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کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 41

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Dad

When we met, Robin wasn’t sure whether she wanted to have kids. Before we got married, I asked if she would agree to at least one child. I didn’t think I could marry someone who didn’t want children. She said yes. I said that’s good enough for me. We agreed that we wouldn’t talk about another kid until the baby was past one.

Robin had a smooth pregnancy, no morning sickness, only an occasional uncomfortable night. But then a month and a half before the due date, our doctor started noticing a drop in amniotic fluid. She ordered Robin to slow down. Then the levels were still dropping and so it was bed rest.

Two weeks before our due date, Robin’s fluid levels were still too low, so the doctor said we had to induce.

As the baby was coming out, there still wasn’t enough fluid. Robin was fully dilated, and I saw our doctor do this short, worried exhalation. You never want to see your doctor anxiety breathing. I clench up when I feel unnerved. I get tight. But I tried not to show it, because what good would I be to Robin in the delivery room?

Suction. Forceps. Our doctor pleaded, “Robin, you’ve got to push. You’ve got to push.” I felt so helpless. In my distress, I did the one thing I shouldn’t have done. I became the coach. I turned to Robin and got close to her face, as if I were spotting her lifting weights. COME ON, ROBIN! YOU’VE GOT THIS. PUSH! That technique may work on men, but my wife wasn’t feeling the burn.

In between deep breaths, she critiqued my method. Shut. Up.

I adjusted my approach. I love you, honey. You can do this. I’m right here with you.

At 7:04 p.m., February 12, 1993, our baby was born. When the doctor finally got her out, it was such a release for me. I wept. And then I freaked. Her head was conical because of the suction and forceps. My daughter looked like one of the Coneheads from Saturday Night Live. The doctor, whose worried exhalations had done nothing to reassure, was now wonderfully easy and consoling. “That conehead is normal. That will reshape.” Almost immediately it did start to reshape. It was miraculous.

I can, in an instant, recall the depth of feeling for my baby when I first saw her, the utter dependency, the desire to protect her. Cut the cord, Dad. I cut her cord. I was a father. I was honored to be the first one to hold her. And then I gave her to Robin, who didn’t cry. “Oh, there you are,” she said calmly. “You’re so beautiful.”

They checked the placenta. They needed to do the Apgar test. Come on, Dad. Hold the baby. Pinprick test. All good. Length. All good. I put her on a digital scale. It read 6.66. The nurse went to write it down but looked at me first, eyebrow raised. Robin is superstitious, and that decimal point could be missed upon first glance. I put a finger on the scale and nodded to the nurse. It now read 6.67. She smiled and wrote 6.67 on the official paperwork.

Robin started nursing and bonding. When she rested, Taylor would lie on my chest and hear my breathing and feel my rhythms. I’d never felt so connected with anyone.

We stayed an extra day at the hospital because Taylor was slightly jaundiced. They sent us all home with a baby tanning bed; we put tiny tanning goggles on her and lay her under the heat lamps, and she would just fall asleep adorably. At first you hear your baby is jaundiced, and it’s alarming. But it’s pretty normal. And then she was over that.

A week after the birth, Robin was still struggling. We thought, Well, of course she is. She just had a traumatic, emotionally taxing experience. We went back to the doctor after ten days, and her pulse was sluggish, she was anemic, and her blood pressure was way too low. She was hemorrhaging blood.

Right there in the doctor’s office I saw Robin’s eyes roll back in her head. She collapsed. Seeing anyone lose consciousness is scary. But to see my wife, who’d just been through so much, go down like that? My heart dropped. I grabbed her before she could fall and we called an ambulance. Even though we were in the Cedars-Sinai hospital complex, she had to get into the ambulance to go two hundred feet to the ER next door. Transportation policy. Bureaucratic bullshit.

We knew something was wrong. They ran the gamut of tests and discovered they hadn’t removed the entire placenta after the birth, and that was creating all kinds of havoc. Robin’s body was basically treating the placenta like an intruder. They had to do a procedure to collect the tissue from the uterus, and Robin had to stay in the hospital. I brought Taylor back and forth to see Robin and feed. It was stressful, but in a way uplifting, because I felt needed and useful and connected. That bond between a mother and child is so strong that sometimes a father can end up feeling like a third wheel. But I felt so bonded to both Robin and Taylor then. My sister Amy came to stay with us for a while around Taylor’s birth, and by that time she was a nurse, and she was incredibly helpful.

When Taylor was two, I brought up the idea of having another baby. I’d started working more, and Robin was working less. I said I think it’s fair that you have two votes and I have one vote. The first child was up to us. The second is up to you. What do you think? “I’m good,” she said. She didn’t want another.

I brought it up again when Taylor was three. Robin said she didn’t feel she needed another child. I don’t know if the difficult late pregnancy and birth had any influence on her decision. Maybe so.

I’m certain the main reason I thought we should have another child was so that Taylor could have a sibling. Because my parents had been who they had been, I thought of family as siblings. Growing up as I did, I don’t know what I would have done without my brother’s support and the strong bond we shared. But Taylor would have a much more stable environment than I’d had. So a sibling wasn’t a pressing matter. I deferred to Robin, and we stopped at one.

With an only child, it was easier to take her with us, so Taylor has traveled a lot. Also, there’s no denying only children spend a lot of time around adults. Taylor was comfortable around adults and adult conversations early on. Her level of comfort around kids her own age took longer to get to, but it came.

Taylor expressed interest in acting when she was extremely young. We tried to steer her into classes and experiences that didn’t professionalize her. Of course some children who act professionally go on to be fully actualized adults. Many of them do not. It’s a hard road. And we wanted to protect her from that, let her be a child. She’d have a lifetime to work when she grew up.

The great acting guru Constantin Stanislavski said, “Love art in yourself, not yourself in art.” I think of that often. I try to live by that. Work, hone your craft, enjoy your successes in whatever doses they may come. But do not fall in love with the poster, the image of you in a movie, winning an Oscar, the perks, the limo, being rich and famous. If that is what you’re falling in love with, you’re doomed to fail. My father was oriented toward those things. And I wanted to live a different kind of life. And I want a different life for my daughter. Fall in love with creative expression and the surprising discoveries and empowerment it can bring. Be wary of the rest.

When I was nominated for my first Emmy, Taylor was young; Robin and I got a babysitter, and off we went to the award ceremony—a fun, glamorous night. We got home, and I paid the babysitter. The kitchen trash reeked something awful. I mean it was alive. Robin handed it to me, and I held it at arm’s length so it didn’t drip on my tuxedo and patent-leather shoes as I walked out to the garbage cans outside.

As I was straight-arming the Hefty bag, I smiled. An hour ago it was limos, autographs, flashing cameras, champagne—now, smelly trash.

That’s the way life should be. Balanced. Chores. Daily responsibilities. Family. Show business has a natural attraction to charlatans and phonies because it can be superficial. And empty. Sort of like whipped cream. When you dig into it with your fork, there’s nothing underneath. You can’t build anything on whipped cream. But Robin gave me the bedrock stability that I wanted professionally and needed personally. And when our daughter was born, Taylor gave me that, too. Then it was my job to give my family the same in return.

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