Eowyn was born almost two weeks ago. It was a planned C-section, so there were no surprises in terms of timing. We went to the hospital with plenty of time to spare. Once we were settled in the recovery room, the head nurse talked us through everything we'd do and gave me a clean-suit to wear in the surgical room. They then took pyr8queen to be prepped and get anesthesia, and told me to wait, when they were ready to begin I'd be brought in. Though they said it would only take ten minutes or so, time crawled by slowly, so slowly that I was convinced something must have gone wrong. Just when I was working up to a genuine fear, they called me in.
She was already on the table, and a curtain blocking her view of the procedure. I held her hand and we talked as I looked at her eyes, startlingly blue in that light. The two doctors working on the section put some sort of spreader in, and hauled away at the incision like rowers trying to row upstream. And then my daughter was there, in the world. Covered in grue and crying, they held her up to show her to us, and then whisked her off to a table to be examined while the doctor began closing the incision.
I went over to Eowyn's side, she'd been toweled off and they were measuring her length, weight, head-size and all that sort of thing. She was giving a high thin cry, and I reached out and touched her cheek, murmuring something - what I can't recall, though I'd certainly given thought to what the first thing I'd say to my daughter ought to be. In the moment it all went out of my head, and I only wanted her to know how welcome in the world she was, how loved and cared for she is, and how whatever her fears of the moment might have been, she was not alone.
And there she was! A tiny little human being with tiny little fingers and fingernails, a full head of hair, and if her crying was any indicator, a very well-developed pair of lungs. A separate consciousness from my own that never the less in part came from my own, and would experience the world, the joy of existence, the pain of living, the fears and triumphs, because in an act of love we'd made her. And I touched her cheek a little bit in awe, and I said some damn fool thing or another, and in that very moment when I first touched her, she stopped crying.
Let it always be so easy! I can't begin to describe how fortunate we are. So many people said we'd never sleep again, but the fact is we got a placid, cheerful baby who likes to sleep at night, never cries, frequently makes happy squeaks, and is in perfect health. In the two weeks we've had her, she's grown a little and the way she moves her limbs and controls her facial expressions has changed, from what can best be described as "spastic random shuffle" to something... well, at least a smidgen more purposeful. All four limbs move at once, and in concert now. She predictably has a very serious look when feeding, and one of intense concentration when excreting. Her brain is building pathways and connections and putting down tracks every minute.
But as remarkable as the change in her might be, it's no less remarkable than the change I feel in myself. Many of these changes were underway in a slow and hard-to-detect way for some time, like the millennia-long drift of tectonic plates, difficult to detect under the surface. It started with getting a dog and getting married, and for the first time having other living creatures that I really care about depending on me for something. Until then it had always been Davy contra mundi, with no one for backup but me, and no one to fail or disappoint but me. But now? The dog needs walking, he really wants to go chase the ball, and if I don't do it, no one will. And having to modify everything about my life, starting with sleeping schedule and including levelling my temper, staying employed, keeping busy started with getting married.
But all that slow tectonic drifting is now in a dramatic upheaval, mountain ranges emerging from under the surface as I learn to take care of my daughter, for the moment completely dependent on me. It starts with little things, like just doing the dishes because they need to be done, instead of waiting for critical mass to get it all done at once. It carries on to planning for the future as a family, for re-aligning professional priorities for security and stability. And it includes a whole new way of thinking and experiencing the world; not just as I observe it, but also as part of a family, and as parent to a new human being. Now, what happens, what I do, what I see and how I behave don't just affect me, and don't just impact another fully capable person with her own agency in the world; but it all also makes the life of a tiny, beautiful creature either safe, nurturing, and happy or, if I fail, traumatic, scary and dangerous.
It seems unfair to paint the lives of anyone without children as "selfish" but in a sense that's exactly what it is. Not selfish in a pejorative way but just...that's who you live for if you don't have anyone depending on you, for yourself. Of course there are exceptions, people who have dedicated their lives to service even if they aren't parents, of course, of course. And of course there are parents who don't stop being selfish when their children or born, who continue to live only for themselves, and see their children only in terms of how they reflect on them. Far too many of the latter, and not nearly enough of the former. But at least for my part, it's all changed now; where once there were plains, now there are mountains, and the pyroclastic upthrust is still growing.
So yesterday morning I got up, and had coffee and bacon and french toast. Which I've certainly done before, but never seasoned with the awesome responsibility of being a good parent, leavened with the joy of love for my own child, and never before as a father, and made in recognition of that.
It was the best bacon I've ever had.