by | Apr 22, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SAN FRANCISCO — Today we are going to talk about babies, because I have been out here all week waiting for a baby, and when the little bugger finally arrived I felt like cradling him in my arms, and whispering softly in his tiny little ear, “HEY! WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? DON’T THEY HAVE CLOCKS WHERE YOU COME FROM?”

But let me explain.

Being a normal, healthy, American bachelor, I have always based my knowledge of childbirth on a most reliable source, namely the “I Love Lucy” show. And I think most guys will back me up on this. We believe that childbirth is something that happens in the middle of the night, when Lucy, lying in bed after a rough day of getting stuck inside a washing machine at the laundromat, turns on the light and says, “Uh-oh!” and Ricky says, “Wha? Luzeee, wha’s wrong?” and Lucy says “Ricky! Don’t get nervous, honey. I’m having the baby,” and Ricky goes, “WAAAAA!” and runs out the door in his slippers.

And two hours later the baby is born.

From this we learn the man’s role in childbirth is 1) make sure you have your slippers and 2) act like a complete idiot. And I can handle this. Which is why, eight months ago, when my only sister told me she was pregnant with the first new child in our family since my brother — who is 29 years old, so he can’t really be considered new anymore — I said to her, my voice full of pride, “Sister, I shall be there when the infant is born.”

Just call me Ethel. Hurry up and wait

There was, of course, one glitch: I live in Detroit. My sister lives in San Francisco. That could be tough. After all, Lucy did the whole baby thing in one 30-minute show. And that was after spinning around the laundromat.

So I would have to be swift. I made my brother-in-law promise to call as soon as my sister went into labor. Finally, Monday, the phone rang.

He said: “It’s started.”

I said: “WAAAAA!”

And I raced to the airport.

I called before I got on the plane: “How far apart are the convulsions?” I


“You mean the contractions?”


“About 15 minutes.”

Oh my god. This would never do. The kid would be playing Nintendo by the time I arrived. I got the first seat on the plane, closest to the door. When we landed, I dashed outside. My father was there waiting.

“Boy or girl?” I said.

“Relax. She hasn’t had it yet.”

Wow. This was a long one. We reached the house. We entered the house. There was my sister, who looked like, well, the house.

“Hi,” she panted, in between convulsions. I mean, contractions.

And we waited. What’s for breakfast?

And we waited. Two hours. Four hours. Past midnight. Past 2 a.m. This was not at all what I expected. “Why aren’t we rushing out the door?” I asked.
“Why aren’t we jumping in a taxicab?” I looked at my brother-in-law. “Where are your slippers?”

“The doctor says not even to come in until the contractions are five minutes apart.”

“But when Lucy had her —

They looked at me. I stopped.

We waited some more. 6 a.m. 8 a.m. My sister was actually going backwards, her contractions further apart. Finally, she rose and said: “I’m hungry. Let’s go for breakfast.”

“Breakfast?” I screamed. “You can’t have breakfast! You’ll explode! You

We went to breakfast.

A few hours later, we went for lunch.

Pretty soon, it was Wednesday.

“Labor can take several days,” my sister said calmly, even though, now and then, she would suck air like a fish. “Or it could be false labor. Or they might even induce labor.” I couldn’t believe what she was saying. But then, being a normal brother, I couldn’t believe she had found a husband, either.

Anyhow, with my concept of childbirth shattered, I decided to leave the house and go to a basketball game. This is a bachelor thing to do. At halftime, I found a phone. I called. No answer. “Must be snack time,” I figured.

I tried the hospital. Lo and behold, she had been admitted. I asked for the room. My brother-in-law picked up the phone.

“Lu’zee?” I said.

‘It’s a boy!” he said.

“WAAAAAA!” I said.

And that was it. I missed the whole thing.

So here I sit, with my first nephew. When he is old enough, I will teach him the most important lesson in life. I will sit him down. I will turn on “I Love Lucy.” And I will tell him not to believe anything he sees, none of it, not one single moment.

Except the laundromat part.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!