital 3rd floor.” I did.

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Your mom was there already under observation. Apparently your heart would occasionally slow down, like a clock that needs to be wound. It would happen predictably when she would lay on her back. They had these sound paddles attached to her belly, and I could hear your small heart beat like water dripping quickly in a small can of water. Just as clearly, I could hear it get slower and slower. The doctor recommended an immediate Caesarean section. It all happened as quickly as a summer thunder storm.

“I love you,” said your mom to me as they wheeled her into the pre-op room to begin the anesthesia. A nurse gave me a diaphanous gown, booties, cap, and mask to put on. I knew I was going to be involved in your birth, but I wasn't sure I was ready for this. I must have looked like a frightened marshmallow while I waited to be called.

When they called me, I was escorted into the delivery room where they were already at work. They sat me in a pink chair next to your mom; a wall of blue fabric kept us from seeing what the doctor and surgeon were up to. I knew anyway. Your mom was awesome, but looked so small. I grabbed her shoulder and held on. I could feel them operating on her through her shoulder. While I'm sure the whole thing only lasted a couple of minutes, the time stretched out for us both, until we saw you for the first time. Honestly, you looked more like Golum than a human baby, but they rushed you off into the next room while the doctors closed up your mom.

“Dad. . . Dad.” A small voice called from the direction they had taken you minutes ago. I looked over and a nurse asked me if I wanted to see my son. Heck yes I did! I left without saying good-bye to your mom, thinking I’d be right back. You were all cleaned up, small, but beautiful. My son. New to the world. A fighter. So ready to live life, you had to arrive early. You came busting in like the hero of an action movie, willing to kick ass, but maybe not quite ready. The nurse was trying to tell me things, but I had a tunnel vision that blocked out everything but you. My son.

After I stripped off the marshmallow suit, I followed you into NNICU to see you new, temporary digs. You were in slot 19, already looking like a cyborg. Your chest was working in and out, but otherwise you just seemed content to be in your new place. We met your grandmother, “Gummy,” in the hallway. She was thrilled to see you, and I would bring her back in after while for a longer visit. She complimented your long legs, and you gave her a kick which made her whoop. You will love your Gummy.

I spent time with your mom in recovery. She did great, but this is not the way we wanted to welcome you. Still, you came out well, and we spent some happy minutes together. As I write this, she’s resting in bed with a smile on her face. She's checking messages and best wishes from concerned friends and already planning our tomorrows. You will love your Mom.

We’re waiting to come see you together for the first time. I spent a few minutes with you earlier. It's funny. Just this week I was teaching Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, and I was talking with the class about how the immensity of the universe proves how small and insignificant we humans really are. I had a similar feeling when I looked down upon you plugged into these machines that were helping you through the first minutes of your life. I thought how my universe just got bigger — how I can no longer be so self-centered, but must consider your best interests above mine from this day forward. Like looking into the cosmos, looking at you was also a humbling experience. Yes, I will likely mess up, but I will do my best to be a good father. I hope you will love your father.

That’s all for now. Mom and I will soon be in to wish you your first good-night. Sleep well, my son.

Love, Dad