It was supposed to be normal. It was supposed to be uncomplicated, easy, and so utterly textbook-like that it was somewhat comedic. The doctor had laughed about how by-the-numbers everything had gone so far. But after about 30 minutes of struggling in the delivery room, eight words were uttered that changed everything:
"I think there's something wrong with the baby."
In the span of under a minute the room changed from a tranquil birthing room to being filled with nurses acting with military precision to rush Ashley to the operating room for an emergency cesarian. The umbilical cord was wrapped around him. His heart rate was dropping. It was not - currently - life threatening, but that would change during the birthing procedure. So we had to change our prepared, planned-for method of delivery.
And in what felt like a shorter time period than a commercial break during a sitcom, my family structure changed from being a duo to a trio.
While Ashley was being stitched up, I walked him to the nursery. Still in a daze, still in shock, but somehow able to push a cart with a newborn in it. But before the nurse took him inside, she turned and spoke seven words that changed my arms from being free to forever being full:
"Would you like to hold him, daddy?"
After a brief period of getting weighed, measured, and cleaned, he was wheeled back into our room. While still slightly loopy from the anesthetic, after nursing him Ashley asked me five words that changed me from being unsure, insecure, and uncertain if I could actually be a father. Five words that led to an action that changed me to find courage, strength, and surety to be able to handle the life before me.
"Do you want to change him?"
My first diaper.
I changed you, and in the process of simply being you, you changed me. Forever.
For the better.
Happy fourth birthday, Malakai.