17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Home Sweet Subway

She was exhausted, uncomfortable, ready to go home. Back across the East River to their tiny one-bedroom Queens apartment. It was afternoon, a cold and rainy early winter day in Manhattan. Her labor the previous day had been quick and exhilerating, an experience she would treasure once the pain subsided and she got some rest.

The woman and her husband gathered their belongings from the cramped hospital room that she had shared with the impatient Jewish woman and her constant barrage of visitors. Was she jealous? A little. Once again, she and her husband had greeted a newborn son alone amid the noise and chaos of a Manhattan hospital. It was intimate, a bond they would always have....but she regretted that no one else had shared those first precious moments of life with them. That it would be months before they could travel West for the rest of their family to meet their baby.

She dressed and swaddled her son, still trying to comprehend this beautiful tiny creature. She accepted that he looked nothing like her: strong Hispanic features, dark thick hair, chubby hands and feet. It didn't upset her. In fact, she loved that both of her boys had arrived into the world as perfect minature images of their father. She held her baby's beautiful brown skin against her own paleness. Even in Queens, the white woman with the brown baby ocasionally threw people off. An Arab man who had moved into the building shortly after her first son's birth had asked her if she was the child's nanny. How often, really, do you see a white woman working for a Hispanic family? her husband had asked. As her older son had grown, he began to look more like her. Probably this guy will too, she thought.

They strapped the baby into his carseat and walked out of the hospital. The city awaited them in jarring reality. An icy December wind, car horns blarring, people walking over each other to get out of the rain. She and the baby waited under the awning to the hospital entrance while the husband hailed a cab. The yellow cabs and towncars did not seem to notice him. They were full of early Christmas shoppers, city workers, tourists all trying to stay dry. She tended to her baby, making sure that he was well-swaddled and dry. The husband grew frustrated.

Let's shlep up one block, we will probably be able to catch a cab there, he said. The couple picked up their belongings and walked. Her insides began to protest the movement. She was cramping and feeling the exhaustion of childbirth. Their tiny, awkward pre-war apartment, the one she had secretly hated since her arrival that hot July day over two years ago, suddenly seemed heavenly.

As they walked, she did her best to shield the baby from the cold and rain. She pictured her obstetrician, Dr. Cho, running down this street in her high heels and white doctor's coat the previous day. She had arrived disheveled and out-of-breath just minutes before the baby's arrival. She had told the couple that she had run the entire three blocks between her office and the hospital. The woman pictured Dr. Cho walking by them once again in her head. This time, her doctor shook her head in disapproval as they towed their newborn through the wet cold New York streets.

The couple stopped on the corner of 38th and 2nd Avenue, next to a bakery and bodaga. The rain fell harder. She could smell fresh bread from the shop and the flowery scent of shampoo in her wet hair. The shampoo from her first post-baby hospital shower. She had fantisized about that shower during her labor, how it would relax her, cleanse her from the unpleasantries of childbirth. It had lived up to her expectations. Like a baptism, she came out of that shower feeling renewed, whole. The pregnancy was over. She could move on with life and her boys and her plans. This was a rough start to her second life, she thought.

The husband continued soliciting cabs. His urgency grew as time passed. His waving became more frantic, and he crept further out into the street until he was almost in the middle of 2nd Avenue. Finally, a cab pulled over. Relief passed through the woman like a warm fire. She picked up the car seat, and headed toward the yellow cab. The cabbie rolled down his window. He looked at the couple and then down at the baby.

- Where I take you? Thick accented cabbie voice.
- Sunnyside, Queens.
- No...no, I no go to Queens.
- Wait, my wife just had a baby. It's just across the river. It's illegal for you to refuse service once you have stopped.
- No Queens.

The husband grabbed at his window as the cabbie tried to roll it shut. Strong, vengeful words were exchanged. Behind the safety of his fogged window, the cabbie looked dark, evil, distorted. Her husband gave up and the yellow cabbie took off. Together, the couple watched the car spin out into the Manhattan traffic fray as if it was the last boat off a deserted island.

The couple decided they had two choices: Go back to the hospital and start over, or walk the remaining blocks to grab the 6 train which would eventually get them on the 7 train and home to Queens. She felt rising anger at her husband. Why hadn't he anticipated the weather and arranged a ride home? Where was his cell phone? Why had she agreed to move to this city, anyways? This wasn't her dream, it was his. When did she become the pushover wife? He was a convenient, but unfair target. The woman reminded herself that he would do anything for her and this was not his fault.

At least the subway ride home would be warm, she thought. She checked on her baby, buried under his blanket layers. He had been asleep since they had left the hospital, immune to the world outside his baby carrier cacoon.

Rush hour had begun and the trains were packed. She stood against her husband, the baby secured between them. The train rocked and railed its way towards Queens. A man in a dark business suit asked how old the baby was. One day old, the husband weakly replied. He gave the couple a funny look, and turned around. She was suffocated amongst the people, imagined the filth and germs in the train poisoning her perfect, healthy newborn. She felt sick. She put her head against the husband's chest and sobbed, unashamed. How did this happen? How did they end up taking their baby home on the subway? What kind of mother was she, anyways?

The woman said a quick prayer to settle herself down and decided that if this little guy could survive the subway on his very first day of life, he would be ready for just about anything life may throw at him.



  • Unbelievable, Jen. Wow, what a story. And beautifully written, as always - I felt like I was walking next to you in the cold and rain.

    Happy birthday, Asher...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 11/20/2006 09:49:00 PM  

  • Wow, thanks for sharing that.
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 11/21/2006 07:40:00 AM  

  • I love that story. What a memorable NYC experience. Hope Asher has a wonderful birthday.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 11/21/2006 08:59:00 AM  

  • Oh Jen, that made me cry. I was reminded of my ride home with first boy from manhattan to queens. We left the hospital exactly 12 hours after giving birth. We didn't even have a carseat. We easily found a cab and I remember having to stop on the way home because I felt nauseous. We made it home and then took a picture with the cabbie from India and our new son. We also considered it quite an accomplishment just getting home from the hospital.

    I also remember how odd it felt to be going to have my baby by taking the subway amidst contractions...and walking very slowly in the heat in July.
    posted by Blogger Shaleen at 11/21/2006 09:23:00 AM  

  • I can't even begin to imagine it...Jen, you are a strong woman.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/21/2006 10:43:00 AM  

  • Whoah. What a story! One of those that's better in the telling than it was in the living, I'm sure. You wrote it up beautifully. :)
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 11/21/2006 12:45:00 PM  

  • I have only met one mother on the subway coming home from giving birth. It was physically very difficult for her. I think she was having after headaches from the epidural. Anyway, love the story, love the way you wrote it. HB asher
    posted by Blogger Kage at 11/21/2006 02:07:00 PM  

  • How lovely was that. Thanks for sharing such an intimate piece of your life, and happy birthday to your trooper of a son!
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 11/21/2006 10:40:00 PM  

  • You made me cry too. Happy Birthday happy Asher!

    I remember carrying dd from the hospital into the car. I was so afraid of some kind of contamination--as if the hospital air wasn't full of it. But it felt so exposed, walking out into the air. And I was terrified the first time I drove with her in the car. The car has never felt so dangerous. I can't imagine exposing a newborn to the ruckus of the NYC subway within a day of his birth. But Asher really does seem like the kind of kid who could not only stand up to it but probably love it as well.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 11/22/2006 12:56:00 AM  

  • Jen, that was so beautiful! I hate reading and I couldn't stop!!! I can't believe you took the subway home after giving birth, you are one amazing lady! Happy Birthday Asher! Your post made me hate this city even more. He he.
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 11/22/2006 06:51:00 PM  

  • Jen, I really love this story. Thanks so much for sharing. Asher is a true New Yorker.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 11/22/2006 10:18:00 PM  

  • Beautifully written-- really. Happy belated 2nd birthday to him.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/26/2006 05:02:00 PM  

  • What a great story. Thanks for sharing.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/27/2006 11:33:00 AM  

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