Rachael Jurek walked into the room holding the long, white cylinder. She had a confused expression playing on her lovely features. She scrunched up her nose and squinted her dark eyes.
"Take a look at this," she said. "I don't know what it means."
The instructions on the pregnancy test had seemed pretty straightforward. A horizontal line indicated there was no pregnancy. A "+" indicated a baby was on the way. Our test had only a single vertical line.
"This IS confusing," I said, swallowing hard against the excitement welling up inside me. I fumbled through the trash and found the box to the pregnancy test. My mind was racing as I scanned the microscopic instructions printed on the side. My 50-year-old peepers had rarely failed me when reading license plates during prolonged television stakeouts or trying to pick out the face of a political hack at a crowded fundraiser, but the tiny words before me now might as well have been written in Sanskrit. My aging ocular organs were suddenly useless. I turned the box over to Rachael and her 34-year-old optics.
Rachael's eyes narrowed as she reread the instructions. Her lips formed a thoughtful pucker. She cocked her head slightly to the side. Silence.
"Well?" I asked.
"I think this means we're having a baby," she said looking up. She didn't smile, instead looking toward me for my reaction. "It says false negatives are far more likely than false positives, any hint of a vertical line means pregnant."
I don't know what kind of look I had on my face at that point. It must have been something better than an expression of blind terror, because as I stared at Rachael's pretty face, framed by dark curls, her mouth spread into a slightly crooked smile and she began to giggle.
I reached out and wrapped my long arms around my tiny Rachael. She felt so small to me at that moment.
"Thank you for not freaking out," she said calmly. "You're going to be a great daddy!"
That scene played out just over eight months ago during a weekend get together in Delaware. The big scene: the birth of my son, played out on the first full day of spring here in Milwaukee. Since I am a television vagabond, that scene could have played out most anywhere. I am so thankful it happened in Milwaukee at Columbia St. Mary's hospital. I don't even mind that I was a thousand miles away when George Colton Mallet-Prevost (Mallet-Prevost is my full last name) came into the world.
Our pregnancy could have been far more complicated than it turned out to be. Rachael was in an awful car accident as a teenager and had to be put back together with metal plates. We knew very early on that Rachael's injuries were likely to make the pregnancy difficult.
Fortunately for us, Columbia St. Mary's Hospital is home to Dr. Allison Ring, a skilled surgeon and specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Ring instilled us with great confidence that our baby could grow normally in his mother and be delivered by Caesarean section when the time came.
We may have pushed our luck a bit last month, when Rachael flew to upstate, New York, where I now live, to interview for a faculty position at SUNY, Plattsburgh. The rushing through airports, all-day interviews, dinners with faculty and guest lectures took a pronounced toll on her blood pressure. Less than two weeks after Rachael returned to Milwaukee, I got a startling wakeup call from my mother-in-law.
"Rachael's water broke," Leona Jurek told me breathlessly.
"What?" I asked as my heart began to pound uncontrollably. "Now?"
"Yes," she said firmly. "They tried to call you, but you must have been dead asleep. Richard (my father-in-law) took her to the hospital."
I was able to talk to Rachael briefly before she went into the delivery room. She said Dr. Ring was there and had assured her everything would be fine.
Less than an hour later, as I walked my dog in the predawn darkness beside Lake Champlain, my phone rang again. It was Rachael.
"He's beautiful," she said sobbing. "Our baby is beautiful!"
I have no idea what I said at that point. I'm pretty sure it was unintelligible. I know tears were streaming down my face. I was so thankful my son had been born in Milwaukee where the skilled professionals at Columbia St. Mary's could tend to him and his mother.
After the dog and I drove a thousand miles through Canada and Michigan to join our family, I learned of other blessings. Despite his early arrival, Colt weighed nearly seven pounds at birth. His lungs were fully formed so he only spent a few hours in the neo-natal intensive care unit. He was healthy, normal and nursing happily at his mother's breast. He was immediately under the care of a rare pediatrician in Dr. Theresa Cafaro who really listened to the unfounded concerns of his parents. What's more, one of the nurse's who had participated in Colt's delivery was an amateur photographer. At Rachael's request, Becky Young had recorded my son's birth with the skill of a seasoned photojournalist. Her pictures made me feel as though I was there too.
I chose to leave Milwaukee a year ago, but forgive me if I now miss the Brew City and its thoughtful, caring people. Whether I raise my family in upstate New York, Milwaukee or somewhere else entirely, I will forever be thankful my only child was born in Milwaukee.