I became a father during one of the coldest winters on record in the Permian Basin. I was working for Dowell as a Service Supervisor and we were cementing several wells between Midland and Andrews. They were deep wells and so the cement jobs were in stages. Barbara had had a tough pregnancy suffering from toxemia, I believe it’s called without looking it up again. You think one would remember that but I’ve never been good with the names of diseases or the medications that fight them.
Around Thanksgiving, Barbara was hospitalized and unbeknownst to us the hospital was doing the worst thing they could for her: giving her a saline drip when it turns out she had too much salt in her system as it was. She was fighting to keep from having our son way early. She held out, but then later, the last few days of that year of 1983 the doctor said that would have to induce or possibly lose Barbara and the baby.
So, it was back in the hospital. This time in Midland/Odessa instead of Monahans. Cold. So cold. Barbara’s parents were both there and my sister and mother. My mom was on crutches. She was always having trouble with her knees and I believe that was before she had them both replaced.
There was another young woman in the emergency pediatrics at the same time as Barbara and she had her twins too early and they did not survive. But I remember hearing them crying.
I did not stay in delivery with Barbara. It wasn’t as common in those days. Barbara’s mom did. Then, she was a registered nurse and there wasn’t much she hadn’t seen.
We were on a different floor waiting around like you always see in the movies and when word came that labor was over and I was a father, I raced down to the room where they have the babies to see my son. Jim, Barbara’s father, in the confusion, thought that I was making a run for it from the hospital and that became a family joke.
The oilfield waited for no man, so as soon as I knew all was stabilized, I had to return to the cement job. There were several wells we were servicing and I would supervise running the first stage of the cement job and then run visit my new family at the hospital. Then back to the rig, drop the plug, and perform the second stage of the cement job.
Our son couldn’t wait to see the world, but Barbara held in there so that he was only six weeks early. He was so tiny. Looking back now, I don’t know how we thought we could be responsible for something so little and helpless. Two kids in their early 20’s without enough sense to worry too much.
Microwaves were fairly new. They were huge also. We bought a refurbished one (they were expensive also) to heat formula in. And heavy. It was all I could do to carry it into the house by myself.
Cabbage Patch kids were the craze that holiday, so it was almost impossible for us to find preemie diapers for our real kid.
And there was more excitement to follow. Changing his diaper one day, I noticed something unusual. Didn’t want to acknowledge it, but something was wrong. Back to the doctor: double hernias. Our tiny preemie would have to endure his first surgery that winter: double hernia repair.
So….that’s what I remember about first becoming a father. I always thought that being a parent made one a better teacher. I saw it when several teachers I knew had their own children, because being a parent wises one up…. or should. It changes you, when a person becomes a parent one realizes that you are not IN CONTROL of life. Parenting humbles or should humble one. It introduces you to someone who, for a few years, you are totally responsible for. After that, well, my grandfather said one never gets rid of that responsibility. It’s a lifetime commitment. That’s what being a father is. A lifetime commitment…. but worth the price.