In a previously written post, “You Better Hurry Up,” I told the story of how my father very logically suggested that at 36 I was getting a little old for children. While I didn’t appreciate his interference, I did heed the advice. That was usually how we operated.
And so, when asked we would say, “we’re working on it.” As if this activity of ours to become pregnant was somehow a job to be ‘worked’ on with due diligence. Ah, if only all the other ‘jobs’ I’ve had over my career was so pleasant and produced such lovely and wonderful results. But I digress.
This was really my first characterization of myself as a parent. I wasn’t one yet, of course, but my mind was set and my intention clear; I would soon be a parent. And like any other job we’ve had before us, we worked as diligently as possible to produce the desired result.
Sure enough within a short time, we were able to announce that we were pregnant and the due date would be mid-July 1987.
Thus began our transformation from a happy childless couple to the exalted status of parents. Like most everyone in this situation, we had no clue what we were doing. There was so much to buy, a room to prepare, and a new lifestyle for which to prepare. There were baby showers, Lamaze classes, and nutrition classes to attend. There were endless trips to Toys-R-Us and equally endless trips to Home Depot. Every trip to every store would be an opportunity to check out the prices for diapers, baby wipes, and lotions. Mental notes were taken and filed for later use. There were seemingly endless trips to the doctor for checkups and the all important ultrasound pictures. These pictures became the ultimate party favor at every gathering where debates would be conducted on the prospective sex of the newborn.
Then there were all the new laws. Crib bars had to a certain distance apart, car baby seats were designated for newborns and then for certain ages and weights of children, and virtually every toy had some sort of warning label meant to guide parents as to what safety and age level for which the toy was rated. This was all new. When I was a very young boy I got in the car, we went to the toy store, and my parents bought a toy for me. There were no special seats, safety belts, and especially no warning labels on every toy. Now that was all changed.
During this period, I experienced something called ‘sympathetic weight gain.’ As my wife got bigger month after month, so did I. Then after the baby was born and she returned to her normal weight, so did I. It was the strangest feeling to be gaining weight for the first time in my life and then to lose it right away afterward, but I gained a profound appreciation for one of the things my wife was going through.
We had tried to maintain as normal a life as possible through her pregnancy. Normal, that is, given the doctor’s appointments and all of the other special activities that were happening around us. Then, just to make sure we were paying attention, there were the false labor trips to the hospital. After a few of these I got pretty good at being ready and getting her to the hospital in good order. But I also was less tense and urgent about the whole thing. It was almost like a “crying wolf’ experience. So much so that when the ‘real’ labor came, we took our time and got to the hospital without much urgency at all. Luckily, there wasn’t a need for the urgency.
When we entered the maternity ward of St Luke’s Hospital we were immediately surprised. It looked like someone’s bedroom. Sure, there were nurses milling about doing nurse type things, but there was a regular bed and furniture as though we were in someone’s home. I don’t know why no one in our family ever mentioned this, but as intended, it had an immediate calming effect.
When finally my wife was ready, we went into the birthing room. I felt as though I had been there before. I recognized the green colors and the polished stainless steel walls right away. But how could I? Yes, I was born in this very same room 38 years earlier, but how could I have recognized everything? I felt very strange about it, but there were other things to do of much greater importance, like hold my wife’s hand. That’s pretty much what the husband gets to do.
Then, on the 22nd of July, 1987 we became the proud parents of our daughter Sarah. The nurse checked her out, cleaned her up, handed her to me, and said, “she’s perfect.” Never were two more accurate words ever spoken. When the new Momma was ready, I handed Sarah to her and we both hugged her together. It was a life changing moment and one that will never be forgotten.