Meant to post this on Valentine’s Day. Better late than never. 🙂
Meant to post this on Valentine’s Day. Better late than never. 🙂
A little something I post every year on Valentine’s Day, for reasons that will become obvious as you read this (if you haven’t read it before…)
My wife Lynda is at work, seven months pregnant and enjoying if not every minute of it, at least every second or third minute of it. I’m at home, painting the nursery. I’m painting the nursery because our twins are due in just two months, and we’re afraid they might be early – you know, like two weeks early – because they’re twins.
So there I am, painting away, and the phone rings. Too late, I missed it. Then it’s ringing again, but my hands are full of brushes and rollers and it’s just too much trouble to go into the next room and answer the phone, except that…
…the darn thing rings again.
This time I know it’s important, if not an emergency, so I high-tail it to the phone and pick it up just in the nick of time. It’s Lynda. She sounds… well, panicked, her voice all quavery, on the verge of tears. “I think my water broke,” she says, and provides details that are watery, messy, and a little scary.
I’m thinking, nah, not possible, we’re two months early here. Clearly she’s misread the signs.
“What are you doing?” she asks me.
“Painting the nursery.”
“Paint faster,” she says.
I’m off like a blue streak to the pharmacy where Lynda works, ready to bundle her into the car, prepared to make the hospital at something resembling four times the speed of light. When I get there Lynda says, “Hang on. Gotta finish up a couple of prescriptions first.”
It’s obvious to everyone in the store that something is not quite right. “Nothing serious,” I explain to one woman. “She’s about to give birth, is all.”
Twenty minutes later she’s ready to go. We’re in the car. I start the car and we are outta there…
…or so I think.
“Wait!” says Lynda.
“What? What is it? What’s wrong?”
“I forgot my boots.”
I stop the car, run back into the pharmacy and get Lynda’s boots.
She’s weeping a little on the way to Markham-Stouffville Hospital. “I’m scared, Joe. I’m two months early.”
I’m scared too, but I need to reassure her. I don’t know what to say. Lamely, I say, “Everything’ll be okay,” and take hold of her hand. She accepts the hand — for a bit, then gently places it back on the steering wheel. “Two hands,” she says. “Wouldn’t want to get in an accident now.”
I agree, and make it to the hospital accident free. There, we take the wrong hallway, then figure it out and pass a woman facing the wall, a man gently rubbing her back. A glimpse of the future?
Soon we’re in the birthing room, a cheery nurse catering to Lynda’s every need. We’re in good hands, I think, but soon it becomes clear that Markham-Stowville can’t handle little babies that want to arrive two months early. The closest hospital that can is McMaster, in Hamilton. Two young, hip paramedics arrive and transfer a stoic Lynda onto a rolling stretcher, and take her away. I drive to Hamilton, alone in the dark, in the rain. Knowing that I’ve got the easy part.
Lynda’s just over thirty-one weeks – not a big deal, we’re told. Lynda is given medicine to speed the babys’ lung development up. She’s given other medicine to delay the birth as long as possible. Our spirits are good. We’re lucky Lynda’s thirty-one weeks and not less, like many others that come through this ward. Some babies, we’re told, come as early as twenty weeks. It’s heartbreaking — their chances for survival are not good. At thirty-one weeks, the success rate is close to one hundred percent.
Two days later. It’s Valentine’s Day, and our babies have decided they want out now. Decisions are made. Lynda is moved from a cosy little room with pleasant music to a sterile place of white walls and shiny metal beds. I count eighteen people in the room. The anesthetist has a funny little dog on his stethoscope. Lynda is pumped so full of drugs she can’t talk properly. I worry about her.
Our doctor’s name is Lightheart. Did I mention it was Valentine’s Day? Doctor Lightheart explains the use of forceps to her intern, then promptly demonstrates, deftly delivering Keira. Keira lets out a healthy wail and is whisked away to the level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit where I hope they don’t mix her up with another baby.
Suddenly Erin’s heartbeat drops to half the normal rate. The atmosphere in the room changes instantly. Doctor Lightheart reaches inside Lynda farther than I would have imagined possible. Her hand is poking at Lynda’s belly from inside, like a scene right out of Alien. I didn’t know you could DO that!
Finally, the forceps bring Erin out. She doesn’t cry like Keira did – just a brief, muffled chirp. This is because she’s been fitted with a respirator, but she’s fine. She, too, is whisked away to the intensive care unit.
The room empties.
It’s Valentine’s Day.
And I am the proud father of two.
And then there’s being a Dad.
Sometimes I wonder what the girls will say when they’re grown, and they look back at my performance as a Dad.
“Left a little bit to be desired there, Dad,” they might say.
“Hey, I did the best I could given my limitations as a human being,” I might insist.
“Sure Dad,” E will say. “But what about the broom?”
Came home one night after they’d been with a babysitter. They’re always a little worked up after babysitters. Probably because they get a sense of how great the world would be without any rules. And then I come along and re-impose rules on their universe.
So this one night I’m keeping my cool, and they will. Not. Do. A. Single thing I say.
Parents sometimes wonder why they’re perfectly calm one minute and a raving lunatic the next. One explanation offered is that it’s because the kids are getting under your skin, but you’ve got your foot on the brake keeping yourself calm, right up until the point that they’re painting the dog and putting the cat in the oven, and then, attempting to save your prize rhododendron from the microwave, you take your foot off the brake, but the other foot has been on the gas all along and suddenly you’re zero to a hundred and twenty in a split second.
That was me that night. Doing my best to remain calm in the face of two completely adorable but utterly out of control orangutangs, and failing miserably.
I’d had enough. I took my foot off the brake. Picked up one of the girl’s toy brooms. Threw the broom on the floor. As God is my witness I thought it would bounce. Instead it shattered into a thousand pieces.
I had the girls’ attention now. But I certainly hadn’t improved the situation any. Man were they mad, especially E, because it was her broom I’d broken. She was inconsolable, and I was ashamed, because this was not me. I was not someone who broke kids’ brooms, or lost control.
And I heard about that broom for months. I’m sure when they’re adults I’ll hear about it again. I won’t be completely forgiven until the girls have children of their own, and discover that they too are only human.
Just as I’ve forgiven my own parents for the odd bonehead move they made when I was a kid.
Now if I can just limit my own bonehead moves to the broom for the next nine years…
June 16, 2009
My wife went to a seminar recently.
It was on how to be a better parent.
Before she went, one of our daughters asked her where she was going.
“I’m going to learn how to be a better mother,” my wife replied.
“But you don’t need to learn how to be a better mother,” our daughter responded. “You’re already a perfect mother.”
I thought this was really sweet.
Until she added: “Daddy should go!”