You probably already know this, but most holidays aren't celebrated on the days they actually happened, even a lot of famous birthdays.
Martin Luther King and Abe Lincoln are each honored on Mondays, yet King was born on a Tuesday, while Lincoln emancipated his spindly self from the womb on a Sunday. Honest.
Of course, we're not really sure of the day or date that Mary, without the benefit of an epidural or even some ice chips, bore J.C. back in the year zero. Rumor has it that, while rapt in the throes of excruciating labor, she glared contemptuously at Joseph and screamed out her son's name. After the dust had settled, Mary reportedly stated that she wasn't cursing her mate, but simply rewarding all in attendance with a sneak preview of her new infant's nome de plume.
That's what I heard, anyway.
And I guess that's my point today. While I'm on the subject of childbirth, I would submit that the historically accurate Mother's Day is any date on which a mom initially becomes a mother.
Follow my theory? That first day of motherhood, whether a woman has given birth or secured her new bundle in some other fashion—that's the real Mother's Day. Today is an honorary figurehead, like t-ball trophies or Prince Harry.
I'd like to relate a father's perspective to my wife's original Mom's Day, on April 23, 1995. Not expecting our little angel for three more weeks, we ventured up to Semiahmoo, a resort near the Canadian border, for one last hurrah before our lives changed forever.
After a relaxing day basking in the warmth of an unseasonable spring day, we enjoyed a nice dinner and retreated to our room. I dozed on the bed, sedated in the fuzzy blanket of the two Red Hooks I'd consumed during the evening.
Sometime later, I think it was around 10:30, my wife's throttling clutch jarred me from my slumber. "I think my water broke. Tim, can you hear me? I think my water broke."
"Nah," I lamely said. "The baby isn't due for three weeks. Go to sleep."
"You're not listening. I'm calling the doctor."
Before I could rise and walk to the mirror to re-adjust my ponytail, she was on the phone (the land line; cell phones were around then, but we didn't feel like renting a trailer to haul ours up with us). Our obstetrician wasn't on call that Saturday night, and the doctor on call advised us to hang tight and come in the next morning.
She hung up. "No way," she said. "We're going tonight."
I wasn't about to argue. We'd both learned that after the amniotic sack ruptures, the risk of infection increases. And while we didn't understand why we'd been told to wait, especially two hours from our hospital in Seattle, within ten minutes, the two of us were speeding down Interstate Five, rushing toward our new lives at eighty miles per hour.
Remembering the Flintstones episode where Pebbles is born, I secretly hoped to be pulled over with the ultimate excuse and given a police escort. Didn't happen, but boy did I enjoy finding out what our new Kia sedan was made of.
We arrived at Swedish Hospital around midnight, my wife's mood gradually waning in reverse proportion to her intensifying contractions. By the time we'd settled into a room and she'd been hooked up to all the stuff, she was hurting a lot, but her labor hadn't yet progressed enough for the summoning of Dr. Feelgood.
While armed with a cursory knowledge of what to expect, my attempts at helping her breathe rang hollow and even offensive, so I shut the hell up, quietly praying for the magic spinal blocking cart to roll in.
I dozed off and immediately felt a jolt to my sternum. It was the second time she'd awakened me that night, but this time, knuckles were involved.
"You will not be fall asleep," she said, replacing her business hand back atop her belly.
"Gotcha." I sat up and stared straight ahead.
At length, the anesthesiologist arrived. I'd never witnessed my wife so elated to see a man, including me, and I was fairly stoked as well. Soon, we were actually chatting in the gradually lightening room, and as dawn approached, pushing time had finally arrived.
Lights were rolled out of closets. Nurses gathered. When the doctor walked into the room, it reminded me of Elvis finally strutting onto the stage after his band had worked the crowd into a lather for a few minutes. Showtime.
She pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed, to no avail. It wasn't working because the baby's head was slightly tilted, the doctor said. He tried the vacuum cup device to straighten her little noggin and suck her on out.
"Forceps," I heard him finally say.
"Shit," I thought. "They're pulling my girl out with something that looks like it's used for peeling chicken breasts from the Weber. Oh, well, I suppose he knows what he's doing."
The doctor locked the instrument in place and pulled while she pushed. Our baby's wet little body oozed out and for the first time, I looked at her. "Hi, Zoe," I said. I focused on my new daughter while the nurse cleaned her up and placed her on my wife's chest.
But something was wrong. My wife's face blanched as the monitor glowed with the descending digits of her blood pressure. Before I knew it, more gowned people had entered the room and I listened to the words "stat" bandied about. They wheeled her out following a hasty explanation of what needed to be done.
My baby was whisked to the nursery and I stood alone in the room which had only minutes before been a beehive of joy and activity. What had happened?
I began sobbing.
A nurse entered and patted my back, escorting me to the waiting area while uttering words of encouragement and optimism. I watched a meaningless basketball game in a meaningless room, so much hanging in the balance.
Finally, the doctor approached. My wife was just fine. Congratulations. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face, covering the dried salt stains of despair from minutes before.
It was a Mother's Day, and boy, was it a Father's Day, too.