PREP TIME: 6 years 6 months COOK TIME: 41 weeks YIELD: 1
For those familiar with the blog, the format of the recipes is straight-forward. There are the introductory remarks, followed by the “What to Grab” and “How You Do It” sections. These sections are at once straight-forward, but also infinitely complex. A recipe for apple pie, for instance, will have only so many ingredients, and those ingredients – apples, flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon, cloves – will vary only so slightly, if at all, from any other apple pie recipe. But in the construction, the creation of that pie, there are an infinite number of combinations, variations, and subtleties, such that any given recipe may stand out from its predecessor.
So, too, of course with a child. The basic format is a matter of biology, common to almost all living organisms. And then again it isn’t.
On April 12, 2016, Caitlin and I welcomed Erin Sarah Insler into the world: our first child. To watch her enter the world was to witness a process of indescribable beauty and amazement.
Late in July 2015, after our return from a trip to Banff, Canada, Caitlin presented me with a pregnancy stick in her typically understated fashion. To my memory, she did not say a word: just slipped me the stick and waited. Once it registered, I gave her a hug. We were in business.
Over the next nine months, we waited and watched, capturing the milestones that came along – even if defining such milestones was hardly an exact science. There was the first sign of nausea and the first craving. There was the first ultrasound appointment, the first heartbeat, and the first time we found out that we would be having a girl. There was the first sign of a belly bump. The road to baby, with all of the hairpin turns of worry and excitement, sometimes at the same instant, was a new one for us. Of all the roads we had traveled, this was an uncharted one.
As we closed in on our destination, there was the first kick and the first set of hiccups – both of which would be familiar companions by the end. The hiccups and kicks intensified, to the point where I could see Caitlin’s blouses rippling from the repetitive movements happening within.
As the husband, this “within” was a profound mystery. I could sense the kicks and hiccups on my fingertips, but had no ability to know what they felt like, what the sensation of caring and sustaining for a living being felt like. Here was this person, yet unseen, for whom we had this ever-growing love and affection. Here was this person whom I loved, inside another person whom I loved. And to know that wife and baby were existing together only increased this affection and inspiration. As Caitlin’s belly swelled, so did my sense of pride.
And so did our collective sense of anticipation, particularly after the April 5 due date came and went. April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, and April 10 passed in kind, at a pace that could only be called painstakingly slow. The rapidity of the prior nine months seemed counterbalanced by these final, full-term days, with every friend and colleague inquiring of baby’s status. Then came the inevitable discussions of induction. A date was set for April 14.
In the end, this proved unnecessary. On April 11, 2016, at 11:30 p.m., after watching our evening shows, Caitlin announced that she thought she was having contractions. I took this to mean that she was, in fact, having contractions. At 4:30 a.m., her water broke. We left for the hospital, our excitement palpable against the silence of the highway.
By 11:00 a.m., Caitlin was ready to push, each push synchronized with the waves of contractions. She pushed and pushed, against the backdrop of encouragement. She pushed until the nurse beckoned me to peek forward, where I could see a little tuft of hair. And with each sequential push, the hair became closer and darker, until, at 1:16 p.m., with a clean, swift motion, we had our child in our arms.
I always suspected that I would start crying then and there. And I did. And so did Caitlin, as we stared down at the beauty of our creation. There was our daughter, living and breathing, clutched against Caitlin’s chest. Until that moment, we could only guess at her features, extrapolating from the rough sketch of our family histories and a few ultrasounds. But now, here she was, dimples on her chin, dark blue eyes, soft lips. She was ours and we marveled at her for hours, though the moment passed by like seconds. This was our little girl.
The scale announced her weight as six pounds, ten ounces. She measured nineteen and a quarter inches long. She was a perfect size for an infant, but in absolute terms, her fragility was obvious. There is an innocence that comes with measuring your child’s age in days; her weight in ounces; her height in inches.
These feelings of innocence and fragility, I know, will not soon dissipate. To hold the human being that you conceived in your arms, is always to feel a sense of vulnerability. To be a parent is to remain in a state of concern – from the first breath to the first day at school to the first day behind the wheel. At the same time, I sense that it is an unparalleled adventure, a chance to see the world afresh, from the eyes of someone for whom everything is exciting and novel.
There will be the first time we read together. The first time we head off to school. The first time we ride our bikes. The first time we catch a bug. And there will be the first time we enter the kitchen, mix up our ingredients, and see what shape emerges from the oven. And I cannot wait.