(This is part 1 of a two-part series reflecting on 10 years of parenthood.)
I still remember the day I learned for the first time that there was a bun in the oven.
I was a 22-year-old kid working a full time gig in an automotive repair shop as a service writer. Life wasn’t really moving at a snail’s pace – I had plenty of responsibility with a full-time job and car payments and a serious girlfriend all that jazz. That said, life wasn’t exactly progressing, either. That all changed in an instant.
I had planned on hanging out after work on this particular Friday night in June of 2001 when a last minute call to my cell persuaded me to ditch my buddy Dave and our typical Friday night routine. There was urgent news from my girlfriend (and future (ex)wife) Laura that couldn’t wait.
So I made the last second trip to Grand Rapids to her apartment, which would become my permanent residence only a few weeks later. It was obvious the news she had in store for me wasn’t guaranteed to be well received – and she was nervous as a result.
“Yeah so I took a pregnancy test…” Was the first thing she said to me after we’d exchanged greetings.
Silence followed. My mind inexplicably went back about eight years to September 24th, 1994. The Michigan Wolverines opened their season at home against the visiting Buffaloes from the University of Colorado. The game, now known at The Miracle at Michigan, ended as the Buffaloes’ quarterback Kordell Stewart threw a 64-yard hail mary pass as time expired that was caught by Michael Westbrook for the game’s winning touchdown. I have seen the highlight from that pass 50 times – and every single time I hold onto this irrational, desperate hope that somehow the outcome will be different than what I know is coming.
“OK…and?” Is all I could think of to say after a silence that spanned what seemed like 300 seconds but was probably only 10% of that. I distinctly remember wondering how inappropriate it would be for me to express joy or relief if she told me it was negative. Turns out that would be immediately rendered a complete non-issue.
I’m sure at that particular moment I was the spitting-image of Hollywood cliche, racking my brain with a befuddled look of complete panic trying to think of something intelligent to say. “Are you sure?” is all I could come up with.
“Yes I took three tests.” She said, unimpressed with my own version of the hail-mary pass. Turns out that a false positive, even from an el-cheapo home pregnancy test is pretty uncommon.
I wish I could recall more about that night, but there probably isn’t much to divulge. We talked through some of the logistics of moving in together – which we’d already discussed prior to this development. Three weeks later I was gainfully employed and living in Grand Rapids.
The next day I met up with Dave, whom I’d ditched the night before. We grabbed beers at a local watering hole and I told him the news. “It seems my childhood has come to an abrupt end,” I distinctly remember saying to him.
The six months or so between the news of my impending parenthood and the subsequent birth of my child is pretty much a blur. Between getting married, working a ton of hours, ultrasounds appointments, 9-11 occurring and just adjusting to everything that had and was about to change in my life doesn’t leave a lot of room for reflection. On Friday, December 28th, 2001 my daughter Elizabeth was born a happy, healthy little girl.
The day I became a father for the first time.
The date 12-28-01 is not insignificant in and of itself.
Throughout the numerous doctor and OBGYN visits, every ultrasound test revealed the same thing: The baby was healthy and progressing normally. The only issue is that she was breech
the entire pregnancy. That meant that she remained ‘butt-down’ the entire pregnancy instead of turning over. Once the pregnancy entered it’s ninth month and it was apparent little Elizabeth wasn’t planning on turning over, we had to schedule a c-section to deliver the baby. The breech pregnancy was significant for two reasons: One, We were never able to determine the sex of the baby as a result; and Two, We had the option of scheduling the surgery any time within two weeks of the projected due-date, which was January 8th. Laura was immediate excited that she could plan for a New Year’s baby.
At first I agreed – after all I had no preference. But after a little deliberation, something very sobering occurred to me. We can’t have a New Year’s baby – there’s a lot of football on TV that day! I didn’t want to be celebrating my kid’s birthday on New Year’s Day every year. So, with the tax benefits of the ‘Earned Income Credit’ as ammunition, I convinced Laura that the preceding Friday would be a much better day to schedule the c-section.
Yes, I actually planned my daughter’s birthday around football. I am secretly counting on the spirits of Knute, Bo and Woody to keep me from going to hell for this.
The surgery was scheduled for 1 pm. After Laura went in for prep, I was allowed to be in the room. She was laid down flat, with a small makeshift curtain across her waist separating her already surgically opened lower half from immediate visibility. This did nothing to keep me from peeking around the curtain.
The fact that we were kept in suspense about the gender of the baby had me secretly hoping for a boy. ‘Hoping’ was probably an
understatement. I was praying for a boy even though I am definitely not one to pray for predetermined outcomes. Looking back, I don’t exactly remember why I wanted a boy – other than the fact that I knew I’d have no idea how to handle a teenage girl. I guess being only shortly removed from my teenage years myself, I was predisposed to believe that out-of-control teenage girls are born straight from the womb.
Shortly after 1 pm that Friday afternoon, the doctor plucked the baby feet first from the opening in Laura’s abdomen. “Looks like a little girl-butt,” was the first thing she said.
Sure enough, they turned her over, cleaned her up a bit and I leaned in to cut the umbilical cord. Shortly thereafter, I was holding my baby girl. From that point on, nothing else mattered.
Coming soon: Part Two – what 10 years of parenting has taught me.