I post this one every September 10. If you have read it before, move on with your day. If not, here is the strange timeline of events leading up to the birth of my second child – 10 years ago today.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: The Birth of Elizabeth
September 7, 2004
My wife (we’ll call her “Amy”) and I were making one of our final visits to the OBGYN. We were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second child (we did not know the sex). Amy was thirty-six weeks pregnant and up until that point things were moving along as planned. I had a two-day business trip to Chicago the next day. Following the exam I asked our doctor, “Doc, Am I OK to go on this trip?” She quickly responded, “Oh yeah, Amy is not going anywhere yet.” Amy gave us both a look of disappointment as she realized she had another four weeks of the long, hot remaining summer days ahead of her. However, I felt a sense of relief as we walked out of her office to return home.
The next day I took off for the Windy City feeling relaxed.
I arrived late afternoon as there was little business to be taken care of that day. The next morning I was begrudgingly starting an intensive two-day training session on a software technology (yeah, real fun stuff!). My colleague and I grabbed dinner and found a pub in Chicago that was actually showing our beloved Red Sox. The Sox were, once again, making a spirited run toward the playoffs, but we all know they will ultimately let us down, right? (of course, you remember what happened that year…but I digress). So we watched the game and shut it down early knowing we needed to be in a classroom bright and early.
Next morning arrives with no surprises. We jump on the subway out for the Hyatt at O’Hare Airport. Class began promptly at 9AM. Within five minutes of listening this geek instructor speak I knew I was in for a long couple of days. Not fifteen minutes into this torture, my cell phone (rudely NOT set on vibrate) rings. It was Amy. Normal circumstances I would push her right to voicemail but with Baby #2 pending I knew I had to take this one. I provided the instructor and my classmates with the gratuitous, silent, “Excuse me…I’m sorry” as I slithered out of the room to answer the call.
“Hello” I answered.
“Hey, what’s up?
“Well…(she giggled)..I am in labor.”
“You’re what! But Dr. So and So said…but…what…huh?”
Amy calmly explained that she did not feel “right” that morning and decided to bring herself to the local walk-in near to our home (We chose to deliver our children at a large Boston hospital – 30 miles away). Apparently, the doctor quickly concluded that Amy was, in fact, in early stages of labor and should get herself into the hospital as soon as possible.
After about 10 minutes of freaking out in the lobby of the hotel, I got a hold of myself and took action. I called my office and asked my assistant to look into the earliest possible flight out of Chicago to get me back to home. Within a few minutes she had me booked on 12:45PM flight from O’Hare to Logan, arriving in Boston around 3:45PM.
3:45PM! DAMNIT! This was baby #2. Number 2 always comes faster than number one (at least that is what I remember from reading the cliff notes version of some baby book in the bathroom). The panic set in again, but this was the earliest option.
I rushed back into class, relayed the story to the group and ran out to the sounds of applause.(stay tuned, this is only the FIRST time I would receive applause on that fateful day).
Ran outside of the hotel and hailed a taxi.
“O’HARE…AMERICAN. Step on it!”
Did I just say ‘step on it’? What am in some 1960s Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin movie? Why am I rushing? I had 3 hours to kill in the terminal before I was going anywhere. Nonetheless, it seemed like the right thing to say. What I did not realize in my overexcited state was that I was ALREADY at O’Hare. Remember? What ended up being a fifteen minute and $12 cab ride could have actually been a 7 minute walk if I was at all lucid in my thinking. Threw the cabbie a $20 and ran out. Again, why am I running?
Arrive at the American desk, collect my ticket and I am good to go….in exactly two hours and thirty-seven minutes from now. Uhg.
I frantically paced around the terminal like a cocaine smuggler at the border for about 20 minutes. Called Amy to check in. All was well and she was closing in on the hospital thankfully chauffeured by my mother (Love you Mom!). OK, good. Now what do I do?
I grab a newspaper, but who am I kidding, I can’t read now. Try to grab a bite to eat. Not hungry, too nervous. I needed to calm down. Wait a minute, maybe a little dose of the old Irish cure-all would do the trick (stop judging me – I know it is 10:30AM – I am about to have a baby 1000 miles away!)
I slide into one of the many airport gin joints where there were only 2 other patrons (you know, because it’s MORNING TIME!). Both were women, each enjoying a ‘morning refreshment’ prior to boarding their respective flights. I took a deep breath and ordered a beer. As I guiltily sipped my drink, I slowly calmed down. The first one went down surprisingly (and by ‘surprisingly’ I mean ‘expectedly’) fast. I quickly reordered another and sat back.
The bartender (we’ll call her ‘Judy’ since I was in no position to remember names), a very nice older lady with a thick Chicago accent, and I began to talk. Within a couple minutes I was relaying my story to Judy and explained why I found myself pounding Budweisers at 10:30AM and have no baggage whatsoever. She was very gracious and comforting, ‘Don’t worry, sweetie, you’ll make it’. At that point I realized my two co-alcoholic lady friends had been listening to my every word.
I was rapidly peppered with questions and comments
“Ah, how nice!” one exclaimed.
“Is this your first?” the other chimed in.
“Are you nervous?”…it continued.
(My inner monologue screamed – “YES! DAMN RIGHT I am nervous! Why do you think I am sitting at this bar at 10:30AM you crazy booze-riddled broads!”)
But what actually came out of my mouth was…
“Yes, thank you, it is exciting.”
“No, this is our second. We have a boy at home now” and
“No, not really.” (bahahaha…they knew I was lying)
I chatted with ‘Saucy’ and ‘Boozy’ for a while which, in hindsight, was a helpful distraction. By the time I next looked at the clock it was only about an hour until my flight. I paid the tab and headed for the gate. Slightly relaxed at this point, I made a few random, useless phone calls to friends and family informing them of the pending arrival…and would I make it in time?
Finally…12:45PM. I quickly boarded. I had never looked at my ticket but to my dismay I was in Row 28, Seat E (yeah, that’s right, the middle seat). Are you kidding me? I sat for a moment but then decided to see if the flight crew could help me out at all with a placement closer to the front of the plane. Every minute is going to count, right? I want to get off this bird the second it lands – seat 28E will cost me a minimum of 10 minutes. So, I make my way to the back where the flight attendants were prepping for take off.
“Excuse me. I hate to be a bother but is there any possibility of moving to a seat closer to the front of the plane?” I requested.
“I am not sure we can do that, sir,” stated Julio, the flamboyant flight attendant explained.
“Well, my wife is actually in labor in Boston, so I was just hoping to….”
“OH MY GOODNESS, HOW WONDERFUL!” exclaimed a suddenly slap happy, limp wristed Julio. “I WILL LOOK INTO IT RIGHT NOW! OOOOHHH!!”
Not five minutes later…Row 7! Still in seat E, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take it!
I look to my right and, low and behold, my friend Boozy was sitting next right next to me!
“WHOA, it’s you!” I said.
“Yes, I told you I was headed to Boston, remember?” stated Boozy.
“Oh yeah! That’s right” (I had no clue she had said that…I was slightly buzzed and as nervous as a pregnant cheerleader at Prom)
“Before I forget,” she said “here is my card. I work for a children’s book publisher. Let me know how you make out. I’d be happy to send you some books for the kids”
Wow. This day is getting more interesting all the time.
Before I could utter a thank you to Boozy, my new Man-crush, Julio, was dropping nips of Dewars on my lap.
“Here you go, Mr. McCabe. I want you to relax and enjoy the flight! You are going to me a Papa soon,” Julio giggled as he sashayed back to his station.
Unreal. Free books, free booze. I am liking this emergency evacuation thing.
Off we go to Boston. Surprisingly the flight seemed to go by rather quickly. (3 beers, 2 shots of scotch and some useless conversation will do that I suppose).
The Captain comes on and informs us we are making our final approach into Logan. Thank you for flying with us, blah, blah, blah. I grabbed Julio as he glided past me.
“Julio, one more favor, buddy. If at all possible, can you help me get off the plane first so I can get out of the airport as quickly as possible?”
“Of course! This is just so exciting, I…”
I interrupted him “Yeah, I know, Julio. Thanks. But if you can please be discreet, I just want to get up and get off.
Thirty seconds later.
“Ladies and gentlemen we have a special announcement,” I hear Julio squeal over the intercom, “The gentleman, seated in Seat 7E, is an expecting father! His wife is in labor right now!!!!”
Once again, the applause and cheers begin like the sounds of the Fenway faithful during a late inning rally.
So much for being discreet, Julio. Thanks, pal.
In any event, all of my fellow passengers were very gracious. We landed, everyone wished me well and let me disembark first off the plane.
The sprint begins; again. I am running through the terminal like a madman. Cell phone is now completely dead, so for all I know Baby #2 is already here. Nonetheless, I had to do my very best to get over to Brigham and Women’s Hospital – about 20 minutes away – and hopefully catch the birth of my child.
The automatic doors open to the street. Daylight! Almost there! Need a taxi. Look to my left…of course…fifty person line all waiting for cabs. COME ON!
I decided this was no time to be patient and polite, so I take myself to the front of the line. There stood a very large, rough looking red headed American Airlines employee assisting folks with taxis in an orderly fashion. Well, here it goes.
“Excuse me, sir,” I uttered meekly.
“WHAT!?!?!” he screamed as he snapped his neck around to see who was bothering him during the rush hour
“Sorry to bother you, but my wife is in labor over at the Brigham and I was hopin…”
“NO SHIT! GOOD FOR YOU BUDDY! EVERYBODY LET THIS GUY THROUGH!”
I skipped past the line and my new giant friend whisked me into the next available cab.
“Get this guy over to the fucking Brigham fast!!!” yelled Big Red.
Thank you, boss!
Off I go again.
“Ahmed” (my Middle Eastern taxi driver) wanted to do nothing but ask me questions and make small talk. By now, I am starting to feel tired, the nerves are in full gear again, and I can not reach my wife or anyone else for that matter. I just want to get there and, God willing, see the miracle of birth for a second time. Shutup, Ahmed!
Pull up to the curb.
Pay the fare and begin my race up to Labor and Delivery, floor 10.
Get in the elevator. Come on….hurry up – I thought to myself. I could be missing everything. Get to the nurses station. “Amy McCabe’s room???!!!”
They direct me down the hall.
I run into the room. I made it! I witnessed the birth of, what turned out to be, my first daughter, Elizabeth…..22 hours later.