On Traffic Laws (And When to Ignore Them)

It began as all good bouts of reckless driving do: gun the throttle, pop the clutch, twist the wheel. Tires squeal as the car accelerates out of the garage, into the street, front end skidding around to the proper direction. A change of gears, more throttle and the race begins.

There’s nothing quite like tearing through residential areas at 55–60 mph in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, giving red lights and stop signs a passing nod by slowing to 35. Exciting. But not really frightening. At least I didn’t think so at the time. I had too many other things on my mind. There were six miles to go, and time was already up.

A nice road like State Street warranted higher speeds. About 65–70 mph. It’s the fastest way to get there, but there are also more cops. I passed one going the other direction. Fortunately, this one appeared to be on a doughnut run and either didn’t notice or chose to ignore my flagrant violation of the speed limit. It’s just as well. I wouldn’t have stopped anyway. And neither would you if your passenger was threatening to have a baby right there in the car.

I reached the hospital in record time, pulled up to the doors, got out and hit the buzzer.

“Can I help you?” came a woman’s voice over the intercom.

“Yes. I have an urgent delivery.”

I must have sounded a bit frantic, because she didn’t ask for clarification. Three nurses and a wheelchair arrived seconds later.

In hindsight I’m rather amazed at this completely extemporaneous choice of words. It’s rather witty if I do say so myself. (And yes, I do say so myself.)

The nurses collected my wife, I parked the car and sprinted after them a minute later. The scene in Labor and Delivery was much different from the one we had left an hour earlier when they sent us home, telling Lori that she was only dilated to 3. Things had been pretty quiet up to that point. Now nurses ran this way and that getting towels, blankets and instruments. The pace picked up even more once they discovered she was fully dilated and ready to push.

The baby was born 5–10 minutes after we arrived. The doctor arrived about 10 minutes after that.

I once asked a labor nurse how often she ended up delivering babies. Her response was, “As little as possible.” When faced with an imminent delivery in the absence of a doctor, many labor nurses will instruct their charge not to push. I’m told this is very much like starving someone for several days, putting a plate of the most delicious smelling food in front of them and telling them not to eat. The urge is almost irresistible.

Fortunately, this labor nurse was a bit more pragmatic. She said, if you need to push, then push. Try to push only hard enough to relieve the urge. But don’t worry. If you have the baby that’s great. The doctor is really only needed when there are problems. And you are definitely not having problems.

Lori seems to have a knack for pushing. Her last baby was out after about five minutes. This one took less than a minute.

Of course, the nurse was right. The baby was just fine.

Don’t Panic!

September 7, 2003. Pat Ekman
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