A recent press release from Northern Dutchess Hospital about plans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the hospital’s Neugarten Family Birth Center has me reminiscing about the day my daughter was born at the center seven years ago this month. I’ve been transported to memories of both my children’s births and the joy and inspiration they have provided over the years. Shortly after Riley’s arrival on March 15, 2003, I wrote the following observations in a column – updated for this publication.
For most of my life I thought that newborn babies looked more like Winston Churchill or Lou Gossett, Jr. than their parents or any family member from their tree. For years, I visited family and friends as they rolled out their latest additions to their respective broods, and would stand confused – often dumbfounded – as someone in the party would invariably assert, “Oh, she looks just like…” one parent or the other. I just never saw it. Even my own nieces and nephews were Mr. Clean-looking miniatures from where I was standing.
I love kids as much as the next person, and I have always enjoyed the halo effect on a home graced by an infant arrival. But it wasn’t until the birth of my first child, Wyatt, that I was able to see anything in a newborn other than a small replica of a bald aging man. I distinctly remember when Wyatt was born, though, being left breathless with a wave of images of grandparents and parents, brothers and sisters, and indeed many of those nieces and nephews. I was overwhelmed by something inexplicably familiar: the upper lip; the Gibbons upper lip. And those eyes – shaped like my wife’s; hands and feet: scale models of those belonging to my father-in-law.
Less than two years later came Riley Anne – she with my perpetually furrowed brow, and my round brown eyes; the Gibbons lip and Papa Marty’s hands. I remember showing Riley’s and Wyatt’s birth announcements to anyone who made eye contact. I made no apologies about this. And going on seven years since last having birth announcements to share, I remain unrepentant for the way I indulged myself when my kids were born. As it was then, it remains to this day, I am tickled whenever anyone notes our family resemblances.
These days I find myself routinely looking for the similarities between parents and their new arrivals. Fatherhood brought with it a more refined eye – greater perspective. That’s the thing about your own children. Upon arrival, they enable you to discard past notions and misconceptions. They at once empower you to be self-absorbed in a way you have never been before; to see yourself and your loved ones in a totally different light – a new but familiar light assuring you that you are continuing something started generations ago.
Your own children call you to pay closer attention to their detail when they arrive and every day thereafter. At any moment, at a certain angle or in the flickering of a light, they transport you to the birthplaces of parents and grandparents; to the oft-forgotten days of sibling rivalries and camaraderie; and to those moments previously lost on you when meeting your nieces and nephews for the first time.
A discerning look or a crooked smile on the faces of your own children will remind you of the strong and creative souls of loved ones cut down too soon, and reveal the full promise of those souls regenerated in your time here. Your own children assure you, without saying or doing anything, that they are the legacy of grandparents whose proud, smiling eyes, and strong, gentle spirits will carry them through their days.
Northern Dutchess Hospital Mothers’ Club will hold a Silver Anniversary Dinner on Saturday, April 10th starting at 6 p.m. at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck. The event is part of the year-long celebration of the Neugarten Family Birth Center’s 25th Anniversary. George Verrilli, MD, will be honored. The program will also include a special salute to the Neugarten Family Birth Center nurses and staff, who are an integral part of the 5-star HealthGrades rating earned for Maternity Care for the third year in a row.
The Center is undergoing more upgrades and offers special touches such as gourmet meal and complimentary massage for new moms. Close to 800 babies are born each year at Northern Dutchess Hospital. For more information visit www.health-quest.org/NDH.