by Shawn Carmody
So there I was, 30,000 feet over the Great Lakes heading back east after a two week stint of trying my hand at becoming a private investigator. Allow me to backtrack a bit because this is going to be good. The year is 2003. My soon to be wife is 9 weeks away from having my first son. I've been out of work since getting out of the Marines and moving to Philadelphia. The only other trade I know besides being a Marine is commercial diving and the only way to do this in Philly is to be in the union. The only way to get into this union is to be either a family member or know somebody who knows somebody. I didn't know anyone so I had to look for some other means of employment to pay the bills. I scoured the papers and even tried to use a veterans’ service to help me find a job. The veterans’ service, I found out later, was more of the try to find street bums a minimum wage job to get them off of the streets service. They offered me a job at the local Coca-Cola factory. When they found out I didn't have a license to drive a fork truck they said they will keep me informed if any jobs that I qualify for come up. "Ouch"! Needless to say it wasn't easy finding work. Finally one Sunday, in the want ads, I see a listing for Private Investigators. I figured in this line of work I might be able to use some of my Marine training. Sounds perfect! So, I go to the interview. They seemed impressed with my resume. I get a call the next day and I'm hired. The only catch is I have to pass a three week training course in Chicago. After working out the math, I explained to an unsure Courtney that by the time I came home she would still be six weeks pregnant. So there is no way I would miss the birth, and our new son would come into the world with a dad who had a job. The bit o' guilt sealed the deal. I was off to Chi-town, the Windy City.
Two weeks into the course I get a call from Courtney. She's laughing because
she thinks she is suffering from baby induced incontinence. She's says she
guesses the baby must be jumping on her bladder. We both have a giggle and she
asks how I'm doing. I told her I was having fun but I had a test first thing in
the morning so I had better get some sleep. Courtney wisely called her Mom after
talking to me. Her Mom said that she would drive her to see the OBGYN in the
morning, just to be on the safe side. Good thing she did because Courtney's
water had broken.
I'm in class taking my test when the secretary comes in and says,
"Your wife is having a baby, she wants you to call her cell phone."
I'm sure the secretary has messed up the message, but I ask to be excused to
make a phone call anyway. I call up and Courtney says;
"Shawn I'm having the baby!"
"I'm having the baby"!!!
She went on to tell me that it wasn't incontinence, her water had broken the night before and that she was scheduled for an emergency C-section. She had already booked me a flight from her hospital bed (what a trooper) and I had better hurry up before I miss my flight.
So, there I was 30,000 feet over the Great Lakes heading back east after a
two week stint of trying my hand at becoming a private investigator. I'm not
really prone to panic, but I have learned to hope for the best and prepare for
the worst. It was the longest flight of my life. I spent three hours
preparing for the worst. I must have forgotten to hope for the best. The plane
landed and I ran for the exit to get a taxi. At the arrival gate I saw
Courtney's brother Adam. He was looking down at the ground while I approached
him. In that second I was sure he was about to tell me bad news. He saw me and
stretched out his arms and moved in for the hug. I stiff armed him and said,
"What, you can't give your soon to be brother in law a hug"?
"She's fine Dude, she had the baby 10 minutes ago"
We went to the hospital. I saw Courtney. She was still out of it due to the drugs they pumped into her. She fell asleep and a nurse asked me if I wanted to see my son. I was filled with shock and awe. But I must admit it wasn't like you see on TV, where the Dad picks up the boy, and, with a tear in his eye, has an immediate bond. I looked at him and he was covered with tubes and wires. He was bright red and looked like he was clinging to life by a thread. I knew I was supposed to be overjoyed but the only feelings I could come up with was worry and self protection. I was caught in a world of how one is supposed to act and how I really felt. I was afraid to get attached for fear of loss and, at the same time, I had to be strong for Courtney and act the role of happy new dad for everyone else. We were able to take him home after 10 days. Because Bailey was so premature and the worry of infection was great, Courtney and I went nuts cleaning, controlling the temperature in the room, and limiting visitors. It took six weeks at home for me to allow my parents to come see their grandson. I was so worried that I would do something wrong and cause Bailey to get sick. It took me a while to get over this feeling and the guilt I felt for not allowing myself to get too attached. One day I was holding Bailey after feeding him and he nuzzled his head into neck and let out a sigh. At that very moment I no longer acted the part. I was the part. I was a full on loving dad. I felt the love and I realized Bailey needed me as much as I needed him.
Soon after, I became just like every other dad. Sure I still worried about my boy from time to time but mostly I just marveled in what we made. The over protective dad turned into the dad who can't wait to see his son hit the next milestone. He smiled, he cooed, he lifted his head, he ate solid food, he slept through the night! Oh what joy to be a dad. Then comes the endless diaper changes, the trying everything to figure out why he's crying, the endless diaper changes. A friend of mine once said,
"Babies are some of the smartest creatures on earth."
"How so?" I asked.
" Once they figure out that you’re good and fed up, they learn a new trick and it buys them a couple more weeks of life."
By his first birthday, Bailey was my main man, my little rough house buddy. But he still wasn't walking. This was no concern to me at the time because the doctor told us because of his pre-maturity, he would be a few months behind and not to worry. I felt I had done enough worrying in the first few months that I would just let things happen and not stress about it.
We had moved to Woods Hole and had a huge Birthday party for Bailey. All his family came on both sides. What a turnout!
Later in the month we took a trip to Philly and visited Courtney's side. We were staying at Courtney's Aunt Eileen's. We had finished dinner and Courtney wanted to bring Bailey to see her friend Ronda who lived just down the street. It was pretty cold so Courtney wanted to drive. I had just bundled up the boy so I said we would stroll down and meet her there. I put Bailey in the stroller and started down the sidewalk. A minute later Courtney caught up with us in the car. I pretended to walk fast as if it were a race. Courtney gunned the engine to let us know she knew what we were up to. I then took a quick step to act as if I was going to sprint. At that very moment I hit a sidewalk pothole. Bailey’s stroller did an endo and he hit the pavement Binkey first.
"Oh my God!!!"
I scooped him up hoping for the best. I saw a scrape on his his nose. I pulled the Binkey out of his mouth and saw blood. Courtney asked if he was OK. He was conscious but his mouth was bleeding. I took him into the light and I could see I chipped his tooth. I told her I chipped his tooth and we better get him checked out.
They checked him out said he would be fine and sent us home. He would be fine but would I? Every time I looked at his tooth, I would be reminded of how my trying to be funny sent my boy to the emergency room. I had Courtney bring him to the dentist to see if they could bond the chip in his tooth so (A) he wouldn't cut himself, and (B), most importantly, I wouldn't have to be reminded everyday that I broke my son. They said he was too young for bonding. So they ended up filing the sharp edges down so he wouldn't cut his tongue. Is everybody against me????. I learned to accept his Tell Tale Tooth and use it as a reminder to be more careful.
(Insert More Guilt)
Bailey has had his share of hardships in his young life. At around 18 months, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy of the legs. It took me a while to learn not to be bitter at the world and become over protective like I was in his first days. When I first heard, I would look at him with sadness, my heart broken for what he may not be able to do in his life. I would hold him a little tighter and a little longer when I gave him a hug. It would bug me when I would see people watch him walk without trying to look like they were staring. I know it's not going to be the easiest for him, but us Carmodys love a challenge. So, I'm sure he'll be fine. After I had time to get used to the idea, he once again became just my boy! We'd rough house again. We'd wrestle again. We just had to do some stretches before and after. However, that darn tooth was still a gentle reminder that not only was Bailey dealing with his own problems, but I had to go and mess up his smile until the damn thing fell out.
Life got back to normal. Bailey was now running all over the house, baby-talking up a storm. I come home one night after a long day at work. I give my wife a kiss and my son a hug, then plop on the couch. I ask Courtney if she minds if I take a little nap. She' says it's fine. So, I shut my eyes and soon I'm fast asleep. I wake up with a start from a mini-dream where I just got punched in the mouth. I sit up quickly put my hand to my mouth and see that I'm bleeding. Still in a state of confusion I try to figure out what happened. I cup my hand to spit out some blood and out pops a chunk of my front tooth. I look over and I see Bailey standing and wielding a foot and a half length of plastic and, I'm not sure, but I think I could detect a hint of a smile. He had pulled the leg off of one of his play tables, walked over, and whacked me in the kisser. I walked over to the mirror and indeed he had knocked out half of my front tooth, ironically the same front tooth that his vindictive smile would prove that I had chipped in his mouth.
(Insert My Guilt Gone)
I thought for a moment about leaving my tooth chipped until Bailey's Big Boy tooth came in........
(Insert the joy of being old enough for bonding)