!cid_X_MA1_1315556019@aolMy youngest daughter is leaving home. She finished her degree and now she’s taking a job with a company in a town about an hour away. My youngest is a tagalong child–undeniable proof that no form of birth control, but abstinence, is one hundred per cent effective. My wife and I married young and had our kids early in life. When my son turned eight and my oldest daughter was twelve, I told my wife that we should get something done so we didn’t have to worry about an unexpected bundle of joy. My wife had a friend who’d just had a baby. Holding a baby fills women with a maternal instinct that gives them amnesia about dirty diapers and getting up in the middle of the night with a bawling baby. She couldn’t be convinced that this was the time to do something permanent. In my mind we had all the children we needed, but in our marriage we never make any big decisions until we both agree. Sometimes we disagree at the top of our lungs for days, but we always agree before we do anything.
Fast-forward five years. One day my wife announces with more apprehension in her voice than thrill that she is pregnant. I didn’t let on, but it devastated me. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my children, but we had our family early. We were the youngest parents at our children’s schools when parents gathered. I had planned a Phase One and a Phase Two to my life. Phase one involved raising our kids the best we could, and getting them out in the world. Phase Two consisted of my wife and I doing things by ourselves, and visiting the kids and grandkids. We would still be young enough to do things together. Our oldest daughter would be a senior in high school in the fall, our son a freshman. I thought we were about five years away from seeing the start of Phase Two, and now we were back at the beginning of Phase One. At that moment I am not sure I could have thought of anything worse that could have come into my life.
I’m not going to get into some big debate on pro-life versus pro-choice, that is not what this blog has ever been about. Suffice it to say, I think everyone can agree that a baby becomes a baby when the parents start thinking of it as a baby. My wife definitely thought of it as a baby. She loved shopping for baby clothes to replace the ones that had been given to friends or sold at garage sales years ago. We turned a spare room into a nursery. I did what I could to help. I would be a father, but my heart was not in it–until my youngest daughter cheated.
I was at work when my wife called me to tell me she needed to go to the hospital because the baby was coming. I just missed the golden age for fathers. That was the good times when the father helped with the delivery by staying in the waiting room, pacing frantically, smoking cigarettes and thumbing through old issues of National Geographic. A while later, a nurse would take you to see the mother and the baby, both of them tired and both of them cleaned up. Then one idiot father ruined it for us all by agreeing to: BE PRESENT DURING THE DELIVERY! Every wife eventually heard about it and all fathers just had to be there for the birth. I have been present for the birth of all three of my kids. The delivery this time was rough on my wife. I don’t know if it was because she was older than with the other two, but I have never seen her that completely exhausted before or since. After the pushing was over she drifted between sleep and a semi-awake state. She didn’t realize that something was different about this delivery than with the other two kids.
When the baby came out in the two prior births, the doctor just patted the baby a few times and it started crying. The doctor laid the baby beside the mother so a picture could be taken, as if she just caught a seven-pound walleye. This time the baby didn’t cry. Its face was plum blue and it didn’t move. It just sprawled limp in the doctor’s arms.
I remember asking, “Is something wrong?”
“She doesn’t want to breathe,” the doctor said, patting the baby and not looking at me.
He rushed her over to a little table, and started ventilating her with oxygen and working on her with various instruments. She lay on that table with her tiny legs limp and her hands, the size of my thumbs, unmoving. And she was blue…so blue. A nurse went over to help and blocked my view.
Right then if she hadn’t started breathing I would have been right back to Phase Two where I had desperately wanted to be. It would have been just my wife and me in a few years. But all I could do standing in that delivery room with my heart pounding and hands shaking and tears clouding my vision was to keep whispering, “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.” I kept waiting for her to cry, but it never came.
After what seemed like forever, the doctor laid the baby beside my wife. Her eyes were open and she was pink and breathing, but she never cried. I guess she figured I was crying enough for both of us. Nice trick she pulled–the little cheater.
Because I worked nights, I watched her during the day. We did things together. I’d take her fishing to our special spot at the river. If the fish weren’t biting, she’d sit on my knee and we’d play wild river ride as I bounced her on my knee. On nights I didn’t have to work, I’d read her stories before I put her to bed. I read The Cat in the Hat so many times we both knew it by heart, then I’d read it in different voices just to hear her giggle. When even that became boring, I’d make up stories to tell her. She became my first fan. She had my sense of humor and got my jokes–unlike my wife. Often we’d be laughing while my wife sat and just shook her head. My wife often asked me how that little of a girl could get my big body around her little finger?
Now she’s moving out of the house. She’s been gone before. The last few years she’s been away at college and that was three times as far away as where she is moving now. At college she only came home on holidays, or if something special was happening, on a weekend. Where she’s moving now is only an hour away. I imagine she’ll come home every weekend for awhile, but it’s different. Every time she comes home now, she’ll just be visiting. Eventually she’ll make friends where she lives and she’ll be doing things with them on the weekends. Some guy will come along and she’ll fall madly in love with him. I’ll hate him and want to wrap him in duct tape and bury him out in the middle of some cornfield, but I won’t. Because then she’d be mad at me.
So here I am, finally at Phase Two where I desperately wanted to be twenty-three years ago, and I’m sad, because that little blue baby who cheated that day in the delivery room and broke my heart and then stole it by not breathing right away, is going out on her own, and Phase Two doesn’t look as attractive as it once did.



About thewritingdeputy

Joel Jurrens was a deputy sheriff for 26 years until he retired in 2013. He has published three novels: In The Sticks, Graves of His Personal Liking and County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald. He tries to keep his blog light and humorous and sometimes downright silly.
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  1. Gerri Bowen says:

    Awww, that was sweet. I hope your daughter knows how much you love her. It will get better. Grand-kids are great, too!

  2. Ah, yes, they have a way of changing your life for the better. Then the grandkids come and you”ll have many of those special feelings again.

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