I was sick over the weekend, and meant to write this blog for Father’s Day, so forgive me for being one day late.
The last few months of my wife, Laura’s, pregnancy with our baby girl, Jessica LeeAnne (now a beautiful, 30-year-old Registered Nurse, with two babies of her own), were pretty rough. Her due-date was the third week of August, which means she spent the hottest part of the Southern Missouri summer in her last trimester. Somewhere, locked away in a photo album, I have a picture of my wife taking a nap when she was eight months along. We didn’t have air conditioning, and in the picture, she had pulled her shirt up a bit to let her belly get some air.
Even if I had ready access to that picture, I still wouldn’t publish it, because my wife would kill me! You learn a thing or two after being married for over three decades.
When Laura was just a couple months along, I recall one fella asked me, “What do you want, a boy or a girl?”
“I want a healthy baby, with 10 fingers and 10 toes.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he laughed, “everyone says that. But c’mon, seriously, don’t you want a son?”
I was just ecstatic about having a child, and didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl. Trying not to get angry, I repeated, “I want a healthy baby…with 10 fingers…and 10 toes,” and then walked away before I got rude.
That whole “Men have to have a son” thing is hogwash. Children are a blessing, no matter the sex, and my baby girl means the world to me and her mama.
After Laura and I found out we were having a girl, we chose the name “Jessica.” For the middle name, we merged my middle name, Lee, and her’s, Anne, to complete the name “Jessica LeeAnne.”
The night before Jess was born, we attended a church softball game. We were members of the Mansfield (MO) Assembly of God Church at the time, and figured we’d go support the team. Things got REALLY interesting, however, when someone made the mistake of assuming, since I was a big guy, I was also a hard hitter, and asked me to play.
I did, and Laura still laughs about it to this day.
I let the first pitch fly by, and swung at the second so hard I literally spun in a circle and ended up in the dirt. Not even kidding.
The third pitch was met with a weak hit to shortstop, and I was thrown out before I was halfway to first base. Thus, my softball career began and ended with three pitches and a pathetic tap to the infield.
Sitting on the hard benches at the field, Laura was getting really sore, so we left a bit early, since the coach took me out. We finally got to bed around 11:00 p.m., after she laughed herself to sleep, and then woke me up two hours later, saying, “I think my water just broke!”
“Oh CRAP!” I exclaimed as I jumped out of bed. “Oh crap oh crap oh crap!! WHAT DO WE DO?!”
Yeah, I was just the teensiest bit nervous. I KNEW what to do: grab the pre-packed suitcase and make the 50-minute drive to the hospital, but somehow, in that moment, I couldn’t recall the plan. I couldn’t gather my thoughts; my mind was exploding like the night sky on the Fourth of July!
She called her mom and told her the good news, and Linda was at our front doorstep in five minutes, fully dressed. Laura’s parents lived two minutes away, so how she managed to get dressed in three minutes I’ll never know.
I called and woke my mom up, and she said her and my dad would be right behind us. We all piled into two cars and headed for the hospital. I pushed our old car to its limits, driving between 90 and 100 miles per hour the whole time. I was excited and terrified, and kept mumbling nonsense. I must’ve looked like a madman.
“Why did I think YOU were gonna be the calm one?” Laura chuckled about halfway there. The speed limit was 55 MPH back then, so I turned on my flashers and had my “We’re having a baby!” explanation ready, in case the cops pulled us over. Thankfully they didn’t, and we made the 50-minute trip in a little over 20 minutes. Our poor old engine was never the same after that.
I parked by the Emergency Room door and ran inside.
“We’re having a baby!” I screamed. “We need a wheelchair!!”
They brought one out, and my father-in-law, Wayne, said he’d park the car. “You’ve done enough driving for one day,” he laughed. “You’re so crazy, I’m afraid you’d run someone over in the parking lot.”
We rushed to the room, only to be told she was barely dilated, and “it may be a while.” This was before cell phones, so when my parents showed up at the hospital a few minutes later, they and my in-laws used the lobby phones to call all our relatives.
Laura was in labor for 10 hours. The pain intensified as we went, but Laura received no epidural, and she never screamed. My lady is one tough cookie.
Finally, at 11:17 a.m., Jessica LeeAnne Weddle was born. Unfortunately, our doctor was old fashioned, and didn’t allow birthing partners to watch the baby being born, or to let them cut the cord. Despite this aggravation, it was still an historic moment. The second she came out, Laura said, “Oh LORD I feel so skinny.” I was kissing her forehead, hugging her and whispering, “You did it, baby! You did it. I’m so proud of you.” The baby weighed in at 8 pounds 15 ounces, and they wrapped her up tight and handed her to Laura.
Wow, I mean, there are no words for that moment. Her face was so swollen we could barely see her eyes, but she looked up at us a few seconds before falling asleep on mama’s chest. Laura was in tears, and said, “Isn’t she beautiful, honey? Isn’t she just the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen?”
That she was.
Laura was STARVING, and even though they didn’t permit it back in 1988, I soon left to get her food from Taco Bell. We stayed in the hospital for a couple days, and the best times were when they’d bring the baby in for us to hold and feed.
She had the longest hair of any baby I’d ever seen, and the staff dubbed her, “The princess of the nursery.”
I recall one time when I was rocking Jess to sleep and an older nurse came in.
“Don’t you rock her to sleep like that, dad!” she sternly declared. “If you start that, she’s going to expect to be rocked to sleep every night.”
Well, I have what some would deem “a bit of an attitude problem,” ESPECIALLY when it comes to my family, and angrily replied, “That’s exactly what I’m gonna do.” I got ready to verbally unload on this old bat, but I guess she knew she’d struck a nerve, and rolled her eyes and walked out.
And that’s exactly what we did; rocked her to sleep each night.
We’ve had lots of ups and downs since that day, but I’ll always recall the day I became a father as one of the happiest days of my life. Jess is the strongest, smartest and most beautiful daughter any parent could ask for.