I just spent time with an old friend and she reminded me of a wonderful experience we shared 34 years ago.
My friend, Jane, lived in my apartment building in New York City, a few floors down. She had a two-year old and was pregnant with her second child, due in a month. Her husband was out of the country. So I volunteered to be her support system if she went into labor before he got home.
You can see where this is going. I got the call around 4:20 AM. Jane had been having contractions for hours and the doctor finally told her to go to the hospital. My then husband brought Jane’s toddler to our apartment to wait for her grandmother to arrive to take care of her. I was taking Jane to the hospital.
We got down the elevator to the lobby and I ran down the very long corridor between the elevator and the front door. The plan was to get a taxi ASAP. I ran outside to find the streets totally deserted. There had just been a major blizzard and there wasn’t a single car on all of Park Avenue. That was very rare and very inopportune. I ran back inside to tell Jane but she hadn’t made it to the lobby. I found her half way down the long hallway in a chair. Her water had broken and she felt an overwhelming desire to ‘push’.
I got her to the lobby and immediately called for an ambulance. My main job was to keep Jane from pushing the baby out right there in the lobby. The ambulance seemed to take forever so I called again. I was told that it was on it’s way. But then the operator added “Don’t let the woman in labor go to the bathroom. And whatever you do, DON’T CUT THE UMBILICAL CORD!” Umbilical cord! WTF?!!!
I’d had a baby myself, but my son was born 8-½ weeks early – the day before my Lamaze class was scheduled to start!! So I knew nothing about breathing or the stages of contractions and even less about umbilical cords. I was panicked, to say the least.
The ambulance finally came. But we had to drive slowly because the medics were afraid that hitting a pothole could catapult the baby out like a cannon ball. Miraculously, we made it to the hospital and even to the maternity floor hallway.
The doctors and nurses on call started discussing whose patient Jane was and who would handle her case. Jane suddenly propped herself up on her elbows and announced “I’m sorry, but the baby’s coming!”
All of a sudden there was a flurry of activity around Jane and cries of “Oh my God! The head! The head is coming!” And out came Sarah!. In the hallway with me standing right there next to Jane! The staff ran off with the baby and wheeled Jane into the OR. Her doctor eventually arrived, but he’d had a hard time getting to the hospital at all.
So I got to see a baby born the way most father’s do. Standing next to the mother and watching the miracle happen. Usually women witness birth from a different angle – the other end of the birthing canal. This was an exhilarating experience!
Jane gave me a scallop shell silver pendant as a thank you. I still wear it all the time. It’s very special to me because it reminds me of the wonder of birth and the meaning of true friendship.