First Night

There are moments in our lives when our nerves have the potential to get the better of us. These times we can either curl up in a ball in the corner or we can forge ahead even though we are scared and may not be so sure of ourselves. I can remember vividly of a time when that very feeling had hit me. 
It was not going in to war, or catching a ride home with Lindsay Lohan after she spent the night clubbing at the Viper Room, or having to perform an emergency tracheotomy with a pen cap and a pocket knife. It was the first night, my wife and I brought our daughter home from the hospital.

July 25th, 2002 my wife and I were being put through a battery of tests by the hospital nurses in order to prove our compentence before our newborn daughter was released in to our care (The nurse kept calling me ‘Grasshopper’ and challenged me to snatch a pacifier out of her hand before she closed it).
We passed the decathalon of tests before us, bathing, belly button cleaning, swaddling in a blanket, and diaper changing (and I think a 4 minute mile was a part of it too) and our little girl was now officially ours. The whole scenario reminded me of going through US Customs. Even though you’re in the country and are a citizen, until the overweight clinically depressed customs agent stamps your passport, you’re not “really” a citizen.

Driving home with Alicia and our new baby my nerves tried to take me over. Each stoplight we hit I couldn’t stop thinking…
“Holy Jesus Mary and Joseph, I am a father.”
“I don’t know anything about taking care of a newborn.”
“How am I going to do this?” 
“I think I am freaking out.” 
“Red light…STOP!”
Up until this point, I had only taken care of myself and barely. The thought of taking care of a little person totally dependent on my abilities was enough to make me want to swerve off of a cliff. I did persevere though and got us all back to our home at 234 Endlich Avenue. 

Because 8 years ago we brought home our first child, we also brought home a caravan of family and friends following us like a bunch of Justin Bieber fans (lots of high pitched shrills, waving, and crying). The chaos of grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and friends in my living room helped to quell the nerves jumping around my stomach. For the first four hours our parental responsibilities were to watch everyone else take their turn with our baby. Where I was once in a moment of almost fetal position panic bringing Hannah home, now I almost forgot I was a dad. 
Then everyone went home.

The dust cleared from the mass exodus of our relatives (three dirty diapers and all of a sudden no one wants to hold the newborn anymore and has to go home) and left in the middle of the living room was our baby.  Before my mom could get completely out the door I asked as her as calmly as I could muster…
“Mom! Don’t leave!” 
“I don’t know what to do?” 
“What if she cries?” 
“Don’t leave us!” 
This is exactly what she told me…
“You’ll be fine.”
My mother had said this to me a million times during the course of my life, “You’ll be fine” and the way she said it, the calm confidence in her voice, I believed her. We were going to be fine. I released my death grip from her arm and she made her way out of our house.

It was time to push aside the nervousness and doubt and do what I had 9 months to prepare to do, take care of my kid. I felt the butterflies fly out of my stomach. I stood up a little straighter and my tone went from squeamish to confident.  My wife was still reeling from pushing a nine pound baby out of her. Going to the bathroom for her SIT’s bath was hard enough for her. It was going to be up to me tonight. 
How hard could it be? She’s a newborn. When she cries…feed her. Or change her. Or both. Lay her back down in the bassinet I spent a weekend putting together and she’ll go back to sleep. 

I was ready.

I looked at the clock at quarter of five in the morning. It had been the 26th time I looked at my clock that night because the newborn baby in the bassinet I was so proud of constructing at the foot of my bed had woken her mom and me up every fifteen minutes with blood curdling screams. Twenty six times we changed the diaper (by the 8th time I didn’t even check if the diaper was wet, I just changed her out of reflex), we tried feeding her, and rocking her. We burped her and we laid her back down in her bassinet and she closed her eyes. And every fifteen minutes she opened her eyes and started screaming like Janet Leigh in the shower (By 2am I swore never to believe my mother again). We tried the vibrate setting on the bassinet to ease her. We tried the music setting too. All worked about as well as BP’s TopKill solution.

The first night we wasted approximately 48oz of formula, went through half a box of diapers, and both of us were on the edge of making Anne Heche look sane from our lack of sleep. At 5am my wife and I agreed it was time to call the pediatrician. I explained to Dr. Rowan that surely our daughter had either been possessed by Satan himself or there was a switch of babies at the hospital because my mother assured me that we were going to be fine but we were, as she could tell from my voice, not so fine. After my lucid guesses about why this was happening, this is exactly what the doctor told me… 
“Put her in her car seat, see what happens.”
I should mention our daughter’s pediatrician had been my pediatrician as a kid. And maybe because she had known me since I was born or maybe it was because she had seen me naked about as many times as my own mother, her calm confident words were as believable as my mom’s. Because I hung up the phone, picked up the human megaphone that was our daughter, and slipped her in to her car seat without hesitation.

Before I could finish clipping her straps together I noticed something different about the room…it was quiet. Alicia looked up from the bed to see what was going on. It was as if one minute we were standing next to the speaker at a Megadeath concert and the next minute there was no sound. Our newborn baby, who just seconds ago could have been used as a air raid siren, had fallen fast asleep. Within a second of putting her in the car seat, she was asleep, thus ending our first night.

I learned something that night. I was a father now and no matter how tired I was at that moment (or was going to be in the coming weeks and months), this was my daughter. All throughout the night, in fifteen minute intervals, all I could think about is taking care of my little girl. 
Eight years later and that is all I still want to do, take care of my little girl. My little girl who isn’t so little anymore and who has become a radiant, intelligent, thoughtful, caring big girl. She amazes me on a daily basis. I sometimes stop what I am doing to just take in all that she has become and all she will be. She makes it easy to be her daddy even if, when she came home on July 25th, 2002, that wasn’t the case on her first night.

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