In the brightly lit hospital operation room, I gripped my wife’s hand as the doctor performed a cesarean section on the other side of a curtain. Suddenly, I heard cheers behind the curtain trumpeting the baby’s arrival, a surreal chorus of jubilance.
Before I could process the moment, a nurse approached me and asked in the earnest tone of a medical professional, “Would you like to hold your son?”
I can’t recall precisely, but I believe I said something powerful, something that will endure in the hearts of everyone present, something like, “Yeah.” Miracles can be fiercely matter-of-fact.
And there he was: Gus Trontel Reece, 8 pounds, 14 ounces of bundled grace.
In recounting those dreamlike days in the hospital, the words and terms seem so foreign, so opaque: C-section, epidural, dilation, Pitocin, spoken against the backdrop of a machine’s beep-beep-beep tracking dual heartbeats, one yet unborn.
But beyond medicine’s stilted language of life, a common human language materialized within those hospital walls, often unspoken, emerging through the vulnerable clarity of sleep-deprivation and wide-eyed wonder. I felt a fervent kinship with the medical crew who ushered Gus into the world, accompanied by intense gratitude, which has scarcely diminished over a month later.
I’m thankful for the nurses, whose humanity and steady-handedness never wavered, no matter the time of day or night. I’m thankful for Dr. Thomas deHoop, who calmly talked us through hours of labor before the decision was made to have a C-section, and who then performed the operation like the skilled pro he is while maintaining a soft-hearted bedside manner that kept us at peace. I owe him a fishing trip.
I’m thankful for our mothers who took shifts sleeping at our house to care for our toddler throughout the hospital stay, and for all the other family and friends who were and still are ceaselessly supportive.
I’m thankful for the Beacon, which allowed me to stay home for weeks afterward to bond with my new child and help my wife recover. I’m thankful for our neighbors, who delivered homemade squash soup and gifts.
I’m thankful for Fisher, my 2-year-old toddler who gives his little brother binky kisses on the forehead and wakes up each morning asking to see “Baby Gus.”
Most of all, I’m thankful for my wife, Kate, who makes courage look like love, and who understood that, although I tried hard, I could never escape who I am: another man unable to fully comprehend what a woman endures during pregnancy. She carried our two sons to healthy births, and now she carries our family to a shared future. The most powerful force on Earth is motherly love.
Through the pregnancy, my one great fear was that I wouldn’t have the capacity to love Gus like I do Fisher. Fisher’s birth had unleashed something within me that I didn’t know existed, a devotion so absolute it can only be born of blood. It seemed impossible to replicate.
Kate tried to assure me that a parent’s love might be different in its details for each child but not its purity. Ultimately, unable to penetrate my dense preconceptions and anxieties, she settled on a mantra: Wait until I meet Gus. Then I would see.
Of course, she was right. I met him on Sept. 26. He squeezed my finger, and once again, I was touched by grace.