Eighteen years ago as I type, I was driving our car through a car wash in Southgate, KY, preparatory to driving Mrs. M to Bethesda Oak Hospital, in Cincinnati. I had known for a couple of days that she would go into labor that day, and I was right. Her water had broken that morning as we woke. I had wanted to go to the hospital at that point, but my wife had said no, she had things to do — laundry, dusting, that sort of thing. (Writing and teaching, we knew — biology, not so much.) So she sent me to work at the magazine, and told me that I could take her to the doctor that afternoon for a scheduled appointment, and that we’d probably go to the hospital from there.
So I went to work, getting there about 7:30. Mrs. M rang me about ten. She had called the doctor and related what had transpired that morning, at which point we were told to go directly to the hospital, neither passing GO nor collecting 200 dollars. “Fine, ” I said. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Get the car washed first,” she said.
“Get the car washed. I don’t want the baby coming home in a dirty car.”
“But they said.”
“Car. Wash.” Well, I didn’t make it this far by ignoring things, so the car wash it was.
I drove to the apartment then, saying to myself, “I knew this would happen.” How did I know? It was easy. Two days earlier, my beloved Kentucky Wildcats had earned a place in the finals of the NCAA basketball championship, and although the due date was 4 April, I knew the baby would arrive the day of the big game.
And I was right. We walked into the hospital. A nurse asked us what we needed, and Mrs. M said, “I’m having a baby today.” The nurse smiled, and asked why she thought so. “My water broke about five hours ago.”
Annnnd…. ACTION. We were whisked upstairs to a birthing suite. I was told to go to the cafeteria and get a sandwich — it was going to be a while. Mrs. M asked if I could bring her something, and was told she was limited to ice chips. “If I had known that,” she said, “I would have grabbed something on the way.” But instead, I just got to tell her about the ham-and-cheese sandwich I got downstairs. She asked me to do that — I’m not a monster, quite.
The afternoon passed, until finally it was clearly time for the big event. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t there — stuck in traffic. Apparently, even a Ferrari only does so much good in Cincinnati traffic. But after a brief delay, he arrived, and so it came to pass that at about seven p.m., Dr. Jim Bob Plunkett caught Emily Moore as she arrived in the world. We were all rather surprised — everyone had expected a boy. We hadn’t found out in advance, as Mrs. M had said hat if she was going through labor, she wanted a surprise at the end.
A few minutes later, my parents, the Mad Dog, and his Eurowife got to meet her. As the cleaning and weighing were done, I remember thinking the child had too many fingers, but every time I counted, there were the requisite five per hand. I guess I’ve just watched too many cartoons over the years.
And I was also terrified. I was 31 years old, with a low-level job in journalism, and had barely been able to care for a cat or a houseplant. I remember thinking, “The world is so large, and you’re so tiny.” Actually, she was over eight pounds, but I was still sure I had eaten larger meatloaves. (I really like meatloaf.) A few weeks later at church, several people noted that she looked bigger when I wasn’t holding her.
I held her as we watched the ballgame go into overtime, as Kentucky lost to Arizona. But that was okay — it was still a good day.
That was eighteen years ago, but she seems to have made it so far, and so have her mother and I. That’s good.
Happy birthday, Spawn. I love you.