There is no more compelling demonstration of the circle of life than the coming of a new baby. If all goes well, my family will add a new member next month. And as my son and daughter-in-law prepare for the miracle that is childbirth, I am inevitably drawn back to January 26, 1986, the day before my son was born.
It was a Sunday, but not just any Sunday. It was Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl XX to be precise. Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots by the score of 46–10 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Quarterback Jim McMahon and running back Walter Payton led a team that featured a rookie lineman named William “Refrigerator” Perry.
That morning of Super Bowl Sunday, my wife Pat began to feel labor pains. We were living in Clifton, New Jersey at the time, having just moved there four months before from Bergen County. That is why our obstetrician was in Englewood, nearly 20 miles away. To make matters worse, the forecast was for snow that evening. Pat called her doctor who said to wait a few hours and then come into Englewood Hospital. Rather than just sit home and wait, I proposed that we should both go to my office in Englewood Cliffs, and she could wait there while I tied up some loose ends to ease my being away from the office for a few days. The beauty of that was that if my wife’s labor progressed more rapidly than the doctor thought, we would be only 10 minutes away from the hospital.
Finally, we got to the hospital around game time as light snow began to fall. The hospital staff was ready for us. But we found out that our child was not yet ready to be born. Labor continued through the evening and long after the Super Bowl celebrations were over. Midnight came and went, and Pat proposed that we go home and come back tomorrow. The nurses smiled knowingly, and turned up the IV drip to try to move things along. Three a.m. came and went, and then the sun rose on the two of us – both looking as miserable as we felt. There were now whispers of C-section among the nurses, but the doctor who came in at 7 a.m., looking fresh as a daisy, felt that we should give natural childbirth just a few more hours.
And so the hours dragged on. By 9 a.m., there was still nothing imminent, and Pat had now been in labor for more than 24 hours. At one point that morning, she looked at me with a face that combined pain with frustration. I smiled because it reminded me of an old Bill Cosby routine where the suffering wife sits up during labor and yells at her husband, “You did this to me!!”
The clock passed 10 a.m., and by now it seemed like every other woman in the maternity corridor had already given birth. The doctor came in and upped the drugs again, and as the clock hit noon, there was finally some real action. Pat was rushed to the delivery room, and I donned my scrubs and mask to accompany her. David arrived at 12:32 p.m.. The nurse asked whether I wanted to cut the umbilical cord, and I politely declined.
After an all-night vigil, I was punchy, and feared I would harm the child. So the doctor did the honors, and soon afterward the nurse handed me my son. I was shaking as I held him, and tears flowed freely. Meanwhile, Pat had made a remarkable recovery. She was smiling, and the entire labor experience was just a distant memory. I swear that Mother Nature does this to trick women into having more children.
As I look back at the birth of my son, I can only marvel that my child will soon be at his wife’s side as I was, and my child will soon experience the complete joy of meeting his son for the first time. It’s the circle of life, and isn’t it grand.