by David Jacobsen
David Jacobsen has written a book called Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First-Time Fatherhood (Zondervan) about pregnancy, birth, and the first year of his son’s life. It’s not an instruction book–it’s collection of honest, funny stories that men (and women) can relate to. It’s one book on fatherhood that soon-to-be dads won’t mind reading. The following is an excerpt from the chapter called Birth.
Christine’s labor began pleasantly enough, considering it involved enough pain to make her suck in air and place a death-grip on anything handy. During the contractions, we faced each other, our foreheads touching as we held hands. In between, I helped Christine burrow into her nest of pillows, where she waited for the next wave of pain to break.
Ten hours later, at the hospital, things were worse. The well-worn copy of Reader’s Digest that I found beside the bed was useless––laughter was not the best medicine, and Christine wasn’t interested in increasing her word power. I felt helpless. I wanted to stay beside Christine, but I also wanted to run down the hall and lock myself in a supply closet. So I settled for babbling about whatever came into my head, and when a contraction washed over Christine, we gripped hands until our knuckles turned white.
In the late afternoon, I thought I was watching my wife die. Christine fainted, vomited, and stopped breathing. Almost before I knew what was happening, the nurse entered the room and announced that the baby was cutting off the blood supply to Christine’s brain. Seconds later, my wife was breathing again, unaware of what had happened. Meanwhile, I rushed to the bathroom. I locked the door and collapsed against the wall, sliding slowly into the corner. I bit down on my fist and cried uncontrollably, my whole body shaking against the cold tiles. Not a promising start to fatherhood.
Two things got me up. The first was the realization that I was sitting beside a toilet. I usually flush public toilets with my foot. If I had to keep crying, fine, but not while I was camped out in a germ factory. The second was the need to touch Christine. After I washed my hands thoroughly, of course.
I’ll deal with my feelings later, I told myself, but now I need to be with my wife. I entered the birthing room and sat beside her. I told her I loved her. I put my hand on her stomach and felt our son squirming this way and that, all elbows and knees. Christine’s skin looked almost transparent in the afternoon light. Blue veins traced urgent paths across her stomach. Soon the baby seemed more restful. Perhaps he knew, on some level, what the contractions all around him meant. Perhaps he was gathering himself for what came next.
Sometimes I criticize myself for how I acted. Something difficult happened, and rather than and sharing it with my wife, I buried it and pretended nothing was wrong. I don’t believe that story, though. That story is poisonous, leeching a steady trickle of toxins into the groundwater of my heart.
The story I believe is simpler and better. Getting my butt off that bathroom floor was a recognition that life—my life, Christine’s life, the baby’s life—was still happening. Time didn’t stop when I slammed the bathroom door. Our baby was still being squeezed by his mother’s uterus. Christine was still listening to the whispers and shouts of her body. I was about to meet my son. That day, some big words—Fatherhood, Responsibility, Love—found me and reached out their hands. As they pulled me to my feet, they spoke to me. You’ll be okay, they said. Welcome to the club. You don’t need all the answers. You just need to do the next thing.
Time ticked by. Christine and I watched television. The nurse bustled in and out. We dozed. And around 5 A.M., Christine gave birth to Nicholas, who was the ugliest, purplest, tiniest, most amazing person I’d ever seen. I never did finish my cry; I was too busy learning how to swaddle my son, and calling my parents, and installing the car seat, and a hundred other things that you do when you’re a husband, and a father, and a member of the tribe.
Rookie Dad is available wherever books are sold, and you can purchase copies from David or Christine after church: one for $12, or two for $20. David will be near the church entrance, and Christine will be across the street–look for the box of paperbacks! You can email David at *protected email*, and see videos and read other chapters athttp://davidjacobsen.net.