The Great First-Baby-of-the-Millennium Race

To win I've got to squat directly over the international dateline.

Published December 24, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

My baby is due Jan. 1, 2000, which puts him in the running for coronation as First Baby of the Millennium. There are people who think that would be a good thing. So many -- rumored, at least -- that my hospital has been anxiously surveying obstetricians' offices, counting up the potential customers.

So far, there aren't a lot more charts on the schedule than the average Jan. 1. But that doesn't account for the overeager attention-seekers who will show up before their first contractions and demand Pitosin. Nor does it take into consideration the truly determined, who will no doubt gather outside the surgery suite, and just as the rest of the world is counting down the final seconds of the year, demand C-sections.

Not that it wouldn't be sweet to pass along a birthday of 01/01/00. Very digital. It certainly beats the also-ran indignity of a lifetime filling out forms with DOB: 12/29/99.

But there's no winning this game. Think about the technical difficulties alone. Will every wristwatch in every delivery room be precisely calibrated? Will nurses who diligently fill out birth certificates be encouraged, with the aid of a fat envelope and a wink, to subtract a minute or two?

Even if your baby does manage to clock in at 12:01 a.m., it only counts in your time zone. To compete for the title of Very-Very First Baby of the Millennium, you've got to squat directly over the international date line. It's unclear whether the moms who booked flights to Fiji are spurred on by the fantasy of a People magazine cover photo or the gleaming promise of free Pampers for life.

I've reported some of those People magazine stories, and I urge caution. You may want your sweaty brow, fresh from the labors of labor, glowing from checkout lines worldwide. But after all, it's your baby who will grow up and have to endure the ignominy of public life.

"Millennial Baby Pees in Potty!" "Millennial Baby Dates Ordinary Girl, Born 12/29/99." A friend of mine, pondering the possibilities, concluded, "The very best he could hope for is a lifetime of relative obscurity." That's aiming low.

Still, I'm impressed by these moms' drive. Labor, as I dimly recollect, involved mostly a) hoping to endure, b) raging at husband, and c) demanding drugs, which turned out to be excellent preparation for parenthood. I also recall the profound joy -- and slight shock -- of discovering that the girl once curled in my belly was not the girl I had imagined, but her own complete someone else. If there's a woman who successfully orders her baby out on time, I'd be curious about the rest of their parent-child relationship.

Personally, I've got a simple aspiration for this delivery: Electricity. I'm generally one of those thoroughly 20th-century types with unshakable faith in technology. I never balance my checkbook. I order things online. I don't stockpile tinned tuna fish. And when everyone started Chicken-Littling about massive computer meltdown, I shrugged. I was happy to believe the printout on my ATM receipts: "We're OK with Y2K."

But that was before I knew I was scheduled to spend the turn of the century in a hospital, in pain.

I like electricity. It's handy when you need to get from the ER to the delivery room, via elevator. It makes seeing at night so much more convenient. And it's pretty much a prerequisite to hooking up that charming epidural machine.

I also know I'm no match for this problem. The baby will show up, world catastrophe or no. Better to presume there's a certain romance to candlelight delivery. And bonus points for impromptu natural childbirth. This time around, instead of Lamaze, we're taking Emergency Medical Service.

And a few common sense precautions. My best friend -- a practicing, certified, highly competent, trilingual nurse midwife -- recently sent out invitations to a New Year's Eve party. I was the first to RSVP. I'm bringing champagne. Forceps too.

By Leah Eskin

Leah Eskin is a freelance writer whose stories have appeared in People, Elle, Saveur, Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, and the Chicago Reader.

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