view counter

Articles by Mark Hendricks

Through my father’s influence I have been training my whole life for my own surprising fatherhood

Ah, Father’s Day, our annual sojourn into celebrating dear ol’ Dad.

            When I ask my father what he wants for this celebratory occasion, I usually get a you can’t afford it — until my pestering leads to an exacerbated “Fine, an Amazon gift card.” Bingo.

            My father is a simple man. He likes his guitar, power tools and eggs for breakfast. Most of all he is humble. He is not one for elaborate displays of congratulatory behavior. To him, Father’s Day is just another day, not one to be self-indulgent.

            He never spoke of being a good man or what makes a great dad; he just did it. To this day, I have a fine example of fatherhood in my own father, but I never thought I would be one myself. I’m a photojournalist; I do not have time for kids.

            Late last September, as we departed on a camping trip in the north woods of Maine, my wife told me that she thought she was pregnant.

            Gulp. Really? I mean … I know we just began speaking of starting a family, but already? No way could I be a father. Or so I thought.

            On our return, a little lima-bean-looking thing on the sonogram confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. At the sight of it, I felt like I was going to cry. Yet I was not sad, and I didn’t even feel scared — though that would come soon enough. What I felt was love. This is not hyperbole; I felt an immense feeling of love.

            We were told the expected due date was May 24.

            My wife and I decided to be surprised by the baby’s gender; we waited until Christmas to tell our families we were expecting. The first week of April we planned to take a baby-moon to New Orleans to go see WrestleMania 34. (Did I mention my wife is awesome?) My father took me to all the professional wrestling events when I was a child, and the pastime has never left. A few days before our departure, my wife’s ob-gyn checked her over and assured us it was safe to fly.

            New Orleans is great. It is colorful, musical and full of good food. The locals are very nice, too. As it would soon turn out, we would meet quite a few of them.

            Fast forward to 1:30am Monday, April 9. Wrestlemania had ended two hours before I heard my wife’s voice come from the bathroom of our Airbnb. “I think my water broke.”

            Wait … what? My heart speeded up, and my throat became parched. What do you mean, “water broke?” Was it a glass bottle or plastic? Should I get a mop?

            The paramedics were very cool guys (one was from Silver Spring) who drove us a little farther out to what they said was the best baby hospital in New Orleans.

            I will spare you all the details in the hospital over the next 12 hours, the scariest and most stressful of my life. I have no recollection of time at that point. Some of the statements I heard were:

            The baby is only 33 weeks, and the lungs will not be developed …

            We need to prolong the labor until the baby reaches 34 weeks …

            Your wife is dilating fast so we need to try to prolong the labor for 24 hours to get her another dose of antibiotics and steroids to develop the lungs …

            She’s dilated much more …

            The baby is a breech …

            We need to do an emergency C-section.

            My wife, who is much stronger than I am, was ready. I faked it. Not long ago I was cheering on The Undertaker and Triple H at the Superdome. Now I was sitting next to my wife as she is being operated on.

            At 2:06pm, I heard the sweetest cry I ever heard.           “Congratulations,” said a nurse, “you’re the parents of a beautiful baby girl.”

            And there she was, our sweet baby, who cried and cried and cried.

            Wait? I thought the lungs ­shouldn’t be developed. But here she was, crying on her own with fully developed lungs. She never needed supplemental oxygen.

            The next couple weeks in the NICU had their share of ups and downs. Being 1,200 miles from home didn’t help.

            Soon after the baby was born, my parents arrived in New Orleans. For the next five days, I slept at my wife’s side. When she was discharged at week’s end, I had given no thought to where we would stay.

            Dad, as he always has, sensed my stress. Before he flew back to Baltimore, he extended his hotel stay.

            “It’s now yours,” he said. “I need my daughter-in-law comfortable and you well rested for your family.”

            After many weeks, I am finally home with my lovely wife and daughter. I am now a proud member of the Dad club. I’m a novice and, in full disclosure, not sure what I am doing. But hey, I’m changing diapers and giving her baths. I got this!

            Though I did not know it at the time, through my father’s influence I have been getting trained my whole life on the mentality that makes a great dad. Selflessness, dedication and humility are but some of the qualities. I know I have a long but exciting road ahead of me, but he has given me an encyclopedia of memories.

            Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m getting you more than an Amazon gift card this year.

 

Authors Note: Thank you to the wonderful staff of Touro Hospital and the Best Western St. Charles Inn in New Orleans, Louisiana. We promise to bring Liliana back to her hometown.

Beaches, marsh and mountains blaze with color

     Autumn can be a polarizing season, but I have become quite the enthusiast of this time of harvest, leaf peeping and ubiquitous festivals. I like the hot cider and apple fritters, but what I love most are the seasonal changes we can experience in the natural world.
     Chesapeake Country is a fine place to experience those changes. The watershed we call home is an enormous place — over 64,000 square miles stretched across six states and Washington, D.C. Within those miles are diverse physiographic regions: the ancient Appalachian Mountains, the rolling hills of the central piedmont plateau and the low-lying, marsh-encompassed Atlantic coastal plain. In each of these regions, birds are migrating and mammals are on the move as they forage for precious calories. Exquisite colors adorn the many species of deciduous trees. 
 
 
From the Beaches …
     Close to home, the tranquil, still wetlands of Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County give us a double image of autumn color: in the trees and reflected on Bay waters. As well as its namesake cliffs and fossilized shark teeth, the Bayside park also invites wildlife viewing. I have encountered wood ducks and muskrat as they swim through the season’s colorful double image. 
 
To the Marshes …
     At Calvert County’s Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, you’ll find an unexpected color transformation. An easy stroll on a boardwalk takes you into one of the northernmost naturally occurring stands of bald cypress trees in the lower 48 states. This cypress appears evergreen, but it is deciduous, and its needles change to beautiful fall colors before dropping. If you are lucky, you may be treated to the sight of a bald eagle or barred owl.  
     For a unique sighting of autumnal color, head to saltier marshes to search for patches of glasswort. The plant has simple or branched stems that resemble asparagus stalks. Beginning in late September, it transforms to a brilliant crimson red, making it simple to scan for and identify. Stunning to behold, it is in perfect contrast to the cordgrass, which is turning from green to brown. A great location for glasswort is the salt marshes of Assateague Island.
 
To the Mountains …
     Take in the bounty of autumn leaves in our mountain regions. Two of my favorite locations are Shenandoah National Park and Catoctin Mountain Park, both operated by the National Park Service.
     The famed skyline drive of Shenandoah is a 105-mile historic highway beginning in Front Royal, Virginia, and traversing the length of the park along the Blue Ridge Mountains. By mid-October the drive will be adorned with a kaleidoscope of autumn color. Additionally there are numerous trails in the park, including the Appalachian Trail, to take you farther into the woodlands.
     There’s a trail for everyone, from the novice hiker to the experienced backpacker, and varying levels of intensity. For an easy walk try the Limberlost trail, which is wheelchair accessible. The more intrepid might spend a day hiking Old Rag Mountain and its famed rock scramble. Be on that trailhead early, as the mountain’s popularity equates to large crowds and long lines on the rock scramble. Bring plenty of water and a backpack to clean up after yourself, and follow the adage to leave only your footprints behind.
     Shenandoah National Park holds a wide variety of wildlife, including whitetail deer, coyotes, bobcats and wild turkeys. Its most famous inhabitants are a thriving population of black bears, which will be active as they seek high-calorie acorns before winter sets in. Seeing a bear in the autumn woods is a real treat. A black bear is a rather timid animal and is more likely frightened by you than the other way around. For a safe as well as memorable encounter, always give the bear plenty of space and admire it from a distance.
     Catoctin Mountain Park in western Maryland is much smaller but no less breathtaking, with numerous trails and vistas. While there, make sure to look down at the leaf clutter and you may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the ruffed grouse, a chicken-like upland bird that blends in with the forest floor.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
November’s Whiteout
     By November, when the leaves have moved past peak color and the thought of Thanksgiving dinner is piquing our senses, another color not normally associated with autumn is just returning. The marshes and agricultural lands around the Bay will be sprinkled with the color white, signaling the return of snow geese and tundra swans to the Chesapeake.  
When thousands upon thousands of snow geese blast off in flight together in a cacophony of goose call, it is quite the sensory experience.  These birds flock to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, where another large white bird, the while pelican, is also just returning.
     I hope these ideas inspire you to experience autumn in the natural world.
 
 

SaveSave

Each tree adds its own color to the landscape

     Ah, October has returned. That means ghouls and goblins, pumpkins and apples, flannel and bonfires. The air is seemingly crisper with each passing week, and specks of red and yellow are beginning to adorn the trees. Leaf-peeping fever is right around the corner.
...

Courtship, propagation and babies amid the flora and fauna

      The dogwood and redbud trees are now in their full green-leaf splendor, and another school year will be soon coming to a close. In your neighborhood the smell of charcoal permeates the evening air and the songbirds are singing. Spring is transferring into summer. From marsh to forest, Chesapeake Country invites you to experience a new season.
...

Take the family on a spring wildflower hunt 

     Spring is the season of renewal, a time of birth, regrowth and color. Along the shores of the Chesapeake, you’ll see an osprey, nesting material clinched in its powerful talons. Within the forest, your auditory sense is soothed to the music of returning songbirds, while the sweet scent of spring rain stimulates the olfactory nerves....

Take advantage of the quiet — and of migration — to go birding

     Winter is a wonderful time to study nature in Chesapeake Country. Yes, you read that correctly, the dreaded season of cold and snow. Before I am lambasted for being a warm-weather heretic, let me explain my reasoning.
...
Bay Weekly’s vacation photo tips

Your trip is booked? Check.

Travel and accommodations paid for? Double check.

Ready to use your camera or phone to take some awesome photographs? Maybe …

...