I watch you as you grow, thinking always of how we first met, a tiny package in the hands of a brazen nurse, hauling you down a flight of stairs. We’d been in the hospital for several days, and before that your mother and I had stayed in a hotel together for one night. You gave your mother no end of grief as she had been in labor for almost a whole week, suffering 24 hours a day at the hands of mother nature’s cruel mechanism of contractions. I hadn’t been too worried until about the third day in the hospital, your mom was in a horrific amount of pain, and due it being an overcrowded hospital during a Chinese holiday, there were almost no hospital staff around, and those that were were too overwhelmed and disinterested to really help, like reexamine her. It wasn’t until she was finally checked that they found you had… dirtied things in the womb, and a cesarean was a must. I messaged your grandmother, my mother, who had been messaging me on my phone the entire process, and she was grateful the doctors had finally come to their senses. Your mother’s mother had hardly left her daughters side the entire time as well, and as you and your mother were wheeled into the operating room, as one being for the last time, I sat anxiously on the stairs with your grandmother and waited by the door for any sign you had finished. It wasn’t until some time later I was ushered down the stairs behind a woman carrying a blanket gently down the hospital stairs, going entirely too fast for my taste, that I realized she was carrying you and I was too accompany her, somewhere.
She wouldn’t stop to let me see you until we reached a room next to the floor below the operating rooms’ nurses station, inside were the weighing and changing stations, you were promptly placed on the changing table and for the first time I could finally see you, see your eyes, see your face, see all of you. You were pooping, you pooped all over the blanket they had carried you in on, and it brought no end of joy and pride to me, for when I was born I had peed on the doctor that delivered me, and it seemed you had followed in my footsteps, in a fashion.
The nurses conveyed to me that you needed a diaper, and amongst the shock that they would not supply even the first one and the confusion of not immediately recognizing the Chinese for diaper, you pooped on the nurses hand as she weighed you. I left the room to go find our gurney in the hall, we had been assigned a gurney because the hospital was so overcrowded, and I returned with a diaper triumphantly after rummaging through our possessions for several frantic moments. You looked as though you were doing just fine.
I promptly wiped off the last of your first poop and put on your first diaper as gently and swiftly as I could, as you started to cry for comfort for the first time (that I saw). The nurses seemed impressed with my ability to attach the Velcro straps of a diaper around your waste and nodded in approval. I quickly wrapped you up and held you firmly yet softly, pledging to keep you safe from the world from that moment on. I took you back to our gurney in the hall and gently blew on your face as I held you in my arms, you sighed ever so gently and I felt like my world had finally been made complete.
By this time your mother had finally been brought down and we placed her on the gurney, with some difficulty and way too much discomfort to her. She was very out of it from the anesthetic and the pain medication she was now on. She slept often but was up long enough after being placed to see her new born son, we both beamed with pride. Your Grandmother ran around frantically from issue to issue, ensuring you were warm enough, your mother’s catheter was properly draining, and a thousand other tiny issues only a concerned mother and newly concerned grandmother would think to do.
I sobbed quietly too myself that night as you slept next to your mother, for it was a joyous time, but such an awful place and the medication your mother was on left her listless and rarely conscious to be with her son. I swore to myself I would protect you even from the hospital staff if I must.
The crowded hallway we were in was filled with numerous other new mothers and mothers to be struggling in the various steps of labor. There were also deplorable men wandering the halls smoking. I was extremely agitated about this but no one else seemed to mind and I was too focused on being with you and your mother to go looking for a fight about smoking in a hospital.
I managed to cordon off our gurney with a couple medical dividers and after most of the visitors went to sleep I got us set up for the night and your grandparents made their exit. Your mother had the foresight to rent a hotel down the street from the hospital and we all took shifts sleeping in it and caring for your mom and you. That first night I watched you sleep from the chairs I slid together to make my own makeshift cot. You threw up once and it terrified me, as it was black and thick. The nurses said it was fine and I checked online to be sure, and it was fine. Every little sound you made or movement made me jump up to be at your side. Your mother woke several times, only briefly, and I held her hand and talked about you. Every few hours you would wake and cry, I would go to the nurses station to get you some of the formula they kept there, and feed you. Feeding you was both the scariest thing and most exciting thing I’ve ever done. I was so scared I might drown you if you swallowed wrong, as I had to spoon it into your mouth, but I also grinned from ear to ear as you readily drank it down.
Newborns stomachs are not large, and yours was no exception. I hardly fed you a thimble’s worth of formula each feeding and you would eat and go back to sleep in my arms. It wasn’t until the next day that we finally got a room. I had thrown a fit with the nurses the night before at one point, demanding a doctor, as they had skipped over you and your poor mother more than once, forgetting to check up on us. I was glad I spoke up, your mother was not. But the next day we finally did get a bed, and an apology for the disturbingly poor care that we were still paying for. You were still too young to smile or really see me, but you did go right to sleep in my arms. The other moms and grandmas and new dads would look at us and comment in sichuanese about my confidence in holding you and my ability to put you to sleep. I couldn’t understand the aversion to holding my newborn son. How could any father not want to hold their newborn child for hours. And I did. Sometimes I would walk you through the halls and talk to you when you wouldn’t settle down. I talked about the machines in the hospital, about the things we would do one day, I talked about differences in economic policy, I talked endlessly, and you laid there in my arms and listened intently as you drifted off. I despised that hospital, but I am also so glad you were delivered to us safely and healthy. You are a shining light in my life, and even during our rough hospital stay, you made every difficulty worth it, just to know you were doing well. We were both proud of you the moment we saw you.
I got a big kick out of your clothes, they were all too big! That didn’t last long, but for those first days the nurses always comment4ed on it. Your mother and I thought you looked so adorable in your oversized baby clothes, practically sliding out of them. I kept you wrapped in a blanket at all times though, so we really weren’t worried about you getting too cold.
We had next to no privacy in our new room, but at least it was a room, with 5 beds in it and a tiny little bathroom that was extremely filthy the entire time we stayed there. Your mother finally started to regain her senses on the third day, as they removed her morphine drip. She took over as the primary care giver for you and dealt with the staff far more cordially and politely than I ever cared to do. She was always good at that.
Your mom couldn’t move much those first few days, as she was in a great deal of pain, and had a freshly sealed cut running lengthwise on her lower abdomen. She was very strong though, insisting on going to the bathroom as soon as they took out the catheter. She paid for a massage to stimulate milk production and was in an intense amount of pain the entire massage but was able to start giving you milk after wards. She took a beating just bringing you into the world, and she continued to long after that, to feed you.
Eventually we checked out of the hotel and your grandfather drove us all home. I was so relieved you were out of that hospital and home again with us. I still held you as much as I could, but I also had to go back to work shortly after returning home (you were kind enough to be born on a national holiday, so I had about a week off from work to help out). We eventually settled into a routine and your mother slowly healed as you started to grow. But I’ll save that for another day…