One Year Later (Again)

There’s a video I shot literally one minute after my son was born. In it, hands bearing towels descend ominously from out of frame, rubbing his bloody body clean as he makes a sound that is something between a cry and a wheeze. In the background, you can hear a very high-pitched voice uttering, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” over and over again.

That voice is mine.

I think a part of me thought he would never come, that he would just remain in my wife’s belly until sometime around 2027, when he would emerge on the cusp of tweendom. Since my daughter’s delivery was (relatively) quick, we assumed our son would come early, as second children so often do. Our OB-GYN cracked jokes about moving into the hospital sometime in the ninth month, just in case. His due date was January 25, then January 19, then back to the twenty-fifth, but everyone — even the doctor — figured he would come a week or so earlier than that.

By mid-January, my wife was inconsolable, miserably pregnant for a million years, it seemed, ready to get. Him. Out.

Stubbornly, he refused to come out. As Trump’s inauguration came and went, we joked darkly that our son was protesting by refusing to be born.

But then at around 11:30 PM on January 31 — nearly a week past the latest due date — Morgan looked over at me and said, “Oh, yeah. It’s gonna happen.”

We called her mom and her sister. By 1:00 AM, we had a full house, with Grandma and Auntie set to take care of Big Sister Leia. I transferred Leia’s car seat to her aunt’s car and planned on staying up, thinking we were close. My mother-in-law insisted I get some sleep, and I’m glad she did: We didn’t know it, but we were still twelve hours away from Baby Boy.

So we both slept. In the morning, with contractions coming reliably, we headed to the hospital. And that’s when things got fun.

With our daughter, we got to the hospital way early, and spent an entire sleepless night and the entire morning there before she was born. This time, we arrived at around 8:00 AM. Strangely, our son was born at the same time of day — almost to the minute — as our daughter.

My mother-in-law and my wife’s twin arrived about an hour after we did. Morgan was as comfortable as you can be, just relaxing in her bed. There seemed to be no particular urge to proceed. The midwife checked her and assured us that everything was fine.

Time passed. At around noon, the contractions were faster and more painful, and my wife called an audible, saying she was ready for a sweet, sweet epidural. The nurse informed us that the Bringer of Epidurals was currently in surgery and that it would be a little while.

Well, OK.

We waited. My wife panted. And then, right before 1:00 PM, she made The Sound.

It had been more than two years since I’d heard The Sound, but I recognized it instantly nonetheless. The baby was coming. She was ready to push.

My sister-in-law darted out into the hallway to get someone, anyone. The nurse came in to tell us, patiently, that the anesthesiologist was still in surgery and would be in as soon as —

“The baby’s coming!” I told her.

She didn’t quite believe me, but she got the midwife anyway, who took one look between my wife’s legs and went into panic mode.

My wife pushed.

Once.

Understand: When our daughter was born, I had prepared a little pep talk to buck my wife up for the ordeal. I barely got out the first sentence when she pushed twice and bang — there was Leia.

So this time I didn’t even bother with a speech. I kissed her forehead, said, “You can do this” and she pushed one time — once! — and…

My son shot out of her as though someone had set fire to the womb.

Now, I’m a writer. I live in my imagination, and I know I’m prone to hyperbole. But I’m not exaggerating. I’m not lying. I’m not sweetening the story for dramatic effect.

The kid was airborne for the first second or two of his life.

I’m a comic book geek; I remember blurting out something about a yellow sun and earth’s lower gravity. For real.

I have witnesses to all of this. The midwife, for one, is totally unbiased. Later, she looked at me said, “I’m glad I caught him!” The kid was totally flying when he came out.

One push. Jesus.

I think that’s why you hear me saying, “Oh my God!” over and over in my best falsetto. I can’t believe it’s actually real. I can’t believe that he’s there, in the real world, that he shot out like that.

From birth, he had total head and neck control. I watched him turn his head a few minutes into life. Yellow sun, indeed. The kid was Kryptonian, all right.

And now?

The cliché is that the time flies, and damn does it ever! A year has passed. He’s so big. So strong. The other day, he ripped a kitchen cabinet off its hinges when the baby lock kept him from opening it. He climbs everything he shouldn’t, everything that he can. He tries to eat the steel mesh covering our fireplace.

I’m beginning to feel sympathy for Ma and Pa Kent.

Last night, my wife pried off a tiny piece of our daughter’s peanut butter sandwich to give to him. He ignored her offer and instead snatched the sandwich from Leia and proceeded to shove the damn thing in his mouth.

My brother jokes that the kid is ready for steak and beer. I don’t think he’s that far off.

He was a big, strong baby, and now he’s a big, strong toddler. He runs like the wind. He loves to explore, to smash things, to lift things. He’s so physical, in ways his sister was not. Leia examined things. She could spend long minutes staring at the screws on the underside of a toy, probing the recessed heads with her little baby fingers.

My son… He knocks things over, laughs at the crash. Shoves everything and anything into his mouth. And good Lord, does he eat. As long as you keep putting food in front of him, he’ll keep eating. If there’s a bottom to his stomach, we haven’t found it yet.

A year old. In the blink of an eye. From the wheezing cry to a raspy laugh, from soaring out of his mother to delighting in being held upside-down. He’s a daredevil, a dervish, an endlessly exploring Indiana Jones who falls down, picks himself up again, and goes off to the next thing that will knock him down. Utterly fearless and totally enamored of everything he encounters. At least ten times a day, he terrifies me into a heart attack.

But this is him. This is who he is. He’s wild, yes, but also possessed of a great inner calm. He’s relaxed and chill where his sister can be high-strung and anxious. He cries for precisely one reason and one reason only: He’s hungry. No guessing with this kid.

He’s a year old and he’s a minute old, just born, bloody and gasping for his first breaths as I cut the umbilical cord.

Oh my God. Oh my God.