Abram Joseph Gonzales was born on Friday, November 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida (7lbs, 14oz, 21in). He has big hands and feet, long arms and legs and a full head of hair – he’s absolutely perfect.
48 hours passed between the first indication of labor and Abram’s exit from the womb. It was a wild, exhausting ride of altered plans, quick decisions and an epic display of strength by my wife, Aniela. I already had a million reasons to love and adore her. But now, she will forever be my hero. And I will never again conclude there is anything she cannot do.
The Best-Laid Plans
When the calendar changed over to November, we knew we were only days away from the arrival of our baby boy. Aniela was continually growing and becoming more uncomfortable with each passing day. We attended numerous classes and we were prepared. Most important of all, we were mentally ready to scrap our plans and adapt to any surprises that came our way. And there were many.
We had idealistic plans for a smooth, natural delivery at a birthing center, surrounded by the people who coached and trained us for the last nine months. It didn’t work out that way. We ended up at a cold hospital, surrounded by doctors and nurses we didn’t know. Not only did we not know them, but we suspect there was something on Aniela’s chart which instructed them to be short and uncaring towards us. Or at least that’s how it seemed to be.
All perceptions aside, they got the job done. The unknown doctor moved things around that needed to be moved and coached Aniela well on when to push. And it was his hands that caught our baby and placed him on Aniela’s chest. I’ll forever be grateful for his work. Knowing that so many couples leave the hospital with an unhealthy baby or no baby at all, I can only be thankful for this labor and delivery team.
None of their efforts would’ve mattered, however, if it wasn’t for Aniela’s unrelenting resolve. I realize now that the greatest demonstration of someone’s strength is not when they effortlessly complete a tough task. Instead, it’s when they’re brought to the absolute end of their strength, to the point where even they have concluded they’re finished, but are still somehow able to get the task done. I was amazed by what I witnessed. Aniela tapped into a reservoir of power that even she didn’t know about.
In addition to the excruciating pain of the pushing and the contractions, Aniela battled the ongoing frustration of the hospital setting. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Nurses came and went from the room, insisting on one unpleasant thing after another. Aniela refused most of it. I lost track of how many waivers she signed. They repeatedly tried to check her dilation every few minutes, but Aniela was having none of it. And for good reason. It was clear the repeated checks had nothing to do with Aniela’s well-being. They just wanted to know how far along she was so the doctor wouldn’t have to appear until the last minute.
We didn’t have a birthing pool, an exercise ball or a birthing stool…tools that we were planning to use. These items are readily available at the birthing center, but nonexistent at the hospital. At one point, Aniela needed to get the baby lower but had no strength in her legs in order to squat. I looked for anything that could simulate a birthing stool, but there was nothing. Finally I realized that I must become the birthing stool. I sat at the end of a regular chair with my feet flat on the floor. Aniela faced me and sat on the top of my thighs. The position took all the stress out of her legs, enabling everything to loosen up. I literally heard and felt the baby shift downward three times in that position. Aniela screamed in agony after each shift.
Dia & Stephanie
The real contractions began between 4 to 5pm on Friday afternoon. Aniela’s sister Dia (mother of two) and close friend Stephanie (mother of two with #3 due in January) physically supported and held onto Aniela throughout the ordeal. Aniela will understandably get all the praise and congratulations for delivering this baby. But she’ll be the first to admit it would’ve been impossible without these two pillars of female strength. Their physical exertion and powerful words in critical moments made all the difference.
I ended up in the unusual position of sitting on the delivery bed behind Aniela throughout the delivery. It’s not something we planned. But that’s where she needed me. I braced her for every contraction. She held me, sat on me, clenched and twisted my arms, pushed me and even bit me on a few occasions. My wounds and muscles are healing quite nicely 🙂
As close and involved as I was, there was little I could do to ease Aniela’s pain. This was her moment. No one could bear this burden for her. I felt like a spectator who is witnessing greatness from a courtside seat. All I could do was cheer her on. My hero was caught up in the greatest battle of her life. And although there were moments when it seemed she was defeated and broken, she rallied back every time to keep on fighting. And in the end, against the odds, she won.
My Boy, Abram
Her little prize exited the womb at 10:10pm. His most striking feature was a full head of brown hair, which we all expected. As many new fathers have described, the moment I saw my son for the first time was totally surreal. As I mentioned above, I knew he was coming. I knew he was a boy and I expected this moment to be very special. But in the reality of that moment – the look on his face, his squinting eyes, the little noises he made and the perfection of all his little parts – I was stunned.
I don’t usually pay much attention to babies, mainly because every one I’ve seen has belonged to someone else. I’ve always had a running list of thoughts and ideas about how I’d raise my own baby. So in that moment, it hit me all at once; this one is mine. And the type of man he becomes will be largely determined by how we raise him. He’s entirely dependent on Aniela and me. And given Aniela’s vulnerable, weakened condition, she’s very much dependent on me. Everything in my life is about to change.
This is the part where the new dad typically says he suddenly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. But that’s not how I feel at all. We prepared for this season of life. We’re ready. I have all the confidence in the world in Aniela…even more than I had before. We’re in a good place financially. And we have an ambitious plan for 2018 which, God-willing, will put us in an even better position.
And speaking of God’s will, I don’t claim to understand it better than anyone else. All I know is that many things could’ve gone wrong during our full-term pregnancy and delivery, but they didn’t. I also know that every change in our plans turned out to be necessary for one reason or another. These changes were disappointing to us at the time. But now we’re thankful for them.
We didn’t want to deliver our boy in a hospital. And we certainly didn’t want for him to spend his first 10 days in the NICU. If you would’ve told us before the delivery that we would end up going home without our baby, we would’ve been devastated. But as I now look back on Abram’s first 10 days, I clearly see they were loaded with blessings.
All the protection, all the problems we avoided and all the knowledge we gained from experienced nurses and doctors…these were gifts. If this was the only time that I safely made it through a stressful time of uncertainty, I might conclude that I was just lucky. But this is how it’s always been for me…year after year, in one area of life after another. I’ve repeatedly gone through seasons of difficulty and uncertainty…only to come out blessed on the other end.
My prayer is that our son will have this same favor in his life. It’s one of the main reasons why we named him Abram. As soon as I have the time, I’ll write a post about how we arrived to that name. But for now…
Ready Or Not, Here He Comes
As I write this, Aniela and I are only hours away from bringing Abram home from the hospital. The 10 days of treatment in the NICU are over. Our precious boy has never seen the sky or sunlight before…only fluorescent lights and hospital rooms. We have to teach him about…well, everything. And I’m sure he has a lot to teach us. We certainly have a lot to learn.
Thank you for all of your prayers, congratulations and kind words. I’m full of gratitude and appreciation for this perfect little boy. He’s a dream come true. And I’m excited to slowly discover the little boy and the young man he will become. To God be the glory.