September 7, 1997.
The exact moment I became a father. It is a moment indelibly etched in my memory. Sharon was strapped to a table, after twenty-four hours of labor, while a cesarean section was performed by the doctors at the University of Utah Medical Center. My job was to hold the little vomit dish by Sharon's head, in case she got nauseated when they were tugging on her organs. She did. My other job was to make sure I didn't see anything that the doctors were doing, in order that I might not get sick either. We had only one vomit dish. In that respect, the large curtain was a blessing. My own father had passed out, at my birth, at the administration of the epidural, so I was taking no chances.
Jordan came out purple, and messy and kind of gross (I'm not sure what I was expecting). Oh, and heavy. She weighed eight pounds, one ounce. It doesn't seem so big now, but when you have been up all night, and you're using your right hand to comfort your wife (flopping and shivering and puking, while still strapped to the table next you), and the nurse comes to place your new daughter in to your left arm, the result was inevitable: I almost dropped her.
The nurses quickly took Jordan back and rushed her from the room and, I imagine, placed a call to Child Protective Services. The next three days were the easiest of my fatherhood. I came to the hospital for several hours each day to be with my wife and baby, and then went home and got a good night's sleep. In the meantime, the good people at the hospital took good care of Sharon and Jordan.
At least I thought they were good people then. It turns out they were insane. The day came when we all went down to our red Dodge Neon, parked in the loading zone at the hospital, the nurse checked to see that we had our baby seat installed properly, and wished us good luck. I remember distinctly wanting to go back in to the hospital and lecture them for being so irresponsible as to let me -- ME! -- take this baby from their protective care. But, I didn't.
The gravity of the situation descended on me heavier with each mile between Salt Lake City and my in-laws' home in Fruit Heights. I hadn't realized that holding that eight pound, one ounce little girl in my arms, placed the weight of the world on my shoulders.
A little less than two years later -- June 21, 1999 -- I got a call at work. Sharon, now pregnant with our second child, had gone in for a routine check-up. The baby was not responding and they were going to take him. He was 5 weeks early. We finally decided on a name, as they were prepping Sharon for surgery. We knew that we would name him Matthew, but we had not settled on a middle name. I had been leaning toward Jerald -- the name of my own father, who had passed away six months earlier, before we could tell him that Sharon was pregnant. At the last moment, in a wave of vanity, I decided on Christopher. I think Sharon knew all along that that would be his name, but she let me work through it myself. Matt was in the NICU for almost a week, then he was on oxygen at home for another two. I'll never forget the oxygen tube, taped to his big fat cheeks with band-aids. I was excited to see what my second child would look like. He looked exactly like Jordan. In fact, he was the same weight as her and only a half inch shorter.
My grandfather died at the end of June, 2003. He was the greatest man I ever knew. I didn't make it to his funeral, because that was the day -- July 3, 2003 -- that Emma June, our last child, was born. Emma would have been my grandpa's 60th great grandchild. Like Matthew, Emma came early -- this time it was four weeks. Unlike Matthew, Emma did not weigh the same as Jordan (although she did look exactly like the other two), she was 22 inches and weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces! She was in the NICU for five days. It's quite an experience to walk your nine pound, seven ounce "preemie" around the Intensive Care Unit ("see that little half pound kid there? You could totally take him!").
My children have grown into wonderfully beautiful, fun, exasperating, infuriating, hysterical, magical, maddening, hilarious, intelligent -- sometimes too intelligent for their own good, loving people. Jordan is smart and beautiful. Matthew is the perfect brother -- annoying to his sisters, but also their best friend. And Emma -- well Emma is a blog all her own. Without them, my life would not be a life. I love them with all that I am.
I have many people to thank for making me a father - it's not all about biology. First, my own dad. What I learned from my dad, is that it's never too late to mend a relationship with your children. I loved my dad growing up, but our relationship was never close, until the last five or so years of his life -- after I got married, and particularly after Jordan was born. I'm so grateful that we finally became truly father and son. I hope he sees my kids. I hope I can do the things that would make him proud.
I think about you every day, Dad. I love you, and I wish you were here.
My father-in-law has been the father in my life, since my dad passed. I could not have asked for a better man. He is a man of rock hard integrity and faith. He is an example to all of us who look up to him. He has accepted me as a son - with all my shortcomings, and I love him as though he were my own father. Thank you Terry --for my wife and my children. And for myself.
Grandpa Fillmore. My mom's father was the best man I ever knew. Growing up, he was the example to me, of what a father, a husband and a grandfather should be.
Sharon, my beautiful wife. You made me a father, and you share, with me, this amazing journey we call parenthood. I love you more than there are words to express. What you ever saw in me, I will never know. But, I am eternally grateful to have you at my side.
Finally, I thank my Father in Heaven. I am constantly aware that I am blessed more than I will ever deserve.