Single-tasking

When I first woke this morning, Saturday 12 November, probably around 6:30am, I thought: today my youngest child was born. I paused, because it took me a moment to sort my 4:30am contractions-memory back to where it belongs (to August). Having two kids within 15 months will blur those early memories, but not for long. I decided then to tell the story of B’s birth-day here today. Though really she is only incidentally involved; she did exactly what she needed to do, what she intended(?) to do, and the events below did not distract her.

When I woke that Wednesday, nothing was any different than the day before. I knew about being gravid, and I had been unable to put on my own shoes (again) for a month or two. My work as a network administrator was humming along: I was enjoying designing our European Windows(tm) server infrastructure, taking what I knew about the chattiness of these servers and mapping their conversations across soda-straw- or even twine-sized connections. I had started my finish-the-work clock that Monday, since the baby was due in a week or so. There was about a week’s worth of work, so it was All Good. Just the kind of focused, intent, but not rushed sort of wrap-up I prefer.

In our joint-team noon videoconference, I noticed contractions. Which, if it had been anyone else noticing, might have gotten me a quick escort out the door; my pain tolerance verges on legendary. But it was just me. I wrote down what time it was, and hoped it was Braxton-Hicks (warm-up, non-baby-producing contractions). I had work to do until at least Friday…

I jotted down a few more times before the meeting finished its work. Sandwich eaten, I had the afternoon for focused project work…and I had realized I was going to need it. I dropped back into my chair, pulled up my mapping program, and dove in.

Piecing evidence together later, I must have been audibly breathing through the contractions that I kept noting on my clipboard every 10-plus minutes. My friend Judy showed up in my cube door while I was furiously working to ask me (a) if I was having contractions (b) how far apart they were and (c) didn’t I think I needed to head on out to the hospital? No, I did not; the map was complete in my head but nowhere else, I knew I would be incommunicado for six weeks as soon as I walked out the door, and (key mistake) since my first child’s labor took 18 hours, I would have about 9 hours before I delivered my second one. Nine hours from noon made for plenty of time to finish! (She later told me that my next-door co-worker Dan, hands-on father of three, had called her to come do the talking for both of them.)

As I would whip out a version of the map, I would walk it into my boss’ cube for his feedback. One revision, two revisions, and on the third revision he commented on my checking my watch and scribbling on my clipboard. “Am I making you late for something?” “Oh, no! It’s just that my contractions are about 5 minutes apart now.”

Reader, 5 minutes apart is the magic number of Baby Is Almost Here. We are now at 4pm, not 9. My boss pulls the printouts from under my fingers, orders me to email him the map as it stands then log out immediately. I am ordered to call my spouse, a fellow employee housed in another building, and leave as soon as possible.

I will tell you that, for me, contractions were mostly a nuisance up until the very last. Competing as an athlete was way more taxing. So I still don’t think it a big deal to have been active and occupied up until delivery. But I will agree, after the fact, that I wildly overestimated the accuracy of that “second labor, half as long” heuristic. Learn from my mistakes: go by the contraction-spacing because it’s more reliable, and 10 minutes apart really is a good time to knock off work.

For this telling, I’ll leave off My Sweetie’s befuddled comments when I called him, my thoroughly disjointed instructions to my bestie C on her now being on deck for my 15-month-old daughter A, our flurried movement from work to home to hospital, gear at last in hand. If I recall accurately, we got to the hospital about 5, 5:30pm–

B was born about 6:30. Beautiful, tiny-seeming though she was a little under 8lbs, with huge Filipina eyes, long, long lashes, and a rosebud mouth. Those eyes, lashes, and a now-generous mouth remain with her 19 years later. Beautiful and altogether loved.

Of that day what I will also tell is its sequel. A good story needs its closure; the best stories include a kicker.

My leave went from two weeks before Thanksgiving until early in the new year. But my team was celebrating the winter break with a December lunch, and I wanted to show off the person whose knees scraping across my belly had enlivened many a dull meeting. So I packed up B and brought her to a Mr. Gatti’s Pizza Buffet in east Austin.

My crew had reserved the group room, and in my memory the lone table was at the far side of a huge space. I was lugging B in her car-seat/carrier bucket, crossing the acre, when my co-worker Frank leaped to his feet, smacked his hand on his heart, extended his hand in benediction, and shouted:

YOU DA MAN!

I see myself as a family-first person, and I turn scarlet in mortification every time I remember his half-joking admiration. At the same time, I keep extra room in my life for single-minded focus–mine or anyone else’s. Just in case we might need it.

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