In Cincinnati, in August, it is hot. The combination of intense late summer heat and of the Queen City's situation on the Ohio River creates an oppressive humidity that presses on one from all sides. It's not a pleasant time or place to be nine months pregnant, but 14 years ago my mother was just that.
We had visitors at the time. The parents were staying in a hotel, but the kids were wedged in with us in our minute bedrooms. There were lots of bodies packed in a very small space, which made the heat seem more intense. I had given up my bedroom and was asleep on a couch in a small living room upstairs. There were not enough windows to open to cool the place down.
At 6:15 in the morning, my mom poked her head through the door and said, "Honey, my water just broke."
"Okay," I mumbled, and rolled over and went back to sleep. The midwives were on their way, and at 14, there wasn't really anything I could do about it.
The midwives arrived, and eventually everyone started to wake up. None of us kids knew much about labor. We'd attended a sibling class at the midwives' office, at which we learned that when a baby came out, it felt a bit like if you opened your mouth as wide as you could and then stretched the edges out with your fingers. We'd all tried it; it was kind of uncomfortable and it looked silly. Anyway, babies didn't come out of your mouth. Even our two-year-old sister knew that.
At some point someone must have said that the baby was coming, because everyone in the house who was not giving birth or assisting that process was jammed into the doorway, spectating. I don't know what my mom thought of this; it's probable that at that point she didn't care. There was baby's head, and then his head was out, and then goosh! there he was, on the bed. I was impressed. It was my introduction to labor, and my mom made it look so easy. Two hours, start to finish, and then the baby just popped out. It wasn't until I had my first that I realized that it is a misconception to base your ideas of what labor will be like on watching your mother deliver her sixth child. But at 14, I felt I had one up on the rest of the world, and afterwards, whenever I saw a movie or TV show in which a woman gave birth, I was superior. That wasn't what it was like -- I'd actually seen a birth.
My brother was a bit blue, but had a healthy set of lungs. (Still does.) Someone with a sense of propriety finally kicked us all out of the doorway, and we set out to make calls. The baby had been named Nathanael, in honor of the day's saint. But St. Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew, and one of the visiting kids decided that we should tell people that the baby was named Bartholomew Barabbas. This was about the funniest idea ever, and it was quickly put into practice. My parents were fielding calls for hours afterwards from concerned friends.
So, to not-Bartholomew Barabbas, I say: Happy birthday, old chum! You're just as loud and as good-looking as you were 14 years ago today.
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