Pregnant woman on hospital bed
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Don’t put “9-1-1” in the subject line of your emails, and other lessons: One dad on his family’s early labor story and just what constitutes an emergency

My wife blames me for forcing her into an early labor with our second child.

First, I must state the obvious: There is a vast difference between the first pregnancy and the second. From what I can recollect of her first pregnancy, much of it involved me getting drunk on the couch while my wife cried during Gilmore Girls and Parenthood binges on Netflix. She may remember it differently, to be fair. But we had a built-in excuse to skip out on plans and hang out at home. During her second pregnancy, we had a one-year-old, which made those nine-months infinitely less relaxing. 

My wife was fortunate to have two easy pregnancies, with generous assists given to the acting ability of Lauren Graham and the love of a wonderful husband (okay, probably more so the former).

Exactly one week before my wife was due with baby numero dos, she was already at work while my daughter and I were having breakfast. My first-born was 19-months-old at the time, so our mealtime conversation was likely a riveting dialogue about either growth hacker marketing or a recap of Doc McStuffins. Then came a beeping from the basement, one of those protracted beep-beep-beep (short pause) beep-beep-beep’s. Our carbon monoxide levels were way too high in the basement and the detectors were loudly telling us so. (Seriously, make sure you have these in your house.)

So I loaded our daughter and our dog into the car and backed into our neighbor’s driveway across the street. I called the fire department, who squeezed what seemed like the entire company onto our small street and almost definitely frightened the elderly couple in whose driveway I was parked. And I sent my wife an email titled “9-1-1”  a subject line that would come back to haunt me  to tell her our plan.

We had to wait out the fire department, but fortunately our friend down the street was home and told me she could watch our daughter while I dealt with the fire department and, subsequently, the oil company. Feeling like a rather crappy dad and husband who had let carbon monoxide permeate our home, I felt vindication when the fire chief told me the detectors — which (note: Author proudly brushing my shoulder off) I had just checked recently — likely saved our lives. 

We eventually got back into the house by mid-afternoon. My wife came home from work. We ate chicken parmesan and put our daughter to bed. Sure the windows were all open — as neuroticism forced me to keep them cracked for at least a week afterward — but despite the excitement of the day, we were already back in a routine. And then. 

“I’m in labor,” she told me, calmly, as if she were telling me we were low on milk. “It started earlier today.”

And on the way to the hospital she proceeded to blame the 9-1-1 email for forcing her into an early labor. 

“9-1-1 means emergency,” she said. 

“If anything constitutes an emergency, it’s poisonous gas filling our home while I’m having Honey Nut Cheerios with our daughter,” was likely my reply. 

That was — and still is — my thinking. Apparently, she thinks I should have called her at work. Emails are for grocery lists and casual updates, she says. You can’t win, you know? 

But one win that day? (Well, almost that day.) Just after midnight, our son was born.

“9-1-1 means emergency,” she said.

As a husband, you get used to taking losses in a marriage. Moms are — and I mean this with sincerity and marvel — mostly right when it comes to knowledge of how to handle most any situation correctly. But I’ll always stand by the idea that I handled this right. 

I made sure the carbon monoxide detectors were working. I made sure our daughter was safe. I’m even (supposedly) the reason we got to meet our little buddy a week earlier than we thought we would. And if poisonous gas consuming our home is not a reason to write a 9-1-1 email then, sheesh, I don’t know what is.

About the author

Matt Osgood is a freelance journalist based out of Haverhill, MA, where he lives with his wife, their two kids, and dog. While life as a dad certainly provides him with the best material, he writes mostly about sports and booze, both of which provide much needed therapy.


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