Last week my oldest daughter, Emma, celebrated her tenth birthday, they certainly grow up fast don’t you know. And apart from the obvious disadvantages of rearing young children—the noise, exhaustion, virtually no time to call your own, repeatedly repeating yourself, and the endless adjudication of sibling quarrels—so far the process of dadding them has been just swell. From entirely helpless diaper wearing newborns, to wholly dependent, stuffed-animal toting toddlers, to make-their-own-peanut-butter-sandwich preteen wiseacres, the various twists and turns of the entire kid-o-thon have indeed been rewarding—fun almost. Sort of.
And though it’s been a full decade and hundreds of Barbie movies later, I still remember the day, err night, she was born like a jumbled day before yesterday. It was July 26th, 2002, 1:31am—not that I remember the precise time, I don’t. I had to ask my wife. Truth is, dads never remember the exact time their children are born. Rather, dads only vaguely remember the ready-or-not traumatic episode through the fog of frazzled nerves, fatigue and of course, hunger. And as I recall, some of the time, during the less messy parts naturally, was spent fantasying about demolishing a cheeseburger and fries.
Conversely, this notable hour-minute time-stamp is forever burned into the minds, and undercarriages, of any mother forced to remain conscious during the punishing birthing process. This is especially true of any mother who, by choice or necessity, does without the indispensable and all-important epidural cocktail, thus experiencing the celebrated moment, o’natural. Their pain, their unimpeachable memories.
My wife was just such a woman—an o’natural, not so eager beaver that is. Our daughter, having decided to arrive nearly four weeks early, and without delay, sent my wife from hardly, to fully, childilated, chop-chop fast, thus forcing her to pass over said cocktail—by compulsion. Consequently, the birthing process was cervix expanding, skin-tearing, no-fun genuine—or so I gather.
It’s no secret: I’m not big on gore. Honestly, I’d have been just as happy pacing away (while watching TV of course) in the relative calmness of the waiting room. Still, my wife disliked this 1960’s style of matrimonial support during this, her foremost time of need, and instead insisted I accompany her into the labor room. Ugh.
As a compromise we agreed I would instead remain a safe distance away from anything considered icky, which means closer to the top of the birthing table, nearest her head—the yelling part. No bloodletting up there. The nurses downright enjoyed watching my expressions of squeamishness and alarm, repeatedly daring me to “Come look” at the area of devastation. “No thanks” I say again, “I’m good.”
Always the trooper, she handled it just like she handles every challenge in life—with nary a complaint, stoically, always dignified, just press on. And press on she did—until such time baby was out, unrestricted, wiggling freely, and sounding healthy, if not peeved. I was very proud of my wife’s performance. It was nothing short of “So that’s how they did it in the old days” impressive.
Alas, after a very brief—and emotional—parent-child meet and greet, our shiny new vernix covered daughter, apparently looking less than newbornrific, was carried off to the NICU for closer examination. Not to worry though, turns out she was just a little jaundice. Nothing a little phototherapy treatment can’t fix—that pesky bilirubin. And, after a few days, she was given a clean bill of health and released to her mother and me, to botch-up anyway we saw fit.
So, yes, it’s my oldest daughter’s tenth birthday. And to her I raise a glass, no two, plus one dreadfully unassembled Costco bedroom suite, and one fairly sizable ten-giggling-girl birthday party, to the girl she’s become, and to the joy she’s brought to my life. I’m a better man because of her.
But it’s also the anniversary of the day my wife, with incredible poise and competency, assumed the important duty of mother of our children. She’s managed to meet this tireless challenge with astonishing intelligence, ability and grace. She is this family’s ballast, our chewy nougat center, our special sauce, our secret ingredient, absent which, we’d just be another run of the mill nutty family. With her though, we’re an above average nutty family. And the three of us are enormously fortunate to have her at the helm.