We headed into the rising sun on the rural highway toward the hospital 35 miles away.
Her labor had started in pre-dawn darkness, but we waited until the contractions were five minutes apart. We’d been up late the night before, playing board games with good friends, and joking tomorrow would be a good day to have a baby.
In Iowa, the ripening corn fills the valleys between the rolling hills with mist, and the morning sun turns it golden. The highway dipped down into the mist and back up again as the little Volkswagen plugged along, pushed as fast as I could go. I don’t remember the conversation, but I’ll remember that morning forever.
Once my wife was in the delivery room at the hospital, the redheaded Irish doctor told me to put on a white nursing robe and mask: “Come in here, you’re responsible for this,” he said.
I went in and sat down on a chair as the birth neared. I don’t remember much about that either, except praying for my wife as her cries of pain increased, and for my first born, for her health and for his normalcy.
Then, in an instant, the cries of a new baby replaced the mother’s cries of pain. I knew then that every birth is a miracle.
That was years before ultra sound and knowing what sex the baby was, and when they let fathers in the delivery room. The Catholic doctor ordering me in there said it was his method of birth control. In our case, it didn’t work, because that baby would have a sister and two brothers to join him later.
I remember a few days later, taking him and his mother home from the hospital, with no car seats to strap him in, just a small portable bassinet in the back seat. We headed toward home, but I pulled over a few blocks from the hospital, and turned around and just stared at my son.
I remember details on the births of our other children, but not in as much detail and emotion as the first born. I know his mother has her own memories of each of them.
What do you remember about your first born’s birth?
I would have liked to ask my mom and dad their memories of the day I was born on cold January in Dallas long ago, but didn’t, and can’t. That’s lost forever. And I wonder, about 100 years ago in Comanche and in East Texas, what my grandmothers and grandfathers remembered of the births of their children. I’ll never know.
But at least my son, Master Sergeant Vance Conrad Clark, USAF, who has three children of his own, will know, on this the day we headed into the rising sun in Iowa 44 years ago.