Jerry Chan’s Baby Blog — Chapter 2
Describing the feeling of what it’s like waiting at the hospital for the birth of your firstborn child is like positing what the color purple tastes like – you can roughly imagine the nervous excitement coupled with sheer terror, but trying to put it all into words is utterly futile. I was handed a small stack of documents, all in Chinese (save for one with some rather alarming-looking English medical terms like “HIV,” “Thrombosis,” and “hemorrhage,”), which I signed in a flustered flurry, half-suspecting that I was surrendering any and all form of liability on their part should something go terribly wrong with her heart. By the time I watched my wife, looking utterly pale and wearing one of those operating room shower caps, get wheeled away on a stretcher, I felt very much like vomiting, or jumping out the window, or both.
By choosing a c-section, had we just signed away her life? It was too late to wonder now.
PKMU does not allow family members to be present during the procedure, so we were sent directly to the fifth floor, where my wife’s hospital room awaited. “You guys are lucky,” we were told by the laconic-looking nightshift nurse, “someone just checked out and this is the only room left in the te qu (特区) ward earlier this evening – otherwise, you would have gone to the regular ward [where it’s typically eight to a room].” Absolutely un-reassured, we camped out in the waiting area just outside her room beneath a giant digital clock with big, red numerals that read 1:45am.
Meanwhile my wife was lying half doped up on the operating room table awaiting that fateful first slice. Scared out of her mind, she would later tell us about this Dr. Nick Riviera-esque conversation she overheard between the attending surgeons:
Surgeon A: “Man, I thought we’d have a quiet one tonight.”
Surgeon B: “Yeah, I guess we won’t be getting any sleep for a while.”
Surgeon A: “Oh … hey … I think she’s still awake!”
Attendant: “Reeeeelax! What are you so nervous about?”
Some other unknown voice: “Wow, look at the stomach on you! No stretch marks! What kind of lotion have you been using?”
My wife: “Uh … I really can’t remember right now …do you happen to have any stronger kind of pain killer?”
Surgeon: “Nope!” (promptly making first incision)*
Back upstairs, my bleary-eyed in-laws and I were perched on our seats intermittently glancing up on the big red clock, which seemed to get slower by the minute. I thumbed through Time’s “Man of the Year” issue and read all about how swell 2007 was for Vladimir Putin. It occurred to me that from then on, I would never quite think of the steely-eyed Russian leader in quite the same context again.
2:00am came and went. Then 2:20. By 2:40 I was getting fidgety and caught myself pacing like a caricature father-to-be in a 1950s sitcom. When 3:00am rolled around my inner cynic took over and I began mulling over all the horrible things that could happen and what we’d have to do to deal with it. By this point my eyes were so bleary, they were tearing up, and as I slunk back down in my chair, I literally banged the back of my head against the cold granite pillar, which somewhat jarred me back into consciousness. A few agonizing minutes later, I had to move again, so up I lurched and ambled towards our bathroom to wash my face and gather my wits. The clock read 3:37am.
And then she came. When I opened the bathroom door and turned to walk out of our hospital room, I saw two nurses walking purposefully towards us. One of them was holding a bundle in her arms. It took me a moment to realize that no, these were not more pillows, nor were they more liability waiver forms to sign. This was, in fact, our living, breathing, healthy baby, at last.
The nurses filed past me into the room with my in-laws in hot pursuit (“Boy or girl? Boy or girl?” they were bellowing). I did an abrupt about face, leaped back into the room and leaned in to behold the most unforgettable sight of my life: my own furrowed eyes and eyebrows, miniaturized on a tiny head no bigger than my fist, staring right back up at me.
*We would also find out later that my wife’s heart did, in fact, flare up during the procedure – reaching as fast as 120 beats per minute – but the doctors were able to slow it back down with a shot.