How does one describe the miracle of birth? I could try writing about it from my wife’s perspective, but no man knows what it’s truly like. I’ll have to stick with my own experience:
My very pregnant wife and I were sitting with our three children in the second row at church when Hailey gave me the “I’m so in love with you” look, the look that makes all husbands melt. Or, it might have been the “I’m going to have this baby now” look. As it turns out, it was the latter.
We packed up quickly and made a very public, very dramatic exit in the middle of the quietest moment in the Sunday services. We didn’t bother announcing it; there was no need.
On the drive north to our home, en route to Flagler Hospital, in St. Augustine, I noted, casually, “We’re almost out of gas.”
The next look she gave me was something along the lines of, “How could you do this to me?” and, “You had one job!”
Fortunately, I had a time-saving trick up my sleeve: We had a couple of gallons remaining in a red gas can normally reserved for the lawnmower. No need to stop at a gas station! My strategy of not mowing the lawn had paid off once again! I dumped it in the car’s gas tank, and we were off.
While Hailey breathed hard, grimacing through the pain, I kept my eyes trained on my favorite feature of my car: a reading that calculates miles per gallon in real time. At 45 mph, I can get upwards of 40 miles per gallon. At 65 mph, I can only get about 33. Hailey didn’t respond.
I said, "I'm just trying to distract you with some discussion of fuel efficiency."
"Yeah,” she said. “It's fascinating."
After we arrived, Hailey’s contractions increased in intensity for another hour or so while the nurse decided whether she should be admitted. That gave me plenty of time to admire a painting of flowers on the wall. It was by Karlene McConnell, an artist I had interviewed once at Hollingsworth Gallery. Small world! Right, Hailey?
“Who-who hee! Who-who hee!” she replied.
In a quiet moment between contractions, Hailey asked me to check the status of our unborn baby girl.
“OK, hmm,” I said. I followed the wires and cords that connected my wife to a computer screen, busy with graphs and numbers all over the place.
“OK, what am I looking at here?” I asked.
“Check the heart beat.”
“Something here says 1,110.”
“I'm looking for something more like 140,” she said.
“OK, right. Here it says 136 with a little blinking heart next to it.”
“That's probably it,” she said, the tip of a sarcasm iceberg bobbing on the surface.
As I sat down on the chair in the exam room, I noticed that the cushion deflated noisily. “Sounds like Darth Vader,” I said. “Spooky.”
“Who-who hee! Who-who hee!” Hailey responded.
“We’re going to get there,” I said. I offered a high five, which she accepted without much enthusiasm.
The nurse returned and explained that Hailey hadn’t made sufficient progress to be admitted, much to Hailey’s chagrin. But, incidentally, the nurse did explain that something unusual had happened earlier that morning. Twins were delivered, one at 1:57 a.m., and the next 10 minutes later. But because Daylight Saving Time ended, the clocks had been turned back, and so the second twin was technically born at 1:07 a.m., instead of 2:07 a.m.
“They’ll be forever fighting about who is older,” the nurse said.
It was a great little story, and to celebrate hearing it, I decided to eat my apple. It was a honeycrisp, and I had been saving it for a special occasion. Some people save wine for special occasions, but I don’t drink, so I save extra juicy apples. It was also extra crunchy, so when the nurse was giving instructions to Hailey, it was difficult to hear what she was saying. I just continued to nod and chew, nod and chew. Delicious!
When I was done, I went to the sink by the exam table to wash my hands from all the juice, and then I saw that there were no paper towels. The horror!
“There are some in the bathroom,” Hailey said.
Fantastic! There’s nothing worse than no paper towels after you just washed your hands, am I right?
But as she was about to respond, Hailey started breathing again: “Who-who hee! Who-who hee!”
I returned to my Darth Vader chair and filled out some paperwork. Fortunately, given my professional background, I was able to add an apostrophe where the preparer of this paperwork had inadvertently omitted one. It always feels good to help out!
When Hailey was finally admitted, she was given anesthesia, and everything calmed down for a couple of hours. I helped her find a football game on TV so we could watch it peacefully while the labor progressed.
I started wishing we had grabbed some of the kids’ Halloween candy before we left.
Just after the game ended, things started to get exciting. Heroic Hailey got to work, and the nurses got to work, and after a few moments when I thought I might pass out, a perfect little baby girl was born at 4:46 p.m. Nov. 2. She weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
She had long fingernails, a perfectly round head and in all respects appears to be perfectly healthy. As I’m writing this late on Nov. 3, she has already reached many milestones, including her first bath, first diaper change, and, thanks to her 8-year-old brother, her first photo with someone giving her bunny ears. Oh, and a name: Kennedy Mabel McMillan.
It was a wonderful weekend, a time to celebrate a new little person to love. But, it was also super stressful! Am I right, Hailey?
“Yeah,” she said. “It must have been excruciating for you.”