The starting gun sounded a few seconds after 9:15 a.m. on Feb. 28 in New York City. Associate art director Magdalena Deskur, live days overdue for delivery of her second child, left her Brooklyn home dressed in comfortable shoes, though not of the running variety. She wasn't beginning a five-borough, 26-mile competition against thousands of other racers, but she was starting a marathon of sorts. And she would pick up a friendly competitor along the way.
At 10 Magdalena arrived at the Manhattan office of Steven Swersky, an obstetrician who was recommended to her by Trish Chesler, our editorial coordinator and the mother of a 20-month-old son. A half hour later Maxine Arthur, an image scanner in our photo department who was well into the ninth month of her term (and who was also referred to Swersky by Chesler), arrived at the office for a checkup.
In the lobby Maxine, 29, greeted Magdalena, 34, who was leaving the office for an hour's walk—a natural method of inducing labor. When Magdalena returned, Maxine was on her way home to Brooklyn to pick up a change of clothes for the hospital, Swersky having noticed that her cervix was dilated five centimeters.
By 1 p.m. the two colleagues were together again in Swersky's office, where they were now accompanied by Magdalena's husband, Lukasz Jogalla, and her mother, Helena Deskur, and Maxine's husband, Al Peacock Jr. Magdalena, the mother of a three-year-old son, Pico, offered delivery advice to Maxine, who was expecting her first child.
As the afternoon wore on, Magdalena decided to concede defeat for the day and return home. Maxine, meanwhile, began having contractions and headed for Beth Israel Hospital, a few blocks away. Soon after Magdalena walked out of the office, however, her contractions started, and she too set out for Beth Israel. Maxine and Al, who had detoured to McDonald's, were surprised to find Magdalena and her relatives at the hospital's admission desk. "The first thing I did when I saw Magdalena was laugh because she had been adamant about going home," Maxine says.
The two women then retired to their rooms on the same hallway in the maternity ward. "I'd go check on Magdalena, and she wanted to know about Maxine," says Swersky, who shuttled between the two rooms for the rest of the afternoon. "Then I'd sprint to Max's room, and she'd ask about Magdalena."
Swersky expected Magdalena to break the tape first. But at 6:19 p.m. Maxine, with her husband's help, delivered Al Smith Peacock III (seven pounds, two ounces, 20 inches). Thirty-five minutes later Lukasz and Magdalena became the parents of Klara Jogalla (seven pounds, four ounces, 20 inches). "I felt like I'd run a marathon," says Magdalena. "It looked like I was going to deliver first, but Max passed me. It was fun going through this with someone you know."
Said a slightly winded Swersky, "It was a photo finish."
We prefer to call it a happy ending.