Arrivals, expected and yet unexpected

Holly has been a laugh from the start. The day she was born, Kerry woke me at 4:30 a.m. and said we were going to have a baby today. I told her to be real quiet and let that baby sleep a little longer. Kerry went ahead and got up to get everything in order. I slept in with Robin, our 2-year-old. At 9 a.m. I was on the phone telling some friends we were going to have a baby today, and Kerry told me it was time to get with it. I was kind of gabbing away and brushed her off. She said now, I hung up, and Holly joined us 40 minutes later.

In the car.

We had lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, so long that our moms had given up. They'd stopped asking us when we would be coming back "home." We had always visited both sets of parents whenever we traveled. Hers were in Boston, so we would stop and visit mine in California while we were in the neighborhood. But that year my mom had conceded, finally, to visit our home in the boreal forest and made the trek north for the arrival of her second grandchild.

Holly was no different from any other child making his or her debut; she didn't care that I had rented a backhoe for the weekend and hadn't left time in the schedule for the sort of attention childbirth deserves. But that was OK; along with a keen sense of humor, Holly has always had plenty of self-reliance. After the excitement died down, she and Kerry were content to nap on the living room rug while I got back to work.

After Kerry told me to hang up, we called the midwives. We'd enjoyed having our first daughter at home, and thought having our second child the same way would be just as easy.

So I was on the phone with the midwives, telling them how things were going, and they said they'd soon be finished with the birth they were attending in town and would be along in plenty of time. Why was this goofy guy on the phone instead of the actual star of the show? Because she was pacing the living room saying things like, "Oh, no, I won't make it that long. This baby is in a big hurry."

I hung up. Kerry was more insistent that it was a big deal, and we'd better get this sorted out now! I started to get the giggles at this point, as I'm sure you'll understand. We went back and forth on the phone for 10 minutes in dad time, 13 hours in advanced-labor mom time, until it was agreed that Holly would not wait.

That was OK. The people having a baby in town were cool; they'd let us come to their house, and the midwives would attend both moms. Like a double wedding, but we didn't know them, and we hadn't planned it. Kerry had the giggles now, too. The impending disaster had sunk in. Kerry said we're going to have the baby right now. Oh, you mean right now, right now? Instantly, I failed to see the humor, and going into town seemed a very good idea.

But between giggles, Kerry said that a 12-mile car trip is never going to happen. I'm not delivering a baby, though, so yes it is gong to happen. She couldn't walk any longer, so I picked her up. Laughing seemed to accelerate the process. But the midwives assured me, over the phone, that we still had plenty of time. Kerry burst out with something like, "How can they possibly know?"

Before I could get into second gear Kerry tells me to stop the car. I say, "No way, I'm not delivering a baby." She encourages me to survey the facts, and I tell her to just hold it. (What a male.) A hundred feet farther down the road it is obvious that I'm going to deliver a baby. I regain the giggles I'd lost earlier and propose a compromise: If she'll wait until we get back to the house, I'll deliver Holly. But not in my rotten old car on the side of a dirt road! Kerry says she agrees with me, but Holly doesn't.

By the time I got around to the other side of the car, things were pretty much over. Deliver a baby? Nah, there's nothing to it.

I drove back to the house and phoned the midwives to tell them I wanted a refund. They told me to count fingers and toes. And no, I didn't have to deal with any of that other stuff. It could wait until they got there. No refund, though.

My mom had taken Robin for a walk. No sense having her watch her folks sort this out. Robin wanted to rest, so she took a nap in Mom's lap next to the trail in the woods by our house. It was June, so the wild roses were doing their thing. Robin had fallen asleep in someone's lap only one other time, when we'd visited my dad the year before.

So we had the house to ourselves for a couple of hours. The three of us lay there on the rug and had our first good visit. I don't know if you've had the privilege of being with an infant the first time she is looking at her new surroundings, but it's pretty neat. I don't suppose babies think in the sort of clumsy, wordy way we grownups do, but you can't help wondering what is going through their heads. If it was anything like what's going through her head these days, though, it was just kind of warm, loving, comfortable stuff. And maybe a little funny.

We had rented "The Sound of Music" the night before; I'd never seen it. The midwives hadn't either, so they watched it while Holly settled in. And I went back outside and finished with the backhoe.

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