On this Day in 1989: An Interruption


For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.
~ I Samuel 1:27

In was the spring of 1989.  I was young.  I was thinner.  My hair was brown.  No really, I’ve got pictures.

The previous year had been one of many changes.  I had lost and regained the same job at the American fletchbirthday4Legislative Exchange Council (you don’t get that story now, it will be in the book), my wife had changed jobs, the country had changed Presidents and we were expecting our first child, due in late May.  Even then he didn’t listen.

We dutifully started picking out nursery furniture and trying on names.  Not until much later did we realize that I was thinking “Jay” and she was thinking “J.”  I won the initial round, until he turned into a teenager and went with “J.”

We also started the childbirth classes, where I learned words like “kegel” and “episiotomy.” And we saw films.  Oh. The films.

We never got to finish the childbirth class. Somewhere along the way, my wife developed blood pressure issues and was placed on bed rest.

In the meantime, I was planning a Washington Briefing for 150 state legislators.   Annually at ALEC we’d bring them to DC for a “private” briefing with the President and meetings around town with various cabinet secretaries.

It was Wednesday, April 26th, the day before the legislators were to arrive in town.  I was making the final arrangements for a reception at an Embassy.  Germany, that year, I think.

The phone rang and I hear the receptionist calling “Fletch, it’s for you.” (By the way, the subject of this post doesn’t know they used to call me “Fletch.” He may change his name again.)

Photo: Alex Caldwell

Photo: Alex Caldwell

Anyway, I told Matt that I’d have to call her back.  He said “I don’t think so.”

Within minutes I was in a cab on my way from Capitol Hill to Arlington Hospital.  I arrived and am told that as soon as they could get her blood pressure stabilized the doctor was going to perform an emergency cesarean section.

I did what any responsible expectant father-to-be would do.  I went shopping.

Seriously.  I went shopping for nightgowns and a teddy bear.  Don’t judge me. My calendar said I still had a month to get those things.

In the meantime I called some friends from the church.  A couple showed up at the hospital while I was out to comfort and pray with Vanessa.  I did not realize until much later that one friend had waited patiently in the waiting room for hours.  Praying and waiting.  I’ve never forgotten that.

I need to slow down here a bit and explain what was really going on.  Vanessa’s blood pressure had spiked that morning.  She had her regularly scheduled eight month checkup, but had called the doctor to say “I’m not feeling well. I don’t think I can make it in.”  They encouraged her to come anyway and she did.  When she got to the doctor’s office they escorted her across the parking lot to the hospital.  She was not allowed to pass “Go” collect $200 or said nightgown and teddy bear.

What we did not realize until the doctor explained it later was that Vanessa had developed HELLP syndrome, a complication of preeclampsia.  It’s dangerous.  It’s life threatening.  Google it or re-watch the episode of Downton Abbey when Lady Sybil died after giving birth.  We were within hours of that.

Don’t tell me God doesn’t watch over His own.

Shortly after 5:00 that evening, Vanessa was rushed into the operating room.  I was allowed to stay with her until they were ready to administer the anesthesia.  I was then promptly escorted out the door and told to wait.

Minutes later, I’m sure it was less than five, the nurses and technicians were trying to help my son to breathe his first breath.  I don’t remember how long it took, probably not that long, but I was scared.

What was I to do next?  Do I follow him to the NICU or do I stay with my wife? Surely both needed me, but there was nothing I could do.  The nurse must have recognized the total look of bewilderment on my face and told me to follow to the nursery.

I spent much of the next few days going between Vanessa’s hospital room where she was still connected to a morphine drip and the nursery where J was under the lights to prevent jaundice and being fed with an IV because he was too small to eat.  Somewhere in there I bungled the first changing of a poopy diaper.  I improved.  The diapers didn’t.

Weighing in at only 4 lbs., 2 oz. we were told he had to stay in the hospital until he reached 5 lbs.  That was harder on Mom than Dad.  She was discharged after a couple of days and was told, due to her own recovery, that her visits had to be limited.  But he began to flourish and within about a week, although he hadn’t quite hit that 5 lb. mark, we brought him home.

Life would never be the same.

Today, he turned 24 and is making us very proud as a film student, writer, director, camera operator and producer at Asbury University.  That’s where Mom and I met way back when.  It took a while to get him there, or anywhere.  But once, he decided what he wanted to do, he set about doing it.

How do you condense twenty four years of memories down into one blog post?  You just can’t.

Do you talk about…

The child who cried when he was out of the room as Barney sang his signature “I Love You” goodbye song?  Or…

The child who once, when throwing a tantrum screamed out our apartment windows “I don’t have any clothes on?” fletchbirthday2By the way, that was around the same time he made his last visit to a grocery store for a period of about three or four years.  Or…

The child who came home from kindergarten to tell us that “The South Americans killed Abraham Lincoln” and grew into the adult film student who was incredibly proud that the film Lincoln was made in his home town.

Or do you talk about…

The boy who was so delighted that Santa picked out a puppy for him only to discover that in reality, the puppy picked out the boy?  Or…

The boy who once wished upon a falling star for a little brother, and who got that wish and occasionally wanted to take it back?  Or…

The boy who developed amazing talents as a drummer and became a leader of his youth group’s “trash can band,” Or…

The boy who once learned to tap dance for a show and became one of the principal dancers in subsequent productions? Or…

fletchbirthday5The boy turned young man who admittedly floundered a bit out of high school but found his calling and his dream and is pursuing that with a passion.

A young man who is excelling in his passion to be a film maker, to tell stories, to create art.

Some day, Mom and Dad will be in the audience as he walks the red carpet and then up to the stage to accept his award (hurry son, we’re getting older).

And we’ll be just as proud then as we’ve always been.

Happy Birthday, Son.

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  1. […] of a little longer to get there, the interruption that I wrote about earlier this year is heading back to college in Kentucky this weekend. […]

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