Forecast for Seattle on Thursday, May 22nd: Sunny, no wind, with highs in the mid 70’s.
While 99.9999998% of the city was overjoyed at this prediction, I comprised the 0.0000002% of the population that saw that forecast and immediately though, “crap….I hope there’s some clouds.”
See, I was supposed to fish Puget Sound with a friend who was in town for an overnight layover on a flight to Alaska, and I knew that an intensely bright day with no wind to break up the surface of the water in the late Spring all combined to create tough fishing conditions. And while the rest of the good people of Seattle spent the day trying to take advantage of every conceivable chance to get out in the sun, I spent the day looking to they sky for a solid bank of clouds that would move our chances of hooking some fish from “dern near impossible” to “maybe.”
Two small fish did come to hand over the course of 6 hours of fishing hard, but to call the action “few and far between” would be an understatement.
See, when the forecast for Seattle calls for “ridiculously clear” this late in May, the forecast for fishing on the Sound more often than not reads, “mostly casting practice…with chances of catching a tan.”
It all happened so slowly. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Time has a funny way of playing tricks on us. During times of pain or grief we want time to hustle by; for the minutes and hours to blow past us like paper in the wind. During times of joy, we want to lean into those minutes, wishing that we could freeze the clock and live there forever.
But we know the irony of time is that when we want it to fly by, it crawls. When we want it to freeze, it becomes a blur. Rarely, however, does an event contain both of these movements of time.
The birth of our first child was one such event.
I knew that the labor process would be difficult to watch, especially since my wife was going the all-natural route without any medication. I knew that there would be little that I could do other than talk to her, rub her shoulders and back, and just be present with her. I wasn’t fully ready for the feeling of helplessness that came with the most intense contractions though. In those moments all I could do were offer words of encouragement, pray for God’s mercy and peace, and hope that the hands of the clock would quicken their pace. But all the hoping in the world couldn’t make time quicken, and despite the feeling that hours had surely passed, a look at the hands of the clock continuously revealed the harsh reality that it had been only minutes.
Then came the midwives’ words, “I can see the head!” We were close now, and time began to buzz as my mind turned to the thoughts of what our child would look like, what it would be like to hold him for the first time, and what our first words to him would be. I wanted to grab onto every second because I knew that any second would be the second that everything would be different. The next thirty minutes passed in the blink of an eye.
But then thirty minutes turned into forty-five, forty-five became an hour, and an hour became an hour and a half. By two hours past the declaration that he was so close it became apparent that something wasn’t right. Plans were made to transfer to a near-by hospital, which set into motion the longest hour of my life: driving to the hospital with my wife in intense pain, terrified by the uncertainty of what was happening, being sent to incorrect parts of the hospital by night workers, and then a wave of doctors and nurses descending on us to monitor, assess, address, and announce that a c-section would be necessary because of the way our son was turned. Within minutes they took Becky away to be prepared for surgery. A few minutes later they came and got me.
Walking into the operating room was very surreal. I had no concept of what time it was, whether it was still Sunday or now Monday, and the brightness of the room and the adrenaline racing through my body only served to deepen that confusion. Furthermore, while I could recognize everybody that was in the room despite their surgical masks, something was different about them–while they had had stoic, business-like faces in the previous room as they frantically raced around trying to diagnose what was happening, the mood now seemed to be much lighter and jovial. The doctors were cracking jokes, even Becky was smiling (because of the amount of medicine now in her no doubt), and it suddenly felt as though the previous 12 hours either hadn’t happened at all or didn’t really matter. Time seemed to stop.
And then there he was. As his mouth opened, air hit lungs, and the first cry of life shot through the operating room, it was clear that one life had just started, and two lives were changed forever. Pain turned to joy, frustration turned to exhilaration, and expectation turned to fulfillment. All of the moments of the previous day had now combined into the story of how our son’s life came to start. The trials and fears and uncertainty had now ended when the doctors handed me a beautiful, healthy son…our son: Haven Eli Collier. In that moment, and for the rest of time, that outcome is all that matters.