Eighteen years. I was sous chef at a lovely suburban restaurant called DACC’s (I have mentioned it before, but the name was an acronym for Dan and Alice Welch, John “Crash” Cracchiola and Caren Ashkar– the owners. (Alice was out of the picture by that time.) I was having a hoot as a cook. It may have been the first time I was really happy in a job. Ever.
When I left the Law, I had no idea of how my career would change. I had no idea I would finally marry. Even then kids were not part of the equation. Then Trish got pregnant. We lost that one, but the idea of being parents had planted its seed in our brains. In 1998, we found out Trish was pregnant again. This time, it took.
On Friday, April 29, 1999, I pulled my usual shift at DACC’s. Though I lived walking distance from the restaurant, I drove home most nights. I was usually just too tired to take even that walk – all I wanted to do was get home and take my shoes off. I did that, and then I grabbed a beer and something to eat and relaxed for a bit. I got to bed at about 2 AM and it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep.
My sleep didn’t last very long. At about 4:30 AM Trish woke me up. Her contractions and started. I reached for the watch on my bedside table and started to time the contractions. They were already 3 ½ minutes apart. I called our OB’s office (luckily, he had warned us that if we called in the middle of the night he might actually answer the phone) and he told us to get to the hospital. My second call was to Crash to let him know that I would not be showing up for my shift that night.
We grabbed the bag we had packed weeks before and my boombox and a stack of CDs to play in the delivery room. If you’ve ever been an expectant father driving toward the hospital you will understand how I almost made a left turn onto Maple Road instead of the right that would take us to the hospital. We went directly up to the maternity ward and were quickly assigned to a birthing suite.
The staff was wonderful. In short order, we were all set up, our eclectic selection of music playing and Trish was ready and waiting. The nurses informed us that her water had broken and that she was almost fully dilated. We were so far along that medical students and volunteers had asked our permission to watch the birth.
Trish made it to 11 o’clock or so without anesthesia. Then she changed her mind. I don’t know whether it was because of the discomfort she was in, or the screams coming from the birthing room next door (I’m not sure whether that woman was trying out for a horror movie or
giving birth to a giraffe). We went on with the breathing and the panting. I could see the top of the baby’s head, but no more.
We moved on to alternative methods to move labor along. We played tug-of-war with a towel over the top of the bed. Trish rolled around on this big silver plastic ball that reminded me of nothing more than Mork’s egg. Still nothing.
The maternity staff kept hanging around in our room with us, as much to offer us encouragement as to enjoy our musical selection.
At around four in the afternoon our Doctor noticed that the baby’s heart was showing some stress. The decision was made to complete the birth by cesarean section. They moved Trish to prep for surgery, and I got to scrub up and gown.
The surgery went without a hitch. I was cracking jokes with the doctor and his staff – we have a great OB/GYN. Trish joined in the jocularity. And at six minutes after five in the evening I was called around to the front of the operating room and saw for the first time my slime covered daughter – Elanor Gordon Harris, named after my late mother.
My first words to her, in my best Darth Vader imitation, were “Ellie I am your father”. They cleaned her up, weighed her, and took her footprints. They put the transponder around her ankle and the matching bracelet on my arm and after that I was ushered out of the operating room.
I didn’t get to hold Ellie that day. She was a meconium baby so she had to spend the first night under those grow lights. I stared her through the window of the room she was in, until a friendly nurse told me that as the father I could come inside and be close to her (the first thing I noticed was the halo like bald spot from trying to get her out). I just couldn’t touch her.
The next day I got to hold her in my arms for the first time, and the following day we brought her home.
In the past 18 years, she has grown into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. She is smart, witty and best of all very, very clever and creative. This fall she will be leaving to attend Ithaca College. I can’t tell you how happy I am with the career path she’s chosen, and her choice of colleges.
I love her not just as a father, but as a friend.
Happy Birthday, Ellie, and you are still cuter than a bug’s ear.
Just promise you won’t vote Republican.