We were just digging into our presents when the phone rang. An excited voice shouted in my ear. “Her water broke and her contractions are five minutes apart. We’re on our way into the birth room because the weather is crap and we live so far out. Sorry to ruin your Christmas. Say… why don’t you bring your husband and daughter along? I’m sure Jane won’t mind at all. Ain’t that right honey? I’ll bring enough food from my deli for all of us!”
Tony was an enormous man—a gregarious Italian, originally from San Francisco—and while I didn’t doubt his sincerity, I knew for a fact that Jane would not want my family in attendance at her birth! She was a modest woman, a teacher who was quiet and came from a reserved family. I chuckled at the very thought. “Go to the hospital and get yourself settled. I will join you soon.” I replied. “Maybe after the baby is born they can stop by.”
I kissed my family goodbye and stepped outside. It was a still night; gently falling snow blanketed my windshield. My car left virgin tracks as I slowly drove down our winding mountain road. Christmas lights twinkled in houses tucked back into the trees. I drank in the beauty. It had been a few years since I had had a Christmas birth.
When I reached the hospital, I walked quietly into the room. He was hovering over his wife who clearly did not want to be hovered over. “Tony, PLEASE… I’m fine. Really, I’m fine. I don’t need a cold washcloth on my head. No, I’m not thirsty. Yes, I know you love me. I love you too, but could you just go and sit on the couch for a while?” She sighed and rolled her eyes.
Sitting on the couch was a big problem for Tony. Hovering is what he does best. He fusses over the customers at his deli, and he clucked over his wife throughout her entire pregnancy. It wasn’t possible for him to NOT hover.
It went on like this for hours. Up—down. Up—down. “Tony, for God’s sake. I can’t talk to you right now!”
“Yes, yes, sorry my love. I’ll just go sit on the couch a little bit, and then I’ll be right back. Are you sure there’s not something I can do?”
“NO! NO!” she screamed, His face collapsed. “Sorry, Tony. It’s just…Oh well,” she sighed in resignation. “Maybe give me a sip of juice.”
When it came time for her to push, I had an idea. “Tony, go wash your hands and come here. Would you like to help catch your baby?” Oh my God, he was needed! He leaped into action, dove to the sink, and was back in seconds.
“Ta Da…The cavalry has arrived, honey,” he tried to joke. Trembling, with a laser beam focus, he reached out to receive his son as the baby slipped into his waiting hands. After the cord was cut, he reluctantly handed the baby to his wife and then collapsed into a nearby chair and began to openly sob.
An hour later there was a soft knock on the door. My husband and daughter were outside. “Can we see the baby?” they asked. Jane welcomed them in. I looked around. Tony and the baby were nowhere to be seen. Puzzled, I went out into the hallway and looked—nothing. I walked up and down the corridors—nothing. They weren’t anywhere to be seen. Hmm… I wandered over to the convalescent wing of the hospital.
As I expected… there he was, beaming as he came out of a patient’s room. “They think it’s the Baby Jesus come to see them on Christmas!” Silent Night was playing on the boom box at the nursing station. I stood by and watched as he placed his wrapped-up newborn son into the arms of every single, dementia patient on that ward, wishing them Merry Christmas. It was his gift to the elders. He let them kiss and cuddle his son, and when they were all done, he returned to his wife in the birth room to break out the wine and food in celebration.
I don’t think we could get away with that now, but back then, superbugs were not a big concern for us in our small community hospital. It just seemed the right thing to do on Christmas.