I ruined the birth of my second daughter. There, I said it. I had nine months to plan it like a bank heist, but I mucked it up. Maybe admitting it now will help turn it into a funny dinner story by the time she’s 18. Or 80. Hopefully by then the sting goes away. Things happen. Sometimes things happen in the delivery room.
When my wife told me she was pregnant for a second time, I handled it like a boss. Isn’t every father a grizzled veteran by the time the second one comes? Even though we were going to have a new baby by the time my first daughter, Libby, was 16 months old, it didn’t matter. We were still in diaper mode and watching 11 episodes of Peppa Pig early on Saturday morning. For an only child who doesn’t like change, I appreciated the continuity of the whole thing.
The first eight months and three weeks flew by. Life in Peppa Land was bliss. Our unborn baby was healthy, moved around when we read to her or played Mozart (our attempt at snobbery), and my mother-in-law only visited twice. My wife was scheduled for a C-section on Monday, April 16, so we planned a nice dinner and down time the Saturday before.
Then Saturday actually happened.
My wife, Erin, awoke to a bad stomach ache, so naturally I was worried. But when she started throwing up, she thought she had a stomach virus. Pregnant women shouldn’t be throwing up, so we packed up Libby and headed for the hospital. The nurses immediately took Erin to triage in the delivery department and said they might have to take the baby early. I balanced my concern with occupying Libby, and called my mother-in-law and asked her to come early. We originally planned for her to drive from Pennsylvania on Sunday so she could watch Libby while we stayed in the hospital.
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Erin sent me home until they knew more. A few hours later, she called and asked me to come pick her up because everything was O.K. We were still on for Monday.
That night, my stomach started to hurt too. My wife didn’t think much of it, because in three counties, I’m a known hypochondriac. On Sunday – the day before the C-section – my stomach still ached and my legs felt a bit weak. Still, my wife attributed it to nerves and said, “if you had the stomach bug, you’d have the stomach bug.” Sage advice. I spent most of the day on the sofa and worried about the next day, especially since the hospital scheduled us for 5:30 a.m. Naturally, when you’re nervous about sleeping, you don’t sleep, so I “woke up” at 4:30AM. armed with a stomachache, shaky legs, and an overnight bag.
We arrived at the hospital and shortly after, the fun began (insert sarcasm here).
As my wife waited for the doctor, I sat next to her trying not to fall asleep or let my stomach bother me. I casually asked the nurse for a cup of orange juice, and about 10 minutes later, as the doctor was coming in, my wife looked at me and her jaw dropped. She told me I was stone gray.
My worst fear since Saturday was to get sick on Monday and be useless. And on Monday at approximately 6:15 a.m., I popped up, hurriedly pushed the doctor aside like there was a pot of gold behind her, and projectile vomited in the bathroom about 6 feet shy of the toilet. I vomited four more times and then stood in the corner of the bathroom. It was the only corner unaffected by the destruction. Say hello to the stomach virus. The bout left me barely able to stagger back and crumple in my chair. My insides hurt but my legs were oddly better.
Shortly after, a nurse gave me some scrubs to put on, and my wife handed me her engagement and wedding rings to put in my top pocket. I said the top pocket, right? Yeah, the top pocket.
I tried to keep it together for the next hour as I sat next to my wife in the operating room and held my baby daughter for the first time. The surgical mask protected her from the funk, so I studied her perfect little face and bonded a bit before we went back to triage. I put my regular clothes back on once we got back and handed my wife her ring. Her beautiful gold wedding ring. Problem was, before we went in, she also handed me her one-of-a-kind specially made engagement ring. I didn’t have it, so she “gently” told me to find it before I held the baby again.
Fast forward three hours, and I was still slouched over and literally crawling the floors looking for it. Stomach viruses apparently make it hard for you to walk on two legs. The nurses all pitched in to help, and an especially nice one said, “If you did this to me, I’d put you in a ditch.”
Security eventually responded and filed a report. There’s something about the image of my wife and I sitting there with a baby on her chest and two security guards intensely and repeatedly asking the same questions. My wife was surprisingly calm even after they moved us to our permanent room. I was doomed. We spent the day with our new baby who breastfed like a champ. I went to the cafeteria for a light dinner around 6 p.m., and when I returned, my wife casually told me what type of engagement ring she wanted. My first thought was “how much do I having in savings?”
Sitting in a rocking chair with the tot on her chest, she told me it resembled the one on the floor. The one that fell out of the bottom of my pocket.
Christian Czerwinski is a PR professional and father of two daughters living in Syracuse, N.Y.