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Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015

Hospital gone, memories not

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It was Christmas Eve, 1990, and I was squirming around a couch that would have made a munchkin uncomfortable, let alone someone of my, shall we say, advanced physique.

The television had,, I'm guessing, a 19-inch screen, was hardly hi-def, and since there were others nearby trying to sleep, I had to keep the volume down in the single digits on the remote.

I could hear and see just enough to know that we were bombing Baghdad during the initial stages of the Gulf War, a.k.a. Desert Storm. While it was a bit worrisome watching a war develop right there on live television, I could only handle so much of Wolf Blitzer, and somewhere in the wee hours of Christmas morning, I fell fast asleep. Well, as fast asleep as you can fall while using your coat as a pillow and staring at your knee caps as you managed to get your entire body on the couch.

Was I worried about waking relatives at a Christmas get-together? Hardly. I was in the waiting room at a hospital in Selma, Ala., awaiting the birth of my first child.

The doctor had predicted on our first visit that the baby's due date would be Dec. 25. We laughed and thought more about names than the baby actually being born on Christmas Day. We had not wanted to know the gender of the child and did our best to avoid knowing until the head nurse m,issed the memo and acknowledged, much to our surprise, that we would be having a "big ole baby boy" during checkups in the last couple of hours before birth.

You can imagine our surprise then, when the doctor announced as the child was being born, that we had a "healthy baby girl."

Wait, what?

Fast forward two years later when, after the doctor had again precisely predicted the due date as Jan. 1, 1993, I was at the hospital awaiting the arrival of my second child. This time, we wanted to know its gender so there wouldn't be any last-second surprises. Another girl.

We were oh so close to being the first baby of 1993 born at the hospital, which came with many freebies, including a year's supply of diapers and other goodies from the hospital and name-brand baby product companies. We were actually in the delivery room and a nurse was informing us of what we'd be receiving. There was no other expecting mother on the floor, the nurse said. Shortly after that information, we heard the yelling of a young woman being wheeled down the hall. We could hear the doctors, nurses and family members setting up in an adjacent room. Within 10 minutes, we also heard the crying of a baby. I asked if that was what I thought it was. The nurse said a 16-year-old had been rushed in and had given birth almost immediately, beating us, as in turned out, by about 25 minutes. Oh well, I guess she probably needed the free stuff more than we did. To this day, the New Year's Day daughter is still the slowest on getting around, and I have reminded her on occasion that she cost us hundreds of dollars by being tardy right from the very beginning.

While the first daughter's arrival cost me a trip to the Fiesta Bowl -- I was a sports writer covering the University of Alabama at the time -- the second one cost me a shot at covering the national championship game, the Sugar Bowl matchup between unbeatens Miami and Alabama. I watched the game from the hospital room where daughter No. 2 took my mind away from football, well, at least while she was awake. After all, this was the national championship and I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't be watching the game while the baby was sleeping.

I not only write about my daughters' births since it's that time of year that I have to think about Christmas and birthdays -- both are in college -- but also because I just learned that the hospital where they were born is no longer. When I say no longer, I mean it's not there at all. It was apparently razed a few years back when a staph infection could not be cleared from the premises.

I was sad to hear about the hospital. But the memories of those special days -- and nights -- I spent during the births of my daughters can never be erased, not even by a wrecking ball or a bulldozer.