• Byron Hagan

The Day My Son Was Born (Originally Published Dec 13, 2018)

I was in the shower when I got the call from my wife.

“Babe, I think you need to call out of work!”

Water cascaded down my face as I realized what she what she meant.

“Are you serious?! Its happening now?” I asked, joyfully, almost unbelieving.

“Yes!” Her words almost quivered with tears.

It had happened. My wife’s water had broke, 2 weeks early.

I have to give her credit, as I scrambled to dry off and get dressed, Karen was walking the seven blocks up from her work at Memorial Sloan Kettering to Cornell; again, after her water had broken. Apparently when she arrived, she bewildered the front desk staff after informing them of her situation, and that she was fine; contractions hadn’t yet started.

As I walked over to the tram from our apartment on Roosevelt Island, I began to make calls and text my mom, my dad, my grandmother and my closest friends. I’m seeing my whole life ahead of me. Changing diapers, finding the best school, he starts dating, baseball, swim class, graduation, he gets married, grandchildren. All of it makes me start to shiver with so many emotions. I come back to the present as I am lifted up over the East River by the Roosevelt Island tramway. When I first started using the tram, I almost couldn’t stand it as I have a very hard time with heights. At this point, however, I manage it quite well after so many times.

I walked the 7 blocks up from the tram to Cornell Hospital where we

are going to deliver our son. It’s warm summer day in late July; July 30th, in fact. After I reach the entrance to Cornell in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I feel even more adrenalized. I manage to find my way to triage where my wife is waiting for me. No progress yet. He seems in no rush to come out.

Since we know at this point we have no reason to rush, I'm able to get back home to our apartment across the East River and collect our overnight bags. One thing you have to understand about my wife, she's organized enough for the two of us. She even has plans to spring for a private room after the birth, which they had available thankfully.

The hours leading up to a birth are incredibly surreal. You're waiting for something you know is coming, but you still don't know exactly when. Imagine the moment before you get released on the giant slingshot ride at the carnival, but that feeling lasts for 15 hours or so. For a good portion of the night, there was still no progress and Karen couldn't have any solid foods, so she subsisted on a steady stream of chicken broth, jello and ice chips. She cursed not having eaten anything before her water broke around 11am.

Over the course of about 4 or 5 hours, we watched a lot of Family Feud on the Game Show Network, while her parents and sister came in and out of the room.  They wouldn't let more than two of us in the room at one time so we traded off every often. Now, if you haven't stayed up to date on what's happening over on Family Feud these days, you should. This game show became a favorite activity on our family's latest summer trip to Wildwood, NJ, when we weren't on the beach or having dinner at 9PM. By the way, if you ever go there, go to The Jellyfish Cafe for breakfast, it's the best thing ever.

At a certain point, we can tell our son is in no hurry to start contractions, so they have to be induced a little. Once, they start and my wife has her epidural, it's off to the races. Now, you might actually be expecting me to describe a harrowing account of violent contractions like you see in the movies, the wife is sweaty, red, eyes bulging, yelling "You did this to me!" and the husband faints or something. It was nothing like that really. The staff seemed really impressed with how Karen was handling everything. All her time working as a pediatric nurse was coming in handy in this moment, it seemed. It wasn't really until she was very dilated, within about an hour or two of pushing, did she become nauseous. Maybe it was the combination of me being in a hospital and being anxious about everything going smoothly, but apparently, I don't do well with the sound of someone else vomiting. I think this was a new development for me.

Once it's go time, only myself and Karen's mother is in the room with us, along with 3 or 4 additional staff. I had the idea that, since I didn't want to have a camera going, because I wanted to stay in the moment with her, I turned on the audio record feature on my IPhone and set it down. Now, one question I think every new father asks himself in this moment, if he hasn't beforehand, other than "Will everything be ok?" is "Sh...Should I look?" I still remember watching that one video in health class in high school and that image is definitely burned in my brain forever, and here it is about to happen right in front of me. Before I really get to completely make up my mind, we start pushing. The attending nurse assigns me to my wife's left leg while she has the right. So here I am, with a birds eye view. I don't know how every dad reacts to this moment, but for me, having thought for sure I would get woozy and pass out, I really only felt my heart beating in my chest and this profound sense of the love I have for this woman. Your sense of time also becomes very pronounced, meaning you have this heightened awareness of how much or little time has passed since you were at Point A (the first time you met her) and Point B (You're both having a child together, like, right now!). Even as I write this, my son is 4 months old and gives me a big happy smile every time I stop writing and turn to look at him. 

Now, most people's babies are not that cute. I know we all try to gush and say nice things about people's kids, especially when they force us to sit there and listen to them yap about how great their kids are. Like George Carlin said, "Nobody cares about your children, that's why their YOUR children!". However, if you'll indulge me for just moment. This kid came out REALLY good looking! Like both of us were a little surprised. I know were both biased because we're his mom and dad, but I think we have a level of objectivity when we say, this kid is a really beautiful baby. Doesn't look like a troll at all, at least after the goop was cleaned off. By the way, he was born July 31st, which is Harry Potter's birthday!

I want to say this to him now, in case he ever reads these blogs years later. Thomas, from the first moment I held you in my arms, I loved you more than I've ever loved anything. In one short year, I got to marry your mom, and then we both got to meet you. You looked at me for the first time and I could swear you smiled at me. They say babies that young can't smile, but you did.

These past months have been a whirlwind. My wife is back to work while I sit here at home with him. I still work, but part-time at a hotel as well as catering. I have made adjustments and focus now more on writing, but still devote myself to the craft of acting when I can. I'll talk about being a struggling actor dad in a later post! For now, I remain devoted to my new family, and just take each beautiful day one at a time.

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