August 19, 2007
Don't Tug on Superman's CapeBy Bob Weir
I had been working radio motor patrol in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant area for about a year and had come across what I thought was every conceivable challenge a cop could imagine. Homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries and an assortment of other acts of human malevolence were a daily occurrence in the high-crime section of the borough. I had handled myriad family disputes that culminated in violence and vehicle accidents that left body parts strewn across highways.
It doesn't take long to become a veteran when faced with a workload of that magnitude. Add to that the fact that I had several good arrests under my belt and it's easy to see that at the ripe old age of 22, I felt like I could do anything. Well, Superman was about to be put to the test.
One summer evening, while my partner and I were chowing down on a greasy burger, or maybe it was some other fast food that could be gobbled quickly while sitting in the car and waiting for another assignment, a call came over the radio that would add another dimension to my experience.
The dispatcher said there were "calls for help" at an apartment in our sector, so, we shoved the remainder of our meal into a bag and headed toward the address. When we climbed the 4 flights of stairs, we were met by a few people standing outside the apartment door.
"She's in there and she needs a doctor," one of them yelled excitedly.
Thinking an assault had occurred, I headed toward the door while asking the obviously agitated woman who did it and was the person inside. She looked at me quizzically and said,
"Well, I guess her boyfriend did it, but he left a long time ago."
Feeling a bit confused by that response, I nevertheless pushed open the slightly ajar portal and my partner and I entered a narrow passageway that led to a bedroom about 10 feet away. We could hear moaning sounds from the room, so we took a quick peek before entering.
"Is that the police?" the bedridden woman said. "Please help me; I need an ambulance!"
What I saw when I turned the corner was more frightening to me than facing a man with a gun. The supine figure was nude from the waist down and her legs were spread wide apart. Her lower abdomen was distended and I could see movement just below it. I suppose I said something like, "Oh my God" as I realized I was about to view the miracle of birth.
A female neighbor was kneeling beside the distraught woman, trying to console her. Evidently, the dispatcher hadn't obtained the proper info on this call, so my partner ran downstairs to the car radio to summon an ambulance. He wasn't gone 30 seconds before the woman began to exhibit some of those excruciating pains that accompany labor.
"Just hold on Ma'am," I said through trembling lips, "we'll get you to a hospital right away."
"No, noooo, there's no time," she growled, her teeth clenched to ward off the agony. "She's coming! You... have to... help me," she said between gasps of air.
Now it really got scary. I remember thinking that they had taught me a lot of things in the Police Academy, but, if this was one of the lessons, I must have missed it. After looking around the room like a helpless dolt, I took a deep breath and decided it was time to grow up.
Suddenly, I recalled the doctor shows on television and I took my cues from them.
"Get some towels and hot water!" I said to the neighbor, trying to sound like I knew what I was doing. "Okay, Ma'am, just be calm and push slowly," I muttered, putting the towels next to her body as I began to talk her through it.
A moment later, I saw something that would change me forever, because I witnessed what can only be described as a natural phenomenon, divinely-created. Yes, I know there are countless births every day in this world, but to see it happen up close is to know there is a God.
First, the head emerged and some of her pain subsided. Then, after a few more contractions, a child was born. I don't know how she knew it was a girl, but she was right. By the way, I take no credit for the delivery; only the woman can do that. However, she did say she would give her daughter the middle name, Roberta.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.