Life Notes: The Best Beginning
Joining a daughter to welcome her newborn son

“What’s been your most amazing life experience?” my dearest childhood friend asked me one day out of the blue.

And it took me about 15 seconds to answer: It was being present at the birth of grandchild number five – and yes, the only one out of seven I’ve witnessed.

It began with three momentous words.

“I’m in labor,” Nancy announced on that June morning in 2002 as if she were mentioning the sun was shining. Our laid-back daughter, over a week late in her third pregnancy, was finally on her way.

 Like characters in a farce, my husband and I tripped all over ourselves, scrambling to find the directions to the hospital in North Jersey where we were about to meet our grandson. Yes, a third boy for Nancy.

 Driving up the New Jersey Turnpike on that glorious June morning, I was experiencing anticipation, anxiety, joy, panic, delight and fear.

 After months of deliberation, I had approached our daughter and son-in-law about my being with them in the delivery room.

 Other times, the notion had surfaced and been dismissed. I thought I could not bear watching a beloved daughter in pain.

So this unexpected yearning to be right there at the astounding moment when a baby rushes into the world was difficult to define, let alone explain. But it was surely powerful.

 When I mentioned it to Nancy, fumbling to find a way out for her, Nancy’s instant response was delight. Despite my microanalysis of her every nuance, it was clear Nancy truly meant it.

 In the hospital lobby, I said goodbye to my husband who had no intention of joining me, and I was led to Labor and Delivery Room Number 8.

 In that room, Nancy and her husband Mike were listening to a Simon and Garfunkel tape, still debating names for this baby and timing Nancy’s contractions. Their nonchalance stunned me – and reassured me.

 A nurse with a cheerleader’s spirit led, and Nancy followed.

 When the hands of the clock marked the passing of about two tranquil hours, a new sense of urgency began. Now, a doctor young enough to be my son was on the scene, and suddenly, we were all coaches, focused on one woman whose job was to deliver a baby.

 Like characters in a play, we assumed our roles. Mike was her captain, her rock, her guide. He knew the right words to say to encourage her through the hardest work of a woman’s life.

 The medical team knew how to read the monitors against the background sound of this unborn baby’s wonderful, strong heartbeat.

 And my role – my role was…mother.

 I held Nancy’s hand. I stroked her hair. I whispered to her, I laughed with her. And I listened with a mother’s ears to any signals of distress or danger on those monitors. Happily, there were none.

 Nancy worked hard. So hard that within minutes, someone said, “Here he comes.”

 And then, a baby’s wail rang out in Room 8, as a tiny boy wriggled his way to freedom. He entered this tired, old world, his face red, his mini-fists clenched.

 First, a blur of tears and hugs and gratitude for this tiny, luminous being – part of generations past, part of me and part of God’s universe. For a single moment, my eyes locked with Daniel’s, his wide open and astonished. In that instant, he claimed me forever.

 On one ordinary summer Sunday, a baby was born.

 But oh my, how extraordinary that I could be there to welcome Daniel Levi Friedman Zinn to planet Earth with a grateful heart and singing soul.

November 2015
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