A discovery of pride and wonder

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 12, 2009

Everyone said that my world would be changed.

I waited for it to happen Friday night in the hospital delivery room.

With each contraction, each push, I anticipated that big-bang moment when I would suddenly become a father.

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Gibson Thomas Salmon Hillyer entered the world at 8:57 p.m.

To be sure, I witnessed one of life’s true miracles as this 7 pound, 14 ounce life was handed to me.

Yet there were no trumpets, no fanfare.

There was no bright light streaming down from the heavens accompanied with a Charlton Heston voice.

Don’t get me wrong. There was pride. There was wonder. There was a big smile on my face.

But as I carried this tiny human being to show him off to family and friends there was this nagging doubt.

Where was that awesome sense that life was forever changed? Had it come? Had I missed it?

I am a worrier. I want to know the path ahead of me. I want control and this little baby gave me none of that Friday night.

In order to pacify my lingering doubt, I did what comes naturally. I picked up my camera.

Cameras are my security blankets that keep me focused on the present moment rather than worried about an uncertain future.

So, after I cut Gibson’s umbilical cord and after he let out his first cry, I began photographing.

For the next three hours, I snapped photos of the usual stuff, from Gibson’s footprints to the last hug good night from the new grandmother.

I snapped nearly 400 photos of Gibson that night. I could barely lift my eyelids when the day had finally ended.

With the camera by my side, I fell asleep on the hospital cot still wondering when this life change would become reality.

I woke up Saturday morning with the hints of sunlight filtering through the window blinds and the sounds of the nurse wheeling Gibson into our hospital room.

A little bleary-eyed from the night before, I wavered in and out of sleep as my wife picked up Gibson to begin day one as a new mother.

Suddenly there it was. With the morning sunlight streaming through the blinds, my wife picked up our newborn child and a timeless expression drifted across her face. Her smile hinted at joy and pride, tinged with wonder and curiosity. Her eyes sparkled with delight and amazement.

Before my wife realized I had awakened, I picked up my camera and took a couple of quick frames. As watched through the viewfinder I shared a similar feeling of joy and wonder.

A quick look at the camera’s digital preview screen confirmed all of those feelings and more. The best way I can describe the moment is with the words “father” and “mother.”

After taking hundreds of photos of my new child all in search of this life-changing event, I realized all I was searching for was staring at me in my wife’s face.

A friend recently told me that I would discover a new capacity for love after the birth of our son that I never realized I had.

In that split-second Saturday morning I realized he was right — about my son — and my wife.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 next week. This week, he’s at home with his family.