By now, you’ve all seen the video of us bringing our son home for the first time. And it was every bit as wonderful as the musical scoring made it seem. But boy, ladies and gentleman, are there stories to tell. If you’ll indulge a new father, I want to give you the inside scoop on what it’s really like to become a father.
3:00 a.m., November 9, 2015. Dom and I have slept just a few hours before our alarm screams its artificial sun onto our faces and into our ears. We wake, quickly shower and get into the car, a new 2016 Subaru Forester on which we’ve just made our first payment. We are dads-to-be after all, and the days of our two-door Scion have come and now today, gone.
3:45 a.m. We are on the road. We are driving to the home of the biological mother of our child, a to-be-named boy whose birthday we are all, however unceremoniously, celebrating together. As we drive silently towards her home, I find myself reflecting on the road to this moment. Over the course of the last four months, I have ingratiated and familiarized myself with Bio Mom, in an effort to get her to buy into this pregnancy, to make us friends so that she will continue to keep pre-natal appointments; this plan has mostly failed, save for the fact that she now regards me as a friend. The trust I have earned from this woman is sufficient that she has asked something huge of me. She has requested that I be in the room with her during her surgery, seated at her head while the baby for whom I’ve waited a lifetime enters the world for his first breaths. Everything I have done with her has been for the baby, all for the sake of this child, and in some instances, at the expense of my own physical and mental well-being. I don’t hesitate for a moment before accepting Bio Mom’s request.
4:45 a.m. Bio Mom as well as Bio Dad have taken their places in our backseat. Their reflections bob and weave with the road in front of and behind me. The insertion of Bio Dad was an x-factor that arose within the final two weeks preceding labor. As they are no longer together, we had been told by our Bio Mom that the biological father wasn’t initially supportive of the adoption plan, and we anticipated having to wait 60-90 days after the birth of the baby to have his rights terminated by a judge, and only then proceed with finalizing the adoption. That Bio Dad and Bio Mom were suddenly back together was a stressor in every way you can imagine. In every way. But after they rekindled their relationship, and discussed it together, and after he met me and my husband, he had decided to acquiesce and support the adoption plan after all. They ask for the list of names we’ve considered. We give them, in no order, Alexander, Gabriel, Henry, Lucas, Milo.
5:15 a.m. I realize that the “Glee” music I’ve programmed into my phone to help relax and comfort Bio Mom has started repeating itself. (She, like me, at some point identified as a “Gleek.") As Cory Monteith and Lea Michele tell us all not to stop believing, we find ourselves pulling into Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. Dom drops Bio Folks and me at the front door and parks the car. We enter together. She is taken back immediately, Bio Dad in tow.
6:00 a.m. I have been brought into a room with Bio Mom, where she is told to undress, and change into hospital scrubs. I see her bare behind, and she knows it. And I pay her a compliment that I have not paid a girl since sophomore year of college when I say, “I’d never know you were pregnant by looking at your butt.” She laughs, we are both red-faced, and as per my norm, injected levity lightens the tension for other people.
7:00 a.m. I have left Bio Mom and Bio Dad in the surgical waiting room. Dom and I wait, half-asleep in the normal waiting room. News reports come and go, telling us about the normalness of this Monday. There is traffic somewhere in the world; there has been an accident somewhere else. My eyes are swimming, I am so tired, and so scared, and so nervous. The weather is coming up next, and I realize it won’t matter because it won’t rain or snow or shine in the delivery room, there will only be me and terror and birth and sadness.
7:30 a.m. I am summoned from the waiting room and given a hospital band bearing Bio Mom’s name. It is a band I will not be allowed to remove for over a week. I hug my husband, I shake the hand of Bio Dad, and I am brought further into the depths of the hospital. I will do this for my family, not out of some desperate biological longing to be among the first to hear my child cry. (All things considered, I am wracked with guilt for being in the room instead of Dom.) But I will do it because it is what Bio Mom needs. This theme is one that has existed behind the emerald curtain in our own bizarre Oz for four months. Strategically, you’ve been kept out of those politics and furtive leaps from lily pad to lily pad. And there will always be parts of this story that will need to remain untold, because the way we shape things can become the reality, for worse or for better.
7:45 a.m. I am wearing a hospital cap, scrubs, pants, and shoe covers. I am sitting just outside the operating room, waiting for the team to bring me into the room, to sit next to Bio Mom during the surgery. Nurses and doctors walk calmly past me to the scrub-in station, lathering from fingertip to elbow, allowing the water to drip down their arms and into the tub. Whether it is the two hours of sleep that is driving me forward, the adrenaline for what I am about to experience, or the anticipation of my son’s birth, I am not nervous.
7:47 a.m. I am walking into a room filled with bright light and doctors, beeps and boops, and the world I’ve known is left waiting behind me, a relic of another time. And before the doors close behind me, I ask myself a final question: Is this what it’s like to be born?
Read the second part of Anthony Romeo’s series here.