Twenty years ago today, at the age of twenty myself I became a father. Like most people I didn’t think I was ready but I remember the sense of pride and admiration for our new bundle of joy that continues to this day. We learned we were going to be parents roughly 6 months earlier and at the time his mother and I were estranged.
We shared an apartment in Warrensburg but fighting led us to take a break and I had just moved back with my parents in the Raymore area. I remained in touch with my girlfriend and we talked from time to time trying to work things out. One day she called me in a panic, and I could tell there was a lot of anxiety in her voice. She asked me to meet with her and it seemed apparent something was the matter.
We met up and she wasted no time giving me the news. We both sat there with a deer in the headlights look for what seemed forever then came the typical questions from me. “Are you sure?” “Have you taken a test?” “Have you seen a doctor?” The answer to all three was a confident yes.
We awkwardly considered the options. We were unmarried, poor, uninsured and not even living under the same roof. Abortion? Absolutely not, neither of us could do that. Adoption? That would break our hearts just as much. That left the only real option as to try and make it work between us.
I had taken a job at the One Hour photo in the Wal-Mart near my parents house which was a good 45 minute drive from the apartment we previously shared. She had already started going to Lamaze classes and was catching a ride with some friends of ours that lived on the Whiteman Air Force Base.
My parents having known about our arguments and being the ones to more or less steal me home months earlier were not all pleased with the news. I told them my plans to go back and they tried to talk me out of it. To this day it upsets me to think about how they asked me to give up on her/him. Undeterred I quit my job, packed up a back with as many belongings as I could carry and caught a ride.
It was an emotional rendezvous and I knew the challenges that lay ahead of us but I felt confident in my decision then and looking back I know for a fact it was the right thing to do. I got my job back at McDonalds and picked up a second job as a cake decorator at Basking Robbins. Mom networked and got secondhand donations of a crib, stroller and the fundamentals. We signed up for WIC and used it to get groceries.
We both kept in touch with our parents but neither had a good relationship with our folks. It was her mother that was the most approachable and she would come to visit from time to time bringing baby toys, burp cloths, etc. In the seventh month mom began to exhibit hypertension and they were worried about her safety and the babies. She was directed to bedrest and as the due date approached her vitals were monitored more and more frequently.
The doctor finally set a date for her to be induced, February 15th the day after Valentines Day and my birthday. The baby however had other plans and three days earlier her water broke. Panicked but organized I escorted her down to the car and raced back to grab the to go bag and we raced across town to the hospital. We had practiced this before and despite the underlying stress we remained focused and as Warrensburg is a small town we arrived in short order.
I pulled up to the ER, grabbed a wheelchair from the vestibule and wheeled her in. A nurse met us and after explaining the situation took her into a room while I moved the car to the parking lot. Upon returning I found they were taking her vitals and grilling her with questions on contraction frequency. I called the grandparents and her mother had made plans to be in the delivery room so she asked me to keep her updated on the progress. It took roughly 9 hours but finally she was dilated enough and the bundle of joy arrived at 6:39 AM on Feb 13th 2001.
I held her hand through all of it and stepped in to cut the umbilical cord then watched as they weighed him, measured his length, checked his oxygen and finally wrapped him in swaddling before handing him to me. What I remember the most about the experience is how his skin had a bluish tint and I was paranoid he was short on oxygen. They assured me this was not all that uncommon and despite the powerful crying (proving he wasn’t short on oxygen) he was absolutely fine.
We had been up all night long at this point so they took him to the nursery to give us a little bit of time to rest. There were lots of little interruptions though, them bringing him back to try and breastfeed, us filling out the paperwork, nurse and doctor visits and discussions about circumcision. The room had a small cot for me to crash on but I was so worried I kept watch more than anything.
That evening the grandparents and his paternal great grandma (Lu) all came to visit. Differences were put aside, the joy of a baby has a way of doing that. My grandma commented how he had “the Hickman Nose” and my dad made sure he would have the same name as us saying as the 3rd he was going to call him “Trip”. Of course he wasn’t a triplet so this made no sense but I knew better than to argue with my father.
The following day I snuck out to the grocery store a few blocks to the West to buy Valentines gifts and flowers. I remember the cashier giving me a hard time and me impatiently (I was still tired) explaining we had been in the hospital for the birth of our first child. Also that day a tradition was started. We had little to no clothes for my newborn son to go home in. Sure we had onesie and he would be wrapped in a blanket but I wanted him to go home in style. I stopped at the one baby story in town and purchased a small suit like outfit that could have easily been confused as something for a doll. The idea of purchasing a “go home” outfit after the birth was continued for all of my kids. On my way back I picked up dinner from mom’s favorite place, the Hunan Café. Although the location changed this too became an unplanned tradition with me bringing her Chinese food after the birth of our other two children.
Life was never the same after that but it has undoubtedly been better. The last two decades have been a wild ride but not a single day has gone by that I wasn’t proud of my son. Like all of us he has faced challenges and like all of us he has stumbled some and rose to the occasion some. Dave has proven to be honest, loyal and hardworking. He is the quintessential oldest child and unfortunately had to deal with a lot while we learned as parents even dealing with the separation of his mom and dad. He looks after his siblings, has a well-tuned moral compass and is fiscally responsible.
I see a lot of myself in him and yet I’ve realized he is a better man than I am. I know he isn’t currently reading my blogs and if/when he does he will scoff at some of it but I am confident when I say that I am honored to be his father. He is so humble but I hope one day he sees that through his small acts of kindness he can change the world.