1956. Somewhere on Chicago’s far Northwest side.
Twisting my white gloves, I blindly followed the nurse into what was typically the dining
room of a Greystone flat. Instead, I gasped at the examining table with metal stirrups claiming
the space. Jerking her thumb toward the tilted, sheet-covered surface, she said, “Undress.”
Was she really a nurse?
A pervasive, indeterminate, sickly-sweet stench made me woozy as I slowly slipped off
my brown pumps, crisp beige blouse, carefully folded my best camel-wool pencil skirt,
unhooked my white cotton bra, unsnapped the garters to smooth down my stockings, wriggled
out of my girdle, and mounted the table. While draping myself with the extra sheet, I silently
thanked my Melvin for supporting my choice.
I started when a stocky, blond-headed man entered from a side door and strode toward
me. Younger than I’d imagined. His smug grin made me recoil.
“Lie back,” he said. “Let’s see how far along you are.”
I stayed upright, pulling the sheet tighter around me.
“Dr. Abrams suspects nine weeks.”
“Ah, one of Abrams’ girls. Good doctor, but won’t get his hands dirty.”
The nerve! “What about his home deliveries for Maxwell Street’s Maternity Center?”
“Doesn’t make him a saint.” He clucked his tongue. “Now let’s get on with it.”
My lower abdomen twinged. Reflexively, my bloodless palms sheltered my stomach. “I
have four children.”
“Most of the women I see have children. Have your husband buy you a diamond necklace
when it’s all over.”
Was he calling us rich Jews?
Could I leap from the table and snatch my clothes? Bra, blouse, girdle, stockings, skirt,
pumps. What could I leave behind for a hasty escape?
Where was my diamond necklace?
Della Leavitt is a Chicago writer seeking publication for her historical novel, Beyond Maxwell Street (1923-1956). The novel follows two generations of two Ukrainian Jewish immigrant families where the matriarchs and their Chicago-born daughters encounter parallel childbearing challenges. This work earned 2021 support from both the Newberry Library and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Della was recently named a Semi-Finalist in Illinois’s 2022 Soon to be Famous Author manuscript project.
To enter a competition, go to our current competition page.