I look around at all the young parents, at all the parents with teenagers – all those busy growing their families, and I think “That was us.” Kim and I were a bit of an anomaly to the thinking of our day. Five kids in an era where a “family car” barely fit four people total.
Five glorious kids.
When we were planning our marriage, Kim was hesitant on the subject of kids. She wasn’t really sure that she wanted any. I wanted a barnfull. In any case, she said she wanted to go five years before we had any children. Jeanette was about 5 months old at our second anniversary…
I remember Jeanette’s and Christopher’s births with almost crystal clarity. With Jeanette, Kim labored for over 24 hours before they finally took Jeanette by caesarian section. Afterward, Kim looked like she had been in a prize fight – blood vessels in the whites of her eyes had burst from her straining, her face was swollen… I have no idea why they let her go so long before finally deciding to go the route they did. After that, I told Kim that maybe we should only have the one – I didn’t want to put her through that again. She simply smiled a serene sort of smile and said no – she wanted more kids.
I bought cigars to pass out at work. They were in a white and pink “It’s A Girl” cigar box, which, afterward, we used to house incoming bills so that I would know where they were when I would pay bills twice a month (my pay frequency at the time). We still have that box to this day, on my old desk (which needs to be emptied, broken up, and discarded…). I recall that those cigars were actually pretty tough to get rid of, even in 1991 – Ford had just disallowed smoking at ones desk the year prior to my being hired, and we would either step outside to smoke, or you could smoke in the lavatory or inside the high-ceilinged pilot plant. A short time later, smoking in the lavatories was also banned, followed shortly by smoking in the pilot plant. In deference to those who wished to continue to smoke, but did not want to go outside, they had created what we lovingly knew as the “gas chamber” – a glassed-off cube – in the cafeteria. I smoked until May 1994. I no longer recall the specific day, but I recall the actual incident of my quitting with crystal clarity. I was in Oakville, launching the 1994.5 Windstar body shop. I stepped outside to have a cigarette in the afternoon, lit it up, inhaled, looked at it, blew the smoke out, and said “I’m not doing this anymore.” I crushed it out, crushed the pack, and quit smoking cigarettes. I tried a pipe briefly after that, but the liquid tar and nicotine that would come rolling into your mouth from the stem turned me off on it pretty quickly. And then I would have a cigar now and again until one day in 1997 while launching the 1998 Ranger body shop in Edison New Jersey, I quit those, too. (With that history and my former penchant for high-risk activities, we were right to structure things as if I would go first, even though it did not work out that way…)
Christopher decided it was time to be born as we were attending Kim’s five-year reunion. We had already dropped the kids at my mom & dad’s to babysit while we were out, so we shot over there and let them know what was going on, and then off to Oakwood Hospital for kid #2.
For Christopher’s birth, her obstetrician was out of town, so we had another. I only met him that one time, but I remember his name – that’s how deeply the incident was burned into my memory. I think he must have been a doctor in a soviet gulag or something – he had a bedside manner similar to that of a drill sergeant. And he was dead set that Kim would deliver naturally. His assistant had to continually get between him and me because he kept triggering my protective instincts, and I wanted to knock him out. In the end, Christopher was born naturally, which we had previously been told wouldn’t be possible once someone has had a caesarian section. Each child afterward was also delivered naturally.
Oddly, I don’t recall a lot around Jessica’s delivery other than Kim laughing as she was in labor because her obstetrician and I were watching late-night reruns (I remember C.H.I.P.S.) on TV in her room while she was doing all the work. She used to chuckle about that often, showing mock offense over it. She used to cite that as an example when she would tell me how, no matter where we went or what we were doing, people seemed to gravitate to me like that, and we’d find some common thread and end up “best buds,” at least for that instance in time. I was at Michigan Truck on the Plant Vehicle Team and studying for my first master’s degree at the time so, except for being buried in books, papers, and homework, I was home the whole time.
When it was Kenneth’s turn to arrive, I was in Norfolk, Virginia launching the 1999 F-Series body shop. This was to be an induced labor because Kim had developed worrisome gestational hypertension during her pregnancy with him, and they didn’t want it to go beyond her due date for her safety. I remember my Vehicle Line Specialist and I racing west on 80, trying to stay ahead of an incoming hurricane as we dashed back to Michigan – I had packed up my apartment as I didn’t expect to be returning there and, sure enough – I never did. I remember the delivery being fairly quick, and that the room Kim had after Kenny’s delivery overlooked Greenfield Village (now: The Henry Ford”…) in one direction and the Ford test track in the other.
Kim and I went to Las Vegas that fall. We left the kids with Aunt Cindy and Uncle Mich and their brood for the long week. Kim and I had a great time, but I remember her pining away for her baby the whole time.
And finally. Little Miss Oops: Jillian. I remember when Kim discovered she was pregnant with Jillian. She was petrified that I’d be upset. I remember her look when she told me, and I replied with, simply: “Well. I guess we should pick out some names!” And that was truly how I felt – not upset, happy for another beautiful gift!
I was home for the entire time with Jillian as well. Ford wanted me to go to Japan to pursue some issues with the die supplies for the 2003 Mustang. My passport had expired and it would have to be renewed in order for me to take the poorly-timed trip. I had brought it to work with me to get it an expedited renewal started by the Ford travel agency. I had left it in a fancy folder on my desk, and someone stole it. Since I no longer had the old passport, expedited renewal was out of the question., and to replace it would have put me outside the window for the trip, so someone else went in my place. I honestly did not plan that and worried for years afterward regarding my identity – but I think the sticky-fingered miscreant was after the folder and tossed everything that was inside of it. In any case, it meant I was home for Jillian’s delivery as well. Our last child, and, I think, one of the last children delivered by Kim’s obstetrician as I believe he retired that same year. I remember that they would not release Jillian to us to take her home because her blood oxygen level was lower than they liked, so we went each day to visit her in the NICU until they finally let her come home.