Such a cliché, the wake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-rush-to-the-hospital-because-holy-mother-in-heaven-this-baby-is-coming, but there we were, early Thursday morning, 1:30 a.m.
At first we thought we had more time than we did. (Doesn’t everybody? Isn’t that the story of our very lives?)
But soon the contractions were coming more frequently, and Stamford Hospital was about 20 minutes away, and we were tossing our bags in the back of the car.
“Do you have the camera?” Liz asked me.
“The camera!” I shouted, though she was sitting right next to me, in the passenger seat. I ran back into the house. We have a row of light switches right inside the door and I used both hands to flip them up, all of them. If I could have thrown in a siren it could have been mistaken for a jail break, the house audibly lit up as if somebody had tossed the sun in the living room window, shattering the glass and rolling across the floor.
I got back in the car maybe three minutes later, which seemed like an eternity, camera in hand.
Liz put her hand on my knee.
“Babe,” she said gently, “I think I’m going to need you to be the calm, cool, in control husband on this one.”
Now, in my mind we were already racing down the driveway, but I managed to nod and smile and ease the car into gear.
The contractions slowed in frequency once we got going, which meant it was not a panicky drive – though it was, as any woman who has experienced contractions will tell you, a periodically painful one for Liz.
“You know,” I said in my calm, cool voice, “we can run red lights.”
“We can what?”
“We can run red lights,” I said. “No cop in the world is going to arrest us. It might even get us a police escort. Can you imagine? A police escort?”
“Conor, please do not run any red lights.”
“I’m just saying if we wanted to…”
“Please don’t run any red lights, Conor. That wouldn’t be very in-control.”
I debated sulking over that, but decided this might not be the moment for it. And anyway it was a moot point – at 2 a.m. the traffic lights in suburban Connecticut merely blinked red, so the best I could do was to come to a rolling stop, hoping flashing lights would appear in my rear-view mirror. Alas, they did not.
The trip to the hospital, at speed limit, was uneventful. We got ourselves checked in, and next thing you know little Lucy – or Lucienne Eleanor Grennan, as the birth certificate reads – was in our arms, safe and healthy and beautiful.
There’s not really much to do after that. Sure, the mother has the responsibility of providing life-sustaining nutrition and all, but the father, he just kind of hangs out.
I did get Liz water and juice and everything I could, but being in a hospital is a bit like being under house arrest where the convicts are forced to wear pajamas and are awoken hourly by tiny little cries.
From time to time I would sit on Liz’s bed, and the anti-bed-sore activation thing would kick in and it would start shifting ever so slightly underneath me.
It was during one of those times, with Lucy sleeping happily on Liz’s chest, Liz resting from the physically traumatic event of giving birth, and the nurse having just left, that I realized how staggeringly blessed we are to live in this country. I’ve seen how babies enter the world in some of the poorest and remote regions on the planet, and it is a risky, dangerous undertaking.
Yet here we were, in a bed that actually adjusted to shifting weight to ensure that we didn’t get bedsores. That bed is more advanced than anything they will have for many, many years to come.
I don’t mean to sentimentalize here – it is only what struck me, there in the middle of the night, dog-tired and looking at my wife and daughter. I was thankful for that hospital. For Connecticut. For what we have and what it provides; not a nicer car or meals at a restaurant or a larger TV, but only the safe passage of that little girl – out of the womb and toward the new, blinding light. Into the air that surrounded her. The air that we’d breathe, now, together.