Thursday, June 07, 2007

Express elevator

The umbilical cord is much thinner than I had expected. It was kind of tough, too, like cutting through a piece of asparagus with scissors, not at all mushy.

These thoughts went through my mind as they let me snip the ¼-inch purplish-white cord that tethered Carter, my first-born, to Karen as she lay mercifully out of pain and smiling in Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street.

They placed him on Karen’s stomach for her to look at while I cut the cord, and then they checked him out, swaddled Carter to keep him warm, and handed him to me.

Handed him to me.

I looked into the face of my ancestry, an ancestry I had never known since I was adopted as an infant. I looked forward and backward in time. Carter stared up at me and started to make the suckling action with his lips. He was awake and alert. This quality of his has not changed in over eight years.

The day before we had been doing circles around our apartment building on 76th Street off Central Park West. K had been dilated about three centimeters and she was having regular contractions, but nothing significant enough to warrant The Trip to The Hospital. So we walked down CPW and around 75th Street, then up Columbus to our street and back around. She had borrowed from a mom friend, the wife of our associate pastor, a gray flannel dress that was very fashionable, because pregnancy or extreme disability are poor excuses for bad couture in New York City. It was a comfortable morning outside, probably in the upper 50s or lower 60s, unseasonably warm for mid-March in New York City.

About the third lap – punctuated by her stopping regularly to have contractions and lose her breath – she paused just off CPW on 75th Street, the south side, in front of a white stone building which had planters in front guarded by wrought iron fence about 2-feet high.

“My water broke.”

The Trip was about to begin.

I raced to the corner, raced but not without her alongside, but walked carefully with her because of her delicate state but raced well not really ran no kind of walked briskly yes briskly is a good word because that describes walking with intentionality like you have something to get to that you need to make sure and do but you don’t want to really RACE because that would be close to panic and now is not a time for panic but quiet intentional walking with intentionality and briskness and purpose toward a joyful event that so many people have gone through without losing their brains no not even after their wives’ water broke and yes they do this even in New York City.

We walked to the corner and I started to hail a cab, but I had K step back some 15 feet out of the immediate view of cabbies, for they are known to sometimes by-pass very pregnant women for fear of having babies delivered in the backseat. Cabbie scum.

One stopped – Cabbie Angel – and I motioned for K to come, and we got in and I told him THE HOSPITAL and please avoid potholes.

Once there – did I ever pay the driver? Oh, yes, I must have – we went to the 12th floor. Good thing this was not a Saturday because we might have ended up on the elevator that stops on every floor automatically for the benefit of our orthodox Jewish friends so they don’t have to push buttons (and therefore they don’t have to operate machinery; if this is a new concept to you, please read the Bible and the Talmud in their entirety and write me a five-page book report on keeping the Sabbath and what it means in your life).

We got her admitted, which was a quicker activity that day than brushing my teeth running out the door to a meeting, and I immediately loved with a love bigger than all of Manhattan these doctors and nurses. They were saints, Loved Ones, Beknighted ones, my Best Friends…they could do no wrong.

Life changed at 9:11 p.m. on March 18, 1999. Just another minute marker in history.

So much can happen in the span of sixty seconds.

photo: al-ex

1 comment:

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I was 39 when I gave birth to our one and only child--who will turn 18 years old on Monday. Although my pregnancy was great, his birth was really difficult. I was in labor for 36 hours.

Toward the end, I looked my age and then some. I was exhausted when Alex finally arrived. My husband was worried about me.

However, through the haze, I heard them asking him if he wanted to cut the umbilical chord. In our Lamaze class, my husband had told me he didn't want to and I know he gets faint seeing blood.

Although I was ready to pass out at this point, my husband said that the minute the doctor asked him about the chord, I sat up and said in a very forceful voice, "No, he doesn't want to," and then fell asleep.