The Smell of Rubbing Alcohol

My feet clicked along the linoleum, one direction, then the other. Occasionally, I would stop and sit on the 3-person wide bench along the white wall and write down the recent events: 10:06am barely miss the down elevator. 10:15am stop at library. 10:45am get food @ restaurant I hate. 11:00am wait for bus; I want taxi. 11:12am get in taxi. 11:32am $93.50 HKD to taxi driver. 11:47am Miranda* checks in. 11:49am I am in waiting room.

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Typical taxi in Hong Kong

Outside the air was heavy and a sparse fog made the orange street lights glow like jack-o-lanterns. Horns and sirens echoed through Hong Kong as life for 7 million people zoomed by during the most important moment of my life.

Inside, a large, circular, convex mirror hung in the corner, but no one was coming. Was I the only person waiting? 7 million and no others here? Where are the other-

The double doors swooshed open for a lady with a white face mask and a poofy, white hairnet that made her look a bit like a walking mushroom. The mushroom gave me a status update, refused me entry, and I wrote down what she had told me.

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Hair nets look a little mushroomy.

            2:14pm Mirandas contractions hit one minute.

As much as I was hurting to finally be allowed in, I couldn’t imagine the pain she was in.


No Fear of Pain

“Are you sure you can handle it? You’re pushing a football through your body.” We had already agreed that short of having the birth at home in a tub, the more natural the labor process, the better.

“Mmmmm, no, but if it’s good for my baby then it’s good for me.” I was proud that my daughter would have such a strong mother, then thought about what it would be like pooping a football, and then felt deep relief that I am male.


Like Nat Geo

5:00pm Admission to labor room.

The first thing I saw of her was a little tuft of hair. It was matted to her scalp like someone had taken a warm sponge to it. The doctor said something in Cantonese, then a nurse handed her some gauze.

Out popped two brown eyes and a nose that a button would wear as a button. I don’t remember crying at this point; but, afterward, her mother would tell me that the nurses had kept asking her if I was okay.

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Have no shame crying man-baby

If I had understood Cantonese and been able to respond in kind, I probably would’ve laughed and cried even harder. Okay? Okay?! I was more than okay; I was rhapsodic!

Overjoyed, Overwhelmed, Overly Wordy

It’s often said that people who aren’t parents don’t know what it’s like to have a child; the love you feel is like nothing you’ve felt before.

So, what I tell them is this: imagine someone kidnaps you (this got dark quickly, I know, but stick with me even though it gets darker right now), chops off your arms, blinds you, removes your inner ear, and sterilizes you. Imagine it hardcore…like it’s real. You feel that dread and that horror?

It’s the exact opposite of that. It’s cup of water under a running tap; continuously overflowing and uncontrollable. It’s trying to hold back a wall of marbles; it’s too much, it completely takes over your entire world.

Only that running water and that wall of marbles are not wasteful nor painful. A parent’s love isn’t just the overflowing cup; it is the water, the spigot, and the drain. It’s not just a million marbles crushing you to the ground; it is the marbles, it is the ground.

It is everything.

After her face completely emerged, the rest of her seemed to slide out of a purple water slide. It’s not as gross as people make it out to be, at least not all the time. When you finally see it, it just is.

There is no judgment on the body fluids, the baby that looks like a sweet potato, or the tears pouring out of a grown man’s eyes. It just is.

And it’s beautiful.

A Fragile Moment

babies have no fear of pain
Auburn and I

The doctors wanted to push me to cut the cord immediately. But, as Miranda and I had discussed, we were going to wait a few minutes and let the last bit of placental food give our daughter the best start she could have.

She looked so helpless on her mauve towel. Limp little arms and legs wiggled as she adjusted to gravity. Lips and eyes closed and opened slowly. A few grunts, but not the screaming baby you see in the movies. Like I said: helpless.

The scissors sliced through the cord in one quick snip. The nurse clamped it shut and wrapped her in a towel. She picked her up and handed her to me. Every YouTube video, all the pantomiming, all the practice I put into holding a baby all came down to this one moment: don’t drop your baby, don’t break her neck.

And I didn’t.

With her head gently resting in the crook of my elbow, I looked down at her little face and saw the same look I still see in her eyes today: she knows I’m Dad.


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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.

Not a newborn, but a chunk-chunk baby during dim-sum breakfast!

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.

No major health problems yet, just a healthy child 😀

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).

My first time holding the little squashball

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.

Sleeping in the ICU

The ICU

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.

The walk home

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.