The day my son was born was the best day of my life.
You know how in grade school they made you write essays with big, impossible questions, like describe the best day of your life? I never could. My life? I could barely remember the summer already rapidly escaping me. Man, I’d love to take a stab at that essay question now. I finally have an answer.
Well, why don’t I?
I’m a worrier. I was really worried my kid was going to be weird-looking. This is, of course, a superficial, even shameful worry. There are people in this world that can’t have babies, that have lost babies, that have had babies with serious health problems. And that’s exactly the thing: I’d lived through and survived each of those worries. The wife and I rode the trying-to-conceive roller coaster, experienced the various pregnancy worries and scares, ups and downs, and made it to the end of nine months pretty much assured of a healthy baby boy on his way.
So that’s where I was, with almost nothing left to worry about, except having a weird-looking baby. And here’s the next thing: it’s an “old life” worry. Once that kid comes out, once you see him for the first time, you’re forever in your new life, unable to go back. The changes are permanent.
Your hands change, no longer awkward and fumbly, but firm and steady, able to support the weight of the world. Put it here, kid, I can handle it. A parent’s hands.
Your face changes, no longer wide-eyed, but just slightly tired — both from waking up at 3AM to shush a screaming infant back to sleep — and from the knowledge that you’ll never know a place of complacency ever again. You’ll sleep, but never as soundly, always listening for him somehow, always watching over him somehow, even in your sleep.
Your worries change. I once worried about something as silly as my kid looking weird. Now I know better. They’re beautiful to you no matter what. There is no such thing as weird. You become blind, so totally blind.
Because you know what, he did look weird. At first. He was all scrunchy and curled up and screaming-hot-red-hornety, swollen from hormones and slathered in the new-baby-goop that the nurses put on the eyes. His limbs were fat and thin at the same time, wiggly and loose and purpleish; his face was blank-eyed and yet curious — an expression that you’ll have never seen in your life until you see it in the face of a newborn. It’s a jarring look. A weird look. It’s one he’ll quickly lose as he comes to know the world.
So yeah, he looked weird. I didn’t see it. I only see it now in the approximately 3,000 pictures I took. Instead, the first time I saw his face, I gasped at how perfect it was.
Perfection is like finding a good tomato. You feel them each in the grocery store, giving them each little squeezes like you even know what you’re evaluating here. What are you really squeezing for? Are you mentally calculating the juiciness of each tomato while quickly doing a complex trigonometric ratio analysis of weight to firmness?
No. You’re just standing there looking for a good one. A perfect one, whatever that means. You choose one. You go home with it. It’s all been a complete crapshoot. That perfect tomato you found might slice perfectly — beautiful, rounded, sweet slices — or it might just be a mealy sludgepile on the inside. Tomatoes, you see, are masters of disguise.
The first time I see my kid’s face, I can tell right away, his face is a perfect little tomato. I mean literally, it’s a tomato. It’s squishy, little cheeks chunked out and droopy, red and juicy and even a little sludgy.
Seeing that face for the first time, and knowing it was a very very good one — a perfect one — was the best moment of my life.
The rest of day was pretty cool, too. I’ve already described the leaving for the hospital. There’s the sort of adrenaline-pumping excitement of that. It’s like when you hear the hydraulic-release sound of the roller coaster when it first lets go. Whsssssssssk.
Then there was the labor and birth. It’s coolest thing I’ve ever seen, but I won’t go into detail. The rule of birth stories is like the rule of vacation pictures. You should never, ever subject someone to your vacation pictures. Pictures of other people doing super awesome things…are never really all that awesome. On the other hand, pictures of ME doing super awesome things IS ALWAYS really awesome. But you get the point.
So that picture of you standing, arms open, on the precipice of the Grand Canyon against the stunning blue backdrop of the sky and beyond? Kind of the same thing as how witnessing a birth was. Super, super awesome. A mind-blowing experience. Really, really cool. I recommend. Five stars, two thumbs up, ten out of ten.
They say the best dining spot at the Grand Canyon is the El Tovar. The pancakes with the prickly pear syrup are apparently to die for.
On the other hand, I don’t recommend the hospital cafeteria macaroni and cheese. It’s flaccid and not really yellow. You know that weird Crayola color, “goldenrod?” Hospital mac-and-cheese is the color of goldenrod, but you already knew that.
Having a kid is the best day of your life, but you already knew that, too.