All I hear is the soft ticking of a clock, the purr of air flowing into our hospital room and the gentle clicks of my laptop keyboard. Just a few feet away, the two most important women in my life — my wife, Jess, and my new daughter, Aria — are catching some much-deserved sleep.
The two are exhausted — understandably so. It’s been a long 24 hours since Jess and I packed up the car, kissed our son, Lyric, good-bye and drove to the hospital to meet our baby girl. I probably should be trying to sleep as well, but just like when Lyric was born 20 months ago, my head is spinning.
If I sat here without thinking too hard, I probably could outpour a disjointed novel from all the images and words bouncing around in my brain. I won’t forget the day we found out she was a girl — I felt like doing cartwheels right there in the doctor’s office. I won’t forget the moment Aria arrived into this world — she was more beautiful than my mind imagined. I won’t forget the first time I held her — I kissed her forehead as I took her to meet her mom.
Rain pelts the roof outside our window, and a bone-chilling gray is painted across the sky. Even without looking at the forecast, I know it’s bitter out there. Our doctor tells me it’s supposed to be the coldest weekend of what some are calling the Great Florida Freeze of 2010.
But on this side of the glass, it is as warm as a summer afternoon on the beach.
Unlike Lyric, who bounded into the world with a bang — five-and-one-half weeks early and a panicked drive to the hospital at 4 a.m. — Aria arrived exactly on schedule, waiting patiently for our Jan. 8 scheduled C-section.
We arrive at 9:30 a.m. to Bayfront Medical Center with Jess’ hospital bag packed, all our forms signed and our son in the capable hands of my generous stepmother and sister, who each spent a week of their vacation to help us.
The nurse ushers us into the prep room. A small TV mounted on the wall is playing a marathon of bad Jean-Claude Van Damme movies as we complete more forms, and Jess endures blood draws and other preliminary tests. The wait for our noon delivery is excruciating. I swear the second hand on the clock is ticking more slowly here.
An anesthesiologist greets us, followed by another nurse and then a tech. Jess drinks something sour. We sign more forms. Jean-Claude slow-mo kicks about a million desperate actors in the face — some more than once. Finally, just after noon, a nurse tells us it’s time.
I have a camera in one hand and an audio recorder in the other when they call me into the operating room. The music of Wilco — one of my favorite bands — is playing on the stereo, adding a bit of comfort under all the beeps, vacuums and other unfamiliar sounds.
Our doctors marvel at how well my wife has healed following the last C-section.
“Don’t mind us!” they joke from the other side of the curtain.
Then, almost without warning, we see two hands holding our daughter up and over.
Daddy’s little girl is here.
I fumble around for my camera and snap frame after frame as the nurse cleans her off. My hand is shaky as I clumsily cut the cord. The nurse hands her to me, and I bring her to Jess. After hefting Lyric around, Aria’s 7 pounds seem so light.
What’s in a name?
After naming our son Lyric, almost everyone we know had some musical suggestion for our daughter’s name. Most went the obvious route — Melody, Harmony or Carol — but just as with Lyric, we had something a little different in mind.
Some early considerations included Story and Echo. But in the end, we went with Aria. In musical terms, an aria is a solo vocal piece with accompaniment. It’s a performance in which the singer stands on stage and captivates the audience on her own. It’s strong, carries honor.
And who knows? Time will tell whether Aria will desire the spotlight. But she does share her birthday with Elvis Presley …
Budding music career aside, Aria is about as perfect as we could imagine. So far, she’s breastfeeding like a pro and loves to cuddle (especially with mom). Every once in a while, she’ll open her eyes to catch a peek of the world. We can’t tell yet whether she looks more like Jess or me. It doesn’t matter — my heart melts with every mumble as she lies swaddled.
One father’s feelings
As strange as it sounds, I never imagined myself having a boy until Lyric came. Whenever I thought of being a father, it always was to a little girl. Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of plans for my big boy. But this softie always dreamt of making those memories a father only can have with his daughter: twirling her at her school’s father-daughter dance; chasing off her first boyfriend with a shotgun; giving her away at her wedding.
All clichés aside, I realize my primary duty as her father is to teach her what a man is supposed to be. That terrifies me. I’m not sure myself what a man is and certainly not confident that I’m the right teacher. Ultimately, she’ll compare any male in her life to me; I hope my example is good enough.
Parents of multiple children always say their love for each isn’t more or less — just different. At this point, that’s tough for me to understand. My first instinct with Lyric and now Aria is one of protection, and in that regard, my love is exactly the same. I suppose as Aria grows and her personality develops, we’ll learn to love her for specific reasons.
But right now, on this day, my love for them is simple, succinct. They’re my world. They’re the most important accomplishments of my life.
They’re my kids.
Contact Michael Eng at email@example.com.
Aria Rae Eng
Born: 12:51 p.m. Jan. 8, 2010
Weight: Seven pounds
Length: 18-and-one-half inches
Hospital: Bayfront Medical Center, St. Petersburg
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