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Fathering Through the Lifequake

He guesses it before I do. The smell aversions, the sitting and staring and not eating, the emotional outbursts.

“Could you be pregnant?”

Bah. Of course not. I’d know that.

But something is different and the blood doesn’t come and I come home early from work with a test.

The two lines explode off the stick.

I tell him he’s going to be a dad with baby-sized soccer ball and note about slipping one past the goalie. Hugs and giddy giggles and I can’t brush my teeth in the morning for the dry heaves and the shower cleaner sends me stumbling dizzy to the back porch.

But the pregnancy is smooth and easy and I tell people it’s been too easy and I’m sure we’ll get ours when the baby is a teen.

Labor starts one Friday evening, three weeks before the due date, so I don’t think it’s the real deal. I take a bath and work on a project and the father-to-be cuts his hair badly and we go to bed with plans to do laundry for free at a friend’s condo the next day.

I wake up from a dream I’m in labor and in the bathroom I see blood and when I wake him up my water pours out on the floor as I stand stunned. But still I dally and putter, convinced that a first baby doesn’t come fast and he pushes me out the door and agrees to stop for film for our camera (remember when cameras used film?) on the way to the hospital.

The nurses don’t take me seriously until someone checks me.

“She’s 8 cm! Call the doctor! Get the cart! Don’t push!”

Why do they tell laboring mothers not to push?

In minutes, our baby’s head appears and my husband cuts the cord and I watch as if standing behind the bed. That is our baby and shouldn’t I drown in waves of love for her?

Maybe it was premonition. For within hours they say her heart doesn’t sound right. Two days later he drives us to the doctor and then the children’s hospital ER and holds me as we watch them poke her again and again and again and listen to her scream til she’s hoarse. He makes phone calls to our parents explaining that it is bad and the echo means heart transplant and we are going to be there a long time. He keeps me company as I learn to pump and never shows any sign of disgust at seeing his wife hooked up like a milk cow.

Elli and Scott

When they tell us the bad news on top of bad news and offer for us to see her hooked up to life support in that tone of voice that means “This is your time to say good-bye,” I don’t argue or press him when he says he wants his memories of her to be good. And when he sees how badly I wanted to be with her, even if it rips my heart out, so that she won’t be surrounded by strangers and can hear a voice she knows, he comes with me.

But she doesn’t die that day. Or the next. He helps me wrestle with how to pray as we wait for her to regain strength for surgery, through the updates hour by hour as they cut and sew and patch for twelve hours to get her heart to work. He learns her medicines and feedings with me. He works his job to pay the bills and returns home to a sleep-deprived crazy wife punching walls in rage at her helplessness.

Life settles into a bizarre normal and more babies come, including another with heart defects. He is steady and strong through more hospital stays and surgeries and the horrible hematoma and then it happens.

They say those words we’ve dreaded. And he mourns with hope during and after we say our final good bye. And he tends our three remaining children when I can’t stand to be around family devotions. He is their rock as their mother splinters from grief and depression and faith-in-pieces.

We survive the life-quake because of this man who listens to son’s rambling late at night and reads princess books and cleans up poopy pants. And I know we will survive more.

Happy Father’s Day, Scott. We love you.

Linked to today’s Faith Jam at the Faith Barista.

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