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"Ecstaticism isn’t a word but should be. It's something altogether different. It's what distinguishes determination from grim determination. When we survive things like depressions, pandemics, and bankruptcies, what's left to savor is that much sweeter. We wouldn’t look back. At Vans, we would never head that way. No matter what, we would always keep pushing forward."
From "Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans" by Paul Van Doren [Book]
A week ago, on Monday evening, August 14, my wife Dana gave birth to our first child, Mylo Charles Ballasy. Dana was sure she'd go past her due date, August 17, but Mylo had different plans.
I've been in awe of Dana on many occasions since we started dating (on this day) 12 years ago, but nothing compares to this experience. I'm at a loss for words when I try to convey her strength and endurance to family and friends, while in typical Dana fashion, her ability to find a sense of calm through it all.
In the days leading up to Mylo's arrival, my mind often drifted to the moment Dana would go into labor. I wondered where we'd be and at what time. Would we have any idea it was coming? I didn't dwell on the possibilities or try to predict the specifics, but there was a certain comfort in the contemplation. I understood that all I could do was be ready for any scenario. Then, he came. Early. And it was nothing like I'd envisioned.
Last weekend was leisurely until late Sunday evening. Eager to escape the loud banging of our in-progress roof replacement, we ventured out. On Saturday, we explored Lambertville, NJ — enjoying an impromptu brunch amid searching for a vintage piece for Mylo's room. We took things slow on Sunday morning, starting with a hearty breakfast and a trip to the park with my younger brother Justin. Little did we know our breakfast would be Dana's last real meal for over 24 hours.
Upon returning from our Sunday evening grocery run, an unpleasant and strong odor greeted us at the front door. The stench was reminiscent of gas. I could almost taste it. I figured it might have something to do with the roof, but after chatting with the roofing company, it seemed plausible they could have hit a gas line. Uncertain about the proximity of any gas lines to the roof, I contacted the gas company immediately. Caution was my priority.
What I haven't mentioned yet was Dana's exhaustion. Her pregnancy had been smooth, so we didn't think much of it, especially given our action-packed weekend. However, her exhaustion gave way to discomfort following our return home.
About an hour following my call, the gas company arrived. Upon their arrival, we heard a loud smack on our street— a car crash. The night became illuminated by red and blue lights. I walked the house with the gas company representative, scouring our home for any signs of a gas leak. Fortunately, we found nothing, but they continued to run tests. During this time, I went between talking with the gas company representative to texting with the roofing company to checking on Dana, who now lay across the bed wincing. I encouraged her to call the doctor.
Abruptly, I heard a knock at the door. The roofing company sent someone to check things out. Thankfully, they assured us everything looked good. Phew.
I checked on Dana. The doctor said to take it easy, shower, and monitor her condition. Things quickly escalated, prompting another call. This time, by me. It was clear the moment had arrived. The crazy thing about going into labor is its unexpected nature. And when it's your first, it's hard to believe it's go-time.
As we started getting our things together, we realized we hadn't stopped to eat all day. I raced into the kitchen to prepare Dana a meal, knowing she wouldn't be able to eat at the hospital.
Suddenly, darkness filled the room—a power outage.
The car crash we heard must have involved a power line, not another car. With no sign of coming back on, we continued getting ready, guided by the light of our iPhone flashlights. A dumpster full of roofing debris was blocking the way down our long steep driveway, so our car was at the top. We ushered our dog Gizmo into his crate and headed out into the darkness. Moving fast with caution, we made our way uphill to the car.
We arrived at the hospital around 10 pm. All we wanted was to know if we were there to stay. Dana's parents were at their home in Delaware waiting for the call to come our way and stay at the house with our dog Gizmo.
After what seemed like forever, the nurse told us, "You're going to have the baby in this room." Dana was at 1-2 centimeters with contractions every 2-3 minutes.
The power came on at 1:30 am, just as Dana's parents reached our front door. Mylo was born at 9:51 pm on Monday, after a long night of ups and downs.
Beyond the unforgettable memories, a lesson emerged from this experience: not to get thrown off by challenges but to maintain focus and persevere. Amid the chaos that unfolded that night, it was tempting to question everything, deny reality, and give in to frustration.
Mylo, in my new parent eyes, is an incredible little being. He has a huge appetite, so fortunately, feeding him seems to quiet any crying. For now! And when he's not nursing, he's content to nestle in our arms and look around at his new home. Gizmo seems to share our affection for him— at least, we think so. Occasionally, he attempts a lick and enjoys trailing behind us before taking a vigilant stance nearby. Mylo's cries don't seem to faze Gizmo, either. But I love watching Gizmo's ears twitch in response to particularly loud wails.
I used to wonder how Mylo would come into this world. Now, I ponder who he will become in this world. Gazing into his eyes, I find joy imagining his future voice, passions, and the memories we'll co-create together. Other parents have warned about the fleeting nature of childhood, so I'm doing my best to savor these moments, especially the quiet ones. Taking videos of Mylo's gentle sounds and unpredictable expressions is already my new favorite pastime.
This journey has been unlike any other life milestone with Dana, yet it feels strangely familiar. It feels right. Reflecting upon the seasons of our lives, each contributing to the people we are today, I marvel at the process. Some seasons have been challenging and demanding. Others have been full of joy. Predicting who we'll be a year from now or even a few months feels impossible, but the anticipation of the journey together as parents has never been more exciting.
Mylo is changing daily, Dana is continually feeling more like herself, and together we're finding our groove as a family unit.