When I was pregnant with my second daughter, Aynsley, my best friend Mary was also pregnant with her daughter Kirsten. Kirsten was born on Mother’s Day. Mary called me with the happy news, but joked “I’ll be spending every Mother’s Day baking a cake for her birthday!”
She then had the happy thought “Oh what if your baby is born on Father’s day?” I laughed, “Mary, for my baby to be born on Father’s Day, she would have to be 2 weeks late!”
Sure enough, on Father’s Day I was in the small hospital at Two Rivers, Wisconsin having my baby. I had spent the previous 2 weeks cursing my friend Mary. I was sure it was somehow her suggesting it would be “really cool” if we had our babies on days dedicated to parents (not children), that made my baby settle in.
Still, the contractions started almost exactly at midnight, and my husband and I duly timed them. Finally at 2 a.m. we both fell asleep. I was awoken at 6 a.m. by the baby. She decided she was rested enough to really get down to business. My husband was thrilled, and made the joke “This will be the best Father’s Day gift ever!” Little did we know how everyone we met that day, and for the weeks and years to come, would keep making that joke.
We showed up at the hospital and checked in. While I knew what was going on, the nurses were confused that my husband was clueless. We had run into this trouble at the Lamaze classes. People assumed my other daughter was from my first husband. In actuality, my husband had been at sea on a submarine when our daughter was born. My best friend Mary had stepped up to be my partner.
The submarine type my husband was on was a “boomer”. The Lafayette was called a “boomer” as the submarine was just supposed to stay out and be very quiet, and if needed send nuclear missiles to rain down death and destruction. I expect if anyone lived through it they might hear a “boom”.
The thing was with the schedule of a “boomer”, which was always at sea with a Blue and Gold rotating crew, you could either be there for the conception, or the birth, but not both. Since my older daughter, Evelyn, looks a bit like her father, he was not there for her birth.
Evelyn’s birth at the Navy hospital was natural not by choice, but by orders. There were 12 births at the small hospital that day. I was informed unless I had some problem, to expect a nurse midwife and no drugs. Evelyn was actually delivered by the ER doctor, he was called up as Evelyn decided to come out elbow first and the midwife was not allowed to use forceps.
While I would have chosen drugs, lots of drugs, before giving birth that first time, it had been actually easier than I had thought. I opted by choice for natural childbirth with my second child. However, my husband was not Mary.
Mary had been kind, loving, helpful, and supportive. My husband is a man that is rarely ill. He believes going to the doctor makes you sick. He goes to the dentist and counts that as “close enough” to an annual check up. He is not good in hospitals, and whenever I am sick his support consists of offering me Gatoraide and poking me to see if I’m still alive every now and again.
However, when I pointed out I needed his help to have a natural delivery, he decided to take it seriously and go to Lamaze classes with me. Dr.Larson, who treated our entire family, was worried though. He pointed out that my husband was an engineer. He said “Engineers are different in the delivery room”
My husband was different. A wife moaning and trying to find a “happy place”, just confused him. A machine though, that was familiar territory. The nurse had shown him how the machine that measured my contractions worked. His job was to let me know when a contraction was starting so I could take a mental vacation to a beach in Hawaii. Quickly.
Dr.Larson came into the room to see that my husband had both hands on the machine, and was staring intently as the line showing a contraction started to go up. My husband was “Oh boy, this is a BIG ONE, a really BIG ONE!” Mark got that machine through that contraction like a professional. Dr.Larson threatened to take away the machine if my husband did not hold my hand. Dr.Larson felt the machine would do just as well with my husband just holding it with one hand. He also pointed out that saying “Wow, that was HUGE, I thought that contraction would never end”, even if said to the machine and not me, was unhelpful.
My husband did his best, and we were in getting ready for the final push, when my husband said “EVERYONE WAIT!”. The entire room, doctor and nurses, stopped in confusion. My husband then flipped over the cassette tape he had help make of “peaceful music” to help me relax. Mark knew he was in charge of yet another machine, the tape player, and by golly, nothing could go ahead until side B was playing!
I’m not sure I can fully write just how crazy this delivery was. I’ve left out that Dr.Larson came from a huge Father’s Day picnic, he was wearing a bright yellow polo shirt and plaid shorts and flip flops. He had stopped by when called hoping that this was a false alarm. He was my family doctor, living in small town Wisconsin it was common to just have your family doctor deliver your baby. He sighed when he saw that this time my baby was serious about coming out. So under his smock and gloves he was wearing funny plaid shorts. Someone found him some shoes.
Next, there were sirens going off. My husband probably wanted the peaceful delivery music to continue as we were all a bit stressed. The sirens were a tornado warning. So while the hospital was being getting ready for a possible evacuated to the basement,I was trying to push my baby. I had a view of the outside from my window. Ominous black clouds worked far better than trying to find a “happy place” to keep my mind off the pain. I kept looking for a funnel cloud, wondering if my baby would be delivered in a hallway as we rushed to a basement.
In the end, Aynsley made her appearance. Dr.Larson went to let my husband cut the cord, while I yelled “Don’t let him do anything!” (My faith was a little shaken). I have to admit he did a good job with the cord cutting.
While Aynsley was being cleaned up, we could hear another delivery next door. The woman was screaming “I want this SH!T to stop NOW! I can’t take this SH!T anymore! I need more drugs, have I had drugs?” When we heard she was barely dilated, our room broke out in laughter. Dr.Larson said “I’m so glad I’m not delivering her baby! You just produced a 10 pound baby without one curse word!”
My husband, Mark, then took his daughter into his arms. I wasn’t allowed to hold her first, as this was Father’s Day. He looked into her eyes, and I could see them instantly fall in love with each other. Mark jokes that Aynsley looked at him and said “Hi dad, hey who’s that sorry looking woman on the bed there?” She had only eyes for daddy. The doctor finally had to ask for Aynsley back as he needed to take her to be checked out more thoroughly, and I had to ask to see the baby. Oh yeah, mom might want a peek.
Since then, it’s been a mutual love story. He will remind her over the years “You are my gift!” She will joke she doesn’t have to buy him anything for Father’s Day as she already had given him the best gift ever.
I’m still second place!
As for my friend Mary, she never did end up making birthday cakes for every Mother’s day. She was diagnosed with cancer, and died before Kirsten’s 3rd birthday. Her husband, our dear friend Norman, raised his daughter alone. He remarried, and Kirsten’s step mother has proven to be a terrific mother, but I often think of Mary. Every milestone in my daughter’s life, reminds me of what Mary has missed. Still, I know Mary would be proud of what a wonderful job her husband has done raising Kirsten. He has proven, as has my husband, that fathers are very important.
So happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there!