A nurse gradually fills my IV with pitocin, which is supposed to increase contractions and speed along my labor. "Your uterus is really tired," the midwife tells me, and I think, "That makes two of us." We're going on twelve hours now, but the nurse assures us, "That's the average length of labor for a first-time mother." Nancy gently corrects her by asking, "What about for a first-time father?"
A little earlier, our midwife brought over a red velvet sack filled with little slate tiles, each shaped like a heart and bearing a single word. "Pick one out and that will be your focus word," she says. Now I reach in, pull out a pink heart and show it to everyone. "Serenity!" says the midwife. But in fact, it's misspelled on the tile as "Sereinty." How perfect, I think—even my focus word is mixed-up, nonsensical, a deviation from what is known and expected. That has been the story of my entire pregnancy—no one has known quite what to make of it, or been able to truly understand what it means. To me, it couldn't be simpler. I am a person who is deeply in love and wants to have a child. But, just like my jumbled focus word, what I know it to mean and what the world reads it as, are two very different things.
"Remember, Thomas, sereinty," Nancy tells me later. "Try to be sereine."
Things suddenly get serious; a doctor is hustled into the room. It is time for my baby to be born. "Let's get busy and push," the midwife says, and I push harder than I ever thought I could. The pain is searing, and I think I might pass out. But I keep pushing. I hold tight to Nancy's hand, and every once in a while I steal a look at my white, laminated hospital wristband. Just like my wife's hand, it's a source of strength for me. There's nothing all that unusual about it, unless you know my whole story. But a single thing on that band—a single, solitary lettervis, for me, a symbol of the most emotional and triumphant battle of my life. On the band, in simple type, it reads:
NAME AGE SEX
Thomas Beatie 34 M
Never before in history has someone delivering a child had the letter "M" typed on their wristband.
"Okay, here we go," says doctor. "I can see her head."
Now it is time for me to meet my daughter.
My name is Thomas Beatie, and I have a family. I have an amazing wife, Nancy, who I love more than I thought possible, and a baby daughter who to us seems like an angel on earth. Sometimes at night I lie awake and think about how lucky I am, to have the dream I dreamed so long finally come true. In my darker moments I've always feared that somehow I might lose what I have. But I know that we are a good and strong and loving family, and that we can withstand whatever the world throws at us. It has not been an easy trip for us to get here, and there are many, many people who would like to see us torn apart. But here we are, a mother and a father and a child—a family just the same.