Steffie was born 17 years ago today. I remember Helaine telling me to come right home after the newscast. She knew the time was right.
Earlier in the day Helaine had gotten out of the house as the exterminator did his thing. She stooped in our tiny front yard in Branford, planting impatiens. I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it. I still can’t
Now, with me home, she was getting ready to call the obstetrician. He listened to her signs and told her, “not yet.” We turned on the TV.
I’m not sure if every program on “Nick at Nite” that night was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but it seemed that way. We sat and watched and wondered. Even if Helaine would have seen a foot sticking out of her, she wouldn’t have called the doctor back. Luckily, she didn’t have to.
Somewhere in the middle of the night the phone rang. It was the doctor. Go to the hospital – they’ll be waiting.
Helaine was having moderately intense contractions by this time (who am I to say they’re moderate – let’s face it, if guys had contractions, we’d just pass out on the spot). Branford was deserted, as was I-95 and Route 34. I ran the only red light I hit… not because we had to, but because my wife was having a baby. It was my right to do as I wished on the road.
I’m not going to go into details about what happened when we got to the hospital. That’s not because it was gory or bad, but because Helaine has worked it into a stand-up comedy routine worthy of 6 minutes on Letterman. Least it to say, Helaine feels the receptionist was more interested in my celebrity than her pregnancy.
Labor was not easy for Helaine. I believe Steffie was auditioning for Cirque du Soleil in there – twisting and turning and getting caught up in her own umbilical cord. It was very scary as doctors and nurses scurried around and prepared Helaine for the emergency C-section they never had to perform.
It wasn’t until mid afternoon that Steffie thought enough was enough, and out she came. She was, and still is beautiful. She was, and still is our baby. This, of course, is a bone of contention between father and daughter.
I know it’s difficult for her to understand, at age 17 when it seems she should be a grown-up, but we can still close our eyes and see her wrapped up tight with the little stocking hat (which we still have). I can feel her in my arms as the nurse handed her to me and our feelings of joy and relief that she had ten fingers, ten toes and all the standard equipment.
The photo, the one with me holding Steffie just a few minutes after her birth, is one of my proudest possessions. Of course Helaine did all the hard work, but I get some credit too.
So today is Steffie’s day. I just hope she’ll take a cue from the Oscars and Emmys and thank the people behind the scenes who made it all possible.