At the end of the corridor the white doors of the delivery room opened. A Kikuyu nurse hurried along the hall, grinning. I ran toward her. “You have a son,” she announced. Very soon the nurse I had succeeded in offending came along, walking efficiently from the delivery room. She was carrying a baby – THE baby! – lightly on her arm. She and I exchanged a smile, all forgiven.
The baby wore a plastic identity bracelet on his ankle and his head was sticking out of coarse white swaddling. His eyes were open. He looked at his father and I found him to be clear-featured, finely formed and alert.
The nurse warned me not to follow her and disappeared through a door. She flicked on the light in the nursery and left me trying to peek through a window and around the edge of the drawn curtain. Finally she placed the baby, wrapped and very small, in a waist-high crib. She pulled back the curtain and wheeled the crib beside the window.
My son and I regarded one another, making our introductions. The baby was small and sober, uncrying and coolly observant of the world. He was not at all wrinkled, as babies are supposed to be, not at all red or prune-faced. He gazed at me with dark blue-gray eyes and a detached seriousness. I thought of old snapshots I had seen of my father, a sober little boy in Redlands, California.
Although I would not have acknowledged what I felt to any of my colleagues – I would soon swap stories about how the baby yowled at night – I perceived my son as terribly, terribly sweet.
Gazing at him, I understood that the child was not, as the missionary had said, a blank page on which his parents would leave their fingerprints. This child seemed complete, already himself, already aware of his identity. In his time he would show himself to me; he would make visible to his parents the identity which existed within him even now. I, of course, would never breathe any of this to my colleagues.
I heard the doctor’s footsteps coming along the corridor. When I turned to her, she smiled. “Thanks for all you’ve done,” I said. “How is she?”
“Fine. She worked hard, you know. She was splendid, though.”
“Can I see her?”
As the doctor started down the hall, I called after her, “Be careful, Doctor.” She turned and looked at him quizzically. “There are Army trucks in the streets,” I warned. “I don’t know why.” I shrugged, aware that my apprehensions showed. “Will they be all right if there’s trouble?”
“It’s Madaraka Day,” the doctor said. “Did you forget?”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
“A national holiday. There’s a military parade. She’ll be all right.” The doctor smiled reassuringly and continued down the hall.
I gazed back at my son. The child was examining the side of his crib. I smiled at his intentness. I stepped back from the window, parted from my son for the first time and hurried down the hall to see Donanne.
In the delivery room I bent beside the table to embrace her as best I could. “He’s beautiful,” I said. I leaned down and gave my wife a kiss.
“What does he look like?” she asked. “I hardly saw him.”
“He’s perfect,” he told her. “And terrific. And so are you.”
I did not go directly home. I drove past the main post office and the Parliament Building and out toward the President’s house just to satisfy myself that the Army trucks really had left their motor pools for a parade. Tootie and Dad were in Chester, England, on a trip. After they’d wakened, I would call to tell my Dad of the birth of his namesake, Paul Robinson Hunter III. Bob, another Paul Robinson Hunter, would have to be satisfied with a letter.
As I stood in the living room window, looking at the first dawn light, I thought about being a journalist and becoming a father. My colleagues and I reported on the doings of the world. We analyzed events and bestowed importance on some of them and sometimes jokingly referred to ourselves as The World Press. But I knew that none of the events we dissected and analyzed possessed the profoundness and immensity of meaning of my son’s birth.