My father-in-law was born in Cedarburg, WI. So was his father. And his father before him and his father before him. My wifeâ€™s family has eerie family portraits on the walls in their house like the ones in Scooby Doo and Peter Sellers movies in which generations of patriarchs line up side-by side, looking alike save for unique period facial hair patterns. No wandering eyes, but if itâ€™s late enough and you have anything in your subconscious to hide, your mind will play tricks.
That father-in-lawâ€™s granddaughter â€“ my daughter â€“ was born last Tuesday at St. Lukeâ€™s-Roosevelt medical center in New York City. A break in geo-natal continuity that silently resonates through the family only coming out in polite, passive-aggressive reminders about the merits of life in Cedarburg.
Iâ€™ve refrained from telling dad-in-law about our labor odyssey on that special day. The previous day was Rosh Hashana, the roads were empty and the late summer sun shone gloriously. But we went into labor on Tuesday of course, driving through walls of rain and relentless traffic, from Brooklyn all the way to Manhattanâ€™s west side. On our final approach to the hospital, on the other side of Lincoln Center, we stalled behind a handsome cab finally inching into the hospital entrance at walking speed.
Once admitted into the maternity ward, it was concluded by the nurse on duty that my wifeâ€™s situation indicated “impending” but not “imminent” labor, and should leave the hospital. Apparently, in September, there’s a run on birthing space and prioritizing is necessary. Despite my resistance we were urged to leave and “stroll around the neighborhood” until she was further along, “maybe get lunch at the Time Warner Center and relax” until we moved the ball into the red zone.
Given the driving rain and my firm belief that Per Se wasnâ€™t an ideal location to go into a birthing holding pattern, I splurged for a hotel room that was nicer than anything I might have reserved for our honeymoon. Within a half-an-hour it was clear that my wife should be in a hospital. Desperate, we called her doctor who instructed us to drive to 77th and Columbus for an emergency visit. I didnâ€™t finish my Shake Shack burger (almost caught in a Jujy Fruit Seinfeld moment) before my wife called to inform me that the birth was indeed imminent and that her doctor had called insisting on re-admittance to the Roosevelt birthing ward. I drove French Connection-style 20 blocks south to the hospital and escorted my moaning wife to the 12th floor, the car idling on the curb the whole time.
Yada yada, we now have a beautiful, healthy baby daughter..and a colorful only-in-New York story to crown the ordeal. Though Iâ€™m not sure I will forever cherish it. My mother-in-law who was staying with us and took in the play-by-play over the phone as it happened, wouldnâ€™t stop telling a story about how her husbandâ€™s mother was born premature in her house with the help of a mid-wife and a life-long family physician who put her in a shoebox in a dresser drawer with hot rocks as soon as the cord was cut. Â I still donâ€™t know the exact implication of the story, but judging by the frequency of its recanting, it means something.
Iâ€™m sure Roosevelt hospital spills over with all the best technology available to man and baby, but still, itâ€™s hard to fathom all that magic could be almost out of reach because I was stuck behind a horse. And that our access to it was blocked by a nurse who was treating expecting mothers like construction workers getting egg sandwiches at a bodega at eight in the morning. But still isnâ€™t that better than a drawer full of rocks? Who knows. But Iâ€™m not telling my father-in-law anything. I guess he canâ€™t jab at me about the horse.
Iâ€™ve always said that I wanted my child to build her formative foundation in a sandbox in Wisconsin, and have all her crown molding finished in New York. The juryâ€™s still out on all that construction in-between.
But alas, the concreteâ€™s been poured.