Seems like eons ago, when life I was at the apex where the valley of post-high school fun and games had carried on for two years, and the climb upwards towards my life goals was just beginning. I lived in Los Angeles, about 400 miles from the rest of my beloved family in the Bay Area. My sister Julie, at the time only about 2 years older than me, but far more years advanced in maturity, was having her first child. So as any loving brother would do, I made a late night journey by car from my meager domicile off campus and drove up north to visit the family and see my first niece.Long drives that begin at 11:00 pm are arduous. But I arrived the next morning in time to see the new birth babe and my lovely sibling.

Someone should have warned me. OMG, someone indeed should have given me a heads up. O.K., yes, I am a guy. And especially at 20 years old, I had no clue as to the incredible physical exertion that child birth places on a woman. But my sister was healthy, and I knew her well. Heck, I had known her for her entire life, through all the sports and cheerleader tryouts and everything. Over the years I had witnessed her sweat and toil and give her all in many rigorous tasks. But I simply was not prepared for the ghost white body that laid in the hospital bed before me. My god, what happened to her! Her hair was frizzy, her skin pale and drained of blood, her eyes sunken and shadowed. It’s as though the life had been drained from her. Or at least part of her life had been taken away.

Oh, wait, I get it now. Life had been withdrawn from her body. Still, someone in my family should have warned me before I walked into that room. I thought my sister was on her deathbed. I had to suppress the fear that my sister was near her demise. I mean, all these people gathered around her bedside in the hospital as her now frail body laid there. What else was I supposed to think? Luckily my sense of decorum and person etiquette prevented me from saying something rude and unforgivable.

As I said, someone should have warned me.

Well, I thought, at least the worst is now over. I can get excited with anticipation to see my niece. The cute new baby that had just been birthed less than two hours past. How exciting! And since everyone was saying how attractive she was, and I had never actually laid eyes on a real newborn before, I was so looking forward to seeing the new little miracle.

Then they brought her out, swaddled from head to toe in a soft blanket. The nurse uncovered her head and handed her over to me. Somebody should have warned me! Oh My God, someone indeed should have reminded me!

What the hell was that thing? My heart sank when I saw her. Now, after viewing this thing and a moment of thought and reflection, I understood why my sister looked half dead. Because she gave birth to a mutant creature. All wrinkly and pink with a distorted head that looked like a balloon being squeezed between two hands. And what were those bright red rings on both sides of her face?! What do I say? I can’t lie like everyone else was doing and say, “gee what a cute baby.” It was as far from cute as a lemon is from being a chocolate bar. She was hideous! Oh my gosh, I felt so sorry that my sister had labored for nine grueling months only to have such spawn come from her womb.

I had to leave. To walk out of the room. I made the excuse that the long drive from LA took its toll and I needed to go to the bathroom. My mom later met me outside the room to see if I was ok, which was a perfect segue into asking the next question. I am ok, but is the baby ok? It just doesn’t look right.

My mom laughed and explained to me what was called a forceps baby. When the head gets stuck in the canal during birth, the doctor needs to take the step of grabbing onto the head with forceps to pull it out the rest of the way. The result is a squished head and red rings on either side of the face where the forceps were placed.

OK, ok, I get why IT looks that way. But is it going to be normal? I mean, look at it. I’d be surprised if that thing would be able even to know what thumb to suck on.

Well, thirty-something years later I can say that my first niece did NOT end up healthy. In fact, in the entire family, I would say she ended up the most like me. Creative, individualistic. Self-motivated. Pretty darn special. All in all, she is a pretty inspiring person. But man what a scare when I walked into that maternity room.

Someone indeed should have warned me.