Those three words have thrown more panic into more American men than any other three words in the English language, with the possible exception of those three little words that can lead to this state. Your water broke?—oh, God. Are you all right? Are you thirsty? Are you wet? Am I wet? Where, for heaven's sake, and who's going to clean it all up?
You can go to all the Lamaze classes that you like—and the Saberhagens went to three two-hour sessions—but there is no way to fully prepare yourself for the experience of natural childbirth. Most fathers-to-be stand around cluelessly, minds turning to goo as the situation deteriorates disgustingly around them. Your water broke? Where are my shoes? Where are my keys? Where's the car? Where's the hospital?
Saberhagen did extremely well. He forgot only his watch and his wallet in driving Janeane to St. Luke's, a high-speed 10-minute tear from their home. When Dr. Francis Ferns first examined Janeane, he assured her she would have the baby by that night's Game 6. Like most Missourians, the doctor intended to watch it. Then they all settled in for that phase of labor called Timing the Contractions, three hours of mounting misery in which Saberhagen alternately watched Saturday morning cartoons—Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner—and coached Janeane in breathing techniques designed to ease her pain. It went something like this: At the peak of a contraction, Saberhagen would politely suggest that Janeane breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth. Sniff; puff. Sniff; puff. This is sometimes called the Sniff-Puff Technique. It is a tremendous morale booster for the husband, but as any mother can tell you, Sniff-Puff doesn't work.
When things get really uncomfortable—the hard labor phase, which in Janeane's case lasted two hours—the method of breathing becomes a doglike pant. Saberhagen would hyperventilate along with Janeane between contractions—pant-pant-pant-pant-rest—a breathing technique that has sent more than one father-to-be reeling to the floor in a swoon. "I didn't say too much overall," recalls Saberhagen. "I could tell by the reactions of the doctor and nurses that things were going well, so mostly I stood by and let Janeane crush my hands."
Greater love hath no pitcher. At 11:15, shortly after Janeane had vowed that this child would be her last—women say all sorts of crazy things during a phase called Transition, occasionally resorting to profanities toward their loving, supportive husbands—the doctor informed her that she would have the baby by 11:30. "No. Let's have it by 11:15," said Janeane. Natural childbirth is a wonderful experience, but the general reviews suggest that it lasts too long.
At 11:38 the baby was born: nine pounds, three ounces and 20� inches. The head came out, then the doctor unwrapped the umbilical cord from around its neck, then the rest of Drew William followed. "A lot of people told me that the baby would be purple and yucky looking," Saberhagen says now. "But it wasn't as bad as I expected. My first thoughts were, Is it really mine? He's so little. He's got a long way to go. It's fascinating to see a baby come out of somebody's body."
Janeane's first words? "You're eight minutes late." Then she smiled, and the radiance of the smile made Bret burst into tears.
"Want to cut the umbilical cord?" the doctor asked him.
Oh sure. Oh great. Is there a discount involved? Shall I circumcise him while I'm at it? That's what a lot of fathers would have said—sensible men who recognize-their limitations. Not Sabes. He calmly snipped the cord, then tested the limits of human endurance by watching the exit of the placenta, a Technicolor extravaganza that should be viewed with all the precautions of a total eclipse of the sun—polarized glasses, mirrors, cardboard boxes, air-sickness bags, the works. "It really didn't gross me out," said Sabes. "It was kind of interesting. Like watching a health course."
The man with no fear. Saberhagen stayed with his new family till 3:00 p.m., made a bunch of phone calls, bought some cigars and "It's a boy" lollipops, then headed to the ball park to "play the proud daddy." It didn't take much acting. He did everything but bounce off the outfield walls while passing out the goodies. Saberhagen is popular with his teammates—genuinely liked by the entire club—so they shared in his ebullience. It probably helped relax them as they went into Game 6. This was not do or die. Saberhagen had just been through do or die, and he was absolutely clear about the difference. Asked if he would be disappointed if he didn't get a chance to pitch Game 7, Saberhagen replied, "How could I be disappointed about anything? We've had a great season and I've had a great season and I'm a father."