Sitting in the waiting room, which is what every room that wasn’t the room that would bring us Zoey could be called, everything felt ordinary. We knew the name, the sex, even the time it was supposed to happen. When a young doctor, his hairline still bold enough to creep past his hairnet, told us that the surgery might be delayed, it felt reassuring instead of inconvenient. Life didn’t just come as planned; it sprung unexpectedly.
At 12:25 pm, because the exact time is important, little Zoey was born, at that moment still being spelled as Zoë.
When the nurse brought her from behind the curtain that separated us from the scalpels, scissors, gloves, and careful hands that pried her loose from her mom’s belly, a new life entered our own—a transaction with a warranty, the price of one glance purchasing a lifetime of love and care.
Zoey is six pounds and eleven ounces, another precise number that becomes important at birth. Her face, now still swollen, with eyes too smart to open before they need to, will one day become defining, worth a picture of words, but for now, like all babies, barely distinguishable, a body feature, like her hands and feet, all summarized by her weight. Six pounds and eleven ounces: that is Zoey and not the baby in the next room at eight pounds and twelve ounces; or Livy, who came in at six pounds and eight ounces.
After surgery, one of the doctor’s came by to check on Em and the baby. He looked young, not to suggest inexperience, only to remind how quickly life finds meaning. I overheard him talking during surgery, telling another doctor he went to Westminster in Simsbury, a private high school costing $40,000 per year to enroll. I pictured his parents, once in our position, and how their hopes and investment had paid in bringing him to be our doctor.
When the doctor left, he said good luck, as he is required to do, but undoubtedly more accustomed to hearing. I thought about how routine the whole thing must seem to him now, and I resented that, either because I knew of his affluence and projected that delicate things were always overlooked by him, or because it stung me, the obvious singularity of our experience an itch that a routine procedure swells.
The first night was peaceful; a reminder of how still things can be with a baby versus a two-year-old. Zoey moved her face, one way to hint hunger, another to awaken our senses to a dirty diaper, each movement under close scrutiny. She wore a striped hat, as all newborns inherit upon birth. Her onesie had long sleeves, promising her little arms a place to grow. It’s convenient that her nose is her most developed feature—her mom’s finger constantly pushing at it, like a button. My mom had nicknamed me ‘button’ because I was as cute as a button.
The hallway to our maternity room waited for orders: a single line of baby carriers searched for new life; towels, blankets, and swaddle cloth longed for spots to clean, bodies to warm, and babies to comfort; food treys, some covered with food, others stacked with empty dishes, rested near doorways, patiently; a nurse, wearing the end of her shift snug around her body, shrugged by a computer, reading her next assignment.
As I walked to our room—632—at the end of the hall, trying not to glance too far into other people’s rooms, I found a shared experience. Nobody talked to each other; each mom deserved their privacy, except when they forfeited it completely, breast feeding in front of visitors and nurses and the lady cleaning out the linen. We didn’t need to talk to each other, as we wouldn’t when we left the maternity wing with our babies snug in their car seats, dads carrying bags stuffed with extra diapers and towels that act like shampoo and conditioner bottles at hotels—sort of free. What we shared was unsaid, until we are ready to talk about it politely, like the mom on the elevator who saw Livy, asked if Zoey was a girl, and immediately told us she had four girls. A parent of girls—we shared something.
All the nurses who took care of us were so nice, a repeated phrase from everyone who stays at the hospital. Despite it being their job, and unlike the doctor who assisted in the C-section, they refuse to let the repeated melody of babies moving their arms, squinting their eyes, perking their lips, and doing, simply, anything that signifies new life and excites new parents, fall out of tune. They hum along, while changing IVs, bed pans, soiled sheets, and diapers. They sing the song for each parent, reminding them, kindly, that their baby is unique and adorable.
We struggled with the spelling of Zoey. At first it was Zoe, spelled like Joe, but pronounced like Zo-E. Then we got grammatical, adding a dieresis over e to make Zoë. Finally, we settled on Zoey. The executive power of being parents flexing its muscle. With the swipe of a pen in filling out her birth certificate form we changed so many more swipes of the pen by Zoey. Instead of dotting her e, she will now loop her y when writing her name on the top of spiral notepads in school, on exams she is nervous about taking, on doctor’s forms—oh, there will be plenty of forms—field trip forms, job application forms, online forms, marriage license forms, credit card forms, forms, forms, forms, all requiring her full name, some asking it to be printed on straight lines and others dashed lines, as she will oblige, with her pen now being told to reach below each line to loop that y.
It is different having Zoey after Livy. On the first night, after realizing Zoey’s diaper was full, I tried changing her using the practiced steps I mastered with Livy. I had forgotten how easily newborns can pee when exposed to open air, a reminder that manifested as a soaked bedsheet and wet onesie. Emily asked if I wanted to call the nurse, a plea for help that I would have jumped on with Livy, but now, experienced parent that I am, I calmly dried off Zoey, changed her onesie, and then replaced the damp bedsheet.
Our world stopped, but the rest of the world didn’t when Zoey was born. The stock market plunged, washing away years of growth, worries of China’s economy left clogging the drain. Migrants and refugees continue to flee war-torn countries, many from Syria, a humanitarian crisis that the international community sees, and ignores.
For me, the refugee crisis puts in context the luxury that we afford Zoey from the moment she kicked out of her mom’s belly; she has a home, in a neighborhood never challenged or forced to shrink in sight of a threatening force, with food stocked in the refrigerator, some which will go bad, thrown away, a giant Brita sitting on the top shelf, cleaning already drinkable water.
As nurses took care of Emily, shaking the puff back into her pillow, bringing her water with fresh ice, taking Zoey’s vitals, the beep of their instruments alerting us to a healthy reading, I thought about their backgrounds and what brought them here to share this moment in our life.
One of the nurses was from Peru; she seemed pleased we had asked enough questions to learn her birthplace, details of coming to Hartford eighteen years earlier spilling out, emptying my fear that she would be offended by our curiosity of her ethnicity. She talked about her life before moving to America, as a midwife outside of Lima, where her responsibilities were widespread in their local hospital, and now that she is here, she is happy with the life she has built, but despite her previous working experience, in a new system, she can’t do what she knows she can do better than the people she assists.
Having Zoey in Hartford Hospital brought a mix of nurses, from different parts of Connecticut and the world. I thought about the babies born within a few feet of each other, perhaps lifted to life by the same doctor’s hands, squinting under the same fluorescent light, yet, destined to such different fates. A nurse from Peru, a doctor from Simsbury, one with a dream realized in a poor Hartford apartment with quick access to the hospital where she would make an American living, another the product of a private school that left students out of their monthly newsletter announcements if they hadn’t gone to Harvard.
On the final night, a nurse who had just lost her father took care of us. Her stories—which she broadcast like turning on the television ten past the hour, her audience, changing from room to room, not sure where she started, but caught in the plot now—indicated that her father lived a very full life. She talked about him with urgency, his old age requiring it to wrestle the natural attention that a newborn stole with such ease. Her father fought in World War II, became a teacher at age 88, and built endless memories in between; his daughter’s stories keeping him relevant now. Little Zoey didn’t require a story, none of the babies on the floor did; their new life enough to demand urgency from everyone in their presence. I found myself wishing that we treated the care units for the elderly like we do for maternity.
Zoey’s first few days have been obsessed with sleep, her head tilted back, mouth wide open, not wanting to miss a free breath this new world finally guarantees. After two straight days of sleeping 22-23 hours, I googled “newborns who sleep too much” out of concern. The internet told me it was normal, as long as she is feeding, peeing, and pooping. Suddenly my own laziness felt healthy.
The week Zoey was born is forever special because it marks the beginning of something. These first few days will find convenient locations in our brains so later we can easily find their memories, perhaps at a reflective moment, like a wedding or graduation, or simply on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon when staring out the window can set our third eye’s sight on a random thought.
What I am most curious about now is what Zoey will look like. Livy has developed into a beautiful girl—yes, already—with her great big eyes as curious as her heart and wavy blonde hair that dances as she runs. Looking at baby pictures of Liv, the ones hanging in our house from a mall photo shoot that made me look like a goof, she takes on a different body. Baby Livy is not little girl Livy, she’s totally different. Knowing this happens, baby Zoey feels like a guest to the real person we are waiting to meet.
From the moment Zoey was born, responsibility hustled, the need to change her diaper and keep her fed and safe and warm quickly apparent. What I find myself struggling with beyond that obvious role as a dad is finding new space in my heart that hasn’t already been reserved by Livy’s tugging hand and baby-teeth smile. The past 30 months of my life has been a love story, romantic even. Each day I have fallen in love with Livy more. She stole my heart. It’s a strange feeling, but a logical one: how do I give my heart to Zoey in the same capacity as Livy when I just met Zoey? I’m working on that.
Plenty of ink has been wasted about becoming a new parent; and each child that comes—whether it is the first with all the balloons and congratulatory calls, or the second when everything is celebrated by people a little less—makes you a new parent again. A new reality confronts you, its reputation preceding, making it easy to feel anxious before arriving. Now that Zoey is here, her eyes still negotiating with the real world’s light, as Livy stipulates demands for compromising her jealousy, the worry of having two small kids at once feels overstated.
We survived the first week—a favorite new parent saying. For me and Emily, so far, we see it different; the first week was easy. Together, as we always have, we can handle anything, especially anything wrapped in good health.
It’s a strange world that Zoey enters; the mets are good.
Her birth week an exclamation mark to one of the wildest months in team history. From the four days before Zoey’s birth to the two days following, the Mets won seven games in a row. In doing so, they broke a franchise record in scoring 73 runs during that stretch. An offense that penciled in pitchers with batting averages higher than many of their everyday hitters forty days ago, has been completely transformed; when Travis d’Arnaud connected for a home run in Philadelphia, it was the team’s 43rd home run in August, a franchise best for one month.
Of course, if you read this blog or know me just a little bit, you know my relationship with the Boston Red Sox—a tortured one. But this year is different! If the standings hold, and they should at this point, it will be only the third time in 54 years that the Mets will have a winning season in the same year the Red Sox have a losing one.
There have been seasons when the Mets have been better than the Red Sox—1986!—and despite recent struggles, the Mets have outpaced them in three of the past four seasons, but never with such a gap as 2015 promises.
Ironic enough, Zoey’s first weekend home brought the Red Sox to Citi Field for a rare interleague match-up, one that, despite the diverging paths of the two teams, still gave the Sox a series victory; the Mets salvaging the final game of the series on Sunday after Jeurys Familia made everyone sweat while escaping a jam in the 9th.
Three years after I was born, and two weeks before Emily’s birthdate, the Mets beat the Red Sox in dramatic fashion to win the World Series. Perhaps it is a sign that Zoey would arrive with the Mets facing my local nemesis in a season they have finally returned to competitiveness.
Zoey is here and the Mets are in first place—celebrate!
That does it for this week!