When I was a boy my mother used to tell me, “The first of the month is coming and there will be changes…” whereupon she would list a series of adjustments she desired around the house, usually regarding my attitude. All of this talk would usually pitch me into a kind of emotional maelstrom, difficult to characterize but unquestioningly powerful. This would last a few days, maybe even more than a week, only to slide back into the usual routines, occasionally with a remark about a lost, fleeting transformation. I was reminded of this repeated childhood moment as I drove my nervous wife to Massachusetts General Hospital on the last evening of August. Now during the weekend’s opening to September, the most profound and irreversible changes ushered into my life by this familiar monthly milestone.
As the sun rose across Boston, striping the skyline along the Charles River with long shafts of light and shadow, my wife performed brilliantly, delivering an immediately beautiful newborn. Our first child arrived at 7:05 AM, on the first of the month, touching off a whole new kind of internal turbulence which I am still searching to grasp. I never truly understood the words overwhelming or awesome until yesterday. All uses of those words now seem to me beyond trite, marrowless.
Upon hearing the first cry of life, every emotion in me fired all at once, and it was beautiful and strange and unlike anything I have ever experienced. Tears welled in my eyes as I heard the doctor say, “It’s a baby girl!” and watched this wet, black-haired body being placed on Ali’s chest. Yet mine were not the typical “tears of joy.” They were so much more than that. Joy, even happiness, is far too simple, too narrow of a description, and fails to capture the full storm of sensations. I was so full of every emotion, bursting with speed and suddenness. Most amazing to my spent and sobbing wife was the fact that I was speechless. No words came. I could speak nothing as I stood by bedside. All I could do was stare, lean down, kiss Ali gently on the forehead, then whisper in her ear, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” In an instant this tiny maiden changed everything.
“What are you going to name her?” asked the doctor. This detail had been discussed at length for some time. If it was a boy the name was preordained; but a girl, well that opened up a range of possibilities. Ali looked up at me newly pregnant, this time with hope. She had been advocating a name she thought to be perfect for many reasons. Barely audible, “Whatever you want,” I said.
Hadley Killaine, every time I think that name my eyes grow glassy as if someone popped my in the beak. She came into our lives like lightning, bright, bewildering, and brilliant, and nothing in the world will ever again be the same.