Five years ago today – June 17, 2012 Father’s Day - I planted a tree. It was a Maple that had decided to grow in an old wine barrel in our back yard. It might have been four or five inches high and had decided to stick around: a random survivor. As ordinary as it was it seemed very special so I took it from the barrel and planted it in the corner of our yard – just inside the six foot fence we built to replace the one taken out by the previous Maple tree; downed by Hurricane Irene. My wife’s due date was the 26th so I was not yet a Father but it was to be me and my future Son’s ‘Father’s Day Tree.’
The night of the 26th it was business as usual. We needed an air conditioner and Heather (my wife) wanted to go to Target to get… something. I don’t remember what. I think we both just needed a distraction so off we went. I dropped her at Target and headed to Best Buy to look for an air conditioner. When I mentioned to the women at customer service that it was my wife’s due date they were not impressed. ‘Are you out of your mind!? What are you doing HERE on your wife’s due date!?’ I told them she was just on the other side of the parking lot shopping and that it was in fact her idea but they were not having it. I felt aggrieved. I was not THAT guy. The one who would be at Best Buy on his wife’s due date. I was anything but that guy and I wanted to tell them why in great detail but… here I was. That guy. And then my phone rang.
All you know about this moment is what you’ve seen in movies a thousand times. Actually, that’s not true. You have probably read about what to do but that is gone and all you see in your head is the chaotic nonsense of… the thousand movies you’veseen. But that’s not what happened. We rushed home and got Heather into the shower. Her contractions were still far apart but she was increasingly uncomfortable and the shower helped. We walked around the house in circles, I rubbed her back, did whatever I possibly could and when the contractions got close enough we called our midwife who she advised us to head to the hospital. We were packed and ready – no chaotic nonsense – and it was an uneventful, even pleasant, ride to the hospital on a warm, early summer evening with the tunes up and the windows down. At least for me I guess.
I walked her in and then went to park the car. By the time I hurried back she had been taken through to a place that, apparently, I could not yet go. They put me in a waiting room and told me they would let me know if she was going to be admitted. If so, then they’d let me join her. I was not prepared for that. I didn’t want to be away from her for one minute and I was agitated.
They did admit her. They did let me through.
We had chosen to use the Alternative Birthing Center and were lucky that it was free that night. We set up the room, filled the giant tub and put on the two-day play list I had painstakingly prepared to welcome our little guy into the world. After that we pretty much took care of everything ourselves. I’m a pretty… intense guy in many ways and I think the midwife could see how much I wanted to be a part of things and that we had it all under control so she just left us to it; commenting once and a while about how good the play list was and asking ‘who sings this song?’ with regularity. Heather did not want any medication and yet through her twelve hours of labor she never complained. Not once.
At twelve hours it was time to start pushing. I have never seen anything as incredible as this in my life. For four hours – through pain I can only imagine – she did not complain. My tiny wife with the low pain threshold! In between the pushing, as she was catching her breath, she would apologize to the nurses as if she was being terribly inconvenient. I was full on crying and starting to get worried, even a little angry at the little boy who was putting my wife through this. There seemed to be so many people in the room. I remember catching one guy staring at me and then holding his gaze for an uncomfortable amount of time – tears streaming down my face. I just had time to wonder ‘what was he thinking?’ I still wonder. When the doctor in charge suggested it might be time to consider a C-Section I told her that Heather really did not want that. She couldn’t say it herself at the time but she had told me to speak for her so I asked that, after all of this, as long as she and the little one were not in any danger, that they not take this from her; that they let her see it through. To endure all of that with no medication, no screaming or complaining (only perfuse apologizing), it would have been unfair to have it end that way.
Very soon thereafter, all on her own, she did it. He was born: Luka Rae Dominey.
He had thick, thick black hair, exaggerated by the blood, and he looked so dark that in my own exhausted delirium I thought to myself ‘Who the hell is this!?’ I looked at my heroic wife – then back to him. Then back to her. I am not proud to say it but my first thought was ‘Who the hell is this!?’ They washed him clean, I came to my senses and as they attended to my beautiful, bruised and utterly exhausted wife I held him. I became a Father.
In twelve days Luka will be five years old. The tree I planted is now well over thirteen feet – after I cut at least two foot off it last year. To put that in perspective the five and a half foot Blood Maple we purchased and planted eight years ago at the opposite end of the yard is now only about nine feet tall. I know… the Blood Maples grow slower but still…. Our Father’s Day Tree is something of a miracle. My wife is something of a miracle. Being a Father is something of a miracle.
My son is a miracle.
Happy Father’s Day.