I know it sounds cliché, but sometimes there are things that cliché for a reason. They really are true. The old adage says that “Time goes by too fast”. I never really believed it, but as I sit here the night before my son’s third birthday, it really is true. Time really does go by too fast, especially when you have a child. I wanted to commemorate this date by walking you, my loyal readers, through everything I went through the day before and of my son’s birth.
Marshall Anthony Wahl was expected to arrive on Friday, May 15th. Setting a precedent of stubbornness, he decided to hang out as long as possible and be forced to make an appearance. We followed the doctor’s advice and set up an appointment to be induced the week after. Up to that point it really hadn’t hit me that I was about to help raise a child. I really had not changed much in the months leading up to his birth. Softball was in full effect. The NBA season had come and gone, with the playoffs in full effect. I was distracted by the historic run of my beloved Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. I was distracted and just hanging out, yet there was this small sense of fear coming over me as each day passed. I almost felt that the Nuggets getting farther in the playoffs than they ever had was serving as a distraction to keep my mind at ease.
On Thursday, May 21st, Rachel and I arrived at the hospital in the early evening to check in and begin the process. There isn’t much that goes on that first night. The medical staff pretty much gave Rachel the drugs to start the process and made sure she was comfortable and relaxed, as Friday would be an intense day. I sat back on my pull out couch, which is more or less a piece of board with a gym mat over it, and watched the proceedings. Let me just say, as comfortable as they made Rachel’s bed, the pull out couch is completely opposite. I will say that it is the last thing I would complain about given the discomfort I imagined Rachel would endure the next day. Once the drugs had started taking affect, Rachel went ahead and told me to head home for a bit. It was a nice gesture since game two of the Nuggets-Lakers series was tipping off that night, although I think it was Rachel wanting me out of there so she could rest. I’m kind of intense during games and didn’t want to bother her. I went home for a few hours, pacing maniacally. As nervous as I was during the game, I knew what the next day would hold for us. Life was changing as we knew it. The Nuggets did give me a great distraction, though, beating the Lakers in LA behind Carmelo Anthony’s 34 points and 9 rebounds.
I returned to the hospital extremely pumped up after the Nuggets’ win and was ready to focus on the intensity of the next day. When I got back to the hospital, Rachel was comfortably sleeping so I turned on the TV to relax and wind down. I stumbled across the legendary Rocky IV and settled in for the night. Is there anything better for me than the night before having my first born son watching Rocky IV after a huge Nuggets win. I could feel God smiling upon me.
The next morning, May 22nd, the doctors came in to check on the progression. Things were rolling along nicely and we prepped for the day. My parents and Grandpa had come into town so they, along with a variety of friends at the hospital, stopped by to lend some great support. Rachel took the epidural and had the water broke (probably not in that order, but I don’t really recall). The doctors gave us a few hours and said to relax. Rachel sent me off to McDonald’s with my parents to grab something to eat before everything began. She lay in bed watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop and I went on my way. I don’t remember much about lunch because my focus had completely turned to Rachel and the baby soon to arrive. There really are an uncountable number of questions that pop into a first-time father’s head before birth. Am I ready for this? Do I have what it takes to be a good father? What would I do in this situation? What would I do in that situation? Seriously, you can go crazy thinking about this stuff. As I sat at lunch, I just paused and said to myself, “Everything you’ve done and been through in life has led you to this moment. You are ready, whether you know it or not”.
By the time I walked back into the hospital room, things had started to progress faster than expected and Marshall was set to arrive within the next couple of hours. In an attempt to relax Rachel, I popped in a disc of old Friends episodes and kept a lighthearted environment to make it easier for her. My family was in the waiting room and I wanted to update them, but there was no way I was leaving that room again. The last thing I wanted was for everything to progress quickly and me not be there for something, mainly to support Rachel. As the time progressed you could feel the tension and anxiety fill the room. I was my usual self on the outside, but my insides were on an entirely different level. I felt like I was standing on the free throw line in game seven of the NBA Finals with a chance to win the championship…except multiplied by 100! It was insane.
I’m going to spare you the details of what happened over the next excruciating 90 minutes, but needless to say it was crazy. My main job was to count to ten over and over again, followed by an encouragement to push. Watching Rachel go through it was mind blowing. Despite, what I can only imagine as intense pain, Rachel rarely looked like it was too bad. I think my super sweet wife is tougher than I ever gave her credit for! I have to admit that my encouragement sounded more like former UFC champion Matt Serra cornering a fighter. I sounded ridiculous and even Rachel would occasionally shoot me a look that said “You’re such a dork”. Maybe my comical methods worked to make things better? Sounded good, right? I’m such a heel, though. At one point while we had a second to break, Rachel popped on her oxygen mask. While she turned her head the other way, I snuck a big drink of water from her cup. What can I say? Counting to ten over and over is tough of the vocal chords!
Once Marshall made his appearance, things became a blur. I don’t recall his length or weight. All I saw was this perfect little (big) guy, knowing his future would be shaped by the two people who will love him more than anything they’ve ever known. After holding him for a few moments (which was the first time I’d ever held a baby that small), I took him to Rachel for their introduction. After giving them a few moments, I brought my family in. There was something special about the pictures, our first one as a family and our first ones alone with him. There is one that was extra special to me, though. There was me, my Dad, my Grandpa and my son; four generations. It was a cool moment I cherish.
We took Marshall down the hall to have him poked, prodded, and looked over to make sure he was good. Once everything checked out, we joined Rachel in our room for the next day or so. I remember some of the silliest things. While Rachel was working on feeling better with the nurses, Marshall and I turned on the TV. We got to share our very first sports moment. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe sports moments can be special. I can tell you where I was for some great moments in sports. However, I don’t think anything will ever match what happened for us. It’s not very often that the first sports moment with your first born son is a special play. We turned on the TV in time to catch the last play of game two of the Orlando Magic versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was one second left and Cleveland was down by 2. I held Marshall as we looked on to what would happen in this moment. The pass came in to LeBron James, who turned and launched a shot…it’s good!!! Our first sports moment as father and son was a game winning three by a player Marshall would grow up watching play. In the years since, Marshall has gravitated towards LeBron as his “basketball guy”. I always think back to that moment and it warms my heart.
It was one of the, if not the most intense 24 hours of my life. The last 3 years have gone by too fast, yet just slow enough that I can appreciate every little thing we go through. I’m blessed to have a wonderful wife to share this with and I could not ask for a sweeter, more genuinely awesome son in the world. Happy birthday to my little buddy, Marshall Anthony Wahl!