Shelby Vittek | Longreads | December 2017 | 13 minutes (3,315 words)
It’s a hot August night in 1991 at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and the delivery room is filled with bright lights. A film crew is documenting a woman giving birth. After almost 12 hours of active labor, it’s time for her to really push.
A few anxious rounds of counting to 10 and many deep breaths later, the doctor says, “Ooooh there you go, lots of hair.”
“That’s it, the baby’s coming!” the red-haired nurse says with excitement.
That’s when I enter the picture, with a head full of red hair of my own.
* * *
I know this scene well. It’s my own birth. Not many people can say they’ve watched their own delivery, but I can.
In fact, I’ve watched myself be born more times than I should probably ever admit to. I’m doing it again tonight for the ninth time this week, sitting on the floor in my studio apartment with my eyes fixated on the television. The sight of my fiery red hair making its debut will never fail to amaze me.
The video of my birth in no way resembles your typical home video. It’s more like a documentary, with my parents and family, and then finally me, as its subjects. Every single reaction of theirs is recorded in the truest manner, and edited as well as early ’90s technology could allow. That’s because it was not shot by a proud father-to-be, but instead a professional film crew. I was paid $300 to be born (the check went directly into my first college fund, I’ve been told), and the footage was used to make an educational video for other expecting parents to watch during Lamaze birthing classes. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other people have watched me be born, too.