Honey, I'm pregnant. Honey, I'm going to have a baby. Guess what Daddy? No matter how the news is given, the effect is the same. Shock, bewilderment and fear. My initial reaction was, I can't be a daddy, my father's a daddy, I'm still a kid.
I was aboard a U.S. Naval destroyer cruising off the coast of South America when I got a letter giving me the news. Bewildered, I wondered how this could have happened. My sex education came from friends when we were gathered in the parking lot behind the school or on a street corner after church. I was wide eyed and attentive as some of the older boys would tell of their experiences, but the truth was, I had little idea what they were talking about. My parents had told me that the stork brought babies, and I believed them. But then, for a long time I also believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. If asked, I would probably have responded that pregnancy was a result of a dirty toilet seat or something.
At first I wondered if I was truly the father. The people who ran the Navy had some funny ideas about their boats. They seemed to believe that ships should be at sea. And I was, a lot. Seems like I was never home, but apparently I was once, and just long enough. I was excited, and bragged to my division officer that "I was having a baby." "Oh," he replied, "about how far along are you." "Oh, not me" I explained, "It's my wife, she just wrote me that she's pregnant." "I was hoping it was something like that" he smiled.
That first child was truly a remarkable experience. Like I said, I wasn't home much, but when I was, I would take my expectant bride shopping. I bought her a new maternity dress. She wore it once, for the Destroyermen's Ball. I danced with her, trying to be as careful and considerate as possible, not wanting to risk injury to her or the baby. Then the band played a Polka. I sat stunned as Janice and another sailor danced. Now even with that fancy new dress, she looked like she had a basketball in her bloomers, but undeterred by her condition, she began hopping and skipping up and down the dance floor.
A few months later, I was again at sea when I received a telegram telling me I was the proud papa of a baby boy. It would be another week before the ship was back in port and I could see my son for the first time.
I rushed over the hospital to see my wife. She was lying in a bed, watching television. After a quick greeting, a nurse brought Steven in. I don't think he was too happy, his eyes were shut tight, and his little face was pinched, as he voiced his discontent. It was with trepidation that I held him for the first time. He did stop crying, although he never opened his eyes. Then just as I was getting adjusted to being a father, the nurse came in and took him back to the nursery.
A couple of days later I was told I could take my family home. As she was being discharged, I was given a bill. "I thought the Navy paid for her" I questioned. "They do" was the reply; "This is for her meals." I looked at the bill, and without saying another word, paid the bill, grabbed my wife and kid and left. I chuckled to myself; somebody had really screwed up. The bill was for Ten dollars. I knew my wife, and that would never have even paid for breakfast, not the way she ate. I wanted to get out of there before they realized their mistake.
Shortly after Steven was born, Janice decided she had had enough of motherhood and me, and ran off with a used car salesman, leaving me with Steven. It was probably the nicest thing she could have ever done for me. A couple years later, I married Geni, and was just getting adjusted to married life when she came home from the doctor one day and said "Guess what?"
My new daughter, Diane, was not at all cooperative. Geni was almost a month overdue before I had to rush her to the hospital. As it turned out, there was no reason to hurry, it would be another 24 hours before Diane would decide to make an appearance.
I was happy. I now had a son and a daughter. I was bursting with excitement as I drove up to Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake to bring the girl home. This time, it would only cost me seven dollars to bail them out. Apparently, girls are cheaper than boys are.
Then, a year later, I was again given the happy news. But by now, I was an old hand at this game, and took it in stride. I had regained my sense of humor. Geni had not. I suggested that she have the baby at a furniture store. The one that advertised "Free Delivery." She threw an ashtray at me.
Clinton was born on July 3rd at eleven p.m. If he had waited another hour, he would have been a firecracker. He may not have been a bang, but he was loud. You could hear his screams of protest all over the hospital. His delivery was much quicker and easier than that for Diane. I had fallen asleep in a chair next to the bed when Geni went into labor. She had told the nurse not to bother me, and I was sleeping peacefully until the unexpected outburst from my new son.
Now and then, someone will ask my advice about teenage romance, I always advise them to wash their hands, and be careful around toilet seats.