East End Beacon

Between the Lines: Making Babies is Tricky Business

Tim Kelly
Tim Kelly

Unless you have the time and the stomach for a lengthy and, more than likely, pained response, never, ever ask anyone who works in Washington, D.C. but drives to and from the Virginia or Maryland burbs each day, “How’s the commute?”

Let’s just say public transportation is the way to go. Trust.

When I was working on Capitol Hill, home was out in Fairfax County, VA. A bus and subway combo made the commute close to pleasant, thus avoiding a morning of hammering on the steering wheel with clenched fists, spouting language that Sister Esther and all the Sisters who followed would cite as the need for corporal punishment of the most vigorous kind.

Now it’s my son, Ryan’s turn. His career path also took him to D.C. — wisely not in government but the private sector — but he and family reside east of the Beltway in Maryland.

On a recent afternoon he was at the wheel with friends and coworkers Ray and Stephanie, a nice young couple, stuck in the molasses flow of homebound vehicles.

With me daughter-in-law Lindsay only days away from a scheduled C-section at an Annapolis hospital, Stephanie said something along the lines of  “can you imagine if I ever went into labor under conditions like this?”

Yeah, I imagine the kid would be 7 or so, maybe with a sibling, living on beef jerky, Pringles and Red Bull swiped from some convenience store during off-highway midnight raids before help arrived.

Lucky for Stephanie, that hasn’t  happened to her…yet, but two days prior to Finn Patrick Kelly’s prearranged arrival, Lindsay’s water broke. As a medical necessity, the baby needed to be delivered within hours. And there was Ryan, again in unmoving, ironically named “rush hour” traffic.

After his cell phone brought him that news, I’m sure he said stuff to make Sister Esther collapse in a dead faint.

They avoided an ambulance experience thanks to the timely arrival of Aunt Mary, me baby sister, who lives about 20 minutes away.

No word on whether she was packing Pringles.

Minutes before midnight on June 13, Finn Patrick, all nine pounds of him, took his first breath and all is well with mother and child.

Think of the “what ifs,” such as what if Lindsay went to her Baltimore office that day rather than working from home? What if on the way home she went into labor in an unmoving car boxed in, perhaps on all four sides, by other unmoving vehicles? What if there were no Pringles?

Why dwell on what might have been? More than three decades have passed since Ryan’s birth, but the events of that day, those outside the hospital and operating room, remain quite vivid in me memory and Kelly family lore.

To be fair, Ryan is the oldest of our two kids, but little drama accompanied the arrival of Caitlin Anne Kelly just under four-and-a-half years later.

Ryan was due in early April, 1982. The Mrs. and me completed Lamaze classes with yours truly bearing the mantle of birth coach, tasked to assist her to cope with labor pains no husband could begin to imagine, with little more than hee-hee-hoo-hoo-hee-hee breathing techniques and other new-age hooey.

Honey, find your focal point!

Yeah, I got your focal point right here, pal!

As one comedienne noted a while back, how come everyone is using drugs except when they really need them?

Three weeks prior to my wife’s due date, which in pre-sonogram days was basically just a guide, I’m at my desk as editor of a Southold newspaper, preparing that week’s issue for delivery to the printer. It’s Wednesday, deadline day, when the Mrs. calls from home.

“I hate to bother you,” she said, calmly. “But I think my water broke.”

Oh, my stars! I said. No, I didn’t say that at all, but what did fly out of my mouth can’t be printed here. The Mrs. was almost an hour away and I was on the North Fork without a car because I’d cajoled a reporter into carpooling that day.

She said she’d get a ride to what’s now Peconic Bay Medical Center from her mom and I pressed an ad salesman to take me there. The doc looks her over and orders an X-ray. Ryan Patrick is sitting upright, arms and legs crossed like a yogi meditating. At that time, a breech delivery on a first birth meant an automatic C-section.

But the doc is busy waiting on a patient who delivered via section with her first child, but wants the non-surgical method with her second. We’re shunted off to a room, the Mrs. in full labor, to wait.

When a woman is in pain and knows that only surgery, not the best-intentioned ministrations of her hapless husband-coach, will result in childbirth, Lamaze ain’t worth spit.

Finally, she’s wheeled in alone and eventually wheeled out with baby Ryan. Mom and baby are both fine, and when Mom falls to sleep, Dad borrows an old pickup from his father-in-law and heads to dinner with friends in Aquebogue.

It’s snowing as I leave, and while I negotiate the Route 58 traffic circle, the driver’s side windshield wiper flops over to the left of the car. Snow collects on the windshield, while the wiper waves up and down in the air above the driver’s side door.

But it’s not far to Aquebogue, and new dad arrives intact to a warm welcome and a hot meal. My friend says not to worry, he’ll fix the wiper. He does, and I head south toward the Main Road on a very dark Church Lane. Suddenly, every light in the truck goes out and it rolls to a halt near a patch of woods. After I trudge back to the farmhouse through the dark and snow, my friend effects another repair.

When someone says the birth of a child is the happiest day of their life, don’t believe a word of it.

Now that baby boy is grown with two of his own. The birth of his first was uneventful by comparison. Still he and wife can look forward to the terrible two’s, tantrums, adolescence and a full assortment of other hair-graying experiences. But for now, we see him on the couch with 2 ½-year-old daughter Shae Mackenzie on his lap watching “The Penguins of Madagascar,” while an exhausted Lindsay nurses a very quiet days-old Finn Patrick.

Fleeting youth has fled the Mrs. and me, but we couldn’t be happier.

Well, maybe if we had some Pringles.

Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.


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