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Chicago skyline 1970

We were anticipating the birth of our first child and preparing for it by taking classes in the Lamaze method of natural childbirth, as were other families in the Chicago Theological Seminary student community. Our obstetrician, Dr. James Jones, was popular in our Chicago Southside neighborhood. His office was always packed, yet he had time for each of his patients. He was a tall, handsome, personable African-American gentleman. No wonder his patients adored him. He also made time to fly to Haiti regularly to donate his services to expectant mothers there.

With Lamaze comes the expectation that husbands will be assisting their wives throughout labor and delivery, and Chicago had a law on the books banning husbands from the delivery room. We made a loud protest to the City Council, and the law was suspended. Having assisted in large animal births and trained in emergency human delivery practices, I had a vivid sense of what I could expect in the delivery room, and the Lamaze classes refreshed my previous experience with movies of deliveries with the aid of the Lamaze method. Jan and I had agreed that we would use Lamaze as much as we could, but we would not be afraid of using anesthesia if that proved necessary. Dr. Jones was on board with those ideas.

The due date was April 20, or so. Early in the week the city reversed its position and again banned men from the delivery room. The case went to court.

During the week of April 30th, the sleeplessness of end-of-term pregnancy was accompanied by the University of Chicago campus demonstrations following the killing of students at Kent State. An all-day and all-night vigil continued for the next week in the open lawns just half a block away from us.

Our first baby was typically late in coming, so we still had hope that a ruling in our favor would come out in time. One week overdue and Dr. Jones was gone to Haiti for a week. Two weeks overdue, with Dr. Jones due back the next day, we were just hoping that the baby would come out, sooner rather than later.

It was Mother’s Day, May 10, 1970, a beautiful sunny day. Our next-door neighbors in the apartment house, Sid and Arnie, were planning to make dandelion wine. We decided to help by picking blossoms on the Midway Plaisance lawns where the dandelions flourished. One way or another we were going to induce the coming of this baby.  Sid was a nurse at Chicago Lying-In Hospital nearby where we were planning to go. Sure enough, while we were picking dandelions, Jan experienced her first labor pains. Dr. Jones was due t in the next few hours, and the court was due to make its ruling.

Jan’s labor turned into a twenty-four hour ordeal. We went through all the breathing patterns. Jan was spent; so was I for that matter, with less justification of course. Dr. Jones was in the hospital, delivering a baby for Mrs. And Mr. Dick Gregory (the comedian), whose room was across the hall from ours, and filled with baskets of flowers. No court ruling came until a few days later, after Alicia was finally delivered, when the court ruled in favor of husbands in the delivery room. Too late for me. I was too tired to care anyway.  Jan had been whisked away. There was nothing for me to do except worry and pray about for my overly tired wife.

Jan remembers seeing Dr. Jones enter the room wearing a neck brace. (It was heavy duty bringing all of those babies into the world.) A few minutes later out came our baby. Later they all emerged from the delivery room, with my exhausted Jan holding a red-faced bald-headed, one-eyebrowed baby, who was not yet, but soon would be, the most beautiful little girl in the world.

I still wonder why the men of the city council thought it was their duty to keep other men out of the delivery room, but for us more important matters needed to be addressed—diapers, feedings, schedules, and finding our way as new parents.

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