The birth certificate says 2:00 a.m.
But it was actually 1:47 was when Milo arrived. I distinctly remember looking at the clock in the delivery room and thinking to myself that it was one of the most important minutes of my life. I let go of my wife's hand and reached for my camera so that I could take a few quick snaps of the surreal moment.
Days before going to the hospital I packed a small "go bag" with my Fujifilm X-T1 and a couple of lenses. I made some grandiose plan of photographing the whole delivery process. I wanted to shoot the delivery room and the medical gadgetry (if that is a word). I wanted to take photos of the legendary umbilical cord and even make portraits of the doctors. I had seen enough television to know that I would be able to come away from the birth with at least a thousand frames.
I have never been so wrong.
When the time finally came, I quickly understood that the delivery room is not the time, nor the place to do anything except following directions, carefully doing as you are told by your partner or hospital staff. I was only able to take a couple of actual photos. But, I took hundreds of snaps through my mental viewfinder (In hindsight, I am very grateful that I experienced Milo's birth first hand, without a camera in my hand. So much of my life, our collective lives, are spent snapping photographs instead of seeing life as it really is).
It wasn't until the first light when I really got to take a look at Milo and fully introduce myself. I was timid near him. He had such a gentleness, a softness I had never really seen in a human before. It might have been the morning light coming through the partially drawn curtains. But, the atmosphere during our first man to man chat was golden.
Coming home, the reality of the situation set in. By nature I am an anxious person. In our living room sat this little dude screaming and I, in all honesty, got really freaked out. It took me nearly three and a half decades to finally commit to having a child and those first moments in the house with him made me question our decision to have a family.
At the moment, it didn't seem like we were capable of taking care of the little guy and I questioned whether I would be able to keep it all together. I wondered how we were going to make it through a week let alone eighteen years. For the first days, my life was just one massive, ongoing panic attack.
The anxiety of change wore off. After a few days (lets get real... weeks) the ideal of fatherhood set in. There would be changes and sacrifices, sleepless nights and added responsibility. But, when Milo started grabbing onto my fingers, I knew that everything would be just fine.
Milo was eating, smiling, gaining weight, cooing, and pooping. Baby stuff. But, something was still off. During those first few months, I felt disassociated from Milo. He would let me hold and cuddle him. But, it just didn't seem like we were quite vibing. I was jealous of the bond he had with my wife. I understood why he was so attached to Laura and I was of course happy to see such a connection between Milo and his mother. Still, I was eager to establish my own relationship with my son.
Experienced fathers told me over and over that my feelings were natural and that fatherhood would get progressively better with time. I hoped that they were right and that Milo would be able to show me a little love every now and again too.
Thankfully, the advice I was given by those other dads was right. Milo began to show me more of his personality. He began to wrestle with me and smile when I walked into the room. He begin to spit things at me and refuse to do what I wanted him to do (some of my best qualities were obviously passed on to him). Milo began to explore his world and interact with anything that was left on the floor. He began to come to me and raise his arms high, asking for me to pick him up. We were finally getting to know each other. It was during this transitional phase from little lump in a rocker to a little person that I really bought in.
And then Milo said, "Dada."
I realize that the next seventeen years will go as quickly as the first. I am doing my best to remind myself that each second with Milo is precious and that there will be no second chance for me to do right by my son. I am doing my best to be present and to show him the love that all kids (hell, all humans) deserve.
Happy first birthday Milo. I love you man.