Labor Day Surprise: The Ultimate Birth Story
By Stephen Hanks
PlannedMan

Hold the cigars! When you don't know if you need a blue onesie or a pink one, it's best to just pause for a moment.

Labor Day Surprise: The Ultimate Birth Story
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Highlights


My wife Bea was a month shy of 42 by the time she was to deliver our long-wished for first child, and all we wanted was for it to be healthy.

I painted the small room adjacent to our bedroom powder blue. The baby shower produced a torrential downpour of boy clothes and toys.

“What the fuck!” I demanded of the obstetrician. “What the hell is going on?!”

We spent that night crying a little and laughing a lot. The only thing missing was some really good marijuana.

Editor’s note: There are all kinds of great child-birth stories out there, and no question the pandemic added a few million more. But try and find another like this!

Every guy over fifty knows the scene by heart: hulking hit man Luca Brasi nervously rehearsing his congratulatory line to Don Corleone on his daughter’s wedding day. “May their first child be a MASCULINE child.”

But that wasn’t me. It was early February 1992. My wife Bea was a month shy of 42 by the time she was to deliver our long-wished for first child, and all we wanted was for it to be healthy. In fact, actually, all things being equal, I was really hoping for a little girl. But when the amnio showed boy, I was more than okay with that. Either way, there would be Little League coaching in my future.

My wife Bea was a month shy of 42 by the time she was to deliver our long-wished for first child.

We decided to name him Sam.

In our Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment, I set about painting the small room adjacent to our bedroom powder blue. About a month or so before the target date, during the last week in August, Bea’s baby shower produced a torrential downpour of boy clothes and toys.

By September 1, Sam was already a week late and our obstetrician decided it was time to induce labor. We checked into the hospital on Friday the 4th, fittingly the start of Labor Day weekend. By Saturday afternoon, Bea was hooked up to an IV delivering Pitocin and nine hours later, around 20 minutes before midnight on September 5, she was in the final stages of delivery.

And out popped Sam Hanks!

Only one problem. He didn’t appear to possess male genitalia.

I was confused, aghast, panicked!

“What the fuck!” I demanded of the obstetrician. “What the hell is going on?!”

She just stared back. One of the nurses, seeing she had on her hands a father who definitely shouldn’t be in possession of sharp implements, hurriedly snipped the umbilical cord.

Great, robbed even of that moment.

The nurse corralled what appeared to be the baby and hurried it to the neonatal unit like she was a running back carrying a football. A moment stolen from Bea, too.

“Well, it’s extremely rare,” our OBGYN began explaining a few minutes later, in a halting cadence. “but it’s possible he didn’t receive the requisite testosterone in the womb . . . ”

Before she could say more, Bea, so remarkably calm she might have been inquiring about her baby’s hair color, cut to the chase. “Is it a hermaphrodite?”

“We’ll need to do a bunch of tests, sonograms, etc,” said the OBGYN.

“When will that be?” I asked in a pleading tone peppered with panic. She explained there would be minimal staff over the holiday weekend, meaning no tests til Tuesday. “In the meantime, until we’ve confirmed this” she advised,” I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Of course.”

I told everybody— not just immediate family and friends, but complete strangers, including anyone I happened to run into in the hospital.

By late Sunday morning, at breakfast with my mother and brother in the hospital cafeteria, my veneer of calm suddenly collapsed and I just lost it, sobbing uncontrollably. There was something profoundly, unalterably wrong with our child.

Bea—who through it all was holding it together—urged me to take a break, and since my Men’s Senior Baseball Team had a doubleheader that Labor Day Monday, I dragged myself out to the field in New Jersey. Upon arrival, my teammates gave a hearty greeting, everyone seeming to shout in unison. “Boy or girl?”

“I’ve got the next Tom Seaver,” I blithely replied.

As for the game, let’s just say I didn’t pitch that day like Tom Terrific.

While I was being hammered in Jersey, Bea was being traumatized by a hospital psychologist. She was informed that if the baby’s issue was indeed hormonal, the child wouldn’t have a uterus but could get estrogen treatments as a teenager to induce breasts and at least APPEAR female.

On my frantic, angst-filled drive back to Manhattan after the game, I thought about the mental mishegoss Bea might be going through. A few weeks short of 11 years of marriage, I’d long known my wife was a woman warrior who almost always kept her emotions in check. But this was a situation that would test even the toughest female’s resolve. She’d told me over the phone that, as a Labor Day treat, the hospital would be serving us a steak dinner in her room.

This definitely called for some attitude adjustment and a change of karma. I stopped at liquor store for a bottle of bubbly and two champagne glasses, and at a convenience store for a couple of candles and smuggled them into the hospital in my equipment bag. As I stealthily popped the cork, Bea told me the doctors had finally let her breast feed our baby in the neonatal unit. Now her tears were forming.

“I looked at every baby there,” she said, her voice quivering. “I’m telling you, Steve, ours was the healthiest looking infant in that room.”

We spent the rest of that night crying a little and laughing a lot. The only thing missing was some really good marijuana.

The tests were Tuesday morning, and it would be several hours before the results were in. To keep my sanity, I decided to head over to the office of the startup magazine where I was working, before facing the music on “Sam.”

By early afternoon I was racing to the hospital. I started down the subway stairs— then stopped and headed back up. It was time to change the narrative. If the test confirmed the worst, so be it, we’d deal with it. I’d noticed there was a Baby Gap store on the corner and decided I’d buy the most girlish infant outfit they had, which turned out to be an adorable pink and white striped onesie with a matching bonnet.

It was about 2:30 when, onesie box in hand, I walked into Bea’s room — and was hit with her wide-eyed smile. She’d just gotten off the phone. “Steve, you’re not going to believe this . . .The amino lab made a mistake! On the forms they submitted, they typed XY for the chromosomes instead of XX.”

“Whaaa?”

“It was a typo. Sam was always supposed to be a girl.”

Minutes later, we were in the neonatal unit. “Thanks, everyone, but we are taking JEAN LOUISE HANKS home in a taxi RIGHT NOW!”

All this time later, the young woman I love more than life never gets tired of hearing this story.

Happy 29th, Jeannie!

 

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