In the military, if you show up on time, then you’re late. Well, on February 28, 2013, my day began as typical Thursday at Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. But one frantic phone call, one delayed flight, two car rides, 420 miles and 10 chewed up fingernails later, I arrived at Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, VA for the birth of our third child with just 10 minutes to spare. Right on time.
I started getting text messages from my wife at 4:30am letting me know she couldn’t sleep and wanted to talk. At that ungentlemanly hour, I don’t remember calling her back, but my call history says I did. Truth is, I was tired that morning because I had labored hard the day before. Little did I know my wife was in labor…
At 5:20am, I headed out to “Pain Before Breakfast” – Naval Justice School’s “super fun” weekly five mile run around Newport in the freezing cold. After the run, I got back and immediately headed to class, and still hadn’t really talked to Jackie. I figured if something was really wrong I would know about it. Right?
So. Back at school, I sneak out during class to check up on Jackie, and the conversation goes like this:
Me: You alright?
Jackie: Yea, whoa, uhh
(10 second pause…)
Contractions can be such a conversation killer…
I had planned on going home that afternoon anyway, but after a few of these conversations I realized I had to get back immediately. And shortly thereafter, I left class with perhaps the greatest excuse I have ever had: the birth of my child.
On the way up to Providence Airport, I started thinking about my odds of making it for the delivery – something that was incredibly important to me. They weren’t good, and a call from Jackie telling me to “hurry up” made them even worse. It was at this point that I finally realized she was in labor, nearly seven hours after that whole process had begun.
Upon arrival I parked, raced inside, and started working my magic to get on an earlier flight. You could tell I was in a hurry cuz I parked in the garage instead of saving $3/day by parking in another county. I told the airline reps that my wife was in labor and I needed to get back ASAP (and I may or may not have fumbled with my military ID for bonus sympathy points…). I got the following responses:
– Southwest: “We don’t have a better flight. If I were you, I’d go talk to the other airlines.”
– United: “We have an earlier flight, but it’s full. Try US Air.”
– US Air: “We have a flight, but it’s only 20 minutes earlier and it will cost you $450 to get on it.”
Uhh, what’s behind door number four?
Bottom line was: I was stuck on my flight. And when I got to the gate, I discovered my flight was delayed by 30 minutes. And two hours later when I finally land in Baltimore, the stewardess tells us there’s a plane in our gate, which means more delays. My unborn child, in the meantime, is not delaying.
As soon as they opened the doors to the plane, I raced to the front. One lady, with a tone of disappointment and speaking on behalf of everyone around her, shouts “hey you’re not the only one with places to go!” Opportunistically, I paused, calmly looked her straight in the eye, and said: “my wife is in labor right now and I’m trying to get to the delivery room… now where are you going?”
So anyway, I’m at BWI airport, which is a solid hour and change from the hospital without traffic (and there’s always traffic). I get a call from Jackie’s phone. It’s her friend Kristen, calling to tell me that the doctor needed to perform a C-section in 30 minutes. There was no hope: I wasn’t gonna make it on time. At this point I just prayed that Jackie and our baby would be ok.
Jackie’s dad picked me up and we headed down a route that those in the Washington, D.C. area avoid with everything they can: 95 to 495 to Route 66. At rush hour, it’s like being sentenced to three separate deaths. Kill me.
I started letting my family know that the baby was about to be born and that I wasn’t gonna make it. But after a while, I noticed traffic was surprisingly not that bad. I braced for the inevitable sea of red brake lights that epitomize the DC beltway, but it didn’t come. Weird, I thought.
Then, a glimmer of hope: a text message from Jackie’s phone. “How far away?” She had been trying to stall this delivery with all her might. I was easily 35 minutes away, but I told her I would be there “20 minutes max.” So yea, I lied about how far away I was. BUT MY WIFE DOES IT TO ME ALL THE TIME!
At some point I got word that the doctor was “no kidding” gonna deliver this child in 20 minutes, and that Jackie had already headed back to the OR (yea, thats right, I say “OR” instead of “Operating Room” cuz I’ve seen a few episodes of Greys Anatomy…). My driver pulled some James Bond stuff (while obeying ALL local traffic laws, of course…) and got me to the hospital 10 minutes later. When we pulled up, I sprinted through the lobby without applying hand sanitizer. There was no time to disinfect!
I got to room 313 on the 3rd Floor, where Jackie’s friend Kristen briefed me on what was going on. With just under 10 minutes til go-time, I changed into what can best be described as an albino clown costume, and headed over to the OR myself.
As I waited to go in, an air of panic suddenly began to fill the hallway. Jackie’s doctor needed to come IMMEDIATELY. Apparently the baby’s heart rate had dropped way below normal levels. “Heart rate 56” some nurse declared. When I was at one of the appointments, this baby’s heart rate was in the 180s, so at that point I knew that things weren’t going well.
I was escorted into the OR and grabbed the hand of a tearful mother in fear of the worst. At that moment I realized why God had parted the Red Sea for me that day – so I could be there with Jackie at that very moment. I told her it would be ok and that she was doing great. I then prayed that things would actually be ok.
It took a while, but eventually they pulled our baby out. I didn’t even know if it was a boy or girl, and at this point, all I noticed was that it wasn’t making any noise, and it looked kinda blue. Time stopped while I begged this baby to cry. “Please just cry!” I tell ya, 5 seconds never went by so slowly.
And then it happened: a big wail. And boy, what a relief it was that the baby was ok. And speaking of boy, a quick glance “down there” and I realized I was the father of another son. Nice! His temporary name was “Boy.”
For about nine months, Jackie and I had been calling this baby “Pat” because I wanted to be surprised by the sex. Jackie, who hates surprises, was shocked that I never wanted to know. It was killing her that she had a secret and couldn’t tell it to me – which naturally I loved.
So I’m standing there filming everything at this delivery and out of nowhere some nurse hands me this creepy set of scissors. She then gives me the green light to cut the slimy, odd-looking “umbilical cord” poking out of my son’s belly. A few reiterations of “no, it’s ok” later, and I had earned myself the look of death from the nurse in Operating Room 2. It got a little awkward in there, I’m not gonna lie…
From here, they took the baby and me (but not Jackie) to another room in Labor and Delivery, where, in theory, parents get to enjoy the first precious moments of a child’s life. But that’s not actually what happens…
See, almost any father will tell you that their primary concern while the baby takes its first breaths of fresh air is maximizing the potential of social media, email, text message, and other forms of electronic communication. In other words, this is not a Kodak moment – it’s a Smartphone moment.
So I’m firing away pics and posts and at some point Jackie gets wheeled in. We immediately begin negotiating names. This too was awkward because nurses were hovering over us and pretending not to listen in on our conversation. I wanted the boy’s name to be “Brody.” I mean sure, that’s the name of a terrorist on the show Homeland, but he’s actually a really nice and sensitive terrorist…
Here’s the simple truth: Jackie wanted “Brady,” but I can’t stand the New England Patriots. So we agreed on Brody. And I think it’s the perfect name for him. Thus far, nicknames include: Bro, Bro-ham, Brode Master, Sergeant Brody, and Brodo Baggins. Please help me add to this list – it will only make our “Bromance” that much stronger.
After two days in the hospital, we came home and introduced Jimmy and Riley to their new younger brother. They were excited, and Riley wasted no time initiating her brother in the family hierarchy.
Now I’m back at Naval Justice School, where I am constantly thinking about my still-recovering wife and always-crazy children. Thankfully, she’s surrounded by awesome people who have been preparing meals, cleaning our house, and chasing our toddlers everywhere. Heck, perhaps Jimmy and Riley had me trained to chase down our newest child from Naval Justice School to Fair Oaks Hospital in just a few hours.
To think: ten minutes later, and I would have missed it.