The Childbirth

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Thought I’d post an excerpt from my book, Laughter, Tears and Braidsfor those who have not yet read it.  My book describes good times before cancer, our journey through, and the beginnings of putting it all back together.  This was a good time:


I don’t specifically recall being told that we were expecting our first child.  Perhaps it was in September, just a pregnancy kit at home.  I do recall an overwhelming feeling of responsibility.  I enjoyed the process of trying to get pregnant so the news in fairly short order was a bit of a letdown.

We attended Lamaze classes at the hospital closet to our house.  There were about 12 couples in the course and all but two took things rather seriously.  Lisa and I were in that camp.  Our instructor, however, took it all very seriously.  Her classes were well planned, and she did not hold back one teeny detail.

One night our teacher had the soon to be fathers sit on the floor and prop back on pillows.  His spouse was then told to sit in his lap and practice breathing.  Lisa was struggling to get comfortable.

“What’s wrong baby?  Why are you wiggling?”

“Your belt buckle is jabbing me in the back.”

“Oh, I need to remember not to wear a belt on delivery day.”  I took out my pencil and pad and began to scratch a note to myself.

“No worries honey, this is just a breathing exercise.  I don’t think I’ll be lying in the floor propped up against you when the baby actually comes out.”

“Oh.  Right.”  I erased.

On the night they showed a video of the C-section, I began to get light-headed.  Before they even began the operation, I excused myself.  “I cannot watch this, I think I’m going to pass out,” I told my wife.

“YOU    ARE     PATHETIC!  Go drink some water or something.”

Lisa and I talked about our birth plan.  The instructor told us we needed to make decisions about what we wanted to occur during labor and delivery and write it in a notebook to share with our doctor prior to our final visit to the hospital.  She discussed natural childbirth and even suggested that we might want to use a tub or whirlpool during labor.

Who in their right mind would have a baby in a whirlpool?  Does the doctor get in there with you?   Are we all in our bathing suits?  Do you need a snorkel?  Perhaps you don’t have the baby in it; maybe it is a pre-delivery method or something.  Come to think of it, being in water can make one need to go to the bathroom, especially if it’s warm.  Maybe it’s the same phenomenon.

After the first night of class, Lisa looked at me and said, “Our birth plan is to get as many drugs in my system as is humanly possible.  I want them the second I walk into the hospital.  If we go to the hospital and they say I’m not ready to deliver, we will stay in the parking lot.  That is our plan.  You can write it down if you want.”

I fully concurred.  I did not want to see my wife moaning and groaning in pain while delivering my baby.  It’s just all so unnatural.

Lisa also told me that I had three other important jobs during delivery.  Job one was to stay up by her head.  She told me she did not need me down there checking things out.  It was private, between her and her doctor. 

I said, “Honey, I though that area was between you and me.”

“It was between you and me.  Now it is between my doctor and me.  I don’t need the image in my mind of you having that image in your mind.  Stay up by my head.”

That was fine with me!  I’d seen enough childbirth in Lamaze class to last time a lifetime.  I agreed it was probably best not to watch.

The second job I had was to make sure the nurse cleaned off the baby before she slapped her on Lisa’s chest.  

“When the baby comes out, have them wash it off before they give it to me.”


“Because I want a Gerber baby moment, and Gerber babies don’t have blood all over them.”

I’d seen the commercials.  She was right.  I didn’t even know they would try to slop a nasty, unclean baby on you.  I was glad to have something specific to add to the cause.

“Your final job, and I know this is going to be hard for you, is not to make jokes.”

I had no problem with jobs one and two, but no jokes?

When we left the delivery room with our first-born daughter, DJ, the inside of my mouth was as bloody as a Freddie Krueger horror movie victim.  I had bitten my tongue so hard all day to keep from cracking jokes that it was like minced meat.  

Laughter, Tears and Braids is available on Amazon.  Click here to order a copy.



Laughter, Tears and Braids

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Laughter, Tears and Braids by Bruce Ham (aka: Danny Tanner)

To my blog readers,

You guys have encouraged me through some very difficult times. It is hard to believe the girls and I have made it through three years without Lisa. Writing has helped me tremendously, and a stronger me means more stability and happiness for my kids.

I started a journal the week after Lisa was diagnosed. It helped guide me through the timeline of Lisa’s illness which is the meat of my book.

Laughter, Tears and Braids is not a compilation of my blog posts. In fact, there are very few stories that I’ve written about before. I think it’s pretty dang funny in places as I describe our marriage, our children, and our glorious life together. (I want to apologize in advance for my vasectomy story.  It’s a bit too colorful.  In my mind, there was a point to it – some of you may not get it.  Women, when you get to that chapter, you may want to hand the book to your husband).

After sharing the book with a few of you, I’m told that it’s a pretty tough read.  In places, it’s grueling because it’s a really sad story.  The hero dies.

The book follows many of my journal entries as they move from concern for Lisa’s health to all out grief and anger at the world.  They are raw; they are real.

I primarily wrote this book for my girls, for them to read later in life.  Although, I do think that others might benefit from my experience. Perhaps it’s a glimpse into what people go through in troubling times – maybe a deeper understanding will help us all reach out in appropriate ways when we see others hurting. Maybe it’s a reminder to appreciate the life we have today.  I never fully did and still struggle with that sometimes. It is certainly a story of hope. If I can make it through something this horrible, I’m guessing almost anyone can.

I’ve included the introduction from my book. It is a letter to my girls.

I hope you will read Laughter, Tears and Braids. It’s been a long time in the making.


(I used our real names in the book versus our Real Full House blog aliases.  It just didn’t feel authentic as the Tanners.)

Dear Bailey, Lucy and Annie T., (DJ, Stephanie and Michelle),

I started writing the week after your mother got sick.  Initially, it was in a journal given to me by a co-worker.  At your uncles’ urging, it turned into a blog, something I’d never heard of at the time.  And now, after years of work, I have completed this book.

I’m not sure if anyone will read it.  I’m not the best writer in the world.  But that’s not what this is about.  I didn’t write it to sell a million copies.  I wrote it for you, I wrote it for Mom, and I wrote it for me.

You see, what your mother and I shared was beautiful.  We loved each other very, very much.  Throughout our 16-year marriage, we developed a connection and partnership I’ve never experienced before.  In many ways, we were one.  She balanced me, and I brought out the best in her.  Our strengths complemented each other.  We filled each other’s voids.  I think that’s why losing her was so difficult.  Without her, I was lost.  It was as if part of me had died too.

About halfway through putting this project together, I sat down and really thought about why I was writing.  I wanted to make sure there was meaning in my work.  I needed to know that this was more than just a reenactment of our life, a timeline of activities.  What I discovered was that the most important goal of this book is to help you better know your mother.  I don’t build her up to be perfect.  She was not.  She had incredible gifts and a few areas she could have improved upon – just like you and me.

You know me.  You understand what I do well and what I don’t.  You love me for the good, and you give me grace for the bad.  It’s important that you know her too.

It is also important to me that you understand what your mother and I had together. We weren’t the perfect couple; we were the perfect couple for us. I hope this book helps you have a picture of our marriage. It was so very good. Maybe it will help you as you move forward in a serious relationship.

At times, I may have let you down during the year or two surrounding Mom’s illness and death. It is important to me that you understand what was going in my mind at that time. I couldn’t be all I should have been for you because I was simply broken – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think I did okay, but at times I failed. You deserve to know why. You deserve to have a deeper understanding of the depth of my loss.

I’m not sure if others will read this book, but for those who might, I hope they too will take something away.  For those who have experienced tragedy, I want them to see hope. I ached to the depths of my soul, and yet, even in my darkest days, there was happiness to be had – much of it I found in you.

I believe healing comes from within. It is all in how you play the cards you have been dealt. I’m no hero. I think that most people step up in the face of adversity, but maybe this book will help those who aren’t yet able.

Finally, I hope to bring understanding to those who have not yet had to deal with loss. Perhaps a glimpse into our life will give them more understanding, more empathy for those walking through this long, hard journey. Truth be told, it’s not just about death. There is sadness and strife all around, ours is but one example of how hard life can be.

I think this experience has made me appreciate what I have more than I ever did before. It has certainly changed my priorities. I wish I’d learned that sooner. Maybe others will read this and hug their kids a little tighter right now or take their wife out to dinner – tonight. That is my hope.

I don’t think there is a way in words to express my love for the three of you. The pride and joy I feel for you exceeds even my own understanding. Without you, I’m not sure what would have happened to me. You provided me motivation to move forward when it would have been so easy to quit.

Take my words and forge on with life, regardless of the barriers that get put in your way. Reach out to those around you, showing acceptance, love and support, just as others have done for us; and, as you have done for me.

I love you.


Sunday Post 134: Birthing a Book

On Wednesday I’ll sort of launch my book, Laughter, Tears and Braids.  It’s been a long time in the making.  Sort of like a three-year pregnancy, minus the physical discomfort.

I’ve really struggled to get to the point where I’m comfortable with the final product.  And in reality, I’m still not there.

Have I shared too much?

Could my reflections hurt someone else?

What would Lisa think?

What if it’s really poorly written, and I’m too close to see that?

What if no one laughs?

What if no one cries?

When I finally let my kids read it, what will they think?

At one point about three months ago I got so worked up about going to press that I almost pulled the plug.  I decided that maybe I’d just print out a copy for each of my girls to be read on their 21st birthday.

But something nagged at me – you’ve got a story that needs to be told.  There are some issues you’ve written about that could be helpful to others.  You’ve worked so hard on this.

So – here it goes.  It’s about too late to back out. It’ll be up on Amazon Wednesday, and I’m moving on.

I apologize in advance for the following:

*I wrote about a few of you, but likely changed your name in order to not hurt feelings.  If you figure out who you are and don’t like what I wrote, I’m sorry.  If I left it in, I felt it was a critical part of the story.

*There are a few cuss words – my wife was dying, I was mad at the time!

*There could be typos – good lord I’ve tried, even paid an editor.  But every time I reread the dang thing, I find at least one more.

*It’s a pretty good book I think, but it ain’t Shakespeare.  If you’re expecting professional, it’s amateur.  I’d suggest you read something else.

If you decide to read it, thank you.  If you like it, I hope you’ll spread the word.  If you don’t, mum’s the word!

Oh, and if you’re planning to order, my publisher says that the more copies purchased on the launch day, September 11, the better the book’s placement on Amazon.  If you think of it, put your order in Wednesday.



My New Book!

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book.  I think I’m nearing the end, if for no other reason, I can’t read it one more time!  I don’t yet know what it will cost, but you may want to start saving your money.  I’m sure it’ll be flying off the shelves.

One of my biggest issues now is coming up with a title.  I was talking to the girls about it last night, and they began to brainstorm.  These are their Top Ten suggestions:

Number 10:  Good Luck Danny

Number 9:  Dad Moms

Number 8:  Not Glee

Number 7:  Three Little Pigs and One Real Big Pig

Number 6:  50 Shades of Dad

Number 5:  To Kill A Mommy Bird

Number 4:  House With Six Boobies

Number 3:  Mugs of My Life (Michelle’s idea when opening the cabinet holding all of my coffee mugs!)

Number 2:  Bye Bye Mommy

Number 1:  Les Misahappiness

I think I’ll just come up with something on my own.

The Evolution of a Man


I had never written a thing, outside of a school assignment, until September of 2009.

They found Lisa’s tumor on September 4.  It was the Friday before Labor Day.  Exactly two weeks later, on September 18, a colleague at work left a blank journal on my desk.  He wrote:

I wish I had superlative words of comfort and healing but I fear them to be inadequate.  The better thing is this journal.

The next day I wrote for the first time:

Mom thinks I’m grieving for something that probably won’t happen.  Although I do have some thoughts around “what if” and it scares and saddens me, I think I’m perhaps more grieving over the loss of life BC (before cancer).  I think about our summer – vacations, laughter, family time without a worry, excitement about courting my wife.  All still possible, all come out now in glimpses – but all happiness, right now, quickly becomes overshadowed by CANCER.  It’s everywhere… on the voice mail, email, text – grocery store, meals arriving at the door, visitors and house guests who wouldn’t be here without IT.  The dread of another trip to Durham where you might find out more… the worry for your kids and constant art Michelle produces all designed to make mom better.  Knowing that for the rest of Lisa’s life, we’ll, or at least I, will be looking over my shoulder for IT to creep up on us again.  We’ll beat it this time, I think we will.

After Lisa died in February, 2010, I began writing a memoir.  It described our happy life together and shared the story of her illness and death.  I’d put together almost 200 pages before I started this blog.

At first I thought my book was about grief and loss.  As I read and re-read it, I discovered that wasn’t really the central theme.  It was more about a boy becoming a man – sort of the evolution of one man, me.

I’ve written a few blogs since then, man have I written.  At times my blogging has been so consuming that I haven’t taken the time to work on my real story, the one that is so personally important to me.

I’ve thought a great deal about why I want to finish my book.  I don’t anticipate it going platinum or being selected for Oprah’s book club.  Although either of those would be nice, it’s not my motive.  My real reason for completing it is for my girls and for me.  I’d like for them, one day, to be able to understand who our family was BC and to have a grasp of what happened the year we lost their mother.  I want them to know how hard she fought to stay with them.  I want them to see and feel how much I loved her.

Recently I began working with a friend, Tanya Stockton at Publishing Unleashed.  She helps authors publish and market their writing.  I have an editor who is currently digging through what I have written, and they’re pushing me to finish the story.  They say we’re going to publish by Father’s Day.  I’m not so sure about that.

The problem is, I don’t know how it ends.  I don’t know what this man ends up being.  I don’t know what the kids look like in the future.  I don’t know if we make it – if it all turns out alright.

Over the next couple of months, I’m going to commit to focusing on my book.  I think that means I’ll temporarily cut down to one blog per week – probably on Wednesdays.  I may toss in a Sunday Post every couple of weeks, if I have something thoughtful to say.  And my plan is to come back full steam once I finish my last couple of chapters.

I have a feeling, I’m gonna need a sequel.

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