Not long after I woke up this morning, I officially became the father of teenage daughters.
The thought of having teenage daughters drove me straight to the keyboard.
Actually, I knew I’d be writing about this blessed event for some time. Truth be told, it’s been far too long since I last wrote for this site. I’ve had some other things going on, and I’m still navigating through the stages of making a career at it as a freelance writer.
One thing I need to do more of, though, is to write for myself – and this site, obviously, allows me to do that. I can write whenever I want about whatever I want. I just need to increase the “whenevers” for both myself and my loyal followers (thanks for following!).
With that in mind, what a glorious way for me to say “Hello” to everyone by telling the story that changed everything for me.
It’s the day baseball no longer was the most important part of my life.
September 27, 2003. Thirteen years ago this week.
If life was TV, everything would go wavy and grainy at this point. And then I’d have big hair and bell bottoms.
The year was 2003. George W. Bush was President. The cost of gas was $1.79 per gallon. A gallon of milk cost $3.19.
Worth noting: I don’t know what a gallon of milk costs now. And I do a fair share of the grocery shopping.
Thirteen years ago this week, I was in my final months working in the Cubs’ Media Relations department – and I was getting ready to transition into Baseball Operations.
At that point, though, Baseball Ops truly was an afterthought (actually, it was a pre-thought – as I wasn’t in that department yet). The National League Central Division race was all-encompassing. And when I wasn’t thinking about baseball, my 35-weeks pregnant wife – of twins – was the center of my attention (whether she knew it or not).
Anyway, on that blessed Saturday morning – September 27, 2003 – the Cubs arrived at Wrigley Field one-half game ahead of Houston in the divisional race with three games to go. A rainout the day before meant the Cubs had a doubleheader this day. The scenarios were quite obvious:
The realist in me was preparing for Sunday to be D-Day in the N.L. Central race. More than half of doubleheaders are split, so I figured Houston would win, the Cubs would split, and the divisional race would be tied with one day to go.
Then, for one of the few days in my 25 years with the Cubs, EVERYTHING worked out right. It couldn’t have played out better. The Astros, shockingly enough, lost to the Brewers for a second straight day in an early game, thanks to the fine pitching of Wes Obermueller. Remember him? A Cubs victory over the Pirates in Game 1 electrified Wrigley Field. The Cubs then got out to a quick lead in Game 2 and cruised to a sweep – and first place was ours. The Cubs were Central Division champions!
A lot of champagne flowed that night – and there’s nothing like a champagne shower. I probably should write about that one of these days. But I had to take it easy that night – as these were different times for me. I made sure I had put a “just in case” change of clothes in the car and stopped at my parents to shower.
I didn’t think I should show up at home smelling like a distillery. As I said, I had a very pregnant wife.
Now, if Coors Light had been poured on me by 25-plus players … that would have been different. Michelle was very much in need of a Coors Light.
September 28, 2003. Thirteen years ago this week.
For a Media Relations staffer, there is only so much preparation you can do for the postseason while the regular season is going on.
My main role in Media Relations was as an information provider, and I was all things “Postseason Information Guide” – an 8.5x11 letter-size book written for national broadcast rights holders, national media and local media. The roughly 150-page tome was your up-to-date season in review, with detailed information on all of the players on your club’s postseason roster. Remember, this was 2003; you couldn’t just go to the internet and have all the info at your disposal.
It was imperative that the information was up-to-date for the entire season. It was imperative that the statistics were up-to-date for the entire season. It was a maniacal process at the very end, as you have an insanely quick turnaround time; the playoffs start a couple days after the regular season ends.
In this instance, the Cubs played their final regular-season game on a Sunday. Game 1 of the postseason started Tuesday night – in Atlanta.
That Sunday morning, I arrived at Wrigley Field around 6:30 am. Other than taking a few minutes to watch Ron Santo’s uniform retirement ceremony, it was non-stop work – finishing off player-by-player one-by-one. You couldn’t put the finishing touches on players until they were done with their regular-season appearances. It’s very tedious work, checking and fact-checking and triple-checking.
Then, you had to wait for all other games to be completed – for both final overall statistics and final rankings. As an example, where was Joe Borowski going to finish in the National League in saves?
When all was done, the book was finally completed a little after 3 am Monday morning.
The first thing you do after screaming that it’s finally done is splash a little water on your face for the drive home. You have to wake up fast.
After an all-dayer and a half-nighter, I said goodbye to Wrigley Field. Around 3:45 am, I left the ballpark and started driving west down Addison Street.
Ten minutes in, just as I was passing the White Castle at Addison and Elston, I got the call.
September 29, 2003. Thirteen years ago this week.
As I was heading home, I had a couple thoughts in mind: Stay awake, and don’t forget to leave “The Package” in my mailbox.
“The Package” was an envelope containing the floppy discs (remember them?) of the postseason guide, and the printer rep – the legendary Ed Thomas – was going to stop by my house on his way to work to pick them up. He regularly left for work around 5:30 am, which was way too close for my liking.
My internal voice of “stay awake stay awake stay awake” quickly turned into “OMG OMG OMG” when the phone rang.
It was Michelle. The call went something like this: “Where are you? … Something’s not right … I’m in a lot of pain … I called the hospital, and they said I should come right in … When can you get here?”
It was a few minutes before 4 am, and I was making the right turn onto the Kennedy Expressway ramp – and trying to process everything.
“OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.”
I made it home without panicking. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was in town to keep an eye on Michelle because of the nutty hours I was working, so the packing part was done before I got home.
I don’t think I even turned the engine off after turning into the driveway.
Since I was still in my Baseball Chuck days, I left a voicemail message on Ed Thomas’ car phone line – yes, he had a dedicated car phone – that the discs were in my mailbox, and that I would check in with him later.
About 75 seconds later, with Michelle and her mom in the car, I then followed my imaginary police escort to the hospital.
We made it to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in great time, and then we waited … and waited … and waited … and waited.
Right off the bat, we were assured that the babies were fine. But what was causing the pain? Was Michelle in labor? Did she have a bladder infection?
Let’s wait and see, we were told. Not the answer Michelle wanted. Not the answer I needed, as I was getting loopier and loopier.
We were at the hospital for almost 12 hours before we found out what was going on.
So the decision was made. Let’s drug up Michelle to take away some of the pain. We’ll admit she’s in labor. And now we’ll wait it out.
Now, let’s make this about me for a second. At this point, I had been awake for over 36 hours straight. At this point, there was no such thing as 5-Hour Energy. At this point, I was barely a coffee drinker. At this point, I wasn’t comprehending fatherhood quite yet.
And then the phone rang.
It was Ed Thomas, the printer rep. He was pulling up to the hospital with the first batch of postseason guides for me. My baseball babies had been born!
After going downstairs and thanking him profusely, it finally hit me. The next time I was going to be outside and feel fresh air, I would be a dad.
I didn’t realize that wasn’t going to be for another 13 hours. Thankfully, the nurses made me crash for a good part of it. I can’t say I remember Michelle threatening to choke medical personnel.
The morning of September 30, 2003. Thirteen years ago today.
Michelle had a rough night. The epidural didn’t produce the desired results – which is an understatement.
My wife was in intense pain and was closing in on the 24-hours-in-labor mark. Finally, her doctor arrived at the hospital. As I slept, he tiptoed into the room – afraid of getting his tie too close to Michelle’s hands.
The decision was made … it’s time to get those babies.
A second decision also was made … it’s time to wake up Chuck.
I remember the nurse waking me up. “Put on the hospital gowns … We’re getting your wife ready for surgery … She’s in a lot of pain, so she’s going to have a C-section … She needs your help.”
I’m sure Michelle doesn’t quite remember the “She needs your help” part, but it sounds good.
Right around 6 am, I let Michelle’s mom and my parents know – and then we headed to the operating room.
I can’t handle paper cuts, so I stood as far away from the scalpels as I could.
Baby B came first. 6:35 am. Fair size for a twin. But something was wrong – at least initially. The nurses ran off for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 10-to-15 seconds. They weren’t getting any reaction from the baby – which turned out to be because she was sleeping. Very soundly. Swimming must have worn her out.
Two minutes later – 6:37 am, to be exact – Baby A became the second child yanked out. The runt of the litter came out with an attitude, most likely because she was expecting to be born first. It was the first sign of things to come.
And just like that, we were parents of twins. And just like that, all the pain Michelle had been in for over a day was gone. She went into a calm sleep, and I went back into general loopiness.
The nurses brought me over to my new baby girls. A pink-and-blue striped knit hat on the first child. A solid pink hat placed on the second baby.
“Do you have names picked out?”
“I’m not brave enough to answer that on my own.”
Once Michelle and the girls went to recovery, I went to the waiting area to relay the news that everyone was doing great.
I saw my parents and Michelle’s mom … and then I lost it.
Right then and there, it hit me … I was a dad. The excitement of it all overwhelmed me. It was the greatest feeling I ever had.
The evening of September 30, 2003. Thirteen years ago today.
I’m guessing it was around 8 pm. I was sitting in Michelle’s room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital – and it was just the two of us.
Michelle was out. Cold. Crashed. I could have brought in Pearl Jam to perform live in the room, and she would have slept through it.
So there I was, watching Game 1 of the National League Division Series – Cubs at Atlanta – on the hospital room TV.
A nurse walked in and said both of the babies – now officially named Danielle and Nicole – were awake. Did I want to see them?
Of course I did.
She told me to stay still. She’d go get them.
And just a few minutes later, there I was – watching the playoffs on TV and holding a newborn in each arm.
Unfortunately, I never got a ring during my 25 years with the Cubs.
I did meet my wife there. And the end result … my girls.
Happy Birthday, Danielle! Happy Birthday, Nicole!
You are my championship rings.