On the Night You Were Born (or that still, small voice)

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”  I lied.  

Fear painted my face an ashen white, but I was still going to muster a lie if it would shield her from worry.

My eyes betrayed me as they bounced back and forth between looking at Leigh Anne in a fake “you’re doing great” and a heart monitor that reported our baby’s heart rate dropping to dangerous levels.  

Our room became swarmed with delivery nurses in hopes to help.  We were told our Ob-Gyn was speeding down the freeway and would arrive soon.  The floor OB-Gyn was doing all he could while joining along with the choir of nurses, encouraging Leigh Anne to push as hard as physically possible.

With every push, our first born’s heart rate continued to plummet to dangerous levels.

The next few minutes remain a blur of memories.  Perhaps it happened this way, or perhaps I just created memories to fill in the gaps of my emotional fog.

A gurney.  Nurses transferring Leigh Anne.  An empty room.  

The choir was replaced by the beeps of disconnected monitors.  Her bed was solemnly empty.  I stood without movement.  

I was completely alone.

Within minutes (or was it seconds?) a nurse finally entered the room and invited me to sit in the secure hall that led to the operation room.  She handed me scrubs, gloves and a mask and instructed me to put them on.  

I shakily put on the required accoutrements.  My entire being was overrun by two emotions – shock and worry.  I sat, but I couldn’t sit for long.  Anxiety causes me to move as if my movement would intervene and fix the situation.  Time was no longer measurable. I sat in silence and awaited updates and answers.  

A door opened, but not from the operating room.  A man entered dressed in scrubs and a mask.   I didn’t recognize him at first, so I dismissed him as one more nurse.  Once he spoke, I knew exactly who it was.  

“I’m here.”  

That’s all he said as he charged towards the operating room.  It’s all he needed to say.  I still had no idea how Leigh Anne and our first baby were doing, and my mind played through every possible scenario.  But Dr. Alwan had arrived.  When we were in search of an Ob-Gyn he came highly recommended by family members.  During our visits, I quickly picked up that he was highly competent and confident in his field.  I trusted him.

“I’m here.”

I’m sure I was not the first recipient of these words.   I imagine he has walked by many fathers absorbed in fear.  But it’s all he needed to say.  

“I’m here.”

I would humbly posit that the Western World is addicted to activity and outcome.  Part of it is sincerely out of necessity.  Part of it is because we’ve created this particular river and its current flow.  Part of it is because of our poisonous need for control and the illusion that we have more control than we think we do.  Part of it is that we don’t trust anyone but ourselves.  Part of it is that we fear sitting still. Or fear missing out.

I felt incredibly helpless and out of control.  For me, it’s one of the hardest feelings to sit with.

Within minutes of Dr Alwan’s arrival, he successfully delivered our first born via a crash C-section.  She turned 13 just a few days ago.

Humans are adept at creating illusions of control and new distractions to keep our lives busy and occupied (what did we do before smart phones?)  Life can be difficult, and distractions are certainly a strategy to cope with life’s stressors and difficulties.  But if distractions become the entire filler of life, we miss those opportunities to sit still.  Even to sit still and lean into the worry and grief and anxiety and pain and uncertainty of the future.    

And maybe, just maybe, a door opens and we hear a recognizable voice of reassurance.  

“I’m here.”  

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  1. Another thoughtful piece, Jason. Thank you for this: “But if distractions become the entire filler of life, we miss those opportunities to sit still. Even to sit still and lean into the worry and grief and anxiety and pain and uncertainty of the future.” I have learned (and am learning) this hard, sitting-still lesson.

    1. Thank you, Marlys. I am just a student of this as well. But I discover the emotion is not as scary if I’m able to just admit it’s there. Sitting still–it’s a lesson that continues to come back around for me.

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