The doctor instructed me to “pack” her wound with gauze twice a day, scrubbing the inside of it with peroxide each time I changed her dressing. The wound was about four inches long, an inch and a half wide and an inch and a half deep. It was raw meat and I was required to stuff 4x4 inch gauze pads in it twice a day.
As he finished explaining, the doctor said, “I am glad you are doing this. There are plenty of husbands who just have the nurse come to the house twice a day…”
Right there, I considered kicking this guy’s butt. Why did he have to give me the option to wimp out after I ignorantly volunteered for duty? I began to hate this man I’d just met, and I don’t hate anybody. After planning how I would have to dispose of his body if I killed him, I decided against it. I then calmed down.
While I knew that we were going to have struggles and tough times, I didn’t think our love for each other required actions that were more intense than the feeling of a simple hug or a kiss goodnight or the struggle of an argument, or even the birth experience itself. But this clinched it.
I didn’t think I could live long enough to have a week like this one. I saw my son born, I saw my wife cut open, then sewn up, and then burst open again. I couldn’t relate to myself in these circumstances. I couldn’t believe I was the one everyone in the room was depending on to be “nurse” for Sunday. This just wasn’t me. I couldn’t do it. Her wounding was much too powerful for me to live through. I felt like I was dying in that room, I was so stressed. Her life was up to me, and, by extension, Jonah’s. Twice a day, I was ensuring the health of my family’s future destiny with a simple, intense ten-minute change of bloody bandages. Since Sunday’s belly was too big for her to see it, I felt alone in my silent panic.
I responded to all of this with a smile as my hands shook violently at the thought of what I had to do.
I walked out of that room a different man. I couldn’t relate to myself in there because I wasn’t me anymore. I was responsible at a higher level than I had experienced. And I still couldn’t handle it.
I was seeing my shaking hands and Sunday’s tear streaked face and I knew I was on my knees with this heavy load on me. I couldn’t take this by myself, and although Sunday was certainly there physically, I couldn’t tell her about my fear. I couldn’t tell her that I was petrified that she was going to die. I couldn’t tell her how awful her belly looked. I couldn’t tell her that I loved her, but I didn’t know if I could love her enough to see her scars every single day, twice a day. I couldn’t tell her. I just couldn’t. I was silent, weighted down and silent.
When we got home, I made sure Sunday was comfortable, and then I went into our bedroom and called my parents. I bawled my eyes out. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty creative and visionary type of person, someone who can see himself past a tough situation into a place of triumph. This time, it wasn’t happening. I was a changed person. I wasn’t defeated, but I certainly needed some help. I could only see her open belly and the potential for disaster. I certainly knew what was at stake and it scared me silly.
While I talked to my parents, I only remember what Dad said, mostly because I recognized that it was our first father-to-father conversation. They both knew what was at stake, but Dad had the special position of father and husband in the conversation. He knew what it was like to carry a load he couldn’t handle. He knew what it was like to be frozen by the prospect of failure. In that moment, he could connect with me, and he offered to lift that load. I have no doubt in my mind that I could have physically fulfilled the promise I made to the doctor and to Sunday: I would dress her wound every day, just like I said. The conversation with Dad that night allowed me to fulfill that promise with the knowledge that he was there, understanding, supporting, lifting the weight off of my shoulders until I could move again. He knew I was on my knees, and he knew that, being eight hours away, he couldn’t immediately do anything, but he also knew that I needed a lift.
Right there, on the phone, he gave it to me. He said, “We’re here. And we can be there, if you need it.”