Our son Caleb attempted to enter this world backward on May 6th, 1995. Sandy's water broke in the early hours of that Saturday morning, an act that gave me the perfect out for not having to work the breakfast shift at McDonald's that day. A grad school friend rushed over to babysit our 21-month old daughter Sarah and we went to the small hospital in Warrensburg, MO, to await Caleb's arrival.
And wait we did.
After several hours of little to no progress, a nurse visited Sandy's room to perform the periodic exam to see how things were coming along. Her brow furrowed.
"Hm. I can't be one hundred per cent sure, but that doesn't feel like a head," she informed us. "It feels like a butt."
Sandy and I looked at each other and wondered what this plot twist would mean for her and the baby. The nurse brought Sandy's doctor in, a wise and calm woman with a straightforward approach, who told us that the best way to do this was to have a C-section and have the baby in time for lunch. Sandy, ever the trooper, was all in and I just nodded silently because that's about all I could offer at that point.
"Dad?" the doctor looked at me. "You going in, too?"
"Are you going to accompany your wife into the operating room or do you wish to wait in the room?"
I glanced at a giggling Sandy. She already knew the answer to that question. Me standing in an operating room while my wife was cut open would only prompt fainting from me, so the obvious option was for me to stay behind. Our birth coach joined Sandy because she needed to complete so many hours of observation to maintain her certification. So, you see, it was a win-win.
I don't know how much time passed before the doctor came back to the room. Perhaps it was only a few minutes. Might've been a couple of hours. All I know is my child's entire life passed before my eyes. Their first steps, first words, first day of school. Their first time playing a sport or participating in a concert at school. Perhaps they would be in theater, like me. Or, maybe they would choose a more sensible path in life.
"Mr. South?" The doctor's voice pulled me from my stupor. "Would you like to meet your son?"
I first saw Caleb through the glass that separates anxious fathers from their newborn children. More his life sped by as I watched him cry it out the way babies do in their first hours in the world. I saw him playing in the yard. His high school graduation sped by me. Then, I saw his wedding day.
And that day is now upon us. This Saturday the boy that wanted to come out backwards is marrying the woman he has been waiting for. It's another notch on the post of life events. This week will be a cavalcade of emotions as we prepare. These are always joyous events tinged with bittersweet memories of him growing up. And as long as it doesn't require me to stand and watch him go through a major surgery, I'll handle it just fine.