On Dec. 3, 2002 my life changed. Some could argue that it changed when my wife waived the pregnancy test in front of my half-open eyes that morning ten months prior, or when we got married two years before that. But it really didn’t HIT me until I saw him. Justin Gabriel Barrow: 7lbs 5 oz of purpose. Make no mistake, my life had plenty of purpose before he was born, but my internal compass shifted almost instantly. As they laid him in the warmer, still juicy from the Caesarean section, I realized that there was someone in this world completely dependent on me. And it scared the sh*t out of me.
Justin’s birth was an event for a lot of reasons. I was 29 years old, the same age my dad was when he had me (see the grainy 70’s pic below) and so much was happening that year. I’d just started my job as Associate Music Editor at The Source and we had just purchased our first home in Queens, a few blocks from where my wife, Carmela, grew up. I hated leaving Brooklyn but we just couldn’t afford anything with a driveway to park in, and anyone that lives in BK knows that “life’s a bitch when you drive…”
So in the midst of mortgage and magazine closings we were, as my boy Mecca put it, “baking a human.” As pregnancies go it was fairly easy-going, according to my wife anyway. I was only sent out on a wild goose chase for “Salami and tomatoes, but no bread” just once. We went against convention and didn’t find out the sex ahead of time, so we had two names picked out: Justin and Jasmine. Our families dueled constantly about what the baby was going to be while we painted the nursery goldenrod.
What also helped is that I was not alone. Two of my best friends were also expecting babies within weeks of us. The boys showed up a week apart from each other: Ryan, Justin then Jason. Buy Buy Baby CAKED OFF that month.
The big day finally came two weeks ahead of schedule. On her last day of work before going on maternity leave my wife experienced her first labor pains. She called her doctor and they assured her that going to the hospital was not necessary until the contractions were closer together, so we waited. I can’t say we really slept that night cuz she couldn’t relax. Finally around 4 am she’d had enough and we drove out to the hospital. Her contractions still weren’t as close as the doctors wanted them to be but they admitted her anyway.
I spent the next few hours sneaking her ice chips and trying to keep her calm. When the pain really kicked in I was glad I wore a loose fitting wool sweater. Her nails tore into the fabric instead of my skin as she squeezed my arm made the Catholic nuns who ran the maternity ward blush with her curses. The only thing that distracted her from the labor pain was a sudden loud beeping of the fetal heart monitor. Something was wrong. Her doctor did a quick examination and found a substance called meconium, which confirmed that the baby was in some kind of distress. They gave my wife an epidural and prepared to do a Caesarean section.
I put on my best poker face as they wheeled my wife into the operating room. I couldn’t look worried because she was already worried enough for both of us. I donned my hospital scrubs and a funny shower cap and waited for them to call me in. When I got inside she was laying on a table with her lower half behind a curtain. The doctor’s were busy doing their thing on the other side when I heard one of them say “the chord.” Our baby, who had kicked me in the face a few times during the pregnancy, managed to get the chord wrapped around his neck. But before I could react to that news they pulled him out and showed him to me. Mel couldn’t see him yet from behind the curtain so I yelled, “It’s Justin! And he looks JUST LIKE YOU.”
So it began. Every Friday I will be bringing you my adventures in raising my now six-year-old Pokemon loving, macaroni and cheese eating psychic. That’s right, a few months ago he told my wife, who hadn’t even missed a period, that he wanted to listen to her heart beat and placed his ear to her stomach. She told him her heart was higher up and he simply said, “I know, but there’s a heart beat down here.”
We’re expecting in February of ’09. Wish me luck…:)