Monday, due date minus one.
I am the driver on-call to take the expecting mom to the hospital. She lets me go to the gym and throw around some weights in the morning, but I waste no time (with the girly core workout). I arrive home, shower, and report in. But only minor, infrequent contractions.
“Didn’t you have a lunch appointment with some guys today?”
“Yeah, but I told them I probably wouldn’t make it.”
“Well, just go for it. I’ll be fine.”
I’m late. So I call Michael, who is already at the Beyu Caffé, to have him order (something big) for me. Downtown Durham–parking is a mess. But I love the Beyu Caffé. And I always have a great time with the guys: when we’re not joking, we’re actually talking about things that matter. Of all things, we talk about perspectives on gender roles and gender identity, especially as found on the Duke / UNC campuses. My burger is brilliant (good work, Michael).
Walking back to my car on Main St, I get a call from Henry, who, it just so happens is cruising down Main in his blue VW bug convertible–it is a scene from a B movie. I hop in, and as he drives me to out to my car (parked in Timbuktu), he lays out his latest strategy for ridding Durham of all social and economic ills (and within 5 min I’m ready to sell my house to make it happen).
Then Sarah calls. It’s time.
I tell Henry that the 20-somethings at my church are actually one step ahead of him in his master plan, and then I hit the eject button in his VW. I run to my car and speed home Batmobile-style.
I arrive, and, yes, it’s time, but no big deal–we’ve got time. I throw the bags in the car, with Kelly on the way to watch our superstar 2-year-old and then pick up our twin daughters from school. I walk the expecting mom to my car (she can walk, so we’ve obviously got time). I hop in, and we start driving, and that’s when things start getting really loud really quickly. She’s screaming, “Drive faster!”, and I decide to put on the whole “strong leader, confident coach” persona, partly to help mom but mostly as a way of fighting back the tears at seeing her in so much pain.
We arrive at the Main Entrance to Duke Regional (that’s where we were told to go–well not really, but that’s another story). I hop out, throw the bags on the sidewalk, spot an abandoned wheel chair (which, I would learn, had been abandoned for a reason–the right break didn’t fully release). Seconds before I lifted the lady-in-travail out of the car, her water broke, getting–um–fluid stuff all over the car. No longer able to move on her own–travail tends to do that–I lift her into the chair, and, leaving the car doors open and the bags strewn on the sidewalk, we make for the revolving front door, which is slower than evolution.
Inside, as I approach the nice, smiling lady at the “information” desk, my mind is racing: What the hell do they call the place in the hospital where you have babies? Regardless, I decide to open my mouth and, between shrieks, I hear the following words roll of my tongue: “Labor and Delivery, please.” And the nice, smiling lady kindly points the way.
Pushing the right side harder (remember the break issue), looking like a nose tackle pushing a football sled in practice, I navigate the shrieking woman down the corridors, with–um–fluid stuff dripping from the chair and tracing our path.
As we whiz past an elderly black woman, she turns and calls out with a serene yet thunderous strength, “Sista’, cry out to Jeeezus!!” In tears, from the chair comes an earnest reply, “I am calling!” The woman: “That a girl! Now you just keep on with it, cuz he’s gonna hear ya, sista’. Don’t ya just know it–hallelujah!”
Bursting through the double doors into Labor and Delivery with all the authority I can muster (I had always wanted to do that), I surmise from the team of nurses waiting for us that the nice, smiling lady at the “information” desk had called ahead (or are the L&D nurses used to hearing approaching screams?). The nurses escort us into a room. I heave mom onto the bed, as nurses scramble to prep her (and the room).
I turn to leave. “I’m going to go move the car and grab the bags!”
One of the nurses shoots back, “If you grab your bags, boy, you’re gonna miss your baby.”
Of course, that couldn’t be true. Oh don’t be ridiculous, I mutter to myself. We’ve still got time. I stay.
And within four minutes–at 2:19pm–out comes little Julianne Simone, 8 lbs., 5 oz. The official snip-snip ceremony comes and goes (I do the honors). I look over, and mom is calm, holding her newborn.
I am dumbfounded. And overjoyed.