I inserted the key in the hole and unlocked the door to our hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. I sat down on the sectional sofa in our room as my wife Lisa laid our adopted son on the sofa. He was sound asleep, and after meeting him for the first time the day before, we were now taking him with us to our home to be our child.
It was 8 p.m., and I looked over at Lisa who sat on the edge of the bed, and as we looked at each other, we both had the same thought: “Do we know what we are doing?”
We made it to our home in San Pedro, a mostly middle-class community twenty miles south of Los Angeles, despite overcoming our first small crisis as parents on the airplane.
“Look,” Lisa said, “D won’t wake up when I try to wake him.” We tried everything from tickling and gently scratching the bottom of his foot with our fingernails to opening his eyelids and holding him in an upright position, but nothing we tried worked and Lisa was getting more panicky by each passing moment.
“Tell the flight attendant to ask if there is a doctor on the plane!” This was my first crisis as a parent just 24 hours into my new role as a dad, and as a person with a long-life tendency towards denial and a super chill personality, I wasn’t sure if this was an emergency situation since D was breathing and I hesitated a moment before I spoke with a flight attendant.
The flight attendant made an announcement over the intercom to see if there was a physician on the flight, and three or four rows ahead of us, there happened to be an army doctor. We tried all the same efforts to wake up D, and by this time Lisa’s anxiety was beginning to transfer over to me, but the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned.
I started to recognize if there was a problem we were way up in the sky and hundreds of miles away from a hospital, and my brain thought of a few worst case scenarios, while we stood on the aisle for ten or fifteen minutes, trying to wake our son, who was on month old.
Then I don’t remember what happened next, but I think D opened his eyes, and our first crisis as parents was ended, and the rest of the flight D slept peacefully. We were relieved by his having waken up and were not panicking when he was asleep.
I had failed in my first crisis as a dad.
At least that’s how Lisa saw it because I didn’t immediately call the flight attendent for help. I wasn’t sure right away if there was a problem–D just seemed like he was in a deep sleep–and If the aftermath I thought I should have responded sooner to getting help. And I did. Just after Lisa’s anxiety had transferred to me and penetrated my calm denial.
Lisa and my different response to our first parenting crisis reflected our totally opposite personalities, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, it also foreshadowed our contrasting styles of parenting our son that became a major source of tension between us.
But that is getting ahead of our story.