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Happy Birthday, Jessie

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Happy Birthday, Jessie!

7/9/79 One of My Best Days

The original due date for our first child was late in June, but July came and still no baby. I got on a Fifth Avenue bus after a Doctor’s appointment where I was told, once again, to be patient. A woman saw me and leapt up to give me her seat. When I thanked her she said, pointing at my belly,

“Well, I’m a nurse and, Honey, I’m not delivering a baby on this bus.”

I said, “I wouldn’t mind, I’m way past my due date.”

The old lady sitting next to me said, “Your baby’s late? It’ll be wrinkled."


"Like staying in the bathtub too long--You get all wrinkled."

When you’re pregnant everybody has something to say.

So we waited. My mother woke up on July 3rd and said, “It’ll be a girl on the ninth.” Mom was always right, but I didn’t think I had another week in me.

On Sunday, July 8th, Arthur put me on a forced march from our home on Horatio Street to Chinatown, a dim sum lunch and then home again. That evening we went to our friend, Kathleen’s, for dinner and home again with no action. As we got ready for bed I felt an unmistakable twinge.

“Arthur, I think this is it.”

“Ok, the most important thing is that you get your rest.” And he went to sleep.

Let me say here that Arthur was the most mature and focussed Dad in our Lamaze class. The others were eager to talk about anything but childbirth but I can still hear Arthur saying,

“Can you explain Braxton-Hicks again?”

I'd been told that it was best to be as far along in the process as possible before getting to the hospital, so I settled down to pass the next few hours timing the contractions.

I watched a movie with James Cagney and Barbara Hale, who played Della Street on Perry Mason, about the everglades in Florida. All I remember is lots of gators.

I worked on this drawing—not that I thought it would be any good but it kept my hands busy and my mind off the pains.

Barbara Swanson Sherman, pen & Ink, three herons

Six am came, the sun rose and I called the Doctor’s office.

“I think I’m having my baby.”

The receptionist said, “Oh, today’s my daughter’s birthday!”

I’m hoping for a girl—so this is a good sign.

I woke Arthur. He walked the dog and got a taxi, telling the driver to wait there and he’d be right back. I went down and got in. The driver looked askance at me and said, “No—I’m waiting for a man.”

“Right. That’s my husband.”

When Arthur came downstairs the driver said, “I’m sorry sir, she said she was with you.”

So we set off for Mount Sinai—a long ride from the West Village. We drove through Central Park; in 1979 Park Drive was riddled with pot holes and I felt every one. But the trees were lovely in the early morning light and I concentrated on my breathing.

The driver asked Arthur—he couldn’t look at me— if he wanted the emergency room, but no, the Fifth Avenue entrance would be fine.

We arrived and Arthur had to go inside to get change of a twenty to pay the fare. That’s right; in 1979 you could take a taxi from the West Village to the Upper East Side for well under twenty dollars.

I got out and thanked our driver. He looked me up and down, took a breath and said,

“Have a nice day.”

And I did have a nice day. Our beautiful baby arrived around noon; seven pounds, fourteen ounces and no wrinkles.

newborn baby, mother and father

Here she is, a few days old. She looks like she's not quite sure about us.

We named her Jessie Mayhew for my great-grandmother, Jessie Brown, because of a story my mother used to tell me. Grandpa Brown said to her, “I know you see Grandma as a gray-haired old lady who walks with a limp but you should have seen her. You should have seen Jessie running, with her long black hair flying out behind her.”

Mayhew is for my grandmother on the other side, Louise Mayhew Russell.

Here’s a funny thing. I'm Barbara Russell. I had Jessie Mayhew. And she eventually had Molly Louise. We replicated MomMom's name in three generations, totally without planning to.

three generations of women

Here we all are--four generations. Not in a straight line, because MomMom's not Mom's mother but why quibble. We're certainly connected by love.

July 11, 2019

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