It feels different this time, and I’m not sure why.
Over the past 50 years, I’ve helped create two new lives: a daughter and a son. In each case I was both excited and nervous when the time finally came for that new life to enter the world. Excited and nervous, just as I was today. Except at the age of 75, it feels very different.
Earlier today, I experienced the birth of our first grandchild. Thanks to our son and daughter-in-law (M&M), Emma Daisy Mitchener entered our world. Carole and I now have M&M&Emma living within walking distance.
It’s now midnight, and I’m trying to write this Old Guy post to sort out what all of this means. She’s barely 10½ hours old. I haven’t met her in person yet; all I have are cell phone photos the kids have sent of Emma’s first few hours.
But I’m having difficulty with the writing. I can’t stop staring at her face, especially at those dark eyes which stare back at me.
I’m sure I spent a lot of time gazing at Erin and at Matt when they were born. They were each beautiful and charming as only infants can be. But I don’t remember being so hypnotized by them.
The picture I’m looking at right now is a close-up of her face, as she lies in the crook of her dad’s arm and stares comfortably at the camera. Look at her eyes. She seems to know intuitively that the arm behind her isn’t going to go away.
Why? How can she feel so content? She just came out of the warm, dark, comfortable place where she spent the past nine months. She was forced out of that cozy space into radically different surroundings: bright light, large things moving all around her, loud noises, surrounded by nothing except a warm blanket, and the noise of her own crying. And the strength and warmth of whatever that big thing is that’s holding her.
She must be frightened by all of this, but she doesn’t know she’s frightened, or even what that means. Right now, a couple hours into this scary new world, she’s already slipping into a sense of calm. You can see it in her eyes.
I was excited when my son and daughter were born, just as M&M are crazy happy today. But it’s a different kind of thing that I’m experiencing tonight, as I keep trying to write.
Maybe the difference is age. When we were young, starting a family, with everything still in our future, what we felt was excitement. A lot of hopes and dreams bubbling over about our family’s future.
Today, at the ripe age of 75 I think I’m experiencing the wonder of it all, the mystery more than the excitement. How does this new life thing happen?
I know the science narrative of the egg and the sperm hitting it off, the DNAs of both parents coming together, and all that stuff from 9th grade biology. During her pregnancy, Margherita kept us informed every week. The embryo grew from the size of a tiny seed to a nut to a plum to an avocado… and at some point, it became she, and she continued to develop. Until she was ready to come out into the world.
But really… how does all that happen? How does all of that science become this tiny face that has captured my attention? How does that growth become a 7-pound mini-person that breathes, cries, eats, sleeps, digests (the polite word for it), and already has the eggs inside her body to start the process all over again, if and when she decides to do that?
How does this tiny creature know that everything’s going to be okay? Where does she get that look in her eyes, the look that says she knows this is where she’s supposed to be?
Or am I hallucinating about what’s going on behind those eyes? Maybe those eyes are simply telling me that she just… digested. That could be, too.
Don’t worry. I’m not getting religious in my old age. If I were getting religious, I would know the answers to all these questions. What I am getting in my old age is a lot more respectful of things I do not – and never will – know the answers to.
Maybe it’s because I have much more time now than I had 50 years ago. More time to ponder such things. More time to stare at Emma’s eyes.
Emma Daisy Mitchener, you and I are just beginning.