Today is my son’s birthday. He makes me so proud. He’s smart and funny and kind and sensitive. He’s a good friend. He’s an amazing young man.
This is something I wrote some years ago about Sam’s birthday. I thought about editing it and I probably will at some point…but, not this year.
Eleven years ago I became a dad for the first time. We were living in Salem, WI, at the time, and Julie was scheduled to have our first at Burlington Memorial Hospital. We liked it there because we had to drive past the Hershey factory on the way. On a Wednesday morning as the sun was rising, the air dry and cold, we left the house. Julie was scheduled to be induced. After a twenty minute drive, we parked and with a pillow tucked under my arm and a big Packers duffle bag stuffed with all our birth day essentials on my shoulder, we walked into the hospital. We were excited and nervous. I remember registering and getting our wrist bands and heading up to the birthing wing.
The birthing room was small and sterile. Plain and clean. Thankfully the requisite hanging hospital television was in fine working order. We spent the day talking to each other, reading, watching TV and napping. It was a really long day. Every time they checked Julie, she was the same. Very frustrating. Julie’s doctor was awesome through all of this. He was a tall, bald, laid back man named Mike. When Anna was born a couple years later, Julie’s doctor was a different guy who was tall, bald and laid back. Also named Mike. We acknowledged this happy coincidence every time we saw him.
I remember leaving the birthing wing to take a walk at one point. I didn’t realize until I was in the main lobby how I looked. See, the birthing wing didn’t have windows and it felt like it was night the whole time. I was in my pajama bottoms and a plain white t-shirt, hair disheveled, smelling terribly, I’m sure. It was like a different world out there. The sun assaulted my eyes through the big bay windows. The nurses, clad in their crisp, clean scrubs hustling and bustling to their next destination. Elderly couples shuffling toward the information windows. Children running around, grabbing and jumping, their parents either chasing behind or ignoring them, distracted.
My most vivid memory besides the actual birth was when I called my dad the second to last time before Sam was born. I was hopeless. We had spent the whole day there and nothing was happening. They were going to send us home. Julie was embarrassed and sad and upset, as was I. Why wouldn’t she dilate? I don’t remember what my dad said, but I know I was silent. I was trying not to cry. I just wanted him to be there to give me a hug.
Shortly after that call, they told us they were going to check Julie one more time. Praise Jesus, things were moving along! We were allowed to stay and we were having that baby, come hell or high water, whatever that means. I called my dad back right away.
In the early evening, my hospital dinner came. A delicious turkey dinner with all the fixin’s. In what would become a tradition with all our kids’ births, this is precisely when they decided to break Julie’s water. There I was, watching TV, a hot plate of delicious right in front of me, and a foot to my left…water breaking. I don’t remember if I ate my meal or not.
Once Julie started pushing, it took less than an hour. The nurse made the mistake of telling me how to read the machine Julie was hooked up to. “Every time the number starts to go up, Julie needs to push. So, yell at her to push all the way until the number tops out and starts to come down.” This was the most fun I think I’ve ever had. Julie would say she was starting to feel a contraction, we’d assume the position, and I’d start to yell. “C’MON, JULES! PUUUUUSH! YOU CAN DO IT! C’MON! ALMOST DONE! KEEP GOING! And…you’re good! Relax, babe! Great job…” I’m not sure this was Julie’s favorite part, but she sure held up her end of the bargain. Especially since her epidural was only working on one side. When Sam started to come out I remember the nurse calling out, “Doctor, we’re ready for you!” I heard a rustling of newspaper and as I looked out into the hall, I saw his legs uncross and he got up and sauntered into the room. “Ready, huh?” He had been sitting in the hall, reading the paper and waiting for his turn the whole time. For some reason I thought this was hilarious.
Sam was a miracle. He barely made a peep when he arrived. He was alert and looking around, taking it all in. He was so unusually alert, that the nurses were pulling other nurses in to look at him. “Linda, come look at this cutie! He’s loving everything!” And we were loving him. His eyes were huge and bright blue from day one. I’m biased, of course, but ask anyone who knew Sam as a baby…he was the cutest ever. Holding him was amazing. Knowing he was ours. We got to keep him. Everything had changed. For the better.
The next day we took him home. We barely made it. It was snowing heavily, so we all got bundled up and headed out. On the way, we were coming up to a stoplight and a car decided to go right through. It was so out of control that, even though it was facing us, it actually passed us on the RIGHT. After it passed, we stopped, took a breath, and thanked Jesus. Then we went home. So glad we made it.
Happy birthday, Sammer…love you, buddy.