Dr. Katherine

Author and "Dr. Katherine"--2007

Author and "Dr. Katherine"--2007

“Doctor Katherine”

Peter Cavanaugh


I had never undergone a Caesarean Section and was filled with fear.

This was also Dr. Katherine’s debut performing the procedure, yet she applied herself to the task with a certain quiet dignity and a superb degree of reassuring self-confidence.

Measuring my blood pressure, heart-rate and pulse beat with polished professionalism, she whispered, scalpel firmly in hand, that she was about to make a “little cut”, but I wouldn’t ”really feel a thing.”

I didn’t.

Then she quickly moved with dexterous charm, finally wrapping our newborn with tender care, placing him softly in my arms with gentle admonition to be “very careful”, since he was “all brand new.”

Everything had taken place in less than a minute.

The terror continued unrestrained.

How could a phone remain so utterly unrung?

My loving wife Eileen had given birth to four daughters, each one more beautiful than the other three. It had all seemed quite automatic. Paternal concern had focused on fulfilling established responsibilities of the ‘60’s era, essentially limited to timely transport.

Laurie was our first.

Doctor Katherine was Laurie’s first.

When Katherine had been born three years earlier at Toledo Hospital, I hadn’t slept, not eaten, nor taken serious drink for near three solid days. For an Irishman given to a taste for “the Holy Water”, this last denial definitively marked a power state of soul-shattering suspense. I recall sad bemusement reflecting upon the word “unbearable”, since it was daughter Laurie giving birth, rather than her hapless, hopeless, helpless father; he who could not “push”, “shove” or “breathe deeply” in hastening the advent of life’s most wondrous miracle.

Laurie had prepared Doctor Katherine for this new event with thoughtful care and persuasive conviction. A baby brother, Katherine’s first sibling, would be delivered in the same manner as had she. There would be no problems and should be no unfounded concerns. Daddy and Mommy would drive to the hospital. Grandparents Poppa and Bitsy would wait at home with Katherine for the good news to arrive in no time at all.

Katherine had her very own “Doctor’s Kit”, rather like the one Mommy’s actual Doctor would use. With her tiny tools, Katherine patiently plied and perfected her practice on Poppa. All told, I was happily delivered of eighteen separate children well before lunch

Having spent thirty odd years, literally and figuratively, in Rock ‘n Roll Radio, I had been amazed when Mick Jagger became a grandfather. He seemed far, far too young for such a terribly old thing. A few years later, I found myself taking no small measure of solace that “Mick had gone first.”, reminding myself that having a grandchild no longer conjured forth images of wizened, white-bearded ancients sporting plaid flannel shirts and baggy-bottomed trousers with two eyes toward Heaven and one foot in the grave, their “rocking” pathetically confined to chairs.

Our oldest daughter again delivering a child? Why, I had only weeks past walked her to school for introduction to kindergarten, becoming a heartbroken father when there was tearful insistence on entering the building alone. It couldn’t be more than hours since Laurie had spoken at her graduation from Carman High School in Flint; minutes since she obtained her Masters Degree in Psychology at Bowling Green, and wasn’t it merely a blink ago I proudly walked her down the aisle to marry Paul in Perrysburg?

Just as bodies falling in space increase velocity at exactly thirty-two feet per second, I have become convinced that time itself accelerates with similar immutability as our minds travel through the years.

Laurie had been hospitalized in heavy labor for several days prior to Katherine’s eventual, somewhat tardy emergence. Now, both moment and method had been happily determined well in advance.


The phone?

Mommy had been scheduled for an early morning procedure.

It was now 3:15 in the afternoon.


We surely would have heard if there were any complications. Paul is certainly an extraordinarily responsible young man and I didn’t want to call the hospital and intrude with my own selfish misery, but maybe I could pretend to be someone else making inquiry, say a next door neighbor named ,“Harry.” “Harry Phillips.” That’s good. No. Never. A man wouldn’t call.

Harriet Phillips? Perfect! I would talk in a high-pitch without sounding too much like Hillary Clinton – sort of like that “leprechaun voice” I used on radio commercials for Saint Patrick’s Day, but without the fake Irish accent.



Maybe I can—-


We had determined it proper that Doctor Katherine, Herself, take the call.

“Hello!” Daddy! She did? He does? Here’s Poppa!”

Weighing ten pounds and seven ounces with a length of twenty-two inches, Cooper Thome had been delivered with maximum ease and minimal discomfort. Husband Paul had remained stationed in the recovery room before calling, wishing to remain constantly close and consoling, waiting for restful sleep to enfold before taking even the briefest absence from Laurie’s side. He knew we would understand. We did. And were grateful.

But it will be hard for Paul to remember this when it’s Doctor Katherine’s turn.

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