Guest Post: “How I Became a Father” by Maxwell Gariety
Welcome to my first guest post! Written by my dear loving husband, Max. This is his version of my delivery story. Don’t worry, his version is a lot happier than mine was. Hope you enjoy 🙂
“Good morning! Or afternoon. Or evening. Or even good night, that could be possible too! As you can probably tell by the writing, I’m not Janai. I’m her husband, Max. A little while ago she told a particularly heart-wrenching story that was equal parts beauty and horror: the story of her labor with our son. While there was a certain amount of horror and despair on my end as well, I think that everyone would benefit from hearing another side to this story. One that, while there are scary parts, is empowering and literally helped me come closer to God.
This is a story of how I became a father.
As Janai mentioned in her post, she went into inactive labor about a week before she actually gave birth. She had been having painful contractions all week that we tried to induce every day by going on walks, but as the week went on those walks got progressively shorter and shorter, all the while I got more and more nervous. When one knows a life change of this magnitude is coming, one questions some things about himself: “Am I ready? How will I adjust? Am I good enough? Can I support another person?” You’ll notice that these thoughts were somewhat self-centered as I couldn’t even fathom what my angel wife was going through. Nevertheless, the nerves and fear always broke through to excitement and impatience.
Janai’s mother arrived that Saturday. The usual stress of having in-laws over ensued (although, thankfully, I would say that the stress that my in-laws bring is enormously less than that of pretty much any other couple that I know due to my great relationship with them) and we could feel the hour drawing near. Sunday morning we went to church, but left very shortly after arriving. How could we stay when my wife could hardly move without intense pain? We went to the hospital that morning when the contractions were consistently two minutes apart. The nurse said that Janai wasn’t quite ready but that she’d be surprised if she didn’t see us tonight. We drove home and ran into our upstairs neighbors, who had had their baby a few weeks prior. They recommended that Janai just sit and bounce on their excercise ball as that would help labor.
Now I tell you all of this detail not to bore you or even to give you context, but to illustrate the great detail with which I remember it. All I could think of was the child of God that would be soon entrusted to us, and my darling wife, whose well-being was ever present in my mind. I was at her beck and call and I could feel her pain and stress like a physical thing, the same way you feel rain or sunshine. I was even more jumpy than she was! I was ready to rush out the door like a madman and floor it to the hospital like it was nobody’s business. Needless to say, not only was I a wreck, I was a wreck with a purpose.
So, like magic, the bouncing worked and we headed off to the hospital again. Little did I know that this drive was the eye of the hurricane. Chaos before and even more chaos after. When we got there, we settled down in a room and Janai got the epidural as quickly as they would let her, so great was her pain. The only other relief she had was when someone (me) pressed on her legs, bent at the knee, and back straight towards her. That was me for about two hours. Despite physical exhaustion and mental fatigue, I had to be there for my wife. Where the pain and labor were taking her, I couldn’t follow. I did my best to be right beside her, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t help her feel better. So I pushed. That is until the nurses came in and forced her into another bed and into another room. But let’s not get hung up on that story.
Eventually, it was time for sleep. Janai was managing her pain, at least it seemed to me to be so. I tried to rest until her pain got so great she was screaming. And we were awake. I was there, holding her hand. Breathing with her. She pushed for what seemed like days. The whole time my mind and heart were breaking because of her cries. “Heavenly Father,” she would scream, “please help me”. And as I tried to comfort her, I understood that she couldn’t even hear me anymore. She was beyond me and my help. The pain had taken her away from me. My heart sank and tears welled up in my eyes as I kept breathing with her and encouraging her to follow the example. It was all I could do. I was helpless. When her own doctor got there and essentially told Janai she needed a C-Section, my heart sank even further. They had to cut my angel open? How was this fair?! How could this be, when all she has ever done was try to help others and serve God? How could He let this happen? It wasn’t fair and I wasn’t going to stand for it! And as I prayed I told as much to my Heavenly Father, who responded by calming my heart and extinguishing my rage. Janai begged for the C-Section.
As the doctor left to get the anesthesiologist, I broke. My Janai had been taken away from me, and I had never felt so alone. She was in pain, no – agony. And I couldn’t reach her. And I was alone. I could see in Janai’s mother’s eyes the same despair I felt. There was nothing. When the doctor came back in to bring Janai to the OR, he said that one of us could join her to be with her. I was torn in two. “I can’t watch them cut her open” I cried to my mother-in-law. “I’m not strong enough…” however she refused to take that and gently but firmly told me that I had to be there with my wife. And for that I will be forever grateful.
As we walked into the OR, I saw Janai there and I sat by her head, stroking her hair and being as alert as I could. In my mind, even though I was powerless, I needed to protect her. I saw her with the tube down her throat and I cried some more. I felt even more helpless. But God can take even the most desperate situations and make them glorious. I sat there for about ten minutes and I heard a cry. It was the cry of a very unhappy newborn. Something happened in that split moment. It was less than that. I was completely changed by that sound in so little time I’m almost surprised I was ever different. In that split instant I knew.
I knew he was mine. And I was his. And my job was to protect him, even more than it was to protect Janai.
They brought him over to the table where they measured, weighed and cleaned him off. We put him in a bassinette and rolled him to another room where we put a heat lamp over him and bundled him up. They took a blood test and sucked all the gunk out of his lungs. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop stroking his head and saying, “Hey there, Bryan Thomas. It’s me, your dad.” The only time he stopped crying in the first hour of his life was when I was there holding his hand and telling him I loved him. I bundled him up and carried him out of that room to where Janai would be sleeping.
Her mother was there, but she wasn’t, yet. I held him close, and couldn’t imagine letting him go. I was finally complete, though up until that point I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t. And when Janai’s mother asked to hold him it felt like…. Well… You know that feeling that you get when someone you love goes away and you know it will be a very very long time before you see them again? Imagine that, only about ten times worse. My heart was ripped apart, only to be restored when I could hold him again. Soon after Janai came back and I was able to introduce her to her new son. The pure joy I felt in that room as my family was completed was unlike anything I had ever experienced or have since felt.
And that’s how I became a father.”