On Twitter: @JamesEppler
I was ready to leave town that weekend. It was a going to be the last hurrah before the arrival of my son, who the doctor said was due September 2. I figured the weekend of August 9-11 was a pretty safe bet to be gone for a couple days, and my wife, Lori, said she was fine with it.
The plans were ready and had been in the works for months. Members of my Fantasy Football league were set to meet in New Braunfels for our draft. Our league commissioner, who's made a huge name for himself on the Texas Country music scene, had invited us all to come down for his concert that weekend, float the river, and do the draft. He'd even been generous enough to rent us a tour bus and provide food and drinks for the weekend. In short, this was going to be an epic "guys weekend."
I was ready and downright anxious.
But it turns out my son was ready for something else. On Wednesday the 7th, Lori started having mild contractions. I decided that was my cue to stay home - no doubt about it. The doctor said the baby could be days or even still weeks away, but it certainly wasn't worth the risk to leave town. So I broke the news to the boys, and decided to Skype in for the draft on Saturday afternoon.
I was ready for the draft - more prepared than any time in years past. I'd purchased my first-ever Fantasy Football magazine (felt like a nerd doing it), done Internet research on sleepers, steals, overvalued and undervalued players. I'd even made extensive notes on a cheat sheet. I had my strategy down even if I wound up with a late first-round pick (which I did).
With the draft ready to commence Saturday afternoon, I had my station at the kitchen table set up: computer, notes, cheat sheets, magazine and beer laid out in front of me all within arm's reach.
With the first round ready to start, Lori tells me she's starting to feel the contractions becoming stronger. "How long do you think this will take?" she asked.
"Maybe two, three hours," I responded nervously.
"OK," she said, "I'm just gonna lay down for a while. I'm sure it's nothing."
Did I mention I have the most patient, understanding wife in the world? I asked if she was sure she didn't want to go to the hospital, and she told me she was fine.
At this point, I know some of you are ready to call me a huge jackass for not abandoning my post at the computer and rushing her to the hospital right then and there. But my wife doesn't play games or double-talk. She says what she means, and doesn't expect me to read between the lines.
As she went into the bedroom, I turned back to my computer with the Skype screen up.
"Hey guys, I have a quick question," I said. "What if I have to leave the draft early and go to the hospital?"
"What for?" asked one of them rather incredulously.
"Um, in case my wife needs to have our child," I said. "You know this!"
I heard some mumbling in the background, and the friend soon responded, "Well you'll just be on auto draft."
Losing sleep, dirty diapers, AND a bad fantasy team?? Well, that would just be just too much to bear this football season, the cynical side of me thought. But that was trumped by my other less selfish half spoiling with excitement and anticipation for the arrival of my boy.
As the draft got underway, I kept leaving my post at the table to check on Lori, who told me she was doing okay, and just really tired. She could still feel the contractions, and they were getting closer together, though.
Sure enough, with round 12 of 16 ready to start, Lori comes into the kitchen and gently asks, "How much longer ya got?"
She was ready, and I knew it. I immediately turned to my computer screen and announced, "Boys, I gotta go."
"What? Why?" the same friend from earlier asked.
"The hospital, dude!" I said with some exasperation. "I told you I might have to go to the hospital! I gotta go!"
I heard well-wishes from all the guys on the other end, and I shut down the computer.
I hurriedly packed a few clothes, toothbrush and a couple DVDs for the hospital (I know, I should have done it sooner), and we were out the door.
Lori still wasn't convinced the baby was ready, saying she figured it was another false alarm. But when we arrived at Covenant Women's and Children's we learned we wouldn't be going home again without our boy.
About eight-and-a-half hours after we checked in to the hospital, Jameson Dylan Eppler took his first breath at 2:59 a.m. on August 11. He was six pounds, 19.5 inches. I still can't quite describe feeling of seeing my son come into this world. It was startling, thrilling, and soothing all at the same time.
The players on my Fantasy Football team wouldn't be ready for their regular season journey for weeks, but Jameson was ready to start his game of life early.
I hope I'm a good coach. I'm ready.