When my children were younger I wrote a weekly column, “Modern Parenting” for The Pembroke Observer newspaper. Being a stay-at-home dad was rare in our small town in 1991; people wanted to hear about my adventures. When I started this blog I promised to republish some of those old pieces, then I got sidetracked.
Today I’m revisiting one of the articles that I think has stood the test of time. Or at least is a change of pace. I don’t intend to do much in the way of editing, but may make the odd comment in italics. My daughter was commenting the other day that she wasn’t in any of the posts so far. The reason for that is simple: the column was axed due to budget cuts relatively early in 1993, when she was about six months old if I remember correctly. But I do remember writing this one which was published, I think, in January 1993.
My first words were “I don’t want to hear about it.”
It was three a.m., and there could be only one reason why Vivian was waking me up. I didn’t want to have to deal with it, not just after Christmas and not a two hour drive from home. (When I think about it, this was rather irrational on my part – medical facilities in Ottawa were better than what was available in Pembroke. But then again, you don’t usually need much assistance for babies.)
Now I’d had months to prepare for fatherhood the second time around. I’d even known for some time that the ultrasound insisted we were having a girl (something that just isn’t done in my family).
I didn’t make it to as many pre-natal appointments as the first time around. I stayed home with Paul, and I must confess there wasn’t the same sense of wonder. But this was ridiculous. Vivian’s doctor had assured me Janice would be born in mid-January, so visiting family at Christmas wouldn’t be a problem. We’d be back after New Year’s. Viv said it was probably false labour, but I had my doubts.
Naturally the streets were empty and I headed for the closest hospital. There was one on the other side of the city that came highly recommended by our friends, but I was taking no chances.
At 3:35 a.m. we left my parents’ house. At 3:48 we were admitted to a room at the hospital. At 4:06 we were parents again.
Those last few minutes are a bit of a blur. The childbirth refresher we’d taken a month before went right out of my mind. Paul came after relatively gentle labour that lasted about 15 hours, followed by a couple of hours of hard labour. Janice was in a hurry.
So much of a hurry that we never made it to the delivery room. Not that we knew that until weeks later when Vivian was comparing notes with someone else who’d given birth in the same hospital. Janice was born in an examining room. I never did get the doctor’s name, though I think Viv wrote it down somewhere. There was no time for formal introductions, and as he left I remember thinking: “Who was that masked man?”
By 4:30 a.m. I was making the phone call to reassure my parents that we were fine, and that if Paul woke up he had a new sister he’d see later that morning.
A girl, with hair, not at all what I was expecting. I’d been sure the ultrasound was wrong, my family doesn’t produce girls. And Paul was pretty bald until he was more than a year old.
By 10 a.m. Paul was at the hospital to meet his sister. Vivian’s mother was already there (I think she got there shortly after 6). He was delighted with his new sister (and remains delighted with her most of the time) and very proudly held her for the pictures.
Vivian had been ready to go home by 7 a.m., but I thought she should stay in the hospital for a day anyway. I needed the time to adjust even if no-one else did.
In the end she had no choice. We had made arrangements to buy a friend’s no longer needed baby car seat. But the friend was out of town for the Christmas holidays. It took a day to track down someone with a key who would go in to their house, find and take the seat for us. At least we had plenty of clothes – another friend had brought over baby clothes just the day before. But I made a hurried trip to the drugstore for diapers.
We left the hospital when Janice was just 30 hours old and went straight to my parents’ house, much to Vivian’s chagrin. There was a sale at Sears, and she wanted to take the baby and check it out.