Dr. Clay: Doctor and Dad on His First Father’s Day
The evening before Aaron’s birth, Nicole and I both got food poisoning. We both had a rough night, and in the early morning, Nicole was feeling particularly awful despite drinking lots of fluid and walking around the apartment for a few hours. I kept recommending we go to the hospital for some IV fluids and medications; initially, she was hoping to avoid going in, but at around 5 a.m., she agreed to go. I checked her cervix just before we left to see if maybe she was in labor (since she was saying she felt crampy but had been denying outright contractions) and her cervix was closed but very soft.
We got to the hospital and as soon as Nicole was hooked up to the fetal monitors, I noticed that our baby looked just fine but Nicole was having contractions about every three to four minutes. Her triage nurse checked her cervix and she was already 3 centimeters dilated, just 45 minutes after I had checked her, so we were admitted to Labor and Delivery.
Once we were moved to our labor room, Nicole’s labor nurse asked if she would prefer to walk around for an hour or so. She agreed and off we went. Everything was initially very laid back, and I even checked in on a couple of Clinic Sofia patients since I was there anyway. After about 45 minutes of walking, Nicole’s contractions suddenly became much more intense so we headed back to the labor room.
Nicole’s nurse originally wasn’t going to recheck her cervix since it had been less than an hour, but at our request, she agreed to and found her to already be 7 centimeters! Nicole then requested an epidural and Dr. Amy Hammers (Nicole’s ob/gyn) was updated on how quickly Nicole was progressing. We then spent the next few minutes talking about expectations and tips for pushing.
As an aside, I am frequently asked if I delivered Aaron. I always explain that I am an ob/gyn every day; I wanted to just be a dad for (at least that part of) the day. Honestly though, the other part of it is that I knew I was going to cry and a small part of me was worried I’d start crying during the delivery and not be able to see. Then I’d wind up dropping a baby for the first time ever, and I wasn’t about to chance that!
Once it was time to push, Dr. Hammers was awesome at coaching and cheering on Nicole while I did the normal “dad job” and held back a leg while encouraging her that she was doing great. Nicole did a fantastic job at pushing and, in less than an hour, Aaron was born. As expected, Nicole and I both cried. Immediately, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love, thankfulness and happiness. It was funny how someone I had just met could already mean so much to me. I was also so impressed with Nicole and how well she did with everything.
What is frequently the miracle of childbirth is everyday life for me, so I was never going to have the typical dad experience during labor and delivery. That said, I was amazed with how quickly and smoothly everything progressed for Nicole as a first-time mom, and she still teases me about not thinking she was in labor initially.
Aaron’s first six months have gone well overall. As an ob/gyn, my pediatric knowledge pretty much stops after the cord is cut. It was definitely a learning curve for us to figure out what things Aaron wanted or needed when he was fussy and to get into a routine of things to cycle through. We have tried to split things somewhat evenly regarding both the chores around the apartment and taking care of Aaron. We tend to trade off carrying him around to keep him happy when he’s having a bad day based on when each of our arms get tired! While I give him bottles of pumped milk, obviously, I cannot help with breastfeeding. To make up for it, I do try to do more of the diaper changes. I have also taken more baths since Aaron was born than I can recall in my life. One of Aaron’s favorite parts of the day is taking a bath but he dislikes the in-sink or in-bath carriers, so I simply get into the tub with him and hold him. He loves it and, in a way, that became my bonding activity with him.
Six months in, he still doesn’t sleep well (we are jealous of people whose kids sleep through the night) and he is kind of a potato, preferring to stay in whatever position he is in rather than rolling over or trying to go anywhere. He is super smiley and a very happy baby for both of us, so he easily gets away with the more difficult times, like screaming incessantly for no clear reason from 1 to 3 a.m. It has been crazy to see how quickly he has changed in such a short amount of time and we can understand more now how parents frequently say that “it goes by too quickly.”
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be two things – a doctor and a father. Regarding the former: I love what I do, getting to help so many people and being a part of their lives. Finally getting to experience the latter has been a dream come true. Whether it’s my day off and spending all day together or coming home from work, Aaron is always happy to see me and gives me big gummy smiles. While I’m sure I’ll enjoy my first Father’s Day, truly, Aaron makes every day feel like Father’s Day.