Seven years ago, late at night at home in Arlington, Teresa went into sudden late stage labor. Contractions were frequent and severe. We called the obstetrician and set off for the hospital, stopping only to drop Blake and Blythe off at a friend’s house. Every thump over a pavement joint caused Teresa to shriek. To reduce the jolts, I crawled down I-395 towards Alexandria Hospital at 35 to 45 miles per hour.
Teresa said to drop her at the front door so she could go straight to the delivery wing. A few minutes later, as I hoofed it back from the parking lot, I saw Teresa had reversed course, edging towards me. The front entrance was locked tight for the night. Barely able to stand through another contraction, she stopped and grabbed my arm, holding on for dear life. We skirted the building until finding an open entrance on the side of the emergency room. A lone hospital worker in an otherwise empty corridor spied us and directed us towards the maternity wing.
Stopping several times for contractions we worked our way to the elevator. As the elevator doors opened a delivery nurse grabbed a wheelchair, deposited Teresa, stashed a sheath of forms into her lap and pushed her down to a delivery room. The nurse asked standard questions about contraction timing and intensity. She performed a quick exam, upon which she stuck her head out the door and into the hall and screamed at the top of her lungs, “I need help down here.” It was 11:48 pm.
Four more streamed into the room -- three nurses plus an anesthesiologist. Packets of dressings and medical devices were ripped open, packaging strewn across the floor. The head nurse told Teresa NOT to push. There was no obstetrician. Teresa said she couldn’t stand the pain; she asked for drugs. The anesthesiologist whispered to me that I should tell her it is too late. Thanks for THAT assignment I whispered back. The head nurse repeated, “Don’t push.” It was 11:57.
A circle formed around the bed. The head nurse polled the group. “Have you ever caught a baby?” she asked. “No”, “No”, “No” and “No” were the responses. Then five pairs of eyes moved in my direction. I returned the most incredulous look imaginable. The nurse repeated, “Don’t push.”
A minute or two later an unshaven, bleary eyed, barely awake staff obstetrician shuffles into the room. “Push”, he mumbles. At 12:04 am Bellamy is born, and thus and forever after her birthday is December 28th. Happy birthday to our sweet little girl.