There I am in my neighborhood mani-pedi factory, on the way to the wax room when I pass the midwife who delivered my first baby. She is soaking her feet in a tub. We look at each other and in that first moment of recognition it all comes back to me: those 24 grueling hours of back labor in the (now defunct) Maternity Center on E. 92nd St., her gently advising my transfer to a hospital (my baby didn't want to come out! Even in the womb my daughter was a person who does not like transition), her wise insistence that it would be more comfortable and faster to transfer to the hospital in a cab instead of an ambulance, her preceding my husband and me out to the street to flag down a taxi--but it was rush hour! No cabs! (Another trait of the child I was about to birth: always time things so you have to do them the hard way), her running to the corner of Madison to see if she'd have better luck there (my husband was busy being a human armchair to help me get through the next contraction.) If she couldn't find a taxi--would I give birth on the sidewalk?
Almost unbelievably a lit cab appeared in the distance and we watched from afar as the midwife claimed one door, a middle-aged woman another. They gestured to each other through the open doors of the cab, exchanged heated words. Then, to my great relief, the midwife got in and the cab inched along in traffic down the street to us. "You'll never believe it," she said as my husband helped maneuver my contorted body into the back seat. (I thought of a soldier loading a torpedo.) "I had to fight off a woman who said 'I know you saw it first, but I really need this cab. My 87 year old mother has to get to a party.' I can trump that, I told her. I've got a pregnant woman about to give birth who has to get to a hospital. Without missing a beat, the woman asked, "Which hospital? Can we share?"
"How is your daughter," she now wants to know, shifting her feet in the soapy water. I tell her the baby she delivered is in college, stressing about final papers and exams. She tells me about her son the same age. She has a son the same age? She'd been pregnant, it turns out, the same time I was--which in my self-absorption of first pregnancy I had not noticed.
"Happy Mother's Day," we say when her pedicurist arrives. We give each other a hug for solidarity, and for old times sake. Then resume our attentions to the duties of maintenance which women of a certain age can not neglect.