What would you do if after two rounds of competition you were leading a golf tournament with a good chance of winning a one million dollar prize and then, you received word that your wife had gone into labor…three weeks premature? When faced with that scenario, PGA professional Hunter Mahan, left the tournament and headed to the hospital to be with his wife. A few hours later, Mrs. Mahan gave birth to a healthy girl, Zoey Olivia, and Hunter managed to arrive before she was born.
When I heard this story, my mind drifted back to September of 1975. Elizabeth and I were expecting the birth of our first child. Our baby was two weeks overdue. Our family doctor decided that he should induce labor rather than delay any longer.
On Thursday, September 18, our beautiful baby girl, Jennifer Dawn, entered into our world at the Southeastern Kentucky Baptist Hospital in Corbin, Kentucky. In those days, at least in that medical center, fathers were not permitted in labor or delivery rooms. In fact, fathers were not even allowed to be in the same room with the newborn at all! (Who established such a ridiculous policy?)
I did manage to be in the maternity ward hallway, pacing back and forth while waiting for a nurse to carry our child into the newborn nursery so I could catch a glimpse of her. I did get to kiss my beautiful bride in a recovery room about an hour later. But the next day, September 19, I was faced with a serious dilemma.
Months before, I had scheduled a weekend youth revival at the Fairview Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. I wrestled with whether or not I should cancel or re-schedule that event. I hated to disrupt the plans made by the church and our income was so limited, I hesitated missing out on the potential income that might be received from the love offering. After all, now I had a baby to feed and clothe and diaper and…
I reasoned that I could go the hospital and spend time with my wife in the morning because I could get to Dayton that evening if I left by around 1:00. I would close out on Sunday morning and be back at Corbin Hospital by Sunday late afternoon. I would only miss being with my wife on Saturday and a couple of our dear friends, Steve and Evelyn Copenhaver, assured me that they would visit her in my absence.
So I headed north. The three day revival went well and I did call Elizabeth on Saturday to check on her. I felt that I had made the right decision.
It wasn’t until six weeks later that I suffered serious regrets. During the post-delivery check-up, our doctor explained that he had delivered over seven hundred babies and had never been the subject of a maternal death inquest, but he feared that my wife’s case would be his first. During the delivery, Elizabeth bled profusely. In fact, she was listed in critical condition! And we had not been told! Elizabeth received a couple of units of blood and she recovered nicely, but when I learned how close I came to losing her, I felt like I had failed her miserably!
I got to bring my wife and daughter home on Tuesday, September 23 and finally held Jennifer Dawn in my arms for the first time. About a minute later, she threw up all over her daddy. It was such a thorough “baptism” that I even had to change my socks. I think I deserved that for “abandoning” the mother of my child at such a critical hour…even if I didn’t realize just how critical it really was.
I applaud Hunter Mahan’s family-affirming decision. No doubt his wife will never forget that he chose her over a tournament championship and that million-dollar award. And I’ll wager that Zoey didn’t regurgitate all over her daddy’s face!
Sometimes, I wish I had a mulligan. (For all of you non-golfers; A mulligan is a second chance or a do-over)