Funny you should ask ... Tim Gamble

How did you decide when to have children?

It is said that God never gives you more than you can handle. I think it’s better said, “You never know what you can handle until God starts piling it on.” At any rate, I’ve never been more tested than becoming a father. It took a while before I realized I could no longer be the self-centered, untethered, free-spirited individual I once was.

My wife and I had been married for almost 21 years with no children. Sandy wasn’t on any type of birth control at the time, so as my father-in-law would say with some frequency, “One of you is shooting blanks.” Since I was the only one shooting anything, I guess he meant me. However, when Sandy was in college, her mother decided it would be best for Sandy to be on some type of birth control given her own history of becoming pregnant with Sandy when she was in her teens. She took Sandy to the gynecologist, and they concluded an IUD would probably be the best solution, implant it and forget it. The IUD they picked was the infamous Dalkon Shield which eventually was taken off the market for induced pelvic inflammatory disease. One of the side effects is infertility. Sandy had the IUD removed, but the damage was done. We decided not to see who was shooting blanks. It didn’t matter. If we conceived great, if not great.

It was in the winter after Sandy’s grandfather had passed away. He lived with us for more than 13 years. Sandy was sick, probably the flu. She didn’t have a fever but she wasn’t getting much better. So after a week or so, she went to her doctor to find out what bug she’d contracted. I dropped her off and ran a few errands. When I came back, I found her wandering the parking lot dazed and confused. Her purse was dragging on the ground behind her as she was looking around trying to find me. I drove up to her and got out of the car fearing the worst. I opened the car door and sat her down on the seat. She was visibly shaken. I thought, “Oh my God, she’s dying.” I asked her, “What’s wrong?” She started tearing up and told me she was pregnant.

Sandy always wanted to have children but had long ago given up the idea she would ever be a mother. Sandy enjoyed being pregnant. She was very petite, 5’ 1” tall and all of 95 lbs. soaking wet, as the expression goes. She was glowing and growing. In the end, before she gave birth, she had gained more than 50 pounds.

Does this dress make me look fat?
Does this dress make me look fat?

We did what most expecting parents do. We went shopping for all the baby trappings. We bought everything from furniture, clothes, and all the paraphernalia a new mom and baby could want or use. We went through a litany of baby names with a few good laughs. We took all the Lamaze classes at the hospital along with “What to expect while you’re expecting.” No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re not prepared.

Sandy was hoping to have her baby on my birthday in July. Her due date was around then. The last few months had been particularly difficult. She was so big she could never get comfortable. Exhausted from lack of sleep and ready to be done with it all, in the afternoon on the first while doing dishes in the kitchen, her water broke. The amniotic fluid went everywhere. Sandy tried to get down on her hands and knees and clean up the mess. We had hardwood floors in the kitchen. The more she tried to clean up the mess the bigger the mess became. I told her “Stop, stop, let me do that,” but she persisted until the floor was clean, a bright shiny clean. Since then, I’ve always referred to the story as “The afternoon Sandy’s floor wax broke.”

We grabbed the “go bag” and headed to the hospital. She planned to have a natural childbirth. The attending nurses set her up in a birthing room complete with a labor tub and shower, hooked her up to all the monitoring equipment and explained it would probably be several hours before anything would happen. She was doing fine.

I left to attend our last Lamaze class which was in the same wing on the second floor. Everyone had shown up and taken their positions on the mats. The instructor asked where Sandy was, and I proudly exclaimed she was on the fifth floor having a baby. Everyone laughed and clapped and extolled their congratulations, except for the instructor. She was incensed! “What are you doing here? You should be up in the room with Sandy. You’ve been taking these classes for the last 8 weeks. Have you learned nothing? Go help your wife have your baby!”

I went back upstairs and sat next to Sandy waiting to do my part. Nothing was happening. I left and went down the street to a deli and picked up a sandwich. On my way back, I stopped at a bakery and bought a birthday card and a cake with a zero candle on it hoping to buoy Sandy’s spirits. It had been about eight hours since we arrived at the hospital, and Sandy’s labor pains were mild and far apart. The attending physician suggested to Sandy that they should start a Pitocin drip to further things along.

Sandy wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The pains became more intense and more frequent. We put the Lamaze training to the test. The pain was more than she could handle and once she lost her concentration, she couldn’t get it back. At one point she said she had enough and was going home and that we would try it again tomorrow. The nurses tried to settle her down but to no avail. She finally relented to an epidural to relieve the pain. Try as she might, the nurse could not complete the procedure. The doctor came in after about an hour and assisted.

It was now mid-morning. Sandy was doing much better. She was finally dilated to 10 cm. What happened next was truly horrifying, not so much for Sandy but for me. The fetal monitor started beeping. The baby was in serious trouble. They rushed us both into another room. Sandy was lying on her back with her feet up in stirrups. I was sitting on a chair next to her. The nurses had drawn a small curtain across Sandy’s chest. Two doctors came in and explained to us they were going to perform an emergency c-section. They should have ushered me out. They immediately cut into Sandy and flopped a mass of her stomach area up onto her chest. From where I was sitting, the curtain didn’t block my view. They ripped the baby out and whisked him away to another room. I say ripped because that’s what it looked like to me. I’m sure it was done with great finesse and dexterity, but they sure worked fast. Sandy became a little agitated when she didn’t hear her baby cry. She asked, “Where’s my baby and why isn’t he crying?” All the while, I’m watching the doctors stuff Sandy’s insides back into her body. Sandy didn’t start paying attention to what they were doing until she heard a strange noise. “What was that?” she asked. I told her that was the doctors stapling her back together. She immediately passed out.

They wheeled Sandy off to a recovery room. When she woke up, she wanted to see her baby. He was in a neonatal intensive care ward. He was in a little glass box, laying on his side, staring out wide eyed. He was hooked up to 14 tubes, monitors, and IVs, including one IV in the top of his head. He was in an environment of pure oxygen. The nurses explained that he was having a hard time breathing, that he’d contracted group B streptococcus.

They monitored him closely. He still wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The nurses put him on a piston ventilator. It was heartbreaking to see him staring out with a dull blank stare, flopping around like a fish out of water as the piston rammed oxygen into his lungs. The nurse came over to have us fill out the birth certificate. We had settled on the name Jeremy Scott Gamble. The nurse offered to help; she could see we were in no shape to do much of anything. As she filled out the form, I realized I didn’t know how to spell Jeremy. If the nurse hadn’t filled out the birth certificate for us, his name would have been Jerome.

Jeremy was such a little guy. He weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. The nurse said he was a good size baby for someone Sandy’s size, but from my perspective, it looked more like 6 pains, 7 ouches. He was losing weight though. We asked the doctor how Jeremy was doing. He said we’ll know in a few days.

It was July fourth. Sandy was in her room still recovering from the emergency surgery. Outside her window she could see a massive fireworks display. She still thinks about that every 4th of July. The doctors informed us that Jeremy probably wouldn’t survive and if by some miracle he did pull through, Jeremy would most likely experience some significant problems caused by the effects of the pure oxygen. I told him I didn’t care. “It took us 21 years to get this far, and I don’t think we have another 21 in us. I’ll take whatever you can give us,” I said. He replied, “I’m not optimistic. At this point, I think you should prepare for the worst and start making arrangements for Jeremy’s final resting place.” Not a good day.

I went home. The phone had been ringing off the hook. I started going through the messages on the answering machine. Everyone was anxious to hear how everything went. I gave my sister the distressing news. She is very religious and active in her church and calmly told me not to give up. “Don’t make those funeral arrangements just yet,” she told me. She said she would call everyone she knew, and they would start praying for Jeremy immediately. I thanked her, not really believing that it was going to make any difference.

The next day, Tuesday, when I visited Sandy, the doctor told us that Jeremy had improved overnight and was breathing on his own. Miracle? You bet it was! They told us that if everything goes well, we could probably take him home by Friday. On Wednesday morning, to my surprise, the doctor told me that Jeremy was well enough to be discharged, that I could take both Sandy and Jeremy home that day. My head was spinning. I asked the doctor, “What happened?” He said “Who knows? These things are hard to predict. Sometimes everything just works out.” “You mean miraculously?” He nodded, then sighed and shook his head.

Jeremy taking a bath
Jeremy taking a bath

Wow! I was glad that was over with … but it wasn’t over. Jeremy was fine. Sandy was fine. I was not fine. I was changed. I never took anything for granted again. I told Sandy after what I saw her go through, I would never complain again, about anything. I had yet to be tested as a father, and believe me the tests were coming. It’s been 28 years now and I still don’t sleep through the night. I hear every sound as if the baby monitor was still on. In the beginning, Sandy took the 11 pm and the 5 am feedings. I took the 2 am feeding. Jeremy is grown up and gone now. I still get up at 2 am albeit for a different reason. I’m old and it seems I’m visiting the restroom with much more frequency. If I ever have a grandchild to take care of, it would be no problem getting up at 11 pm, 2 am and 5 am. I have to get up anyway.

Good Job!
Good Job!

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