I'm Going To Be A Dad?
Bring The Children
Chapter 3 - I’m Going to be a Dad?
Both Helene and I left our first jobs in 1984 for better paying ones. After we got married, Helene quit her second job and took one right next to where I was working. We would even go out after work with friends to the same place but in separate groups. We’d smile across the room and then go home together.
One Saturday, only four months after the wedding Helene felt something wasn’t right. She purchased and took a pregnancy test, the one test in her life she almost never failed. When she saw the positive result, she was very worried about what my reaction would be. She cried and downed six chocolate chip cookies. When she told me, I said, “I’m going to be a dad?” I knew she was worried, so I let her know I was very happy.
For the final few weeks of pregnancy we took the birthing classes, timed the contractions, bought baby stuff, and pretended we had it all together. As the date approached, we had some false alarms. On the night before the baby came, after thinking it was time, Helene said all was quiet and went to bed. I poured a glass (or two) of whiskey to calm my nerves. Then Helene got back up and said the contractions were strong and close between. We jumped in the car and headed to the hospital 40 minutes away. As we got close, Helene said, “I think it stopped.” And we headed back home. A short while after we turned around, she said they started again. So, we headed back to the hospital. This time we stayed. Christopher Steven was born August 31, 1986, exactly one day before our first wedding anniversary.
The labor was long and difficult. The baby was in the posterior position and had to be turned using forceps which injured both him and Helene. Helene suffered a great deal. Some women decide not to ever have another pregnancy after such experiences. The next six were all smooth compared to this one.
Chris was a great baby. Very aware and full of life. And before he turned two, our second was on the way. Joseph Thomas ‘JT’ was born October 11, 1988. In a short time, his personality emerged, athletic, quiet and competitive. He was a handful. He always had to beat Chris at whatever Chris was doing. But having two boys close together would be a blessing as they were always together.
If that wasn’t enough to keep Helene busy, less than a year after JT was born, Helene was pregnant again! This time we had a baby girl. Helene visited a friend early in the pregnancy, in fact before she even knew she was pregnant. Her friend told her she thought she was pregnant and would have a girl.
Though we never let the doctors or nurses tell us what gender our children were ahead of time, Helene had an inner voice (and her friend’s prediction) that it would be a girl and she would be named Kimberly. One problem though was that we had been sticking to saints’ names. I said, “Maybe she’ll be the first Saint Kimberly.” Kimberly was born on January 20, 1990.
Three kids turned out to be very hard on both me and Helene, but in different ways. Helene was over her head with lifting and carrying them around, putting them in and out of child safety seats, strollers, etc. She often took all three children grocery shopping, to auto and medical appointments, and to her parents’ house. Her back went out at one point and she was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease.
Meanwhile I was suffering from advanced immaturity. When Helene got pregnant the first time, she stopped going out and as planned stopped working outside the home. I, on the other hand, still enjoyed my time out after work with all the guys and girls from the office. Sometimes I got home as late as 10 at night, after Helene had not only put the kids to bed but had gone to bed herself. Between Helene’s back and my partying, the marriage was under tremendous strain and more children were out of the question.
Even worse, we had stopped going to Church regularly. Our attempts to keep attending with babies in tow resulted in many stares from other parishioners who didn’t appreciate fussy babies making noise at Mass. Later, when we had more babies, we learned to just let people deal with it, or if it got really bad, meltdowns for example, we would just duck out a side door till calm returned. But in our youth and inexperience we didn’t fully appreciate the need for grace to strengthen us for what lay ahead.
In early 1992 Helene’s mom had a dizzy spell while driving. She was admitted to the hospital for tests and cancer was found in her head, cancer that originated in her colon. She had some surgery and treatment but refused chemotherapy when given long odds. I visited her by myself in the hospital and promised I’d take good care of Helene. We lost her in late 1992.
Helene missed her mother very much. Through good and bad times her mother and father both had been very supportive. Their advice and wisdom would last us a lifetime. Helene’s sister Nancy had taught Helene the rosary at some point and Helene would go off to a bedroom by herself each night and pray for her mother. One-by-one the kids would join her. Our journey back to God was underway.