Determining when our first time abroad was, isn’t easy. That’s because my daughter and I were born in different countries. The birth of my daughter was in Hong Kong, so for her, traveling to the USA was her first time abroad. So, let me clarify that I will be speaking about our experience from my perspective.
The Birth of My Daughter
Our first time abroad, then, was the first moment I saw her. Hair sprouting first, a mangled net of gooey fuzz. Happy tears were pouring from my eyes as the rest of her started to emerge. Her squashed face, wrinkly body, and trailing umbilical cord, all covered in purplish amniotic fluid. I’d never seen anyone more beautiful.
The doctors and nurses kept asking her Mom if I was okay because apparently, they don’t see many grown men weep harder than the newborns. I don’t care, seeing the birth of my daughter was borderline overwhelming, like someone was pouring love onto me like an overbearing syrup. I could feel it running down my neck, sticking inside my ears, and gluing me to that moment in time. I’ll never forget it.
The Cord Chop
I waited a couple of minutes before cutting the umbilical cord, letting the last juices being transferred to her make it to where they need to be. So, she laid on the table, squirming, not really crying, an amniotic fluid bubble formed around her lips, expanded, then popped. I couldn’t help but laugh, despite its unique weirdness.
Finally, I chopped through the cord with a pair of surgical scissors, she was wiped clean by a nurse, wrapped up, and passed to me. She looked nothing like me. Dark brown hair, the beautiful curved eyes of her Chinese mother, puffy cheeks (also her mother’s), and a button nose (also her mother’s). Her chocolate brown eyes locked mine, she stared at me, maybe not yet knowing who I was, but I know she could feel my love as I rocked her in my arms. My crying stopped and I had the adrenaline pump you get when you beat death. Like surviving a bungee jump, or escaping a Chinese cobra in the jungle (I’ll give you that story another time).
The Riddle of Time
After the birth of my daughter, I spoke to her with a shaky voice, though I can’t remember what I said, and she listened better than anyone ever has. I don’t know if I held her for two minutes or an hour. There’s just no way to decipher a time frame in such an emotional moment. How long did your car skid out of control for? How long did your first fist-fight last? How long was your grandmother’s funeral? How long was the first time you made love? Okay, that one’s easier to answer, right around 2 minutes.
Unfortunately, the doctors had some health concerns for her due to some prenatal problems, so she had to be taken to the ICU for monitoring. I remember thinking, “she’s beautiful, she’s healthy, she doesn’t need this.” But I was impressionable and took the doctor’s word for it, so off she went, scheduled for an extra for 3 days of care and monitoring.
The next two days I was allowed to spend time with her in very distinct and short periods. Something like 10-11 and 3-4:30. Each moment I spent with her, I would have her lay on my chest and her tiny fingers would grip my chest hair like a baby monkey afraid to fall. But she had nothing to worry about. Her little head fit perfectly in my right hand, her squishy butt made for a perfect grip with my left. After day one, I was super annoyed she was being kept in that glass box, not being allowed to have her bonding time with her parents.
On day two, a nurse tried to tell me I shouldn’t pick her up because she was sleeping, so I pretended I didn’t speak English and did it anyway. Back onto my chest, clutching my chest hair. After day two, I was pissed I couldn’t have more time with her. I knew she was healthy, her mother agreed, so we signed a form saying we take responsibility for removing her from the ICU early, wrapped her up, and walked her home. She slept the entire walk home through Hong Kong, cars honking, sirens blaring in the distance, people talking over each other in Chinese. She didn’t care.
Our First Night Together
Some people never co-sleep with their children for fear of smashing them, or fear of judgment. I co-slept with her in fear of not being able to snuggle her. Luckily, we were already abroad, and Chinese people don’t judge you for co-sleeping. And when she woke me up several times in the middle of the night to breastfeed with her Mom, I had never been so happy to have beautiful dreams interrupted.