Along with Where the Wild Things Are and The Disney Book of Manners, the lesser-known classic Where Did I Come From? was required reading at my house.
Peter Mayle’s clever tale about the birds and the bees gave my parents the perfect launch pad for teaching us kiddos how babies are born. It also helped dispel our creative notions of what Dad meant when he said he “delivered babies” for a living. Not, as it turned out, from the trunk of his car, pizza-delivery style, which Matt had long suspected.
I knew better, thanks to call Saturdays. Every other weekend, when Dad was on call, I’d bound into the kitchen, too excited for breakfast, and trot behind him down the carport steps, to clamber into our Buick Riviera headed for Brookwood. “Making rounds” was important business, and I took my job seriously. While Dad visited patients, I made the Doctor’s Lounge home base, where I watched Heathcliff and The Smurfs, and couldn’t believe my good fortune that a soft-drink fountain was there, with no adults around to monitor my liquid calorie consumption. Hello, unlimited refills! I knew the gods were really smiling upon me when the ladies at the nurses’ station let me score a doughnut or four. Not a bad swap for all that cheek-pinching and “My how you’ve grown!” stuff.
I’ve always known Dad did special work. Even when he was “off-call” and just being Dad, I’d watch him care for friends and neighbors with aplomb and often humor. How else can you respond to an expectant mom from down the street who calls, panic-stricken, after realizing several swallows too late that her firstborn has laced her ham sandwich with a layer of green jelly from his He-Man Evil Horde Slime Pit?
Not that it was all good fun. When I’d open the fridge for OJ and see orange-capped vials next to the pickle jar, I knew my Cinnamon Toast Crunch would come with a side of flu shot that day. And, barring severed limbs or gushing fluid, there was no staying home from school, so don’t bother asking.
But because of his career, Dad and I could easily navigate our way around unusual topics. Instead of relying on my church, which, God bless it, attempted the we’re-trying-to-be-frank-and-open-by-teaching-Christian-View-of-Sex-but-it’s-still-awkward-because-this-is-also-where-we-taught-you-kids-the-Apostles’-Creed approach, or worse, having a paunchy, middle-aged P.E. coach explain puberty, I could go straight to the source – and even share it.
“Dad! We’re studying organisms and populations in Biology II. Wanna come to my class and show a C-section video?”
As a teen, I’d cringe if someone called Dad “Mr.” He taught me that much hard work goes into earning an M.D. and that the title deserves respect. We’d discuss this, and other heavy topics – like if he tied more innies than outies – over calcium-fortified candy bars, promo gifts from drug reps back in the pre government crackdown days.
When Rett and I found out we were expecting our first child, Dad was the first person I wanted to tell. Afraid I’d turn into a puddle while sharing the news, I let Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You do it for me. When Dad lifted the board book from its wrapping and looked at me, eyes a-twinkle, I knew our happiest shared moments were yet to come.
Indeed, over the next nine months, I felt a new appreciation for how he’d clothed and fed me. After all, as any honest female (preggo or not) can attest, we’re no easy lot.
How does that Seven Dwarfs of Menopause comic read again? Oh yes: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and Psycho. What a way to make a living.
Yet he’s incredible at it. Before I married, I could hardly conduct a week’s worth of errands without someone seeing my maiden name and asking, “Are you related to…?” I loved saying yes, loved hearing them compliment his bedside manner and patience.
On June 27th, 2009, I saw for myself what they meant. In early labor, comfortably numb from my epidural, and a little scared but not wanting to admit it, I lay quietly asleep in Room 1 of Labor and Delivery when I heard a soft knock at the door. Seeing Dad there was a welcome surprise.
“Hey, Rebecca!” he gushed, kissing me on the cheek, before turning clinically to our nurse, Marie. “Hello. I’m Dr. Cybulsky. Let’s have a look at these contraction charts.”
It was a room in which he was intimately familiar, where he’d delivered thousands of babies, but this time was different. His baby was the patient, and I could see him caught in the crosshairs of doctor-on-call and grandpapa-to-be.
The shift was so touching and utterly lost on him, I almost laughed out loud. Instead I shut my eyes, feeling woozy from the epidural and grateful he was there, making sure all was well.
Not wanting to interfere, Dad slipped out quickly, leaving the L&D team to their task, but I got reports on his progress as I know he did on mine.
“He’s upstairs finding a place for you to nest,” my doctor told me later.
I smiled at the thought of Dad – looking for a room near the nursery, away from elevator noise, with lots of natural light – taking care of me in his own quiet, thoughtful way, just as he’s done for the last 33 years.
Storkdoc, I love you.
Originally published in the November 2013 B-Metro.