An Uber driver galloped through 5 a.m. Saturday traffic to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Those iconic, fairy tale lights that define NYC’s skyline felt like coachmen escorting us–Mommy Katie, Dada Jason and Grandma JanZ—to Cinderella’s ball. It was surreal, like a scene from “When Harry Met Sally” only this story is about two friends who got married, then moved to The Big Apple to go to grad and med school, and then created their own little family in a land of brick apartments, subways, orthodox beards and fedora hats, underwater tunnels, honking drivers, jaywalkers and a Starbucks on every other corner.
This zany land of noise and smells and congestion that is so different from the land I come from, is where my baby daughter was about to give birth to her baby son and I was literally along for the ride.
The heroine, Mama Katie, worked at her job as a fourth grade teacher in Manhattan, Friday the day before she was destined to give birth. She ordered a feast of pizza and salad, made a batch of double fudge brownies and went to bed. At 5 a.m., she woke me up and informed me that her water broke. She booked an Uber and we raced to the hospital from Queens only to find out she was just 3 cm. dilated.
Like 99% of the women who have their babies at Lenox Hill, according to a Labor and Delivery nurse, Katie also chose to have an epidural. Voila! no more pain. No such juice was ever offered to me when I had my three babies. Pain and childbirth were a rite of passage. No more! Instead of fighting the pain, childbirth is now remarkably relaxing, so much so that I figured I’d have time to start writing this blog while Katie slept. When the doctor came in to examine her, she had dilated to 4 cm. The obstetrician decided to administer Pitocin. Ten minutes after the drip started, she was ready to push the baby out. Two gigantic heave ho’s and Hudson Bow was born at 12:42 p.m., 8.5 pounds, 20.5 inches long. A remarkably handsome child born to a remarkable mother and father, who just so happens to be the fourth grandchild of a remarkably, unabashedly, smitten grandma.
How does it feel to watch your daughter give birth? Proud. Scared. Hopeful. Honored. To watch the ritual of birth, the continuation of life, witness the first breath of the next generation is primitive and guttural and National Geographic sacred. It’s like watching a time lapse documentary where everyone you have ever known, and those dusty family members you’ve never even seen pictures of, converge in this euphoric Family of Man Times Square NYE Countdown Celebration. It’s real and it’s not real. It’s normal and feels anything but. Because it’s your baby, it’s your grandchild and there’s nothing in the world that you wouldn’t do for Hudson or Millie or Jack or Bronson–your heartbeat, your blood.
None of it makes sense. All of it makes sense. Everything. Wisdom magnifies across a drive-in-movie screen: Life is supposed to be good, precious. How can we love so much and be capable of such hate and cruelty? At one point in our lives, most of us were loved as dearly as we love Hudson. Someone believed in us, fought for us, gave up for us so that our lives could be better than theirs. How is it that we are so screwed up? Shooting, killing, yelling, blaming, denying? When our Source, all of ours, IZ Love?
Today’s “news” makes no sense. Not on this New York skyline day of Hudson’s birth. The Day of Promise and Hope. The Day our world tingled and twinkled and the traffic along 77th Street stopped. The Day the moon froze in it’s full moon position and smiled into a yellow-lit hospital room at a young couple ogling over their son, and a grandma cooing the song her father sang to her, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take that sunshine away.”
Tears, ugly, precious tears well up. I can’t help it. I don’t want to help it! A new life. A new me. In my arms. The first time Hudson and I, Grandson and Grandma, forged a bond birthed in ancient times. Rekindled. Renewed on this extraordinary, ordinary, afternoon in Manhattan.