Like a lot of expectant mothers these days, my wife was terrified of giving birth in a hospital. She had consumed all the neo-orthodox birthing literature, convincing herself that hospitals were evil and unsanitary and would use any excuse to cut open her belly and unnaturally snatch our child from the womb. She had come to see a vaginal birth a sacred rite of passage, not only healthier for her and for our child, but good for both their souls.
Feebly, I tried to argue. After all, we had both been born in hospitals, to apparent no ill effect, and many of our friends had Caesareans. Their children appeared perfectly normal and delightful.
But my wife would hear none of it. Fine, I thought, we’ll get a midwife and have the baby at home. We called a woman who had come highly recommended and had sounded very nice on the phone, and she turned up at our apartment one Tuesday evening. The look of disgust on her face when we opened the front door said it all – our apartment was no place for a birth. It was tiny, and filled with stacks of books and magazines, and piles of sweaters and boots and sneakers and kitchen gadgets, plus the giant duffel bag that contained my sweaty ice-hockey gear. The mess felt normal to us because we had lived in it for ten years, but now we understood why none of our friends ever came over. We lived in a shithole.
The midwife told us we’d have to have the child at the clinic, which would have been okay with my wife, except they couldn’t guarantee that they’d have an open slot. Turns out that our glorious night of conception had been a major hook-up night all across town. They had too many clients due to give birth around the time we were. If they were full up, we’d have to go to their alternative facility in Brooklyn. That put a fright in my wife. There is only one thing she loathes more than hospitals: Brooklyn.
It was just around that time that the firm that both my wife and I worked at moved offices – from a cruddy Grade C office tower in midtown to a picture-perfect, ecologically correct Soho loft. For the first time in my life, I had my own spacious office with a door and a couch and natural light and more room than I knew what to do with.
As I got settled in there the first day, I had an epiphany – we should have the child here. My wife and I had met at work, after all, and though we have never divulged this to anyone, it can now be confessed that we had sex for the first time in the supply closet in the middle of an otherwise slow day. Most of our best friends were from work. As New Yorkers, this was our natural habitat, the place we felt most comfortable – more at home than at home. My wife, at the point, was engaged in a mad hunt for a new birthing center. She found one promising place, but came back from the tour totally appalled. “It was like a skeezy massage parlor,” she said. “And there was another mom in there giving birth, screaming as if they were hacking off her limbs. It was totally disturbing.”
Her brow unfurrowed for the first time in weeks. I saw the little light go on above her head. It made perfect sense. Among other things, it would more or less guarantee our jobs for at least a few months – they couldn’t lay off the people who had their kid in the office. It would be the worst possible karma.
We had to make the plan in secret. Lord knows what Federal workplace-safety statutes say about live births, and even our pretty cool and eminently reasonable boss was likely to be a bit freaked. So we surreptitiously went about our preparations. I bribed the freight-elevator dude to help smuggle in a cot, and I emptied my hockey bag and refilled it with sheets, towels, pillows and a bathrobe. As her due date approached, then passed, my wife kept going in every day to work, much to the consternation of our colleagues. “You look like you’re about to pop,” a few remarked. “Shouldn’t you be at home?”
Then, while she was sitting at her desk, my wife’s water broke. She did not panic. She calmly walked over to my office. I called the midwife and prepared the cot. This could no longer be kept a secret. I called my boss, and after a few moments, he knocked lightly on the door. When I opened it, he was surprised to see us all ready to make the delivery right there.
I bribed the freight-elevator dude to help smuggle in a cot. “Shouldn’t we call an ambulance?” he suggested.
“Too late,” I replied. “The midwife told us not to move her and she’s on her way over.”
His mouth gaped. “Okay,” he said, backing out the door. “Let me know if you need anything, like, uh, forceps.”
Labor lasted a merciful three hours, and then our son was born, with all ten fingers and all ten toes. I buzzed the interns and sent them out for flowers, champagne, cigars, and party hats. The staff photographer stopped in and took some pictures. When my wife would finally relinquish the child, I carried him out to the rest of the office, and as co-workers followed in my wake, I went off to the copy room and made a beautiful Xerox of his adorable little butt.