Frodo Baggins, the Millennium Force, and Becoming a Dad in a Pandemic

What follows, it should be noted, is a pretty stream-of-consciousness blog post—like blog posts used to be back when I started blogging in what feels like 80 years ago, when blogs were less formal and such.

I’m not trying to make any points here or say anything profound. I’m just vomiting my thoughts onto the virtual page for the few people who have asked about how I’m feeling with all of this.

Now, on with the show.

A week from today, unless our daughter decides to come before, my wife and I will arrive at the hospital in our Nashville suburb and welcome our baby girl into this wild world.

This is my first child, and as you can imagine, I have a lot of feelings. I’ve not slept very well for about a week. I’m already dreaming dreams like being unable to comfort my crying daughter and not being able to find my wife to help. Stuff like that.

Most of the feelings I’m feeling are the typical feelings a soon-to-be first-time dad would be feeling seven days before his child arrives. My feelings are a healthy mixture of fear and excitement. Fear that I don’t know what I’m doing and won’t know how to do something important. Excitement that I get to see the baby girl we’ve been anticipating for nine months.

America’s Roller Coast!

Once or twice a year in my teens, some people from our church would take a day trip to Cedar Point—an amusement park on the coast of Lake Erie near Cleveland, Ohio. Cedar Point is different from most amusement parks because of its abundance of roller coasters. Cedar Point has 17 roller coasters…all of Disney World combined has seven.

Every time one of the ride operators welcomed us onto the Raptor, the Maverick, or one of the other many roller coasters at the park, he or she would end the safety instructions with, “Enjoy the rest of your day at Cedar Point…America’s Roller Coast!”

The Millennium Force

The crown jewel of Cedar Point, in my opinion, is the Millennium Force. Here’s a video of what it’s like to ride that beautiful, terrifying roller coaster:

When we first found out Susie was pregnant, it felt like we just got in line for the Millennium Force.

The Millennium Force always has one of the longest lines at the park. When we began the nine-month marathon of pregnancy last summer, we were standing at the end of the line, gazing up at the beauty of the ride, marveling, “Man that looks scary and fun. Can’t wait to experience it.”

After Christmas, amidst a few baby showers, Susie was in the third trimester of her pregnancy, and we had moved up in the metaphorical roller coaster line. We were entering the last bit of our wait, approaching the loading station with an increasing volume of excitement and nerves in our hearts. The screams on the ride were louder. You could feel the whoosh of the coaster above your head. With the unpacking of onesies, diapers, toys, diapers, books, and diapers, it all started to get a lot more real.

Six days ago, Susie attended her penultimate doctor’s appointment alone, as the prevalence of the coronavirus prevents me from attending anymore. At the doctor’s appointment, our doctor suggested that Susie be induced on Monday, April 6th, one week before our daughter’s scheduled due date. The doctor suggested an early induction because she wants to protect us from the potential that, if the coronavirus continues to spread, the hospital could decide to not allow fathers to accompany mothers for the births of children. This has already happened in at least one New York City hospital, with murmurings of it happening elsewhere.

So now, as I write to you here, seven days before my daughter’s coronavirus-determined presumptive birthday, we are at the front of the line for the Millennium Force, waiting in the loading station, in full view of the task before us.

In the Loading Station

The loading station for the Millennium Force has always stuck in my mind. The image below is burned into my brain. When you finally reach the front of the line for this ride, often after two-plus hours of waiting, this is the scene:

It’s dark and cool, relatively-speaking. You’ve spent more than two hours in 90+ degree heat and blazing sun. You hear the whirring of fans and the voices of excited, scared soon-to-be riders. The single line you’ve been standing in for so long splits into a bunch of little lines based on which part of the coaster train you prefer, and you enter that shorter line. After a couple of trains load up and leave, you find yourself waiting to be on the next train. You look to the right, the side of the station out of which the train leaves, and all you see is a piece of roller coaster track that looks like it is at a 90-degree angle pointing up. This gives you an idea:

We are at the front of the line. Next on the train. Fear and excitement have never been so intermingled.

In the photo above, the weather at Cedar Point looks like it did most times I visited: a warm, sunny summer day. If we were visiting the hospital next week to welcome our daughter into the world under normal conditions, we would be boarding the Millennium Force and shooting out of the loading station into a warm, sunny day.

But it feels a bit like our particular steel roller coaster train will be leaving the station into a precarious lightning storm, not a sunny spring day.

Feeling Like Frodo and Sam

Two weeks ago, Susie and I marathoned the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings.

Going to the hospital next week to welcome my daughter into the world makes me feel a little bit like Susie and I are Frodo and Sam. In order to accomplish what we have set out on our journey to accomplish, we have to go into the heart of the beast. When we walk into the hospital next Monday, we’ll be walking through the same doors as some who have entered to be treated for coronavirus-related sicknesses, at least one of whom didn’t survive.

We’ve done everything we can the last few weeks to stay away from others in hopes of neither one of us getting sick so that I am not barred from the hospital and so that our daughter isn’t taken away from Susie when she is born (if Susie were sick). But next week we will spend just a couple of days in the hospital where hundreds of medical personnel are spending weeks treating sick people and putting themselves on the line to help others.

In order to accomplish the goal, Frodo and Sam didn’t have the luxury of journeying to Gondor or Rohan. They had to go to Mount Doom—the heart of the beast. In order for us to welcome our daughter into the world, we have to go to the one place in our community where the sickness is likely most concentrated.

After the nine-month marathon of a first-time pregnancy, we have one final obstacle to overcome, and it’s a boss battle we never expected to encounter.

Final Thoughts

I’m not really afraid of getting sick. I do fear Susie getting sick and/or our daughter getting sick. I don’t look forward to meeting our daughter by ourselves, with no one to celebrate with, no one to whom we can introduce her. I don’t look forward to being confined to our maternity ward room like it’s a cell, no visitors allowed. I don’t look forward to not welcoming people into our house for weeks after we get bring our daughter home. I don’t look forward to asking people who give us meals to “leave them at the door” and not get to give them a hug or welcome them in.

There’s a lot about this time I didn’t expect and don’t really like, but I’m excited nonetheless. It will be OK.

In seven days I get to meet my daughter. God is good. It is well with my soul.