Austin Lawrence Littau was born at 1:39 on August 8, 2011. By the time he came he was no surprise, but he sure started off that way by deciding to come a few weeks early. He was 20 inches long and weighed 6 pounds, 14.75 ounces. Had he stayed to the due date he would have been a monster baby, something in the 9-pound range.
Watching my wife push out our son was an experience unlike any other. The strain and suffering she put into it, giving every ounce of her being to get the baby out safely, was an act of sheer will. I tried to coach and encourage here, but in truth I was just amazed at her drive and determination to get the baby out.
When Austin's head started to show I could sense we were close. The top of the head, covered in the waxy vernix substance that protects the baby's skin in utero, gave the top of the head a look like an old baseball. But as the head started to emerge more, so did all the colors and sounds that come with a baby's birth. I could see Austin's eyes and facial expression, him trying to struggle his way into a world unlike anything he had experienced to date. There was oxygen, light, clear sound. There was no liquid environment. Life went from being protected to being one of struggle, and he had to adapt immediately to survive. Breathe in, breathe out. And soon, start sucking in order to get the food he needed to survive.
To call the birth experience incredible sells it short. It's nothing sort of a miracle, not just what happens but how life can survive and thrive in such chaos. They let me cut the umbilical cord as a way to welcome him into the world in a way that was symbolic. Austin no longer could depend on just mom to survive; it had to depend on mom and dad. We are a team.
I tried not to cry at the joy I was experiencing. I failed. Miserably. But I did a good job holding it in. When I cry, my wife cries, and she still had to deal with getting the placenta out and all the cleanup. She needed her head in the game and she needed me to not lose it. So I cried behind her back.
Austin was taken almost immediately to the NICU (an intensive-care unit for newborns) because he was considered a preemie technically (if only by a few days). They observed him there for a while before letting him join us in the maternity ward. While he was there it was hard. They had to prick him with needles and shine bright lights on him as they examined him and kept a close eye out for infection and to make sure his lungs were working OK. He didn't care for it, but he didn't complain much. The most I could do was reach out a finger and let his little digits wrap around it, grasping me. I talked to him, telling him it was going to be OK and that we'd make sure he was safe.
I held Austin for the first time the next morning after he was released from the NICU. I cried a little. I was holding my son, my new definition of hope and joy. I rocked him, talked with him, and told him about the big family he was joining. I told him about all of the Twitter friends who were rooting him on with the #BabyLittauWatch conversation. I might have told him a little about the Giants.
I tried not to make it outwardly gooey. He didn't have a clue inside what I was saying. But I silently reaffirmed the prayer I've been saying since I found out my wife was pregnant, a prayer that I can find the will to daily be the best dad I can. Austin's birth was not the end of the pregnancy but a beginning of a promise I made long ago, long before he was conceived, that if I had the honor of doing this someday I was going to do it right.
I'm going to fail. But I'm going to do everything I can to make you proud, and show you that perfection is overrated compared to being a compassionate, thinking, learning, and growing person. That's the kind of son I hope to raise, and the kind of father I want to be. Hopefully we can do this together.
Post #54 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter