FARGO — It’s Father’s Day weekend, and I love being a father. It’s extremely rewarding. For my wife Jackie and myself, this weekend is a reminder of the enormous challenges and obstacles we (mostly Jackie) faced in giving birth to our three children.
We were both extremely excited in 1991 to learn that Jackie was pregnant. The baby was due on Dec. 12, 1991. On Oct. 21, I was driving back from Minneapolis with Jackie’s brother, John. Unbeknownst to me, at 4 a.m. that day Jackie woke up to an explosion of water in her bed. She didn’t realize her water had broken. However, she was smart enough to drive herself to the hospital. There was no way to call me, as there were no cell phones then.
Fortunately, Jackie called her parents in Wahpeton, N.D., who then surprised me in Fergus Falls, Minn., where I dropped John off. They told me what was going on, and I raced to the hospital. When I got there, Jackie’s contractions were coming on fast. An ultrasound revealed that the baby was upside down. An emergency C-section was performed. Seven and a half weeks before he was due, our son Brad was born. He weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces, and spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was okay, and we breathed a big sigh of relief. That was just a warm-up of what was to come.
In 1996, Jackie was pregnant with twins, who were due on April 29, 1997. Jackie was bleeding throughout the pregnancy, which we were told meant the possibility of a miscarriage or premature births. Five months into the pregnancy, Jackie was ordered to stay home on bed rest, but the bleeding continued. So, Jackie was ordered to stay on bed rest at MeritCare Hospital (now Sanford) so they could closely monitor her. She was given medication to relax her muscles, and to try to prevent contractions.
The battle was on to keep those babies inside her as long as possible. Every day mattered. We knew the risks of extremely premature births include brain damage, blindness, lung damage, hearing loss or death. However, the medication caused tremendous suffering to Jackie. She couldn’t talk, walk or move any muscles. So, she was taken off the medication. Two days later, on Feb. 20, 1997, the contractions started. This was it. Two and a half months before the babies were due, they were coming out. We were quite nervous. A team of 15 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were in the room along with two empty incubators.
Natalie came out at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, followed by Jenny at 3 pounds, 3 ounces. Those were great weights for babies born so early. The girls spent five weeks in the NICU. Meanwhile, Jackie had some complications and needed surgery. I will be forever grateful for the extraordinary medical care and kindness my wife and children received. If it was 150 years ago, none of my children or wife would have survived.
My children have grown up to be excellent students, athletes, actresses and singers. They’re wonderful people. And when they make mistakes or occasionally make bad decisions, it doesn’t bother me much. That’s because I will never forget how things could have turned out for them, and how extremely fortunate I am.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV new director. He can be heard Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., on WDAY AM radio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org