On Sharing Father’s Day with Marc Anthony
“You’re a little late. J. Lo left already,” the nurse advised.
“Really?” I responded.
“Ooww,” my wife added. “The contractions are getting stronger.”
We were at the maternity ward at Northshore Hospital at about 11:30 p.m., and it was pretty clear our baby was coming. Larysa had awakened me no more than 20 minutes before with the time honored phrase:
“Honey, it’s time.”
I sprung out of bed and tried to put my Levis on over my pajama pants. I had never actually done that before, but it seemed the thing to do. I had seen every expectant TV dad from Ricky Ricardo to Rob Petrie to Darren Stevens do it. Even one of the My Three Sons. But I couldn’t get it done: I just couldn’t get my pants zipped and buttoned. I ditched the PJs. Then I put on my pants, and my Let It Be album cover tee shirt. I wanted the first faces my son saw after Geno our obstetrician’s and mine to be those of The Beatles.
I had seen every expectant TV dad from Ricky Ricardo to Rob Petrie to Darren Stevens do it.
I grabbed my wife’s ‘go-bag.’ It contained a bag of her favorite hard candy, the ones where the wrapping looks like a strawberry, and several calming CDs, including Alexi Murdoch’s Time Without Consequences and David Grey’s Lost Songs. PJs and toiletries and slippers, too. Then I helped her put her coat on, sat her down and suggested that she call Geno while I went to get the car. After warming it up, I pulled in front of our building, helped Larysa in, and took off.
I never got to Northshore Hospital quicker in my life. I don’t know how fast I must have been driving. Yet Larysa never told me to slow down, not even once. We arrived at the hospital’s front door, and I helped Larysa get out of the car. The guard dashed over and said, “I got this. Just leave it there. Go with her.” Some things are obvious, I guess. The car never made it over to the parking lot and I never got a ticket. We went straight to the maternity ward.
That’s when we first learned that Jennifer Lopez, who had delivered her twins there three days earlier, had been discharged that very afternoon. We knew…everyone with a TV knew… that J. Lo was at Northshore. But we didn’t really think about it. We were kinda’ focused on our own baby’s arrival. And we completely missed her departure story.
We were placed in an examination room and a nurse entered.
“Hi. Did you know J. Lo and Marc Anthony were here? I met them,” she said.
“Oh, he’s so rude,” my wife said. “That must’ve been really cool.”
“It was!” the nurse replied.
“Mmm,” I said, and I nodded with a blank stare. But what I was really thinking was ‘if this place is good enough for an A-list Star, it must be pretty darn good, and that’s good enough for me.’
After Larysa was examined, we were told to wait while a birthing room was readied. The contractions, it turned out, were still pretty far apart, even if they were obviously intense. While we waited, we saw a TMZ story about…J. Lo, Marc Anthony and their twins. I watched. When the nurse came to get us, she did, too.
The birthing room was painted a soothing blue, and I wondered if we were placed there because everyone knew we were having a boy. Were some rooms pink? Were some yellow for the traditionalists who did not know their baby’s gender prior to birth? Someone will have to let me know.
Then Larysa’s delivery nurse arrived. She was the spitting image of Tracy Morgan of SNL fame. She helped Larysa change into a hospital gown and began monitoring ‘things.’ Yeah, there really isn’t a lot of respect for modesty in a birthing room. I sat next to Larysa, held her hand, rooted and comforted, and we waited. Then I fell asleep.
I was awakened hours later when Geno arrived. He spent a very long time talking with Nurse Morgan and the other nurses who had been in and out. I was troubled.
“That was an awful long report, Geno,” I complained. “Is everything ok?”
“Oh yeah. I was just getting the dilation and timing and such. And did you know J. Lo was here until yesterday?”
Larysa answered before I could. “We don’t care, Geno”
And then the pushing began.That went on for well over an hour. I kept my mouth shut and massaged my wife’s hand and gave her hard candy to suck on while Nurse Morgan and Geno gave her instructions and encouragement. And here I thought it was all instinctive. And easy. Not! Larysa pushed and pushed and sweat and groaned and pushed. And nothing. She was getting tired, and she was in a lot of pain.
“Sweetheart,” Geno said gently.”It’s time to change our plan. I think you should have the epidural.”
“Yes,” Larysa burst out.
“Nurse, take Mr. Falcone outside.”
In the hallway, God granted me some comic relief. Two Italian grandma’s were sitting on a bench there, and I joined them. We made small talk.
“Is your wife ok?”
“I think so. It’s taking a really long time.”
“Is this her first baby?”
“Yeah. It’s a first for both of us.”
“First babies take a long time. Do you know what your having?”
“Yes, a boy.”
“Us too! Her daughter and my son.”
“That’s great. Congratulations.”
“Did you pick a name yet?”
“Kind of. It’s down to two.”
“The same here! Our grandson will either be Morgan Chase or Chase Morgan. They’re not sure which yet.”
I was silent.
“Our children both work at JPMorgan Chase. They met there.”
“Oh. What about the JP part?” I asked.
I know: that wasn’t nice.
“Oh, that doesn’t fit with an Italian last name.”
I was silent even longer than before.
“I don’t mean to be nosy, but what’s the last name.”
Longest silence yet.
“What names are you deciding between, young man?”
“Leonard or Leonardo.”
No, this was the longest silence yet. I guess they didn’t like those names.
“Did you know Jennifer Lopez was just here?” One of the grandma’s asked.
Just then, Nurse Morgan came for me. I never answered them. I just said “Bye. Good Luck.” and left.
ShowtimeThe sun was coming up then. I returned to the birthing room and a kinda’ tent had been set up over Larysa’s knees. ‘Must mean it’s showtime,’ I thought. Larysa and Nurse Morgan and Geno then collaborated on a symphony of exhorting and inhaling and exhaling and exhaustion. I was extraneous. I asked if we should do some of the breathing techniques we learned in childbirth class.
“I think that went out the window hours ago,” Larysa said. “Just come here and hold my hand.”
And that’s when I realized how my wife was being incredibly ladylike throughout her labor. I could hear yelling from the adjacent birthing rooms. Women were screaming horrific things. They were cursing. They were cursing their husbands. They were cursing their nurses. They were cursing their emerging children. They were cursing sex and love and marriage and parenting. They were saying things that were going to be very hard to take back, childbirth notwithstanding.
But not Larysa. She never said a word. She never yelled or cursed. She groaned. Oh my god how she groaned. It killed me. But she was a perfect lady throughout. I was amazed.
“You should go get something to eat,”Larysa advised in the middle of all this. Can you believe it?
“I’m fine,” I said.”Don’t worry about me.”
I went back behind the ‘tent.’ Geno gave us an account of the process. Nurse Morgan pushed, verbally. Larysa pushed, actually. Then Geno advised that he would need to perform an episiotomy. Gals: take a moment to crunch forward and cringe. Guys: google this and gain even more respect for women. Larysa began to gently weep.
Gals: take a moment to crunch forward and cringe. Guys: google this.
Geno turned to me. “Lenny, you’re not a part of this anymore. Go sit next to her. I don’t need you passing out.”
“Honey, put a CD on please,” Larysa asked. “We forgot.”
I popped Alexi Murdoch in the room’s CD player. “Be fearless with your Love” he once advised us. We still were.
Geno then became more than just another fellow Archbishop Molloy graduate in my eyes, as he used all his powers and all his skills to bring Little Lenny into the world. Then he held him up to show Larysa and I.
“Here’s your son guys. Lenny, who does he look like?”
“Geno…he looks like Mao Tse Tung! What the fuck ?”
“I never heard that one before,” Geno said. “He is pretty scrunched up. Let the PA clean him up and look again.”
I hadn’t noticed that there was anyone else in the room. But there was now another nurse and a PA peering under the ‘tent’, and my wife’s privacy seemed to have gone out the window along with all the childbirth tips from the class we took. Geno handed off the baby very quickly and was back to work under that ‘tent’ along with the newly arrived nurse. I heard operating room command type sounds and I was shitting in my pants. Larysa lay there motionless. I actually said some Hail Mary’s. I mean, who could relate better or intercede stronger. And then…everything was ok. Whew!
I turned to look at our son getting a sponge bath on a platform. His head was turned toward me, and we locked eyes. I know he couldn’t see me yet, but I’m sure we connected. And I’m sure he didn’t want that connection interrupted, because the minute the PA blocked my gaze…he pee’ed on the guy!
A strong stream, straight up in the air, and on the PA’s tie! A preview of his personality, but that’s a hundred stories for another day.
Geno then took the baby and offered him to me to hold.
“No way, Geno. After what she just went through, she gets to hold him first.”
Larysa cradled our son in her arms and looked at him with as much love as I had seen in anyone’s eyes, ever. She was white as a sheet. She was soaked with perspiration. It was 3:20 in the afternoon. She had been in labor for 15 hours. She never looked more beautiful.
Then it was my turn. I held our son in my hands, my elbows on my knees and I spoke to him face to face.
“Buddy.” It seems everybody calls their son ‘buddy’ these days. “You’re gonna’ do some amazing things. You just gotta’ believe in God and love and yourself. I’ll always be there to help you.”
That wasn’t a prepared text I memorized. It just came out of me in that moment. I don’t know why.
It seems everybody calls their son ‘buddy’ these days.
The baby was nearly 9 pounds and 2 feet long. He came into the world with a pretty big head, which I immediately attributed to a part of his heritage and called his Ukrainian Cranium. He beat his mom up pretty good. She never tells that part of the story. But I do.
“What’s his name?” yet another nurse asked.
“We really haven’t decided,” Larysa muttered.
“That’s ok. You have time. We’re gonna’ call him The Big Boy until you do.
Larysa was taken to her room. The Big Boy went to the nursery. I was sent home. “She has to sleep.” I was told. And apparently so did The Big Boy.
Driving home, slowly, I called all our friends and reached no one. So once home, I sent out an email announcement:
“I never saw magic crazy as this…” – Nick Drake
Our son arrived today at 3:15 in the afternoon. He’s a big boy. He looks like my dad. He has large guitar player’s hands. Mom and baby are both doing well. And Larysa is now my hero for life.
I slept hard that night. At 8 a.m., the calls started. Everyone wanted to know about The
Big Boy and the new mommy.
Back at the hospital, I looked at my son through the nursery glass. He was bigger than the other babies. And he was cool, detached…in control. The other babies were all screaming. The Big Boy just chilled. Then a very large Englishman arrived and stood next to me. We exchanged pleasantries and his son was wheeled in. His kid was HUGE! He barely fit in the bassinet.
“Mine’s a boy too, mate. ‘Ave you picked a name yet.”
“No. We’re working on it.”
“Us too. I kinda’ like Colin, but the wife’s a gonna’ make the call. She did all the work, riyght mate.”
“Hell yeah,” I said. And I knew I was right. “They’re calling my guy Big Boy until we pick.”
“That’s funny. That’s what they’re calling my boy too.”
“We both better hurry up and pick names then,” I joked.
“Indeed.” He twiddled his fingers toward his son. “Hey, you heard about J.Lo, did you?”
“You know, I really didn’t care, but everyone kept talking about it.”
Then a nurse wheeled my son away. I followed her and The Big Boy into Larysa’s room. My wife held and stroked and fed our son. Nothing ever seemed so… correct, to me. Shortly afterwards, a different nurse came in and explained how recent studies had shown that babies benefited from direct skin-on-skin contact with either parent’s breast bone. I opened my shirt and tried. That felt pretty correct, too.
Yet another nurse arrived. This one was carrying forms. They were the forms for declaring your child’s name.
“Honey, we’ve talked this to death. We’ve met him now. I’m good either way. I don’t wanna’ talk about it anymore. After he’s fed and they take him, I’m taking a nap. They had me up all night with different stuff. You pick, and tell me when I wake up.”
Minutes later, with Larysa fast asleep, I pondered. The Big Boy would either be Leonard Steven, each of our father’s birth certificate names, or Leonardo Stefan, their baptism certificate names-—the names their parent’s actually intended. I thought about our families. I thought about our times in Europe. I thought “Hey, the President’s name is Barack Hussein. Leonardo DiCaprio is a star. You don’t need a fake name like Johnny Cougar to succeed anymore.”
I wrote down Leonardo Stefan Falcone and handed in the paper. Larysa was still asleep. I called my friend Milo.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think women are going to melt when he introduces himself. I love it.”
That made me laugh. Later, it made Larysa laugh too.
When the nurse came to retrieve the form, she looked it over and smiled.
“You know, J.Lo named her son Maximilian,” she said.
Larysa and I looked at each other and didn’t say a word. We didn’t care.
The next morning, we left the hospital with our son. Our sole focus was Little Lenny, and each other. No more interest in trivia. No time for scandal sheets or gossip or rumors or red carpets. No interest in Extra! or Access Hollywood. Couldn’t care less about Taylor or Justin or Brittney or any other ‘stars.’
We don’t believe in Kardashian’s. We just believe in ‘we’…Larysa, Little Lenny and me. That’s reality.
J. Lo. has left the building.