Bay Reflection
Mary Catherine Burns Appears to a Full Audience
by Uncle Burns

The first hand of no-stakes five-card stud is hardly finished when Emily, my 10-year-old niece, bursts into the waiting room from her listening post at the delivery room door.Mary Catherine Burns

Her new sister, Mary Catherine Burns, has finally arrived via mom Rose and we've been welcomed in to see.

Dad, Mary Catherine's brother Mike and I could have been there for the whole thing, by the graces of a new policy for the '90s that lets anyone the mother approves watch the delivery. That's how both grandmas and one aunt came to join my brother, the dad, at Rose's side. But Mike, 13, was the only one among us queasy folk outside the door who so much as tried witnessing his sister's debut. He soon retreated to the maternity ward lobby, deck of cards in hand.

But now it's safe, so we step into the sanctum. Yon hallowed chamber where the miracle of human birth has just been wrought. It's awe inspiring. It's befuddling.

It's gross.

Having seen a few horror flicks, my gag reflex is adequately suppressed, but just barely. My eyes jump about looking for some safe focus. To the right, a doctor holds the free end of the umbilical cord. Little Mary, though incredibly cute in spite of it all, is covered in some sticky substance I'm almost sure I didn't learn about in biology class. Barbara, Rose's sister and veteran mom, has a tiny bit of umbilical spray on her shirt from when my brother Bob cut the cord. It smells like a hospital in here. And that red and purple mass of biological mush sitting on that surgical tray over there must be the --


Dad and I huddle on the safe side of the privacy curtain; he examines the fabric's hemline and I blank space as the delivery crew on the other side cleans up the room, dumping unidentifiable refuse into biohazard bins on the fringes of the delivery zone. Carefully averting our eyes, the two of us wander into the closet-sized baby prep area attached to the room.

Most everybody cycles in and out of this little room, alternately glimpsing Mary and visiting Rose, though I'm all too content to stay put in here with Mike and Emily. After all, I had already greeted Rose, even if I did only shift my eyes out of focus, wave in her general direction and utter a faint "hello."

Yes, this room is much more comfortable, but not for everybody. The nurse is compelled to explain herself to Emily and Mike, who stand aghast at the standard post-natal care of clearing fluids from the lungs with a light foam mallet, giving a shot to the leg and treating eyes with ooze. Finally, Mary gets swaddled, finds her mom and soon makes the rounds, visiting everyone's cradled arms even before her weigh-in and first bath.

Five rolls of film, one camcorder battery and one room change later, Mom, Dad and I stop in after dinner for one last visit. Mary's looking and smelling better now that she's been bathed. Again she's passed around. Conversation turns to how Mary makes 19 grandkids for Rose's folks. And wouldn't you know, here our parents are with a modest count of four, perhaps a fifth eventually, between my older brother and sister. Eyes turn on me as I hold Mary.

Huh? I don't think so.

| Issue 33 |

Volume VII Number 33
August 19-25, 1999
New Bay Times

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