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My time as a grandpa has come

Mar 5, 2017 By Randy Tucker

My, how times have changed for expectant mothers and fathers since I arrived.

My mom checked into the Chennault Air Force Base Hospital near Lake Charles, Louisiana, in November of 1956. My dad was an airman working on B-47s with the Strategic Air Command's 44th Bombardment Wing.

She went into labor with me, but my dad wasn't allowed near the hospital. He went to work as usual. On Nov. 18, I arrived. No fanfare, very few drugs for mothers in labor, no days off for fathers, just deliver the baby and get back to work.

It was a very different time.

Jump ahead 30 years. My wife Sue went into labor with our son Brian in October 1986. Times had changed a bit. There were special delivery rooms separated from the main ward, private rooms, and expectant fathers were allowed to be with their wives.The time off was still close to the 1950s for fathers.I was able to take three days off, including the day Brian was born.I missed a Shoshoni junior high football game (the only game or meet I missed in my 35-year coaching career) played at Greybull the following Saturday. The principal wasn't happy that I'd stayed with my wife and our newborn.

Times were different then as well.

Late Sunday night local time, (1:40 a.m. in Pennsylvania) we received a text with a picture of a little elf in a pink hat. Our first grandchild, Jayne Margaret Orbell, had arrived in a downtown hospital in Pittsburgh.

Daughter Staci and son-in-law Adam were the proud parents of a perfect baby girl. Seven pounds, nine ounces.

Back in June and July we took a week-long driving tour with the kids through New England. As we stood in the security line at the Pittsburgh airport to return home Staci came up to me to say goodbye and instead said, "Dad, I'm pregnant."

Great timing on her part. I didn't get a chance to react. She and Adam just grinned and said "have a good flight." She had let Sue know two days before but decided to keep Dad out of the loop for a few more hours.

Staci has a master's degree in nursing and works writing policy and setting training for beginning nurses.

She started her career at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie before she even graduated, worked in a cancer center in a Pittsburgh suburb, and gradually moved up the ladder in her chosen profession.

She is also a Type I diabetic, diagnosed when she was 15. Her ability to manage her diabetes is absolutely amazing.

Still, childbirth to a Type I diabetic presents challenges that regular pregnancies don't encounter. She flew through them, as she has everything else in life.

The changes in medical technology over the last three decades have been nothing short of astounding. The level of testing, scanning and medical diagnosis in medicine today is light years ahead of even three decades ago.

When Staci was born in 1988 Dr. Phil Schiller was the baby doc in Riverton.Phil was friend of mine outside his practice. We worked on computers together occasionally and were members of the now-defunct Central Wyoming Computer Users Group.

Phil had a new contraption to try during one of Sue's prenatal visits. He had constructed his own sonogram machine from plans he found in a magazine.

As he started to do a scan on Sue, the screen went blank.

"Grab those connections and click them back together," he told me.

The screen flickered a bit, but no image.

"Hold them together, and I'll fire it up again," he said.

I grabbed a couple of four-wire connectors, forced them together, and held them tight.

On the screen, Staci's little face emerged on the black-and-green Hercules graphics monitor. It was amazing.

Staci had six ultrasounds during her ownpregnancy. The later ones clearly showed Jayne's face, and the images taken were amazingly accurate.

Not only could they see arms, legs and her face, but the techs were able to take metrics that determined her percentile size in head circumference, belly size, and even internal organ scans.

The technology is so far advanced from that afternoon holding some wires together in Dr. Schiller's office that it is almost beyond comparison.

Staci and Adam were clear on one aspect of all these ultrasound scans. They didn't want to know the gender of the baby.

As a result, we didn't know whether to buy pink or blue baby gifts.

When Sue received the text and image around midnight on Sunday we already knew Staci was in labor.

My wife was bouncing off the wall waiting for news of the delivery. Sue made several dozen sugar cookies in the shape of baby feet earlier in the day.

After midnight, as we waited for more news from Pittsburg she mixed pink frosting and began to spread it on those sugar cookies to take to her kindergarten class and fellow teachers a few hours later.

The pictures are great, but Sue flew out Thursday to see Jayne in person. I leave on Sunday for Pittsburgh to meet the next generation. We've waited a long time for grandchildren, and our time is now.

Friends tell me it's the best time in life.We can't wait.


Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.

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