The pain had finally stopped. My wife’s body slowly relaxed, and I saw relief come over her tearful face. She had completed an amazing act of passion and torment. Our son, Jack, had just been born.
I kissed my wife on the forehead, telling her how proud of her I was. Even though we already had an older son waiting for us back home, even though we had been through the drill of childbirth before, I was no less dazzled the second time around. My wife’s body is capable of amazing things, but her mental capacity awed me. Her iron will manifested itself carrying Jack for nine less-than-fun months, but it was fulfilled on that sunny October afternoon when he decided to join us.
The nurse took Jack over to the scale to measure him and take the imprint of his tiny feet, and I started to catch my breath long enough to take in what had just happened. We had just become a family of four. As my eyes now took in his face, I began to unintentionally compare him to his brother. Narrower face, I thought. Not as pale as Miles. Longer. Heavier.
Suddenly to the future: Who will this little man become? Will he laugh like his brother? Will they get along? If one’s entire life flashes before one’s eyes upon imminent death, then the opposite was true for me witnessing this new life being born. Jack’s potential, like a path being newly drawn by every fresh breath he was taking, was being revealed to me.
After the nurse dipped his feet in ink for his record, she turned to me. “I have an idea,” she said. Placing his feet in the ink again, she took my forearm and imprinted his tiny feet onto my skin. Little black footprints, temporary tattoos directly from my new child.
The nurse cleaned Jack, and carried him back to his mother. He laid directly on her skin, solidifying the bond between them. I watched from a distance. My time for bonding would come. In that moment, I was content in the knowledge that we had successfully brought life into this world twice.
Over the next few days, we watched Jack learn what it means to be alive, what it means to be a part of our family. We watched him meet his big brother, and watched his big brother adjust to having him around. My tattoo faded, but that was fine. I have something much more permanent: a son that is already such a part of our lives that we couldn’t imagine life without him.