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Black Daddies Club Weekly: Father’s Day

15 November 2010 223 views No Comment

By Colwyn Burchall, Jr

The author with his firstborn Sun, Amari

“Oh sh*t! Oh sh*t! Oh sh*t!”

These were the first words that ran through my mind as I placed my palm on the wet spot in the bed and realized that it definitely was not “an accident.”

Your mother had assumed that her slumber had been rudely interrupted by an ill-timed bout of incontinence. I, however, struggled to remain calm, because I was certain that we were beginning labour and the wet spot was the first indication that you were on the way.  I glanced at my watch. It was 3:30 a.m. and I had just come to bed to catch up on some much-needed sleep – sleep which I now suspected would not be enjoyed anytime soon!

Period-like cramps followed the discovery of the (now infamous) wet spot. These cramps grew steadily in strength until your mother needed firm pressure applied to the small of her back in order to deal with the growing discomfort.  Members of both of our families had journeyed to Toronto to witness the birth, but I decided against waking them at this early stage.  Based upon my understanding of the stages of labour, I concluded that we had plenty of time, so I resolved to start making calls only when things really started to roll.

The level of discomfort grew so rapidly that it became apparent that this labour would not be a long, drawn-out affair.  The force of the contractions often rendered your mother speechless and, as she breathed through each one, I was feverishly pressing the heels of my palms into her lower back in an effort to relieve at least some of her pain.

I called our midwife, Nicole Bennett, at around 6 a.m. and, after listening to your mother experiencing a contraction, she decided to come over right away. When she arrived, she checked your mother`s cervix, which had dilated to between four and five centimeters.  Her inspection also revealed that you had excreted meconium into the amniotic fluid.  Nicole felt that this situation warranted hospitalization and made the decision to move the birth location from home to Scarborough Grace Hospital.  This hospital permitted the midwife to maintain her status as primary care provider during those times when a potential complication necessitated transfer.

We had visited Scarborough Grace with our midwife several weeks before and, although a hospital birth was not our first or second choice, we were nonetheless comforted by the sight of the Jacuzzi and shower, the spacious rooms and the noticeable lack of intrusive gadgetry in the maternity wing.

We arrived at the hospital shortly after 7 a.m. and were quickly ushered into room 4315. Our family members (my mother, your mother`s parents and your mother`s cousin, Nicole Stovell) were led to the lounge area.  Denise Simon, our heaven-sent doula, arrived shortly afterward and immediately began talking your mother through her breathing and massaging her lower back {*for those who don’t know, a doula basically ‘mothers’ the mother*}.  Her presence and calming self–assuredness allowed me to fully experience the birth without the additional responsibility of having to ‘coach’ your mother through labour.

Watching your mother courageously grappling with the inevitable pain of childbirth was at times overwhelming.  I felt so helpless, in that I was unable to take away her hurt.  I had to remind myself that you two were working together and that pain was an unavoidable part of this process.

The labour was progressing so quickly that there was literally no time to enter the Jacuzzi.  Your mother was sorely disappointed, because she was really looking forward to a relaxing soak!

After Nicole moved the cervical lip out of the way (it had become swollen as a result of the pressure being applied by your head), she gave the ‘OK’ for your mother to start pushing – which she was only too willing to do. She positioned herself on her hands and knees and gave herself over to the explosive uterine contractions that would ultimately deliver you into our loving embrace.

I saw your head begin to crown. That was truly a surreal moment – I still couldn’t fully believe that I was going to be a father.  Overcome with excitement, I rushed out of the birthing room, clad only in a pair of swim trunks, to tell the rest of the family of the miraculous events taking place just a few yards away.  I returned to the room – having been chastised by the nursing staff for my semi-naked display – and shortly thereafter your head emerged. Your body, slick with vernix, soon followed.

And unto us a child was born!

It was 10:12 am on Friday, the 28th of May, 2004 and it was a beautiful, sun-drenched morning.  I was given the honour of cutting your umbilical cord. I remember thinking that it resembled electrical wiring encased in transparent rubber tubing.  Looking further ‘south,’ I exclaimed excitedly, “It’s a boy! We got a boy!”

While your mother and I recovered from the physical and mental exertion of the past six hours, the midwives conducted some unobtrusive examinations to ensure that you and mom were healthy.  Denise dressed you and then gave you to your mother.  She was so collected, attentive and calm – she fell right into the mother role as if it were already so familiar to her.

And then I held you in my arms for the first time.

What was that like…..The world around us fell away; Time itself seemed to stand still in solemn recognition of this sacred event.  I wish that I could find the words to describe the emotions that shook me to my core on the day that you were born…but honestly, no such words yet exist. All I can say is that I loved you in a way that defies description and can only be understood by those fortunate enough to have felt love of this depth and intensity for themselves.

In the midst of this eternal moment of first contact, it suddenly dawned on me that, as your father, I would be your first and most enduring example of manhood.  Your ability to wrest compassion, joy and love from the often-unyielding granite of the everyday would be largely dependent upon what you learn from the way that I live my life.  An awesome and daunting task…made doubly so because of my own history as the son of an absent father.  I found myself asking, Can I do this?  Can I really be a father to this child?

As if sensing my trepidation, you squeezed my pinky finger reassuringly. “Of course you can,” you seemed to be saying, “or else I would not have chosen you as my daddy.”

“Thank you,” I whispered as the tears filled my eyes.  “Thank you.”

Colwyn Burchall, Jr. is the author of two books, Look for Me in the Whirlwind: A Story of Marcus Garvey and Freedom’s Flames: Slavery in Bermuda and the True Story of Sally Bassett. He is currently working on his third children’s book, entitled FreedomSong, tentatively scheduled for publication in 2011. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed: [email protected]

Colwyn Burchall, Jr. Author and Black Daddies Club member

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