|The two Larrys|
Those of you who read this column regularly will probably know that my wife, Eileen, was expecting a baby in early November. Well, the day of reckoning has arrived. Lawrence Paul Donnelly IV was born at 3:02 PM (Irish time) on Friday, November 2nd, and weighed in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Nine months passed in a blur. While the wide-ranging conversations I’d had with fathers were certainly useful, they couldn’t make me fully realize what the day would be like.
It began with a phone call checking in with my wife on Thursday, the 1st. These phone calls had become more and more frequent as the big day approached. Since September, and because I opted to return to my academic post in the School of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway after a two year leave of absence, our marriage has been bi-coastal. Eileen and Seán, my 13 year old stepson, are based in Wicklow and I am in Galway during the week. Although not as inconvenient as a bi-coastal marriage in the US, it does make things tricky sometimes – especially when one’s wife is due a baby in the near future.
At any rate, Eileen, her sister, Betty, and Seán, who was on his mid-term school break, were enjoying a day out in Dublin. Eileen reminded me on the phone that she had a final check-up at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street in advance of her November 8th due date. Delighted that there were very few women ahead of her in the queue, she mentioned to me that she would probably be out in twenty minutes or so.
But that was not to be! Approximately half an hour later, I received a phone call from Eileen. I will never forget her first words as long as I live: “Larry, we are having a baby tomorrow.” The baby had gone transverse and the doctor thought the best decision was for Eileen to have a caesarean section the following day. Stunned into incredulous silence, I murmured something unintelligible and thoughtlessly asked if I could still fulfill a commitment I had in Galway that evening. Eileen responded that she would check with the doctor and call me back. Realizing what I had heard and then said, I called back, expressed my apologies and indicated that I would be on the next train from Galway to Dublin.
The two and a half hour train journey has never passed as slowly. In between phone calls and texts to my father, brother, relatives and friends back in Boston and throughout Ireland, I spent the remaining time thinking about the life-changing event that would happen in the next 24 hours. I asked myself a lot of difficult questions.
What is something happens to Eileen? What if there’s anything wrong with the baby? What if Seán doesn’t like his little brother or sister? What if I’m not cut out to be a good father?
And not all of the questions were nice; some were totally selfish. What is going to happen to my free and easy life? Am I ever going to be able to go to the pub again? What about the Galway Races? What are trips back to Boston going to be like with a little baby?
All of these rapidly faded from mind, however, when I arrived at the hospital and saw my wife in a hospital bed. Truth be told, I cried a lot of tears, and these weren’t the last tears I would cry over the next 24 hours. We spent some time together in the ward before I left her to get a good night’s sleep.
Fortunately, my cousin and her fiancé live around the corner from the Holles Street and graciously accommodated me. Early the next morning, I went to the hospital. No sooner had I arrived than I discovered that the baby had done a fair amount of swimming overnight and had changed positions entirely. A normal delivery was again a possibility.
Just after we had gotten our heads around that, however, the doctor performed a further examination, which showed that the baby had continued to swim and had returned to a transverse position. The caesarean was back on, for sure, and it was only a matter of when.
After four hours, a midwife approached and indicated that it was time. Even though I knew this was coming, I panicked and broke into a sweat as I awkwardly gathered our belongings and headed for the operating theatre. When they took Eileen into the operating theatre, I donned my hospital gear and waited to go in.
I won’t go into detail about what I saw when I entered the operating theatre. Suffice it to say that Eileen is a lot braver than I am. And in mere minutes, we were looking across the theatre at our newborn son, Baby Larry. The flood of emotions engendered by that sight, as all parents well know, is overwhelming.
As Eileen recovered, I spent two extraordinary hours bonding with my son. Shortly thereafter, we were reunited as a family. My biggest fears – that something would happen to Eileen, that something might be wrong with the baby or that Seán wouldn’t take to a little brother after so many years on his own – quickly evaporated. And my work to be a good father started the minute my son was born and will never finish.
We all returned home from the hospital just a few days ago. But in the meantime, Baby Larry’s entry to the world became national news. While discussing the US presidential election as a panellist on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio One, I noticed one of the show’s researchers dash in with a piece of paper for Marian. Right before the show concluded, Marian announced that Baby Larry had arrived – probably with the family political gene and just in time for the election!
These are heady days.