The Story of Benjamin, Part 1

This week, I’m going to tell the story of our first son in honor of his birthday. The story is fairly long, so I’ve broken it into three parts.

Back in 1992, things were going great in life. We had gotten married in 1987, bought a house in 1988, gotten ourselves new cars in 1989, and we were well on our way toward achieving our “five year plan” of having a child five years after getting married. I was 28 and my wife was 26. (I suppose I’ll have to come up with a cute way of referring to her, since she doesn’t want her name or our second son’s name published on the Interwebs.) We had gotten pregnant in early May, during a huge, stressful project at my office, where I was working as many as 80 hours in a week (even more unusual for a civil servant).

[By the way, you’ll probably have to get used to me constantly interrupting myself in the middle of a sentence, with all of my commas, en-dashes, parentheses and the like. It’s just the way I talk. I keep having extra bits of information that I want to cram in there. Anyway, back to the story.]

We were very excited about the coming baby, and we decided to take one last vacation on our own before the baby came. We booked a Carnival cruise for August, 1992, and started preparing for the trip. We had taken a Carnival cruise for our first anniversary on the old Mardi Gras before they sold it off as too small. We actually liked the size of the ship and thought that it was a great trip, but we had no choice but to select a larger ship for this cruise. Somehow, once aboard, it seemed that the ship was full of college-age kids on a spring break-type outing, which made the trip less than magical for us. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

A few days before we left on the cruise, my wife started spotting, and so we went to the “women’s hospital” where her doctor was based to get her checked out. They did an ultrasound and told her that everything was OK and that we should go on our vacation without worrying. Something made me feel uncomfortable about this, but I went along with it because they were doctors and they knew what they were doing, right?

So we went on the cruise and, although my wife didn’t feel great throughout, we managed to have a pretty good time. When we got home, it was time for YABT (Yet Another Blood Test), this time the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test to check for neural tube defects. The first results came back not looking good, but still inconclusive. We now began a discussion about what we would do if the baby had a neural tube deficiency. We agreed to set up a second test to see if the results came back the same. If they were still not confident in the results, the next test would be an amniocentesis, which scared the heck out of both of us because then we were looking at an invasive test. We weren’t sure if we were going to go for that. We still lived in the world of minimal medical issues at the time, so the thought of an invasive test worried us.

We had decided that we didn’t want them to tell us whether we were having a boy or girl; we wanted to be surprised. Meanwhile, we had been trying to come up with a name for our baby. We knew that we wanted to name it for my father’s mother, Betty. (Her name was Bertha, but nobody called her that.) In our Jewish tradition, you pick a name that starts with the same letter to honor the deceased relative. We very quickly agreed that, if a boy, it would be Benjamin. For a girl, we went back and forth but could never come to agreement. We figured that we’d eventually come up with something.

Meanwhile, while my work project was starting to wind down and the annual statewide conference that my wife coordinated was approaching. Traditionally, as the conference approached, I would see less and less of her as she submerged herself into the preparation, and she would spend the nights of the conference at the conference hotel to ensure that everything ran smoothly around the clock. The conference was scheduled for December.

It was now approaching October, and we were preparing for the Jewish High Holidays. We decided that we’d worry about the AFP retest after the holidays were over. Rosh Hashanah passed quietly, but days later my wife didn’t feel good in the middle of the night and then called to me from the bathroom that she thought that her water broke. The pregnancy was only 22 weeks along. While 22-weekers now frequently survive, it was pretty unheard of in 1992. We called her doctor and I rushed my wife to the hospital, where the doctor met us.

I want to keep these posts relatively short, so I’m going to stop here for today.

To be continued on Tuesday….

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