413. More Than A Spectator Sport

Long ago my great-grandfather’s brother Will was a small town doctor.  Medicine was a lot different then, and I imagine “Uncle Will” even made house calls.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is that people then, like people now, had babies.

And once a baby arrives (or any child if a couple fosters or adopts), one becomes a parent.  Parenthood isn’t particularly glamourous, especially in the beginning when sleep is non-existent, diapers have to be changed and spit-up dealt with.  But twice a year parents are honored, first mothers in May and then fathers in June.

Uncle Will once observed that the first baby can come any time, but after that it always takes nine months.  It took six years for Lori’s and my first baby to arrive, six years of uncomplicated life that hardly seems real now.  Because once little William arrived nothing was ever the same.

Lori had five weeks maternity leave, and I honestly tried to help with William’s care.  I’d wake her to let her know he was crying, holler at her when his diaper needed changed, and reminded her to do the laundry.  But when the five weeks were up fatherhood suddenly became much more than just a spectator sport.

I was never so panicked in my life.  I really wished I’d paid more attention to how Lori did things.  The very first time I tried to change William’s diaper he initiated me as only a little boy can.  I almost called my mother, but decided to try to get through it by just taking it an hour at a time.

Over time, as each new parental challenge presented itself, I did my best to meet it, and miraculously, our kids somehow survived.

Angela came along 2 years after William and was in no hurry to be born.  Finally, during an early morning snow storm, the contractions started.  When I eventually managed to get a path shoveled and the car warmed up, I found Lori was back in bed.  “The contractions stopped.”

The next time she woke me to say she was having contractions I pretended I was still asleep.  It was my birthday, and I wasn’t interested in another false alarm.  But 18 hours later I was in the operating room, spectator at an emergency C-section (Dr. Kusek glanced over and said they should find a chair for the father – I guess I was “looking rather green”).

A few years later Thomas arrived unexpectedly while we had William and Angela in the bathtub.  This was supposed to be a planned C-section a month later, but Thomas had other ideas.  A doctor was hurriedly found and everything went well.

I don’t think I was ever happier than I was that next day.  They let us keep Thomas in Lori’s room and take care of him ourselves – it was the first peace and quiet we’d had in years!  But two months later we were back in the hospital.  Thomas had contracted pneumonia and again, I found myself taking life just one hour at a time.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day and I have more work to do than I can possibly get done – part of me wishes we could celebrate Father’s Day by just letting me work.

But this is about the only time that fatherhood is recognized, and considering that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life, I guess I’ll make a few more sacrifices (though those don’t include missing this column’s deadline) and enjoy doing what really needs to be done today – spending quality time with my family.

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