My oldest daughter was born on July 19, 1995, twenty-one years ago today.  I was lucky enough to be in the delivery room for her birth.  Men have only been allowed in delivery rooms since the mid-1970s.  I don’t know anyone who is my fathers’ age who has witnessed the birth of a child.

I will never forget the experience.

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Let me start with an obvious note.  I wasn’t the one giving birth.  My wife did that.  My job was to “coach”, whatever that means.

There are several ways to give birth.  One is “natural”.   In that method, the baby shows up one day, rings the doorbell, and says “I hope you packed your hospital bag, because today is the day”.  We waited and waited for that day, but the doorbell never rang.

Another is the C-section.

A third method, which we were not prepared for, is to be induced.  Induction is necessary in two situations.  One is when the uterus does not dilate enough for the baby to pass through.  The other is when the baby props a chair against the door, and says “I’m not coming out-you’ll have to come in and get me!”

The “induction method” requires that you schedule the birth date.  We scheduled July 19, 1995.  We had an appointment time (7am) when we needed to be at the hospital.  I made sure that we left early, so that I could stop at a WaWa and purchase a hoagie, some soft pretzels, coffee and soda. (A hint to prospective fathers out there:  if you are on the way to the hospital to have a baby, do NOT stop anywhere to purchase food and beverages for the birth experience.  Your wife cannot have anything to eat or drink.  You will hear about this decision for the rest of your life.  Trust me on this).

After purchasing food for the day (and a newspaper for entertainment, which was another bad idea, according to my wife), we went to the hospital.  We (meaning my wife) had to fill out some paperwork, and do some testing.  The process didn’t start until 8:30 or so.

To make a long story short, our baby did not want to come out, even with chemical help.  My wife received several doses of induction medication, and not much happened as a result.  The obstetrician came in several times to help “move things along” (don’t ask), and finally around dinner time, things got started.

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“Got started” means that things got interesting, and did so very quickly.  At one point, my wife’s blood pressure dropped to 60/40 (I didn’t know that that was possible), and the baby’s heart rate started becoming irregular.  The obstetrician came into the room, and he looked really worried.  He started pumping I.V.s into my wife.

That is when I confronted one of the biggest fears of my life.  We drove to the hospital that morning as two people.  We assumed that we were going home as a family of three people.  All of a sudden, I realized that we might be going home as three people.

Or maybe two people.

Or maybe just me.

No guarantees.

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Heather was born around 9:30 that night.  Theresa was saintly and brave through the entire delivery.   Power tools were required.  They wound up using something that looked like a branch clipper on my wife.  I still wince when I think about it.

Dr. Anthopoulus and all of the OB/GYN nurses were terrific.  Theresa and Heather might not be alive without their interventions.

I was so moved by the experience that I later hugged my mother and my mother-in-law, and thanked them for giving birth to me and Theresa.  I finally understood what was involved.  I was changed by the experience.  I don’t know how you can witness the birth of a child and not be moved.  If you ever have the opportunity to witness a birth, do it.

You will not forget it.

Hal