Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Waiting Room

Sunday, my mom and I went to the hospital waiting room on the maternity ward. My brother and sister-in-law were having their first baby. They went to the hospital in the middle of the night.

Now, at 9:30 a.m., my mom and I walked through the lobby.

In the waiting room, we met my sister-in-law's family. If you are ever at the hospital and would like to say hello, our family is the one having a party. For extended stays, we usually roll out a buffet. Nothing extravagant. Some deli sandwiches. Potato salad. Baked beans. Coors light. That kind of thing.

But this was a short visit, so we sat and talked, about our own childbirths, for one thing.

Three things stick out in my mind about having babies. One: Justin kept leaving my bedside to get a sandwich. It was like sandwich, sandwich, sandwich. All about the sandwiches. In hindsight, it was probably just one sandwich per childbirth. But because I was in the throes of labor, the contractions multiplied my perceptions by 50,000--like a prism of pain. Secondly, everyone in the hospital has a cart the size of a caboose and they wheel it in your room in the middle of the night and bump it against everything in sight. Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley! And thirdly, that little baby is so darn cute that those annoyances seem pretty silly.

Occasionally, we walked back to the labor room to check on the parents-to-be, Josh and Sarah. Josh pointed to where the lights would descend from the ceiling for the birth. He said that, for dramatic affect, the doctor would also descend from the ceiling on a stage a la Jesus Christ Superstar.

"Sarah is so strong and beautiful," my mom said, once we got back to the waiting room. "And Josh is a basketcase."

When my family talks about each other, the following phrases come up: basketcase, nerves are shot, etc.

Nervousness runs in the family.

My grandmother Mume used to walk around her kitchen, saying "who, who, who," as she fixed dinner. Her doctor told her this would settle her nerves. My brothers and I used to imitate this relaxation technique, and I'm sure one day our grandkids will make fun of us for doing the same thing.

But nervousness is also a trait of new fathers.

My Papa was so worried when my Nana gave birth to Aunt Kathy that he was hospitalized for nervous exhaustion. Nana and the baby had to visit him in the hospital.

Josh and Sarah's friends arrived.

My mom pointed out a photo hanging in the waiting room of an elderly couple posing in a park with a little girl (probably their grandchild).

"That's nice," my mom said. "It shows you can have a child any age. Even in your seventies."

There was also an airbrushed photo of a barechested father holding his baby and one of a pregnant lady in a sexy negligee vamping for the camera. It was like the island of misfit pictures.

A newspaper was spread out on the tables and chairs. Sarah's sister read Sarah's horoscope, which said, "Today, let the wild child inside you out."

Of course that cracked us up.

At this point, Josh and Sarah were delivering the baby. That's the odd part about waiting rooms. The family is talking and laughing, or crying and praying, rallying around the person. But just when you want to help them the most, you can't help them at all. It's them versus nature.

With the baby coming any minute, we placed bets on his weight and whether he would be a boy or girl and what his name would be. (As you can see, most people thought they'd have a boy.)

My friend says waiting to find out whether your baby is a boy or girl is the last good surprise you will have in your life. As a kid, life is full of surprises: Who will be your homeroom teacher? What will Santa bring you? How many coins will the tooth fairy bring? But once you're an adult, it's more like: Surprise! You need triple bypass surgery.

We in the waiting room were excited to find out. I've never been in a waiting room for a baby before.

My mom said, "What about when J.J. was born? We were all in the waiting room then."

But I reminded her that I was elsewhere. Having the baby, you know.

I don't remember what we were talking about, but all the sudden, everyone said, "Josh is coming! Josh is coming."

And with a broad smile, he paused a minute...and said, "It's a girl!"

Everyone was crying and laughing. He said her name was Francesca and she and Sarah were doing great.

Soon, we went in the room to hold the baby (after determining who won the pool. Also, baby needed to take her Apgar test, which she aced.) It's hard to describe a baby's personality. When you hold her, you just feel it.

It was amazing how calm Francesca was considering what she'd been through that day. Going from the womb to the world is the equivalent of changing planets. It has to be the biggest surprise of your life.

You'd think the baby would be pacing her kitchen saying, "Who, who, who," but, no, she took it in stride.

On the way home, my mom said, "Isn't it amazing a little baby can bring so many people together to wait for her?"

Surprise. Nervousness. Laughter. Tears. Memories. Predictions. The baby inspires all these things in us. Even while we're still waiting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful!! I cracked up about 'who, who' - I'd forgotten that! how funny that you said Francesca should have been saying that. I love the analogy about womb to world -like changing planets - great! See you at Francesca's this morning! Love, Mom

6:25 AM  
Blogger Tim Higgins said...


Mother Nature sees to it that all prospective fathers are basket cases for a reason. The helpless feeling is designed to insure that they recognize all of the things that they, who have sworn to protect their wives and children from even unto death, will be unable to. It is a lesson neither easily accepted, nor ever truly learned.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with all of your commments regardig birthing and waiting rooms. I had to watch "Shogun" whike in labor with Joe...as if labor wasn't bad enough...there wer only 3 channels back in the olden days you see.

I have seen Fancy Francie and she is quite beautiful. I only wish she had Grandpa Rich's eyebrows!

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see what the memory of childbirth
does to your typing skills!!

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot - is Peggy the reading specialist at school? Does that have anything to do writin? just wonderin

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YEAH!!!!!! i wish i was with you all there!! i can't wait to meet Fancie Francie!!

10:22 AM  

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