Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 07.06.01
Stanstead, Quebec


Abby's home now

The day his sister was born, James had a revelation. You could see it pass across his five-and-a-half-year-old face as he looked down at the little bundle that a day earlier had been inside his mother's belly. And now it had come out.

"It's a good thing boys don't have babies," he said to me.

"I know," I said, seeing where he was going with this, "where would they come out?"

With a grimace of mock pain and horror, James pointed wildly at his crotch. Birth has a way of doing that - humbling all the men in the room. I think sitting in that hospital room, James got a whiff of the notion that when it comes to toughness, we males are in the minor leagues. We may go to war, but we don't pass inconceivably large and awkward objects through our orifices. Nor would we want to. Watching Deb go through the last stages of labor that had begun two days earlier, it occurred to me that if men could have babies, they would try to do it as a team, like moving a couch up a spiral staircase. ("I can't dilate any more. You push for a while, Harry. I'm going for a beer.")

Abby's birth happened to fall on Father's Day. Watching this agony before me, it made me realize how useless I was as a father at that moment. I could stroke Deb's hair, rub her back, offer encouragement, even utter love poems throughout the day but let's face it: all those exercises and partner techniques are really there simply to give the man something to do so he doesn't just stand around nervously jingling the change in his pocket.

"Useless" isn't perhaps the right word. "Helpless" might be better, the same feeling I had the day before as I watched my girls play baseball over at the Maple Street ball park. It's a hoot to watch the 7- to 10-year-olds struggling with the ol' ball game, seeing them whack their dribbling hits and round the bases, making infield home runs on overthrown and dropped balls. As the game goes on, you can always spot the parent of the child at bat because suddenly instructions come flying out of the stands. I'm no exception.

"Put your feet wider apart, Katie. Don't choke up on the bat so much." And yet, in the end, it all falls to my girls to swing the bat, get on base, and score. All I can do is cheer.

The same was true in the hospital. "Put your feet wider apart, Deb. Don't choke me so much." And yet, it was Deb who did all the work. Deb and Abby, who worked so hard at being born and now has to do all that living and breathing on her own. All I could do was cheer.

As parents, we like to think we have control over a lot more than we do. It doesn't take much, though, to remind us that we don't. We stand by helpless when our babies have fevers, when they ride down the street on their bikes without training wheels for the first time, when they go off to camp, when they leave home and have babies. We hope the good advice and encouragement will be enough to get them through their own labors but in the end the kids do all the work.

Abby's home now, eating, sleeping, pooping. Right now she's utterly dependent on us for love and comfort and life but not for long. James is still in awe of her, though I think he has forgotten - or put out of his head - exactly how she got from Point A to Point B. It's not just the implausibility of her birth that makes her a miracle. The fact that she'll grow up fine and strong with the help of this cheering section is pretty amazing in itself.