"This baby is coming today."
I had waited years for those words. But I had been prepared to wait much longer. Three months longer to be exact. You were due August 23, and it was May 27. I wanted to wait much longer.
I was a prosecutor. The men I pursued beat people who owed them money. Killed people who crossed them. That didn't scare me.
But this. Your news. It was as much as I could bear. I forgot how to breathe.
I sat in front of the window in our walk-up, and watched the Williamsburg Bank Tower strike out against the morning sky. And I thought.
I knew you would be impossibly small. I knew you that your eyes could be damaged, your lungs could fail, and your brain could be wracked with palsy.
So I started making promises. To you, to God, to the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower. Anyone who could possibly listen. I will be a good father. I will be strong. I would protect you. And all along I thought I was lying. The job was impossible. You hardly weighed more than a loaf of bread. How could I protect a baby too small to hold?
We really had no choice. Mom could try to keep you, but her body was failing and you both would die. Or they would deliver right then and at least one of you would have a shot.
You were so small, smaller than my fist and shorter than my forearm. And you were three months early.
You came and then they took you away, in a plastic box on wheels.
And then Mom's systems started to fail in a cascade, her kidneys led the way and then, eventually, her blood. It wouldn't clot. I could only watch as her body bloated with blood sneaking through the tiniest nicks. I stayed with her and left you alone. I stayed while they operated again and you were by yourself with the other tiny babies, the buzzing machines and the nurses, angels in clogs. My first day as a father and I was failing you.
By the end of the night, mom's bleeding was under control, but she was in a coma and on a respirator. So were you.
In the neonatal unit, I asked the doctors how you would be. They just said "we don' t know." When I returned to the ICU and asked your mom's doctors how she would do, they just said "we don't know."
The nurses gave me tissues, a boxful, a named me, kindly, "Sad Daddy." They couldn't offer me hope. And I would have had to deny the proof of my eyes to accept such an offering. I did what I could do. I cried.
Mom took this picture six months later. You were the size of a two-month-old, but could move like a miniature moppet trailing half a year. Two years later, you finally reached the scale on the growth charts. And we broke out the champagne.
Today, you called. You were tired, but excited about your service to the country. Service has always moved you. As if the nurses who surrounded you for months, had done something to your DNA. They say that when you showed up, you seemed game to prove you belong. Just like that day when you came. Early. I could feel that. And knew you had arrived.