Overwhelmed. The one word that I would use to describe that June day three years ago when my wife informed me that she was pregnant. To make matters worse, I was on an internship more than 1,000 miles away from her, and becoming a father was the last thing I was prepared for. I had to graduate, find a good job, secure health insurance and do all the other things I imagined upstanding citizens did before embarking on parenthood. Little did I know that I was on the threshold of one the most important and life-altering experiences of my entire existence.

The panic soon turned into pride as Leslie and I informed our parents and friends of our accomplishment. Neither of us remember much about the first few months except when Leslie had her first sonogram and our "child" refused to uncross its legs. Leslie was only a few months pregnant but already our child was showing what we both thought to be a small sign of independence. Leslie started to show by the fifth month and that's when I started making snap shots here and there with whatever camera was within arm's reach. At six months I decided to get serious about documenting this incredible experience at the urging of a friend who often described how wonderful it was to look back at images he made of his now almost grown children. How incredible I thought it would be to show my unborn child pictures of her first moments outside her mother's belly.

For more than three months I carried my camera to every doctors appointment, family outing and the random other places we went. By the ninth month every time Leslie saw a camera she would groan. I always reminded her of how special it would be to share our visual history with our child one day - something I never had. There are very few pictures that exist of me when I was a child. The one that has forever stuck in my mind was of me at Disney World, flanked by Mickey Mouse, screaming my little head off. I don't remember that moment, but because of that image and a few others, I have some small idea of what my very early childhood was like (and no, I don't have nightmares involving the mouse).

The picture taking kicked into high gear on March 3, 1997. Emily Erin arrived at nearly 2:30 p.m. amid a flurry of flashes, family and tears of joy. During the final hours I decided to keep a moment-to-moment diary of the birth. I would like to think it was done out of my drive to completely document the birth of my daughter, but it was probably more a way for me to deal with the panic of becoming a new father. The following are excerpts from my journal:

3/3/97 2:15 a.m. -- "Wake up Bob, my water broke!" Was asleep about 1/2 an hour and bang! I'm awake again.

Les: "My water broke! It doesn't happen like that in the movies."

Me: "That's why it's the movies..."

2:30 a.m. -- Check in to Shands (hospital in Gainesville, Fla.) Leslie put into bed and put on heart monitor. Baby's heart echoes through the room.

3:00 a.m. -- Nurse in room. Fools with machine and leaves. I fire two frames of Les in bed. She complains it's a bad angle.

5:10 a.m. -- Nurses in and out. I get a drink and newspaper. Contractions coming more regularly. Doctors in and out. Leslie is I.V.'d and everything is going well. Going to try and sleep. Talked to Leslie's mom and my mom at around 4:30 a.m. They'll be here around 10 or 11 (but probably before).

8:30 a.m. -- Wake up. Went to sleep around 4:30 - 5 a.m. Slept a bit but Leslie didn't sleep at all. I woke up to new nurses. I'm exhausted. I can't even think of how Leslie must feel. I went down and paid for parking and got a cup of coffee and a bagel. When I came back I discussed pain control (not mine but Leslie's) with the new nurse. Leslie and I agreed to give her something to help her with the pain and make her sleep. She's having a hard time. Called Bruce (father-in-law) and Sarah (Leslie's best friend).

about 9:40 a.m. -- She is still having intense contractions. Leslie is worried about sleep. I'm scared she won't be able to. She is getting angry and frustrated.

12 p.m. -- Things are moving fast. Contractions are steady and were very painful at first. Leslie was having a hard time with the pain.

about 11 a.m. or so Leslie received an epidural. She got markedly better. Ruth (Leslie's mom) arrived about 11:30 a.m. and Leslie smiled for the first time all morning. GOOD! I helped during the epidural which was stressful (I nearly passed out) but good because it let me feel a little less helpless. It was tough but we made it through with flying colors.Everything is calm now. I've shot several frames over the last hour or so.

The next page of my journal simply says "7lbs 8oz." I taped my parking receipt to the page with the date marked in red -- MAR 03 1997.

-- Bob Croslin