A weeklong electronic journal.
Oct. 28 1998 12:30 AM


       My three older sons--Jeb and the twins, Reid and Timothy--were delivered by Caesarean section, in 1981 and 1986, respectively. Back in those benighted years, the hospital where my former wife was a patient barred fathers from the operating room, and I was reduced to witnessing the action from a distance of about 30 feet, through a small circular pane of chicken wire reinforced glass. When my present mate, Caroline, delivered our son, Paul, last Wednesday, I finally had my first up close and intensely personal birthing experience.
       (I'm not counting, in other words, the one I attended in 1950. My mother's memory of that episode is no better than mine. Thanks to a then-popular medication called "twilight sleep," a combination of Demerol, a relaxant, and scopolamine, an amnesiac, she woke up in her hospital bed several hours after my birth, astutely concluded that she was no longer pregnant, and phoned my grandmother at home to ask whether she'd had a boy or a girl. But I digress ...)
       About 10 hours elapsed between the onset of Caroline's labor and Paul's birth. After eight hours, she began to push and, according to her obstetrician, could have kept at it for several more hours without making much progress (big baby head/narrow maternal pelvis). At which point we accepted his offer to intervene with forceps. Notwithstanding the doctor's remarkable technical artistry, his handiwork with the forceps reminded me of a tubeless automobile tire being mounted on a wheel rim.
       What is it, anyway, with me and cars and childbirth? When my first wife went into labor with Jeb, we were living in downtown Manhattan. I'd parked our tiny Honda Civic on a block where alternate side of the street rules applied. At dawn, when it came time to leave for the hospital, I went out to move the car and another driver immediately materialized, ready to claim my parking spot. "This is your lucky day, pal," I told him. "The only reason I'm giving up this spot is because my wife's contractions are five minutes apart."
       Last Friday, as Caroline and I were preparing to leave the hospital, in upper Manhattan, her doctor showed up for a final pre-discharge consultation. When he saw me toting luggage and flower vases and learned that I'd been forced to park a few blocks away, he said: "You know, I'm at a meter right in front of the hospital. Just give me 10 minutes and I'll meet you there and you can have my spot." So I retrieved my car and, as promised, 10 minutes later we made the switch. Before the doctor drove away, I shook his hand and said, "I just want to tell you again how grateful I am for your professionalism, especially your skill with the forceps"--he was beaming--"but the thing that will probably stick in my mind forever is that you gave us this beautiful, beautiful parking spot."
       Then I went upstairs to retrieve Caroline and Paul. An hour later, we strapped our beautiful, beautiful baby boy into his car seat and drove him to his new home.

Mark Singer is a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book is Citizen K: The Deeply Weird Journey of Brett Kimberlin. He is the father of four sons, including Paul Mailhot-Singer, who was born Oct. 21, 1998 (7 lbs., 10 oz.).