Welcome to the world, little one
I don't usually write about my personal life in this space, but this time I will. I hope that you will forgive me. But it won't be all personal, I promise. I will manage to work in some over-arching and redeeming social construct out of this somehow.
As I write, I am sitting in a birthing room in an ultra modern hospital with my wife in a bed over yonder hooked up with all types of tubes and monitors.
She's eyeing me with an unfriendly "Really?" look on her face as I begin pecking on my laptop. I tell her that I want to make sure that this moment is recorded in writing for our baby to read when he grows up, so that he would know how much pain and effort she went through to give birth to him.
But she looks somewhat unconvinced. She probably thinks that I will shop this to publishers afterwards to get a book deal on "Daddy's Eyewitness Account of Birth," basically trying to freeload on her pain and suffering.
But let's go back a few hours when we checked into this place. This is what I actually wanted to write about. When we got to the registration desk for labor and delivery department, there were four expecting mothers who were waiting, including my wife.
One was an Iraqi woman, with her mom, small son, and husband, reading passages from the Koran as she waited for a room to open up.
The other one was a Hispanic woman, most likely from Central America, who was there also with her mom and two younger sisters ― she would speak in Spanish with her mom and in English with her sisters, a scene that's familiar to any immigrant family to the U.S. Another one, who came in through an emergency room because she was only 30 weeks but her water had broken, was an Ethiopian, also with a young son and hovering husband. Then there was my wife, an Asian.
The receptionist extraordinaire and accompanying nurse were African American, who were obviously in control of the space and logistics of this dizzying place.
Chaos and confusion didn't stand a chance against this dynamic duo. Then there was the RN who was in charge of assigning rooms; she was white and from Pittsburgh, but spoke fluent Arabic and was chatting it up with the Iraqi mom-to-be while we were waiting.
A lesson in diversity was the farthest thing from my mind as we checked into the hospital to give birth to my first child. But it was a lesson that I got and will remain with me for the rest of my life.
There we were, six different ethnic groups occupying the same tiny space in a hospital united by a common cause: to give birth with as little pain as possible.
No, seriously. That was all they cared about. And, of course, to have a healthy baby. They were first and foremost a mom. Their ethnic and cultural identities, while they may have been important in their everyday lives, had absolutely no bearing in this environment.
There was an unspoken camaraderie and an implicit bond of trust in the dedication and skills of the nurses and other staff who would take care of them, regardless where they came from or looked like.
This got me thinking: "In what other country in this world would such a scene even be possible? Just physically, which country, with perhaps Brazil as an exception, could a small waiting room host six different ethnicities? Also, where in the world could an implicit bond of trust exist among people of such diverse backgrounds without nary a sense of preconception based on race? Even if such a waiting room were possible in Korea, would it be viable? I would hope that it would be, but it would take honest and courageous conversation as a society. And if the U.S. is any guide, the conversation would not be without heartache and struggle.
But facing the imminent birth of my son, I did realize that my greatest legacy to him would not be anything that I could do for him personally, leave behind for him, or save for him. I could be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but the greatest fortune in the world would not be the greatest gift that I could leave for my son.
My greatest gift and legacy to my son would be for me to do everything I could to make sure that the U.S. continues on its path ― albeit in fits and starts ― to live up to its founding ideals to be a place where everyone is truly judged by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin. This is the meaning of true freedom, which I took for granted until I was about to be a father.
But wait, my wife is grimacing at me. It looks like her water broke, and she's waving frantically for an epidural. Yup, that's what she's gesturing for. I have to run to her now, but make sure to stay out of her reach, since she warned me that my hair might suffer some indignities otherwise...
Ah, the scene is calmer now. The contractions are coming fast and furious, but my wife is thankfully oblivious to the pain. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Our epidural doctor was a Korean-American, actually, but didn't speak a word of Korean, while our nurse, an African-American, comforted my wife in passable Korean. Go figure. What a crazy country. And it's about to become my son's crazy country. And his wonderful world. And his noble ideals that I hope that he will appreciate much sooner than his father and is courageous enough to uphold not only for himself but for those who are voiceless.
But wait, my wife is making a different sound. Let me investigate and come back.
The investigation turned out to be a full blown push session, ending with the birth of my son. It sure was a struggle. It was bloody, painful, sweaty, and altogether not aesthetically pleasing. But the end-product was a miracle. Not because he is my son, but because he, like all babies, represents everything good and sacred about humanity. About us. About who we are, not what we look like. The birth of one's child must be the one moment in any person's life that reminds him or her of the vast potential of our own innocence. Innocence that could translate into a transformative force for all that is good within us.
So, it pleases me to introduce my son, Han Lim. Han, is a Chinese character that means limitless light and space. So I named my Korean American son based on a Chinese meaning for use in America. That is the world that I would inherit to my son, so help me God.
Welcome to the world, little one. You and thousands of others who were born on this date. May the world give you a chance, and you give the world a chance.
Jason Lim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.