On Riding Dirty

Every once in a while you'll see a story where a woman delivers a baby on a subway platform, at Penn Station, in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel or — as was the case a few days ago — the back of a cab:

"I said, no, don't squeeze, pull my pants down, there's a head there," [the mother] said.

The cab driver got out of his car at Greenpoint Avenue and waved orange flags directing traffic until two ambulances and six police cars arrived at the scene.

"I didn't even push it just came out."

When we took our childbirth cram class at the hospital, and the nurse-instructor went through the timeline of childbirth, she explained how we would know when to go to the hospital. In short, there's a "4-1-1" rule, meaning that you go to the hospital when you're having contractions four minutes apart, each lasting a minute, for an entire hour.

Some of us — read: us — who live on other sides of rivers sort of wondered if labor might happen very quickly and if so, worried that we might be stuck in a cab or train or whatnot when it happened. (If you look at the examples linked above, the common thread is that all these people live on the other side of a river.) So we asked the nurse: If labor really takes 12 hours or longer, then how come people always have babies on the subway?

It was simple, she explained, koan-like: The reason you're always reading about it is because it's so rare. And besides, she added, babies that are born on subway platforms, in the back of cabs and in Penn Station are so strong that we don't really have to worry about them. Which was reassuring. And now I look at these births a little bit differently.

For a while I almost wanted to roll the dice a little bit and take the subway to the hospital once the contractions got to that magic point — just in case Monkey was born at Queensboro Plaza (not exactly sterile but oh, what a view!). In retrospect, this would never have happened; there was no way Jen was going to get on a subway with contractions like she was having. I'm shocked any woman would get on public transportation with contractions like women have when they're in labor — which probably means that they weren't getting on the train in that condition in the first place, and it truly is extraordinary when they give birth in the stairwell between the 7 train and the Lexington Avenue line.

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: ,

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