I was beaming with the pride that only a new father can feel. After a week of worrying, during which my wife, Bethany, had been hospitalized with pregnancy-induced hypertension, our son was finally here, a month early, kicking and screaming and flailing his tiny body around.
An aide asked for his name. Isaac, I grinned.
After an hour together the nurses whisked him off for the usual prodding and poking and to give Bethany some well-deserved rest. I was just settling into a chair and nodding off when someone knocked on the door. Ignoring the part of my brain telling me to feign sleep I walked over and got the news: while in the nursery Isaac had experienced a breathing episode and was now in the Newborn ICU. Bethany, confined to bed for another 24 hours, couldn’t go back to see him. I had to go, alone, a father for only a short time, down the long hallway to see my son.
He was hooked up to a number of tubes and monitors checking his heart rate, blood oxygen and other vital signs. Everything was fine, I was assured: he had only stopped breathing for 15 seconds and had been brought here for observation for a day or two. I was incredulous; how could they say he was OK, this tiny thing weighing barely more than a sack of flour? He looked so frail I was afraid to touch him, sure I’d break him somehow. I was supposed to protect him, but what could I do now?
Do you want to hold him? /p>
Time stood still and my stomach dropped. Still terrified I closed my eyes, said a prayer, and held out my arms.
This story was originally published in the October 3, 2008, edition of the Catholic Times.