On One Hand

June 18, 2007

Births

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:43 am

One of the tasks the many interns at the Daily Camera must do is the paper’s busywork; by that I mean typing up the mundane information every paper has, such as upcoming events, concerts and benefits, marriage announcements, obituaries, and the like. It’s an important skill set for Journalism interns to have, because when they someday work for newspapers full-time, they must be able to tell the new group of interns how to do the busywork.

Features section interns are assigned to do the “Births” announcement section, and when I come in to work on Mondays, I type up the births for the following Sunday’s paper. The births arrive in the newsroom on little forms that the parents fill in at the hospital, and I enter them into the computer system with the proper formatting. The format is LAST NAME – mother’s name, father’s name, town, baby’s gender (“a son” or “a daughter”), born MONTH, DAY. That’s the listings will appear in the paper, arranged in alphabetical order and broken into groups based on the hospital the baby was born in.

It’s a nice arrangement, putting the mother’s name first, which I was initially confused about because names come in on the forms differently depending on how they were filled out (almost always by the father). I do prefer to put the mother first, and I don’t think it’s making a political statement, because, after all, it’s the mother who gives birth to the child, not the father, and sometimes a father isn’t even in the picture by the time the baby is born. That’s true for any culture or political affiliation, be you a feminist or not, and it’s the policy of the newspaper to arrange the names that way.

My boyfriend’s sister-in-law just had her first child on May 14, and on Monday I was the one who happened to find the bith announcement in my stack of papers to enter into the computer system. Garrett had been talking about the birth of his neice constantly so I immediately recognized the baby’s name. The signature and handwriting was my boyfriend’s Brother’s.

After typing the names into the computer we’re supposed to throw the form away to avoid allowing it to be typed in twice by another careless intern, but I tucked the slip of paper into my pocket to it to give to the baby’s family. Garrett gasped when he saw it. “That’s my brother!” he said, pointing to the signature at the bottom of the page that gives the newspaper permission to print the names. It was cute.

I love typing in the Hispanic birth announcements, just because they have so many names. Babys keep the mother’s name and the father’s name along with a baptismal name and first name, so everyone in the family is known by four words per person. For example, if Jose Manuel Darien-Lopez and Valeria Maria Favila-Garcia have a daughter, she will be FIRST NAME, BAPTISMAL NAME Favila Darien.

The resulting birth announcement in the Camera will read FAVILA-DARIEN – Valeria Maria Favila-Garcia and Jose Manuel Darien-Lopez, of Louisville, a daughter, Alexis Esmeralda Favila Darien, born June 15. It takes up about 2.5 times as many column inches to print a Hispanic baby’s birth announcement as it does to print a birth with a traditional American name.

My favorite birth was of William Henry Deaver V, apparently coming from a long line of proud Deavers, born on June 11. I’ve also gotten a couple sets of twins, which come in on separate birth announcements so you have to be astute enough to catch them because they should run in the paper under just one entry listing both baby names. Families might be annoyed if their twin sons or daughters were listed born on the same day but printed a week apart on separate Sundays.

I got my first same-sex couple in the birth announcements today, but didn’t know which mother is the birthing mother which would determine whose name should come first. Gender roles may be annoying and oppressive, but they do come in handy for identification. I’m assuming, though, that the partner who filled out the form is not the partner who gave birth, since that’s usually how it goes. But for all I know they both adopted a child from a third person, and the whole assumption goes to crap. Someday my own name will be listed as a father in a birth announcement, and we’ll have no clue as to whose name should come first.

Today I also got the birth info for a much more mysterious family. I will change the name to protect the family’s identity, but basically, the hospital form looked like this:

BOULDER COMMUNITY FOOTHILLS HOSPITAL BIRTH INFORMATION FORM

NAME OF PARENTS: Mr. and Mrs. John H. Henderson.
CITY: Longmont
BABY’s NAME: Jane Grace Henderson
DATE OF BIRTH: June 01
SEX: Boy XGirl
AUTHORIZATION: Signed, John Henderson

And by “Mr. and Mrs. John H. Henderson,” I do not mean it said John Henderson and Judy Henderson. It literally said “Mr. and Mrs. John H. Henderson,” refering to both parents by the father’s name only.

Holy fucking shit. What year is this, 1827? I put the form back in the stack for next week’s intern to figure out, and wrote “Mother’s Name????” on it in red pen. For fuck’s sake, John, someday you pop out a living 8-pound turd you carried around for 9 months and see if you’re happy when your partner is the only name that shows up in the damn paper.

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