Don, what was becoming a parent like?
Episode #
Thursday, March 9, 2023

Don, what was becoming a parent like?

The Storyworth Podcast
Episode Description

Every parent remembers when they learned of bringing a new baby into their family, right? The excitement, the nervousness, the dreaming and the planning that goes into the arrival of a new addition to the family. It's a magical time when it's hard to imagine things going wrong, but today's story is about the struggles one couple went through when their events took an unfortunate turn.

Content Warning: Today's story centers around the loss of a family member. Reader and listener discretion is advised.

It was New Year's Day, 1968.  My wife Barb and I were having a late breakfast in our two-bedroom apartment in Claremont, New Hampshire. Still in my early twenties, I was probably nursing a hangover from New Year’s eve. But I remember Barb watching me eat with a sly grin on her face. “I've got something to tell you,” she baited me. “Something exciting!”

Without a clue as to what she wanted to tell me, I replied, “Yeah? Like what?” She continued to hold my gaze across the breakfast table with a big smile on her face. “You're going to be a daddy.”

I was completely stunned! It took me a minute to fully process what she had said. Finally, I reentered my body and found the words, “Are you sure?? Are you really sure?!”

Her smile grew wider. “I’m sure! Are you happy?”

It’s been 53 years since that moment. But I can recall it in such precise detail. The joy on my young wife’s face, the feeling of my heart hammering with excitement inside my chest, the mile-a-minute thoughts like an ecstatic tornado in my brain. I was more than happy! “This is so great!” I blurted out, and then thought of her condition. “Are you alright?”

She laughed. “Nothing will happen for a while.” I had a lot to learn about pregnancy. We ate together and discussed the extraordinary news with that special awe and enthusiasm reserved for first-time parents.

One of our first projects was to plan the baby's room. Barb picked out a calming pale-yellow for the color scheme. It was so fun and exciting working together to plan the nursery. Over the passing weeks and months, I would work on the room when time allowed. I can remember saying to myself many times, “In a few short months we’ll be bringing our baby home. I'm going to be a dad!”

We shopped for anything and everything we thought we might need. We were so young and inexperienced! But there was a certain indescribable bliss in that fact.

Barb saw the doctor every month, and things were progressing in textbook fashion. All the modern technology wasn't available back then. Doctor's visits were pretty much, “Everything looks good! See you in a month.”

At her doctor's appointment in early August, Barb learned she would likely give birth within the next 10 days. This kicked off our countdown with a tremendous sense of anticipation. By this time, Barb was ready to meet the baby and be done with the pregnancy. I really felt for her, watching her in those final days. A woman having a baby is such an incredible thing and I remember realizing women are so much tougher than men. My adoration for my wife grew and grew.

A week later on August 8th Barb woke me out of a sound sleep. It was 4am. “Let's go! It’s time!” The adrenaline kicked in immediately: I jumped out of bed and raced to put on my pants and shirt. Wait! I couldn't find my shoes! Where were my shoes? Oh - Found them! Whoops, no socks! Where were my socks?? Barb suddenly shouted more urgently, “LET'S GO!!” To hell with the socks; we needed to leave!

I rushed to the car. Barb stood there, shaking her head. With forced patience she asked me, “What are we missing?” I was confused and thought for a couple seconds. But now she was glaring. “The car’s locked! GET THE CAR KEYS!” I sprinted back in the house and grabbed the keys, and away we went.

We lived only a couple miles from the hospital, so we arrived in no time. We pulled up front. I ran inside and flagged down a nurse. She grabbed a wheelchair and we rushed back to the car. It was Barb who remained totally calm; much calmer than I! Into the wheelchair she went. The nurse rolled her inside and then turned to me. “Mr. Miller, we’re all set now. We’ll keep you posted on the progress.” I gave Barb a kiss. “Calm down,” She joked. “Everything’ll be fine.” She passed through the doorway and gave me a smile and a small wave good-bye.

I need to explain something at this point. Back in those days the delivery process was entirely different. The mother-to-be went to the delivery area and the father-to-be wasn’t allowed in. The hospital was very strict about this. I wouldn't see Barb again until after the birth. There were no cameras, cellphones, or social media. No family or friends as birth attendants to coach and comfort the mother. Instead, all family waited in a special room where a nurse would offer periodic updates. The message was clear to us fathers-to-be: Just keep out of the way!

So into the waiting room I went, a nervous wreck. I paced the floor. It was about 6:30 AM when a nurse finally appeared. “Mr. Miller, Barb is doing just fine. But it's going to be awhile. She wants you to tell her parents and your parents she’s here.” I was so nervous to leave the hospital, but happy to have an errand to focus on. Remember, we had no cellphones, no internet or email. I headed out to deliver the news.

On the way, I stopped at Jake's Diner for a quick bite to eat. It was our local breakfast spot, and I ran into a few of my buddies. I proudly told them Barb was in labor. There were many slaps on my back and a chorus of “Congrats!” from my friends. Then I continued my way to inform Barb’s parents, who were especially excited to welcome their first grandchild.

From there I headed to see my dad in the next town over. Now, my father never displayed his feelings. However, on that morning I recall some emotion sneaking through that tough exterior. I can remember him saying, “This will be a day you'll never forget. Becoming a parent is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to you.”

I headed back to the hospital. It was now 11 AM. I checked in with the nurse. She went and checked on Barb, and returned with an update; “Barb is doing great. She had an epidural, so she’s quite comfortable. Here’s a list of things she wants you to get from the house for her. We’ve got 3 or 4 hours before things really get going.”

Once again I was relieved to be useful to Barb. At home I kept looking in the baby's room. It was sparkling clean and welcoming. Baby blankets and diapers arranged just so, a teddy bear and rattle lying in the crib. In a short time this room would come alive with our child. I remember saying to myself, “It doesn't get much better than this!” I made up my mind to head back to the hospital and stay until our baby’s delivery.

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