Welcome to the world, Caleb Joseph Shinn!

It was a dark and stormy evening.  Well, maybe not any more dark than any other night at 11:30 pm.  And it wasn’t exactly stormy, though it had been raining earlier on that fateful March 2nd.

Caleb smiles during his first full day outside of his mommy.

Caleb smiles during his first full day outside of his mommy.

Lisa had been experiencing medium-intensity contractions for about the past day and a half.  The children (Liam and Clara) were nestled all snug in their beds, while Lisa and I pondered dozens of other clichés in the living room downstairs.  We were 5 minutes from finishing an episode of House of Cards, when Lisa lost her ability to focus on the riveting plot conclusion.  This is when I knew that things were getting serious.  She was timing contractions, and their frequency increased to less than 4 minutes apart with 60 seconds or more duration. (I’ll try to keep the technical terms to a minimum and the jokes/literary allusions dialed up for the remainder of this story.)

Lisa decided to employ the Bradley Birthing Method this time around.  Since we weren’t able to attend a full class, we did the next best thing: we bought the book, and at least one of us read it from cover to cover.  The other one of us (ahem) skimmed a few key sections, but didn’t do as much homework as he probably should have.  But he DID know enough to recognize that Lisa’s sudden switch to a serious mood is one of the emotional signposts of labor.

The car was packed, the mother-in-law/babysitter arrived, and I bundled Lisa into the car for the mile-and-a-half trip to the hospital.  But not before a few intense contractions, which Lisa took like a champ lying on the floor outside the bathroom, on our bed, in the kitchen, or wherever else she happened to be at their onset.

During the 11:30pm trip to the hospital, Lisa felt a pop and asked me to consider violating the speed limit.  I did what any wise husband would do, and gave the pregnant lady whatever she asked for, without question and without delay.  Her bag of waters had broken, and labor was progressing fast toward delivery.  Being Lisa, she was more concerned about ruining the seats in our car than anything else.  That didn’t happen, but it was the first time we’ve had the bag of waters break before reaching the hospital. (Scratch one more experience off the great bingo board of life.)

I made my delivery (which was getting Lisa to the hospital in time).  But only barely.  We were the only parents giving birth at the Adventist Health Family Birthing Center in Reedley that night.  They rushed us into the birthing room closest to the front door, and asked for a urine sample.  Lisa’s look told them in no uncertain terms that this request wouldn’t be fulfilled.  We got her to a bed, but only barely.

Lisa had about two very serious contractions, and let the two nurses present know that she was ready to push.  “But we haven’t even had a chance to check you!” they protested.  But their experience and expertise showed, and they didn’t protest for long.  It was time for action, not excuses, and they rose admirably to the challenge.

When the lead nurse, Tisa, checked the cervix, she raised her eyebrows and said, “You’re ready!  It looks like the doctor won’t be making it to this one.”  She quickly paged him, if only for the sake of formality.

Some minor bed adjusting followed, which allowed Lisa to get into the birthing position she preferred: a 45-degree tilt, which I carefully measured and supervised.  It was the only thing I could control and my only meaningful contribution during that phase.

Lisa’s second push revealed the crown of a head filled with dark brown hair.  Another push of two showed a very blue little face, and then the reason for this: the umbilical cord was wrapped around the little guy’s neck.  The two nurses and I glanced at each other, and, as if by mutual consent, we all suspended our reaction to see what would happen next.  What happened next was another good push, which got his (relatively) broad shoulders out of the birth canal, and allowed Tisa to unwrap the cord from the baby’s head, and also a very blue little arm.

The last of the baby (his curled-up legs) slipped into view like a greased banana emerging from a sandwich bag.  And with about the same drama and oddity.  The nurses quickly set him on Lisa’s shoulder, where he turned pink with the rapidity and effect of a Hyper-Color Shirt. (*5-point bonus for you if you remember these!)

I cut the umbilical cord, severing the baby’s physical connection to Lisa permanently, a process which I expect to repeat in various forms for the next 20 years.  He took a few shaky breaths, and I felt like a father bird must feel when he watches his hatchlings fall from the nest for the first time.

The rest of the process was less tense, especially for the doctor, who strolled in a few minutes later wearing a t-shirt from his alma mater and looking around to see what he’d missed.  There were shots and washings and  measurings (21 inches long) and weighings (8 pounds, 10 ounces) and footprintings and other processing steps, few of which lend to interesting analogy or comparison.

After watching the baby for a while, I came a crisis point.  I couldn’t keep calling him ‘The Baby’ for the rest of his life.  Sooner or later I was going to have to slap him on the butt and give him his name.  I looked at the little guy, and didn’t see the utility in the first of those two steps, so I decided to skip it.  I named him Caleb Joseph, because the other option under consideration just didn’t feel right.  I held him and, in a mini-ceremony that seems like something my dad would be fond of, declared his name for anyone who happened to be around and listening.

Caleb, now possessing a unique identifying moniker, set about working on the next most important thing in his life: getting some food.  He seemed to be reaching out to put anything nearby in his mouth, and seemed especially happy when his efforts paid off.  He latched on right away, and fed like a teenage boy pulling up to a yard-long trough of ice cream.  He manifested his first display of unbounded enthusiasm.  His greed was pointed at sucking and eating, and was therefore excusable.

After all the excitement was done, Lisa and I looked at each other.  “So that’s it, eh?” I asked.  “Yep,” she answered, “we have a baby!”