The other day, I saw a random baby and it made me appreciate how close we are to Grand Finale’s imminent birth. It also made me fondly recall the first moments I ever spent with my daughter, Kirby, in the NICU. Meeting your baby for the first time is such a magical experience. Lucky me. I got to relive that magic three times in one day. For just a few hours after meeting Kirby, I met my boys.
Caroline was still recovering from the C-section and, as such, hadn’t felt well enough to make the trip to see Kirby. But that night, she seemed to feel a bit better and was wide awake when the nurse first brought the boys to her hospital room. But Caroline was still beat and it wouldn’t be too long before she fell back asleep which meant that night number one of Sam and Jack’s life would be spent with their daddy.
I decided we’d spend that night watching college football. Earlier that day, before the birth, I was so anxious that I was having a hard time keeping my act together. So I came up with things to distract me. One of them was to review that day’s college football action. In so doing, I decided to place a symbolic wager on one of the games, a wager I was guaranteed to win, given what a momentous day it would be for me. I bet on Auburn who was a heavy underdog against a Tim Tebow led Florida. The Tigers were catching 17 points and the game had just kicked off. So it was while watching football that I fed my boys for the very first time. Sam was starting to fuss, which meant that he was the squeaky wheel who would get the first bottle.
I held Sam like a pro. Actually, more like a football. I positioned his head in my left hand while his blanketed back rested on the flat part of my forearm, his covered feet coming nowhere near the fold of my elbow. The nurse had told me not to feed him any longer than 30 minutes, as well as to remember to stop halfway so I could burp him, an act I was unsure of to say the least.
After 15 minutes I checked his progress and was pleased to see that he had taken close to half of his 30-milliliter bottle. I propped him up on my right knee and gently patted his back repeatedly, waiting not-so-patiently for any sign of a burp. Sam turned his head and stared at me through shut eyes before finally opening his mouth for several seconds and emitting a noise so faint that it was barely audible. Burp or yawn? There was no telling, but in the name of nutritional progress I ruled it a burp and continued the feeding until Sam gradually lost interest and fell asleep.
I held him in my lap and took turns watching the football game and admiring my firstborn. His mashed face was void of any significant coloring, except at his mouth. It was cherry red and stood at odds with his otherwise pale complexion. His eyebrows were barely visible, and I wondered when his slight, feathery eyelashes would begin to show up in earnest. I gradually became aware of a conflict that would soon become a regular one for me—not being ready to put one of my babies down, yet very eager to pick another one up.
I finally made the switch and held Jack’s bottle to his mouth with my right hand, holding my second-born just as I had Sam. Before starting his bottle, Jack wriggled his hands free from his blanket and stretched toward the sky, shaking his head and yawning as he did so.
How did he know how to do that?
A being doesn’t have any developed thought on its first day of life. There’s nothing to develop. The film is blank. Yet there was clearly something going on in all that gray matter. Jack’s movements were propelled by his first fundamental building blocks of thought, the foundation from which all his future thoughts would stem, blocks that manifested themselves in the form of raw, instinctual, and simple movements—movements designed to carry him from dark to light, cold to warm, loose to snug, craving to satisfaction, bad to good. Impossibly intricate.
Jack pursed his lips repeatedly and in rhythm, and then eclipsed the view of this action with arms that tried to rub his eyes but missed. Unfazed, they went back under the blanket. His skin looked as soft as a cloud, like nothing had ever caught it before, not even a glance, and it wiggled back and forth while he pursed his lips, elastic and perfect, not even creating so much as a crease in his cheeks at any time during his movements, his skin unable to do anything other than return to the first shape it ever knew—the first shape it ever had—the one that would be underneath every shape it would ever take.
Jack did even better with his bottle than Sam. As he fed, his face registering approval with each and every sip. I held him upright after a few minutes and with the encouragement of a few soft taps on his back, Jack stretched his arms out from the blanket and opened his mouth. He remained motionless for a second, like he was holding his breath, before letting out a sigh that turned into a burp. He had taken down nearly 20 milliliters, but refused to have another drop and quickly fell fast asleep. I placed him in the rolling crib next to his brother.
For the next two hours I alternated between holding Sam and holding Jack, reveling in the initial bond we were creating. After a while, holding one just wasn’t enough so I held them both simultaneously and stupidly began telling them what was happening in the game.
“See Florida? Daddy hates Florida. See Auburn? Daddy likes them. Well, not every game. But Daddy likes them tonight. You guys like them, too. Don’t you?” I was watching an SEC grudge match with my two boys, and that simple accomplishment filled me with pride.
Just before 11, I put them both back in their crib, bidding them each a goodnight and softly kissing my boys on the top of their lettered caps. Shortly thereafter, the nurse came to take them back to the nursery. I didn’t want them to go.
A few minutes later I climbed into my cot, pulled my sleeping bag over me, and reached out to touch Caroline’s legs. They were warm. I watched the end of the game before fumbling for the remote and turning off the TV. Auburn ended up pounded Florida, thus pulling off one of the season’s biggest upsets. I had won my symbolic bet. And I didn’t even need the points.
You know, writing about the time I met the triplets has made me wish that I could somehow live those moments all over again. Thanks to Grande Finale, I can. In about seven and a half weeks.
I can’t wait to meet you, son.
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