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Hello Louis

This is the moment.

You’re here. It becomes real now. I watched Anna get big. I watched her sing to you, talk to you. I felt your legs kick as I touched from outside. It was real, but it was distant. This is the moment it changes. That’s the way it works for dads. Mums bond for the whole 40 weeks. For dads, it’s when they first hold their baby. In an instant, I’m told. This is the moment.

It’s been 9 hours in this dark room. Apparently that’s quick. It felt like forever. I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad it’s over for Anna. That was a lot.

They’re blowing on your face.
“Come on, let us hear your voice!”
You’ve only been here for a few seconds.
Should I be worr- You let out a cry. Your voice!

They turn the lights on, lay you and your mum on the bed. Oh my god – you’re here.

I’m taking it in, taking you in, you with your mumma, and here with us.

The nurse asks something about a needle. We didn’t want this one. We didn’t want much of what they did today. I try find the word “wait”, but they put the needle in.

Oh well, you’re here. You’re lying on your mumma’s tummy. It’s perfect.

I can’t wait to hold you, but there’s no way I am interrupting this moment.

But the moment is not peaceful like I imagined, the nurses are getting anxious. I hope you’re not stressed. This is your first experience of our world. It’s loud. It’s bright. People are rushing.

One of them starts shouting and a siren goes off. A dozen people come running. There’s people everywhere. Noise. One of the nurses picks you up. There’s so much noise. So many people. I hear so many things, I only catch some of it.

“Time for a cuddle with Dad”
“…the placenta is…”
“trying to save your life”
“this is going to hurt, but we’re saving your life”

I’m holding you for the first time. This is the moment, but this is not it.

I look at Anna, she’s got fear in her eyes. I look at her body, there is blood everywhere. So much blood. It’s like a gunshot wound.

I feel the fear too.

I look down at your eyes. You’re squinting in the light. It’s so bright out here. So loud. But you’re calm, you’re not crying. I think you’re the only one here not crying or yelling.

You’re so tiny.

I squeeze you a bit tighter. Too tight? I haven’t held many babies. I thought I would be nervous about this, but I find my confidence quickly. You’re here and you’re mine and I’m holding you. I’ll hold you your whole life. I love you.

Your eyes settle on my face. I squeeze you a little tighter, and lean you into my bare chest. I don’t even remember taking my shirt off. I cover your ears, turn your eyes from the light, try to shield you. I want to protect you.

I want to protect your mum. I look over again, there’s a big nurse putting her whole weight onto Anna’s torso. She’s crying out in pain. The blood is everywhere. It dawns on me: she might not make it. There’s even more people now. One of them is putting a clipboard in front of her face and asking her to sign.

I make eye contact with your mumma. So much love. We’re both scared. Everyone is still shouting. They start to wheel her out on the bed. All the nurses and midwives and doctors go with her.

Suddenly I’m in the bright cold room, just with you. It’s quiet. You’re still squinting, looking around. At me, at the lights. Struggling to focus those brand new eyes. You’re so quiet. Peaceful.

“It’s just you and me mate”.

I’m talking about the room, calm and silent. But I’m also bracing for the possibility, the fear… I had never planned for that. I am crying. Holding you tight.

“I love you”.

As your eyes continue to wander around the wall, over my face, onto the lights, and I keep holding your tiny body tight to my chest… I know I would do anything to keep you safe. Even if it’s just you and me. There’s a deep well of strength I find inside – I didn’t know it was there, but it’s enough.

This is the moment.

Photo of my holding baby Louis, a day old, on a hospital bed.
Me and Louis, the day after this story.
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“Ode to Those First Fifteen Minutes After the Kids Are Finally Asleep” by Clint Smith

I belly laughed listening to this poem from Clint Smith. Very relatable as a parent of young ones. (It was part of a wider interview with him on the On Being podcast. I haven’t finished listening to it yet but after this poem I already loved the guy.)