August 1, 2017, was one of the most beautiful days of my life. That’s when our beautiful daughter Elif Marvel was born. We looked forward to having her for 39 weeks and 1 day, and there she was. The little bug who immediately became the center of attention in our little family.
Up till that point, life was “just” about the wife and me. Us. Two people. That began to change during Esma’s pregnancy, of course, but I didn’t truly comprehend just how much our lives would be transformed until that very first moment I laid eyes on our precious daughter (her names mean First Miracle). Esma pushed and pushed and pushed some more… and there she was. We both looked at her and instantly started crying. “You’re perfect!” I said while Esma could only look at her in amazement and whisper time and again “I love you, baby, I love you.”
After that, I sighed a sigh of relief. This had been one incredible labor. It started on the 31st of July, in the morning. It took Elif Marvel 36 hours to come out. During that time I didn’t leave my wife’s side, family and friends visited us in the hospital, nurses worried that it would end up with a Caesarean, and I learned that my willpower and endurance is nothing compared to my wife’s amazing pain tolerance, discipline, and strength. I never knew she could deal with so much pain.
My friends whom I talked to afterward, those who also witnessed the moment of birth, said the exact same thing about their wives. The entire process of giving birth is miraculous. The very moment the baby comes out, everything changes. Yes. But what strikes us, men, most is that moment we just know our wife’s heart is about to stop and she’s going to call for an end to it all… but, instead, she persists, pushes through the pain, and brings forth a new life — our child.
It is both beautiful and — dare I say it? — absolutely traumatizing. I felt — and still feel — like I have PTSD from just witnessing someone suffer so much and so deeply. Esma shouted, “No, no, no!” I don’t know how many times. “The contractions are hurting so much!” she screamed. I knew, of course, that I couldn’t make her pain go away, so when she told the nurse that she wanted me to be by her side and everybody else to leave the room, I decided to do everything I could to give her a) support and b) tools to deal with the pain. Most of those tools are, of course, known to everybody — her breathing pattern was especially important. Thankfully, while in pain, Esma listened carefully to feedback and actually did something with it.
She was prepared in her own room, but when the baby was about to come out, she was quickly moved into a delivery room. The gynecologist and his team of nurses were waiting for her. I stood by her side. What I saw then was absolutely inspiring and terrifying at the same time: the gynecologist, our hero Dr. Volkan Emirdar, was coaching her through as if she was an Olympic athlete and he was her trainer. Everybody worked together. I held her hand and shouted “push, push!” and “in through the nose, out through the mouth.” Esma pushed whenever she was told to, but I could just see the strength going out of her.
At that very moment, the gynecologist told me: “Michael, come here!” So I went from the head of the bed to the bottom. “Look, what do you see?” he asked me. I looked: and there was the head of my baby girl about to pop out. She just needed one or two good pushes. Tears sprang to my eyes knowing that we had asked the ultimate already of Esma. “Come, honey, you can do it! I see her head! She has your hair! Completely black! Do it!”
She gathered her strength. A deep breath in, and there she went: Pusssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! And again: Pussssshhhhhhhhhh!
Boom. Suddenly complete and utter silence. The world stopped turning. Then a very short, powerless cry. The baby had come out and made her presence known immediately. She’s a girl after all. Dr. Volkan quickly put her on her mother’s chest… and before we could say “ah” or “oh,” we were both crying our eyes out. Out of happiness, yes, but for me also out of sheer relief. It was over. Esma did it.
And so, fatherhood started off with a bang for me. In the days following the birth of our baby girl, I learned what it means to have a new family member who relies completely on you, what it feels like to go without sleep for prolonged periods of time, that making “plans” is a waste of time and energy, and — oh yeah — I also learned to change her diaper, clean her, give her milk (in a bottle) and even to recognize some of the sounds she makes, so that I don’t have to wonder “what does she want, honey?”
Dad Diary Number 1. Hopefully, there’ll be many more where this one came from!