“This is it,” she told me. “The baby will be born today.”
There were other things I had been planning to do that day. I had just
gotten a check in the previous day’s mail, and I was going to go buy
groceries and pay our overdue electric bill, for one thing. But all
that would have to wait.
Phoebe’s mother arrived around noon. As with our previous births,
Annette had one job to do: everything, except getting the baby out.
Above all, she had to babysit our four extra-uterine kids. (Thanks,
She brought a box of donuts, and a cell phone. The phone was not hers;
she found it in the street in front of our house! Weird. I don’t have
a cell phone, and I don’t really know exactly how to operate them, but
by slapping buttons more or less at random, I managed to dial a number
labeled “Work.” This, I deduced rightly, was where the phone’s owner
was employed. A woman answered, reciting the name of some insurance
company, and identifying herself as “Bridget.”
“Hi,” I said. “Did someone who works there lose a cell phone?”
“Ah, because I found a cell phone.”
“In the street. On 18th Street.”
“Oh. It’s probably mine. Is it blue?”
It was. “Yes,” I answered.
“It’s mine. Where is it now?”
“Um, it’s, in my hand? I’m talking on it…”
“Oh, right.” I gave her my address, and told her she could pick it up
whenever she wanted. Then I had to go get a bottle of wine.
We aren’t big wine drinkers, but we always open a bottle when a new
baby is born. Also, for some reason Phoebe really, really wanted a
package of Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookies. So I had to go shopping.
For the wine, I chose “Relax Riesling.” Riesling is a fruity, festive
blend, and “Relax” struck a responsive chord with me.
At around 1:30, I stuck in our Beauty and the Beast DVD, hoping that
it would distract our kids, who were starting to grow restless. It
worked, too, for a few minutes.
That’s when the lights went out.
I strolled to the circuit breaker box, but I already knew what I would
see. A uniformed representative of Oklahoma Gas and Electric was there
snipping the cables, or whatever they do.
“What are you doing?” I asked, redundantly.
“Turnin’ off your ‘lectricity.”
“How come?” I knew how come, but it felt like the right line.
“Didn’t pay the bill.”
“Hundred and nine dollars.”
“Can I pay it to you?”
“Nope.” And he drove away.
I went back inside. “Turned off for nonpayment,” I reported
cheerfully. “No biggie. I’ll get this straightened out.” Hmmm. Can’t
pay the bill online, because our computers run on ‘lectricity. Can’t
pay by phone, because our phone is one of those cordless ones that
needs ‘lectricity too. I had to find a way to…
Ha! We had a cellphone! I called OG+E on dear, dear Bridget’s phone,
and paid the bill, with dear, dear Annette’s credit card.
“Thank you for your payment, Mr. Gleeson, is there anything else I can
help you with today?”
“Well, yes. I would like my electricity turned back on now.”
“Your service will be restored within 24 hours, sir.”
“Twenty-four hours! Can you do it sooner?”
“All I can guarantee is it will be within 24 hours, sir.”
“But your guy just left! He’s probably still in the neighborhood!
Can’t you radio him, and have him swing by our house again?”
“No, we have to process requests in the order received, sir.”
“What if it’s an emergency? Is there any way you can, you know, put a
rush on it, or…?”
“Can I pay a surcharge, or a rush charge, or something?”
“No, we don’t offer anything like that, sir. All I can guarantee is it
will be within 24 hours. Is there anything else I can help you with
“No, no thank you.” I hung up.
“What did they say?” Phoebe shouted from the bedroom.
“They said they’d turn our power back on!”
There are parts of labor that really hurt. Not me, I mean Phoebe.
There’s this one part called the “transition,” which is the time after
the cervix has… ah, you can look it up, this isn’t the Discover
The thing is, the “transition” generally means the baby will be coming
out in an hour or so, and it really really, really hurts. When Phoebe
was in this transition stage, she didn’t so much speak as gasp. So if
I report that she said to me, “Sean, see if my mother will take the
kids somewhere for awhile,” it is only for the sake of clarity. An
accurate report would be that she said something like, “Sean, unh, it,
Mom… ow, kids… away!”
Which wasn’t a bad idea, as the kids were going insane. Well, not
insane, not legally, but without such stationary entertainments as
television or computers, they were quickly reverting to more
old-fashioned diversions, such as jumping off of the sofa, or banging
on the wall with a spoon. Annette took them to her house.
And we were alone, and the house was quiet. The only light was the
sun, and the only sound was the occasional distant birdsong, or pained
scream from my wife. Phoebe and I sat in the bedroom, waiting for baby
Theodore, or Beatrice. Or Bridget, or the OG+E man.
As it happened, Bridget got there first. I met her at the front door
and returned her cell phone. I didn’t tell her how useful it was,
because I was busy. Busy waiting.
For an hour more, we waited.
Sometimes Phoebe would talk to me, other times to herself. She gave
herself little pep-talks, like, “baby will come, we’ll have a baby,”
to remind herself of the purpose of this whole project, and the reward
for the suffering. Under my breath I sang my favorite hymn, the “O
Sanctissima.” It’s in Latin, but it’s a simple tune, as easy to sing
as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and the words are a very humble prayer.
Quidquid optamus, Per te speramus, Ora, ora pro nobis. Whatsoever we
desire, through thee we hope. Pray, pray, for us.
Maybe it was the prayer, maybe it was the quiet, or maybe it was the
filtered sunlight suffusing the whole house with a metaphor of God’s
freely given grace. Or maybe I was nuts, but I felt… relaxed. Somehow,
I knew, this was all going to work out perfectly. Not merely well, but
perfectly. My only regret was I couldn’t go blog about it right away.
Phoebe’s only regret was that the house was getting colder by the
“Getting… cold. ‘Zit cold?” she gasped.
“Shall I turn up the thermostat?”
“It should,” I said, wrongly. “Our furnace is gas, not electric.”
The fan is electric. “Right,” I amended. “So. Thermostat won’t work.”
“Right.” I changed into a sweater. And we waited.
At 3:55 we heard the tell-tale clunking of a utility worker fiddling
with our circuitry outside.
“OG and E is here!” I said. “They’re turning us on again!”
“‘Sgood. Baby is coming.”
“I know, sweetie, I know. The baby is coming.”
“No, the baby is coming!”
“Yes. Now!” I remember vaguely hoping that the utility guy wouldn’t
hear screams through the wall and call the cops. But I reckon he
didn’t. The lights came on, and the vents started blowing warmth into
the air, which our daughter, who had never before taken a breath, must
have appreciated, and would have thanked us if she could.
Beatrice Anna, you are welcome.