Last night, laughter and screams filled my home. Games were played, movies were watched, a giant spider was executed, and a 13-year-old girl had a wonderful birthday celebration.
13-years-ago today, a different story was being told.
My wife looked at me with a concerned expression on her face. She was going into labor. We had a little over a month to go before the expected date. The doctor measured our baby girl small during checkups, but she felt ready to make her unexpected arrival. When we reached the hospital, we checked into the birthing center, but were hastened to the labor and delivery ward. Our doctor advised she had a sense we needed to switch to a different floor. This discouraged us because we craved to have our daughter in the birthing center. We started out there with our son 2 years earlier, but had to be moved then as well. Being moved turned out to be a wise decision. The delivery happened rapidly and my purple little daughter was born. She did not cry. There was no sound. There was no movement. She was as limp as a noodle. A pediatrician and some nurses quickly grasped her and placed her on a table and began working on her. They smacked her, slapped her, and poked her with needles. I tried to watch, but the nurses blocked me from view. Every time I moved to take a look; a nurse blocked my view. The doctor yelled, “He’s the father and has the right to watch!” Then he stared at me and added, “Come in.” I slid between the nurses and reached out and grabbed her little foot. A nurse placed her hand upon my shoulder.
The first words I spoke to my eldest son when he was born were, “Hello, I’m your daddy.” The first words I said to my daughter were, “Breathe Miciah, breathe.” Those words were uttered as tears rolled down my cheeks. After I delivered those words, her chest moved, and she began to struggle for air. Call it good timing. Call it the result of medical personnel working on her. I’ll claim it a miracle. Roll your eyes if you choose, but that was my motionless daughter on the table. They proceeded to work on her and sought to bring her breathing under control, but she couldn’t keep it up on her own. Finally, a noise spilled from her lips, but it wasn’t a typical loud baby wailing, it sounded more like a soft meow.
The doctors and nurses continued their work. Her cries were still soft, but she was crying. They pumped oxygen into her body and washed her. After what seemed like forever, they rolled her out of the room and I followed after her. As I ran behind them, the doctor stopped me. He stated I couldn’t go into the next room and that they needed to continue their work, but he said things would be all right.
I walked back into the room where the nurses were attending to my wife and I placed my head next to hers. My wife asked what was going on, but I didn’t want her to worry. So, I lied. Just like the doctor did to me. I said everything was all right.
For the next 8 days, our daughter slept among the beeps and whistles and the constant busyness of the NICU. She was born before her lungs were ready for this world. In order to touch her, we had to scrub down, place our hands in gloves, then slide our arms through a glass box where we could hold her tiny hand. Slowly, we observed her go from being blue to white to yellow, to a normal pinkish color. And then, we brought her home.
13-years-later, my daughter is still on the small side. Whenever she’s in a group, she’s bound to be the smallest. But don’t tell her she is too small to do something; I’ve never met a more confident person in my life. There isn’t anything that my daughter doesn’t believe she can’t do. And she executes it with such fervor that she believes whatever she’s doing, she’ll achieve. And I believe her too.
For the first few minutes of her life, she was silenced. That was the only time she has been quiet and it will never happen again. As challenging as it can be to raise a strong-willed child, I have to recall those first minutes of when I was afraid that I would not have a “Daddy’s Little Girl.” When I get frustrated, as hard as it can be, I have to think of how special it is that I get to be with her.
I’m so proud of my daughter and who she is. She takes on bullies twice her size, speaks up for those that are afraid to speak for themselves, and gives whatever money she has on her to homeless people in the subway. She cares about her friends, adores her little sister, and designs great tattoos for me.
Last night, the loud voices and laughs were a reminder of what I hoped for 13-years-ago. Nobody in the house got enough sleep, but I’m much more rested than I was when I slept with my head against a glass box sliding my rubber gloved finger along a tiny hand affixed to wires and machines.
Now, no strings are attached as she finds herself and her place in the world. And she’s doing it loud.