November 25, 2015 by Dadinator
I was alone.
It was late. I can’t recall how late, it had been a big day. I think it was 3 or 4 am, and the street lamps flitted by. I didn’t notice them much through the haze of exhaustion and shock. My mind was on other things.
I was numb.
Too tired to be behind the wheel. Probably too shocked to realise how tired I was. Probably worrying too much and thinking too fast to realise how shocked I was.
It was quiet.
I felt the emptiness of the car. It didn’t affect me deeply, but I noticed it. The seat beside me was empty. The seats behind me were empty. After all that had just happened, to be away left me feeling empty.
I was alone.
But the emptiness was floating in the currents of other feelings, while outside my car, outside my own sphere and outside my own head the world just rolled on, unchanged and unaffected. Everything looked the same. My heart kept beating and I kept breathing.
It didn’t feel right. Hours ago the loneliness in my life just took a massive hit. It is harder to be alone when there are more of you, and there was more of us. I was a dad. I had a son. Our family went from two to three.
But, at that moment in that car, on that drive, I was alone. And it didn’t feel right.
It didn’t feel right to leave, to let The Mamanator (who’d only just been made The Mamanator), bleed on a hospital bed. It didn’t feel right to leave the tiny, pink fuzzy headed little boy without his father for the night. It didn’t feel right for kilometres to now be growing between our newly made family unit.
But I had to go. And the reasons for it were reasonable, sensible and fair. I was a man in the Royal Women’s Hospital. The patients of the hospital were my wife and my son, not me. I was a visitor. Besides which, the hospital was full. Not kidding about that, it was seriously full. My son spent his first night in an overflow room on the oncology ward because the maternity ward was full. He and my wife were a shared room, other mothers and other brand new babies didn’t want some strange man around.
I didn’t really know what I was missing at that stage. The cooing; the smell; the staring in the half-open eyes; the excitement of any movement in the mouth that might resemble a smile; the incessant hip sway; the crying; the fear; the overwhelming sense of inadequacy. That was all to come. I didn’t know about it yet.
But somehow I missed it. I missed him. Little barely formed bag of skin that he was. All those things I hadn’t experienced before, I missed them. I missed him. I missed the son I’d seen for the first time only a few hours before. I wanted to hold onto his face in my mind, haggard and exhausted as it was, make sure I didn’t confuse or somehow smudge the memory of him. I wanted to hold onto the whole experience, which continued to streak away from me in both time and space as I drove home.
It didn’t feel right. The lights on the street, the trees, the traffic even the bitumen should have been screaming at the top of its voice “you have a son!”. The world should have stopped turning in that moment with the magnitude of what had happened. Time stood still, I was sure of it.
Yet here, in the car, alone the world seemed cold and unchanged. And I was dazed, dissatisfied and guilty. Terribly guilty. I felt like I was slinking away, abandoning them on the first night. Fleeing to bed and to sleep alone while she lay there, sore and bloody. While he lay there, helplessly tiny in this world that didn’t stop for him.
And maybe just I needed to man up. Maybe it was not my place to be there on that first night, leave him bond with his mother and let them have some special time together. Maybe I was being precious, and this was just something I’d have to get used to as the breadwinner, as the man of this house. The one who goes away.
And of course life rolled on, and I have earned the title of “dad”. I rocked him to sleep, I sung to him and spoke to him. I got covered in various bodily fluids. I held him and squeezed him. I kissed him and my tears of joy fell on his head. I cried, I yelled I felt anger and fear, I felt pride and I felt bliss. It was only the start, the real journey was and is still yet to come, and it goes on still ever-changing.
And I spend time away from them now. I work. I treasure the weekends, the holidays and the nights we don’t have meetings. I rush in the morning to get myself organised and then drive off. I return to fanfare as the kids scream “daddy!” to the man who wishes he was there more but knows he cannot be.
But back in that car. In the dark, one simple fact will remain with me forever:
The first night he breathed the air was my first night away from him.
This post was inspired by a Facebook post by Em Rusciano which I’ve embedded below, which made me think about the times I’ve been away from my children, especially this first time.
I also have to say that with The Lass (2 years ago) I got to stay in hospital with The Mamanator and her, and it was wonderful!