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Archive for August 16th, 2003

The Fatherhood Chronicles XI

One thing I know: I am not worthy of this little girl

Sofie was, quite literally, the answer to the prayers of the Theotokos for Anna and me. I suppose that’s why when I first started praying for our baby I almost immediately began using the feminine when remembering her to the Lord. This whole pregnancy has been for me “a marvelous work and a wonder,” to borrow and sanctify a well-known title. It has brought out of me thoughts, feelings and actions I would never have dreamed, yet had always knew were in some way required. Women and baby girls make of us pliable men the best of gentlemen.

What I am now about to write, I don’t know I have the words for. To start at the beginning, Sofie was born with the cord around her neck. This, as I am learning, is not entirely uncommon. Unfortunately, because Sofie at the last came more quickly than Anna’s doctor could arrive, we had a resident ob-gyn, who, in an effort to untangle the cord from around Sofie, inadvertently drew it tighter. Quick as thought, one of the assisting nurses shoved forward and immediately drew Sofie free. But the very brief episode was enough to shock our little girl.

Although the birth plan called for me to cut the cord, and the ob-gyn resident asked if the father (me) was to cut the cord, the quick-thinking nurse said no. The cord was cut, and they took Sofie to the warming table. This is when my nightmare began.

Sofie was not responding, and was greyish. The nurses worked with her, but as the hours-long seconds ticked by this was having no discernible effect. I could see one nurse pushing on Sofie’s chest. Another nurse, grim-faced, got on the phone. She spoke so softly that I could not hear. Within moments, a doctor, who I was to learn was from the neonatal ICU, came. Four medical personnel engulfed our baby, working with life-and-death intensity.

My heart was in my throat. Though I could not know for sure what was going on, I could tell it was dark and not yet joyful. Sofie was not crying, and the nurse kept pushing on her chest. I learned shortly after, her initial alertness scores were almost as low as they could be.

I thought only one thing: We are not leaving this hospital with a dead baby.

I cannot tell you, even as now I still tear up writing this, what thousands of deaths I died. I had only one wish: If this is the way it has to be, let it be me, not her. I will bear this for her. Let it be me.

I cannot recall these moments still without deep gasping tears. I woke this morning again to these images. Again, came the tears as though it was just happening. How can it be that a tiny little girl, whom I had known for only moments, I could love as though I’d loved her for a hundred lifetimes? Who could ever be so worthy of this?

These thoughts, of course, come precisely because we know how the story went. Sofie, it turns out, is like her father, quiet and contemplative. So her initial stillness was somewhat more of who she is than the great black fears her father had in those first moments. These were indeed, mere moments, and not the eternity they felt, and soon she was scoring a perfect test for alertness, breathing, color, and just pure godly vitality. A silent vitality, but brimming full of life nonetheless.

She has now passed her first day and a half, and if I may say so, is the most beautiful girl in the world. She sneezes and I am undone. She cries, and I am turning the world inside out to ease her distress. She looks at me, with those knit brows and semi-focused dark blue eyes, and I fall down endless depths of soul, swallowed whole and consumed. I am madly, passionately in love.

I was shocked to find that, learning Anna was pregnant with Sofie, I could unearth a new depth of love for Sofie’s mom such as I’d never known. I did not know that those early years of marriage, with our yearning passion, could have been replaced by a love of such depths it could not be described. And here, forty-one weeks later, I am shocked yet again to discover that this sinner’s heart can not only love her mother with a new-found love, but here, added to that, entwined and ever enlarging, is yet another love. Who could know this man’s heart could contain so much love?

This sinner is far too unworthy of this. Five lifetimes could never discharge such a debt. But this one I’ve been given is a good place to start.

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