Becoming a Father

I was sitting on the couch watching tv in the early evening sometime in May 1986 when Gail came home with a sheepish grin on her face.  She had been to the health clinic about what she thought might be a bladder infection and handed me an illegible handwritten diagnosis from her doctor.  Gail hoped I’d be able to read it because she was obviously too excited to speak.  Through the irrepressible smile on her gorgeous face, she managed to utter these few words “We’re going to have a baby.”   

Her words hung in still air as the color drained from my face.  I was stunned and speechless.  My palms sweated. My mind raced. The silence was deafening as my mind raced struggling to find something positive to say.  My heart sank knowing that by lack of response I was hurting Gail with each passing second.  Nothing in me wanted to deprive her of the certain joy she found in becoming a mother.

Gail and I had been married now for about three years. For the first time in my many years, things were starting to go well in my life.  Gail worked for AT&T and my young business was just beginning to blossom.  Shortly after getting married, we moved into a beautiful townhouse with a hefty mortgage.  We had car payments, and the expense of a nice lifestyle barely within the reach of our combined incomes, and no savings. 

I was selfishly thinking in a negative light about the changes having a baby would bring to our life.  I had not even nearly been able to enjoy my wife’s body anywhere close to what I had desired and now she was going to change and I’d have to share her with another.

Gail kept our home neat and clean and perfectly decorated for each season.  That was something special to me having grown up in a messy home.  I feared that new sights, sounds, and smells would detract from the comfort I found in our home.

Irregardless of my concerns, fears, and silence, one thing was certain.  As Gail said to me just moments earlier,  “We’re going to have a baby.”  Gail surprisingly understood my reaction though no doubt equally disappointed.  With typical sweetness she insisted we call our good friends Greg and Janna and that I tell them the news.  She rightly figured this would help me break the ice and get on board with what was happening. 

Gail called from the kitchen phone and told Janna that we had some news to share as I listened on the bedroom phone.   Janna called Greg to the phone and soon it was my turn to speak.  There was no turning back.  The words echoing in my head struggled through denial to finally be mechanically uttered from my lips… “We’re going to have a baby.”

Greg and Janna erupted into elation on the other end of the phone.  I was still in shock.  Gail’s joy despite my cold reaction would not be repressed.   She put me through the exercise of calling Greg and Janna hoping to prime the pump by getting me to talk. 

Gail had enough confidence in my good judgment knowing that within a day or so I'd come to my senses, realize this was going to happen, and that I was going to be a father.

Gail was in her fourth month when she learned she was pregnant.  We attended one of the several classes offered at the hospital to new parents.  In the morning of October 22, two days before the second class, Gail came to the door of my home office announcing that her water bag just broke. The baby was not due for another month!  I called her doctor and he insisted she come immediately to the hospital.

In nervous haste, Gail packed an overnight bag with nothing but a nightgown, and for some inexplicable reason, a bottle of talcum powder.  I drove her to the hospital where we awaited the inevitable knowing little about what was about to occur.  Hour by hour passed and Gail’s discomfort grew as her body prepared to deliver our baby. 

Having only a few short months to adjust to the advent of the birth of our first child, I was sorely unprepared.  Now well past midnight, early the next morning, after Gail had been through tremendous pain and incredible physical changes, suddenly our baby began to emerge.  Everything started to happen fast now.  Within seconds the doctor handed me surgical scissors instructing me where and how to cut the umbilical cord. 

Nurses quickly attended to my crying infant child as the doctor declared us parents of a son.  Gail lay deliriously exhausted panting as her eyes searched for any possible glimpse of her new baby.  He resembled my father.  His little cries were quiet and sounded like a lamb. 

Quickly as possible a nurse handed Gail our baby and I beheld the precious sight of a new mother’s expression as she for the first time saw with her own eyes the infant son conceived and nurtured within her. 

It was now 6:00 am.  Gail was totally exhausted and we were both in need of sleep.  I decided to go home and sleep for a few hours.  No sooner had my head hit the pillow than the phone rang.  It was Gail.  She said the doctor told her something was wrong with the baby. 

Strong in faith, I assured Gail the doctors were wrong and that I would come right back to the hospital just a few minutes drive from our home.  I arrived to find Gail sitting up in her bed in the company of our doctor, a counselor, and two nurses.  The doctor explained that our baby’s lungs hadn’t fully expanded because he was born a month premature.  That explained his little lamb like cries. 

The doctor went on to explain that our son would require special attention that hospital was not equipped to administer and that he would be air lifted to the prenatal center at Northwestern Hospital.  The hospital counselor was present expecting Gail and I to freak out at this news.

With certain urgency, two paramedics brought our son into the room inside a portable incubator.  As we beheld our infant son enclosed in the plastic box with all manner of  accompanying tubes, tanks, and monitoring devices we remained at peace.  This much to the surprise of all present.  Thank God Gail and I were strong in our faith trusting Him for any eventuality.  In less than a minute, our baby boy was wheeled out the door to the awaiting medivac helicopter. 

The doctor and counselor remained in Gail's room with us anticipating that we would require their support after seeing our son carried away.  Gail and I were at peace confidently trusting that God was in control of the situation.  I suspect that our peace at that moment was both puzzling and comforting to the hospital staff assuming that in similar situations, other parents had been traumatized requiring lots of special attention. 

I was very proud of Gail that morning. She was exhausted and we both needed sleep.  Knowing that our son was in God’s care, we were at peace.  I went home to get some sleep. 

I slept a few hours and called my mother asking her to come with me to see the baby at Northwestern Hospital.   As we drove there, my head was filled with questions about my own birth having just experienced the delivery of my son.  I wanted to know all the details of what it was like for her and my dad the day I was born. 

I was the first born.  The circumstances of my own birth were now much more of interest to me having just cut the umbilical cord of my own first born hours earlier.  Vague memories of the story my parents told me now begged for more detail. 

Mom simply told me that she didn’t remember my birth.  I was born in 1950 when it was common practice to put the mother under anesthesia to deliver without pain.  She said that she just woke up and I was there. 

I already knew that the day I was born my father suffered his first heart attack.  What I hadn’t fully appreciated was that mom was pregnant with their first child, due at any moment, when her husband had a heart attack.  She called an ambulance and watched it carry her husband away to a hospital not knowing if he would live or die.  Then she went into labor and called another ambulance to take her to different hospital. 

Just hours earlier, I was present at the birth of my first child.  Still trembling from the experience, I am driving down the Congress expressway with my mother as she calmly tells me of what surely had to have been one of the most traumatic events of her life. 

We soon arrived at the Northwestern Medical Center and found the prenatal floor where we were required to scrub, wash, and don gowns and masks.  I was deeply moved to see many dozens of incubators housing babies far more premature than my son.  Many busy nurses attended infants so tiny that you cannot imagine them being alive at all. 

There were rows and rows of incubators.  It was a baby warehouse equipped with electronic devices, heat lamps, monitors, and all manner of medical technology that defied description.  One of the attending nurses directed us to Aisle one, incubator 10 where we found my son, “Baby Boy Hora”.

Nurses brought us stools upon which to sit along side my son’s incubator.  My mother saw her first grandson for the first time.  She sat on one side and I on the other.  As her mind flooded with emotions I could hardly imagine, and that her countenance could not conceal, I beheld the precious sight of my mother’s smile drop suddenly from her face.  She began to fall.  Were it not for the attentive nurse nearby who rushed to catch her, my mom would have collapsed on the floor. 

Thoughts so recently reminded of the traumatic events of my own birth in the shadow of my father’s first heart attack, I feared that my mother had now died before my own eyes.

As it was Fall weather outside, in our haste to wash before entering the ward, both mom and I still wore our coats underneath the hospital gowns.  Due to the heat lamps over each incubator, the ambient temperature in the room was close to 98.6 degrees.  My mother had simply fainted but was soon revived and all was fine.  My heart still raced. 

Knowing that all was well I drove mom back and returned home.  That evening I brought pizza to Gail at the hospital where our friends Tracy and Tony joined us.  It was an odd celebration considering our son was 20 miles away. 

Returning home alone past 10:30 pm, I quickly appropriated a pint of chocolate Toffuti ice cream from the freezer and took my place in front of the television to watch Joan River’s TV show and enjoy what I figured was a well deserved treat before a good night’s sleep. 

No sooner had Joan Rivers begun her monologue and my spoon filled with sweet treats delighted my tongue, than I was struck the thought of my infant son alone in the baby warehouse.  Just hours earlier he had been living in the most perfect of all environments inside mommy’s tummy.  Now violently withdrawn from that perfect place, he was abandoned miles away from his mommy in the care of strangers and machines! 

Though attended by diligent careful nurses, they could not possibly be as conscious of his needs as was I.  Stricken with compassion for my little son I left my Toffuti on the coffee table, quickly threw on my coat, and ran to the car.  My thoughts were sharply focused on my little son all alone in the baby warehouse.  Wiping tears from my eyes, I sped down the Congress expressway pleading with time to stand still until I could be with my son. 

I quickly parked in the first available spot and ran from my car to the hospital door.  Racing toward the elevators I slid across the floor, hit the "up" button, and counted the seconds until the elevator door opened.  Arriving at the prenatal floor I once again washed and dressed though this time knowing exactly where my son was. 

Baby boy Hora was all alone exactly as I suspected.  Sleeping innocently I approached him in his incubator and stood by his side knowing that I was the only one there who cared for him as only a parent can.  I looked down at my baby boy wearing his little blue knit wool cap as he slept. 

With my right hand I held his little right foot and with my left hand I reached toward his tiny right hand.  His little fingers wrapped around my index finger and I bent down and kissed my son for the first time.  Tears streamed down my face.  Love flooded my heart. 

All the lights on the switchboard inside of me lit up at once.  Stunned by these new feelings, I instantly became a father that night.

An occasional late night nurse passed by casting a knowing glance my way as I lingered there for an hour or so as love for my son overtook me.  I don’t remember the ride home but I will never forget the ride there that night.  Something in me had profoundly changed for the better.  I was now a father with a son depending on my love. 


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