The “aha” moment

I was in an Air Emergency Transport Jet flying above a thunderstorm from Wyoming to Denver. Delirium had nearly set in after being up for over 36 hours and I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the tiny human with all the tubes and wires hanging off of him in the incubator in front of me was my son. This was 10 years ago and I had been a dad for all of six hours at this point.

It’s true what the say about the fatherly “aha” moment, or at least it was for me. I read the books, took the parenting classes and set up the nursery room. I thought about what it would feel like to “become” a father since the very moment I found out that I would be. It wasn’t ever truly real for me though until I actually laid eyes on him for the first time. That moment was brief but it smacked me in the world view like a freight train at full speed. I saw him there, tiny and vulnerable and alone as they rushed him by me in what looked like a bubble on wheels. He wasn’t moving and the nurse was using something to pump oxygen into his lungs through a mask. I was immediately overwhelmed with a profound sense of duty and responsibility and love. But that didn’t mean I had a clue what I was doing.

What happened was that they had to give my wife some anesthesia medication for the emergency cesarean and my son was inadvertently exposed to it as well. Two EpiPens and some chest compressions later he was breathing and that’s when I had my “aha” moment. As in “aha” I have to do something, I just don’t know what that is.

So I listened to the doctors and I waited for my wife to recover from surgery. The situation was under control but the concern was that if there were any further complications that our small, rural hospital would not be the best place to handle it. That’s when they told me that the safest course of action would be to fly my new baby and I to Denver.

The life flight crew were some of the most amazing and professional people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in a terrifying situation with. That said, watching the thunderheads pulsate silently beneath us as we soared towards Denver I couldn’t stop the worry in my mind that the plane would be struck down by lightning. Also I had a pounding headache but I didn’t want to ask for an aspirin and find out later that it cost me five grand.

When we touched down at DIA they rushed my son to a helicopter and put me in a cab which took about 25 minutes. The cab driver was a friendly Nigerian man who had nine kids of his own. He dropped me off and I found my way through the E.R. waiting room to the N.I.C.U on one of the top floors. At this point I didn’t know what to expect. The fact that I was on a life flight to a neonatal intensive care unit led me to believe that the situation was pretty dire. Fortunately, when I finally made it back to my son, it was quite the opposite. He was a perfectly healthy, new born baby.

All the fear, the anxiety and the drama… it turned out to be just a precautionary measure. And thank god for that. There were many babies and parents at that hospital with very real medical issues. Also though, what I mostly saw was those babies and those parents getting state of the art medical care and having very good prognosis’s.

What the situation ended up being for me was a very intense foray into fatherhood. I was thrown into the deep and told to figure out how to swim. I was alone with my son for three days and in that span I had a unique first time father bonding experience. Looking back I am only grateful for the way things went. It’s not that I think I would have been a worse father had I not started out the way I did but I know how that slap in the face made me take the job of being a dad seriously. The universe works in mysterious ways and sometimes it’s the stumbles and the accidents that get you to the right destination. I like to think that’s what this was for me. My much needed “aha” moment.