I wanted to write about this now, when it’s still fresh in my mind. I think you will get a good laugh from this story.
Our parenting schedule has generally been that my wife gets up early in the morning, and I take care of the baby throughout the night. She often goes to the gym in the morning, when Oliver starts his first nap, and I usually wake up to him or wake up just before he does, while Nikki’s at the gym.
This past Sunday I was awakened by Oliver’s screams; he was wailing at the top of this new-found octave. I hadn’t spoken to my wife that morning or the night before about her going to the gym, so I assumed she was with Oliver during yet another one of his FOMO (fear of missing out) sessions. He never wants to go to bed during a FOMO moment, but eventually cries himself to sleep.
At first I thought nothing of it. But as the screams continued and seemingly got louder, I began to wonder what was going on. Half asleep I called out, “Nikki! Nikki!” After no reply from her, and with the wailing continuing, my senses told me something wasn’t right. I rushed out of the bed in a slight panic and over to Oliver’s room.
As I opened the bedroom, still in a slight daze, I saw Nikki’s cousin Simon sitting there, trying to get Oliver to sleep. Much to my horror, I suddenly realized I was standing there in the room, completely naked! I was assured of this as I looked over at Simon, who squinched his eyes and turned away from me, using Oliver as a human shield amid the awkward surprise.
I’m sure Oliver sensed something funny had happened, but he was so caught up in his refusal to go to sleep that he didn’t really react. As I shook the cobwebs from my head, I had a good solid laugh and turned away to put on a dressing gown. When I returned to the room, I relieved Simon from the sometimes-difficult task of getting Oliver to sleep when he’d rather stay up and party. And I couldn’t stop giggling to myself about this experience.
Simon began apologizing and explaining that Oliver was displaying all the sleepy signs that Nikki had told him to look out for and that he hadn’t meant to awaken me. And he obviously hadn’t wanted, nor needed, to have the lovely surprise of my naked body appearing in Oliver’s room to see what was going on.
Looking back, I don’t think Nikki was too happy with me that morning, but she kept telling me that when she replayed this story in her head, she couldn’t stop laughing, quickly forgetting why she was even annoyed with me.
This is definitely one of those stories that will forever be a source of amusement and laughter for us as we continue to experience life as parents and all the funny moments we have to look forward to.
The nurse helped mom and baby with the breast latch. This was nature, again, working its miracles. And another historic moment for me, watching mom and baby in the eternal relationship of reproduction.
Here we were together, feeling as if time were frozen. After enjoying this experience for an hour or so, while the nurse completed the routine checkup and questionnaire, my wife was ready for her mom to enter the recovery room. It was a pleasure to witness the interaction between Nikki, her own mom and Oliver. I wish I had the words to communicate these special, timeless moments. The joy and love emanating from my mother-in-law was beautiful.
We then moved to the post-birth suite, where we were able to introduce our immediate family to our little guy. Introducing Oliver to my parents was another monumental moment that brought joy and wonder to my heart. I was witnessing life and reproduction through generations.
I thought to myself, “We had made this child together.” And my amazing, brave, strong, loving wife had played her part in nature’s most wonderful process. It happens all the time, all over the world, for myriad different species, but, for me, it’s still such an incredible wonder. During this time, our family was the centre of the universe, and this tremendously emotional and spiritual experience was raw, powerful and exciting.
After introducing Oliver to everyone and spending some time with our close family and friends, the three of us needed privacy. This first day was euphoric. We still hadn’t slept much in the previous 36 hours, but here we were, in this little hospital room. Life had changed forever. Nikki was exhausted and relatively immobile from the operation and lack of sleep. Filled with joy, we were able to experience our first day as a new three-person family.
I felt this was exactly where I was supposed to be. The confusion I had experienced in life, mostly associated with fitting into a world I didn’t understand at times, was gone. This made sense to me; being a father and participating in the reproduction of our species seemed to calm me and relieve the discomfort and lost feelings I had previously felt on this path called life.
I was proud of myself for my recent spiritual and personal growth, which enabled me to enjoy this moment more than I could’ve imagined. In the past, I was always at odds with the world and the way it worked. The year prior to my son’s birth was a wonderful year for me. I had experienced many great personal achievements, growing spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I was getting into better physical shape and improving my cognitive skills.
Other than a couple of nurse visits and Oliver’s first bath, we were able to enjoy each other’s presence and finally get a bit of sleep. I felt nature’s immense instinctual pull and awareness toward my son. This was a sensation I’d never felt before. With Nikki exhausted and groggy from the medication and operation, I spent a lot of this first night in a strenuous battle against my eyelids. I didn’t want to sleep. Actually, I did want to sleep, but the instinctual vacuum I felt toward my son was too powerful. Until Nikki got some sleep and was able to rest, I don’t think I got more than an hour of broken sleep through the night of labour and the first night with our son.
My new best friend was the nurse’s button on the hospital bed. It was a lifeline, an amazing resource I suggest everyone use as much as possible. The nurses were a huge help that first night as we began our experience being parents.
Making the decision to move forward with the operation brought relief to us; the moment was very near. It’s hard to fully express the emotions that had built up over the past nine months, to this climax. My wife was taken to the operating room on her own and was too fatigued to fully express her emotions. This was our first time apart during the labour process, and it was an anxious moment for us, knowing that we were so close to meeting our baby.
I entered the waiting area of the operating room. I was alone, and it was very quiet. Waves of emotion and excitement were constantly rushing through my body. I gave myself a pep talk in order to prepare for this monumental event. I have recently incorporated meditation and prayer into my life, and this was a big moment for me to use them. It was an intense time, as I waited, all alone, to be called into the operating room. I turned on meditation music from my phone and had a nice, quiet 10- to 15-minute meditation.
“Mr. Stroh, please come into the room.” Walking into the room in my hospital gear and seeing Nikki on the table brought everything full circle. It was happening; this was the moment we’d been waiting for: a whole 41 weeks and 17 hours. I felt emotional, but confident and calm. I was ready and excited.
I know many people have a calling for certain things. Personally, I’ve always felt deep down inside that my calling was to be a parent. Holy smokes! This was it.
I sat down beside Nikki, after taking a quick peek at the operation. My strong, brave wife was lying on the operating table, looking as if she were pinned to a cross. I was amazed and proud of her toughness; she was, again, showing me why she’s my hero.
In my opinion, “birth” is nature’s most beautiful process. Females have been programmed for myriad years for this moment. I comforted her and reminded her to keep breathing deeply, while continuing to encourage her. She was shaking from the operation and the drugs.
I was notified that the baby’s arrival was imminent. I felt another rush of emotion and excitement, and I got a chill from head to toe. One of the nurses made sure I had the camera ready. The doctor said, “OK, here is the baby!” I stood up, peered over the curtain and laid my eyes on our first-born child. Emotional and elated, I called out, “It’s a boy!” All the waiting, the build-up of emotion, the long, sleepless night, the hours and months I had spent thinking about this had reached the pinnacle.
Staring me right in the face was his bright-red scrotum. He was covered in blood and crying away, letting us know that Oliver Hayden Stroh had arrived. I knelt and gave my wife a kiss, telling her our child was a boy, then reminded her what an incredible job she’d done and how proud I was of her.
The nurses brought him around the curtain to show mom quickly before they got him cleaned up and ready for us. His head was warped and cone-shaped from the struggle he had, trying to pass through the birth canal. He was just too big: 9 pounds, 6 ounces! The doctor pretty much instantly said this guy wasn’t ever going to arrive from a vaginal birth. It would’ve been nice for them to tell us he was such a monster and that he probably wouldn’t ever have been born via a vaginal birth. Maybe we could have avoided the long labour process.
Hospital staff cleaned him up and brought him over to rest on mom briefly for some skin-to-skin. I then had the pleasure of cutting what was left of his umbilical cord. Oliver was then nicely swaddled, complete with his hospital hat, and was placed in my arms. It’s hard not to repeat myself, but this was another moment of unexplainable emotion. I was here, a proud and excited father.
I know babies can’t see too well right away, but he looked up at me and started to open and close his mouth. “Where is the boobie? Where is the boobie? I want the boobie!” I imagined him thinking. I told him to be patient; mommy would be with him shortly.
Elated, I held him as close to mom as possible. Time was frozen for me at this moment, as the doctors finished up the operation. Again, I was tingling from head to toe. This was, by far, my most incredible and unexplainable experience. This was heaven on Earth, if there is such a thing.
The doctors and nurses were amazing. I was, and still am, grateful for the wonderful care we received. We then moved to the recovery room, where mom, dad and Oliver were finally together.
Approximately 10 pm, August 19, 2012
I was surprisingly calm as we drove to the hospital; I was relieved that the time had come. Growing up, I had always looked forward to this moment. Becoming a parent was something I had cherished over the past 41 weeks. Now that moment was imminent.
We checked into the birthing wing of the hospital and waited for the doctor to check my wife for dilation. After the examination, the doctor said she was three centimetres dilated and ready to move into a birthing suite. My wife received the epidural shortly after arriving in the birthing suite. She had planned on having an epidural, and I fully supported this decision. Part of my job during this process was to encourage my wife, supporting her decisions in ensuring her utmost comfort. The epidural helped her relax and relieved a lot of her discomfort and pain. I thought, “Wow, this is really happening!” The finality of our 41-month journey was inching closer. My mother-in-law arrived at this point, to lend her support and help us through the birthing process. By now, Nikki was hooked up to a machine that monitored her contractions and our baby’s heartbeats, and the nurse was explaining the birthing procedure from here onward. Before she left, the nurse told us that she would be back approximately once an hour to check up on us.
A doctor came to do a routine check–up after a couple of nurse visits. He said Nikki was progressing as expected. I couldn’t take my eyes off the heart-rate and contraction monitor. “This is intense,” I thought to myself about my only connection to the baby. It was a unique and unexplainable feeling to know I was about to finally meet this person, and that my only connection to the baby at this moment was listening to its heartbeat. Progress slowed over the next three hours, and it was an exhausting experience. I had to maintain my focus, though, stay patient and be calm in order to support my wife.
Nikki had now been in labour for about eight hours. My brave wife was exhausted, drugged up and emotional. She’d reached five centimetres around the six-hour mark, but hadn’t progressed. So, the doctor decided to break her water to help move the labour along. It seemed like this 41-week journey just wouldn’t end. One hour later, the doctor came to check the dilation. Unfortunately, breaking her water hadn’t helped. The doctor said my wife’s cervix was swelling, and he could feel the baby’s head. He confirmed that the baby’s heart rate was fine, and that mom was OK, too. He was concerned, however, that the dilation wasn’t progressing past five centimetres. He then informed us that he now planned on checking her dilation every hour. The next few hours were agonizing; time was moving like molasses in January.
At the 13th hour, the doctor informed us that my wife’s dilation still hadn’t progressed, and her cervix was continuing to swell. The baby was trying hard to move through the birth canal, but couldn’t because the baby was hitting its head against my wife’s cervix, because it wasn’t dilating past the five-centimetre mark. Fortunately, the baby’s heart rate was still safe, and there wasn’t reason for concern. We were then informed that a C-section was becoming a more likely option, because there was no guarantee that Nikki’s cervix would dilate to the 10 centimetres necessary for a vaginal birth. The doctor’s concern was that it would get to a point where Nikki would need an emergency C-section; not an ideal situation or the safest thing for mom or baby.
This was an emotional moment for Nikki and I as soon-to-be parents. We had hoped for a vaginal birth, but, most importantly, for mom and baby to be safe and healthy. We weren’t going to be stubborn if we needed to change our plan.
This was the scenario in a nutshell: four to five hours of early labour at home, 13 hours of labour in the hospital and hardly any sleep, coupled with the pressures of a labouring wife and impending first-time parenthood. The doctor told us if we wanted to pursue the vaginal birth we could, but Nikki and baby would have to be monitored closely. We were given an hour to decide what to do, because if we chose the caesarean, they needed to prepare the operation room.
Once the doctor left the room, the soon-to-be mom and dad, and maternal grandma shed some tears. The process was beyond exhausting. The build-up was intense, but we decided it was best to go through with the caesarean. Ensuring the safe arrival of our child, along with a healthy mom, were our top priorities; we were simply unwilling to compromise. The desire for, and the social pressure of, having a vaginal birth were simply non-existent at this time.
After 17 hours of labour and 41 weeks of pregnancy, it was finally time for our little one to enter the world. We informed the nurse we wanted the C-section. WOW-we were almost there!
After the induction we were informed to return to the hospital after twelve hours if nothing happened, sooner if there was progress. We decided to go out for lunch with the future grandparents. It was our last lunch before becoming parents. We had no idea what we were in for. The anticipation was intense, after 41 patient weeks the birth was fast approaching.
The doctor indicated labour would likely begin between four to eight hours. For my wife it started at six and I remember it clearly. We decided to walk to the Tim Hortons which was five minutes away, however at the half way point my wife stopped and said, “I feel like someone just kicked me really hard in the crotch, I have to turn back now.” This ignited the butterflies in my stomach. Even though the doctor had given us guidelines for the onset of labour, we didn’t know exactly what to expect, so we waited. After four hours of discomfort and minor contractions my wife decided it was time to leave. While getting induced lessened the mystery of the onset of labour, it didn’t diminish the anxiety/excitement of our departure to the hospital. Having timed the trip to the hospital at the various times of the day, I knew the drive would take no longer than fifteen minutes. Surprisingly my earlier fears of delivering my child at the side of the road were thankfully absent at this moment.
The birthing process is something a mother or pregnant woman can relate with, but as a man this isn’t possible. I did my best to be empathetic, compassionate, supportive and encouraging throughout my wife’s pregnancy. I read a book called The Birth Partner Handbook , we took prenatal classes, I quizzed many parents about their birth experiences. While doing these things, I always wondered whether they would be useful or not. They certainly helped me be well-informed, supportive and a loving partner throughout the pregnancy; but preparing for the unknown is a difficult thing to do. Ready or not, this was it.
This blog is going to be about what it’s like for me to be a father and husband. I’m going to share with you readers, as openly and honestly as I can, my personal experience . I hope to hear from readers and fellow fathers about their experiences; some advice perhaps, and any pearls of wisdom on being parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, childcare workers, toy makers, and anyone else involved in the lives of kids whom I haven’t mentioned.
It’s been exactly 14 weeks & 2 days of fatherhood. My baby boy’s name is Oliver Hayden Stroh; born August 19th 2012, in Toronto at Sunnybrook Hospital.
During this time I’ve wanted to write about my experience, but I haven’t found the time or energy. Finally, though, things have settled down. I’m in a place where I feel thoughtful and well rested enough to express my experience with some clarity and energy.
For most my life I’ve been relatively unorganized and lived by the seat of my pants. Since getting married and moving into a house I’ve been learning to be more disciplined and organized in my daily affairs. This past year has been a breakthrough for me as I’ve begun to improve in these areas. It has been hard work and I’ve come a long way.
Now that I have a baby boy, my progress seems to be stunted. The life of a newborn is not remotely organized, routine and scheduled. During the first couple of months of fatherhood I felt I was regressing in the personal improvements I’ve made.
The 3rd month has been encouraging as mom, baby and dad are starting to figure things out and adjust to a schedule. Thank god for my wife, who has so impressively implemented a schedule for our son. This has been helpful for us; we know when we have time to do things, when he has to eat, sleep and play. A friend referred us to a book that helped my wife implement this schedule. The book is called “The New Contented Little Baby Book” Oliver is starting to sleep more and we’re slowly regaining a sense of routine and comfort in our daily lives. I’m enjoying this challenge and experience tremendously and I look forward to continue experiencing life as a father enjoying the wonders of a family and life.