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Washington Voices

Daughter’s birthing story is similar to her mom’s

Thirty years ago Meghan Slick’s birth made the newspaper. Now, it’s her newborn son’s turn to shine.

In this tangled tale of moms, babies and doctors, Payton Slick seemed a bit bored by all the fuss. Eight days old at the time of this interview, he yawned, hiccupped and declined further comment.

So his grandmother, Cheri Erpenbach, started the story at the beginning, with the birth of Payton’s mom, Meghan. Erpenbach went into labor with her second child on a chilly November morning in 1981. They called her doctor, Jack McKenna, and she and her husband, Michael Erpenbach, headed to Sacred Heart Hospital. They didn’t get far.

“We saw Dr. McKenna pulling out of Holy Family’s parking lot and followed him back to his office,” Erpenbach explained. She was afraid they wouldn’t make it downtown for the birth.

Unfortunately, the doctor’s office staff didn’t grasp the urgency of the situation. The Erpenbachs cooled their heels in the waiting room for a bit before a nurse came out and asked, “Are you in labor?”

A nod and a grunt was all it took to get them ushered into an examination room. McKenna quickly ascertained a trip to Sacred Heart would be impossible, and it was decided Erpenbach would deliver at Holy Family. Only problem? There was no maternity unit at Holy Family at the time.

No matter. Twenty minutes later on Nov. 27, 1981, Meghan made her debut on a gurney in the emergency room. She made the news because she was the first baby born at Holy Family since 1977, and her birth illustrated the need to restore maternity services to the North Side hospital.

Flash forward 30 years. Slick gave birth to her first child at Holy Family Hospital. This baby was also delivered by Dr. McKenna. But this time, it was John McKenna, the son of the doctor who delivered her.

“Every time I see him – junior – he reminds me so much of his dad,” Erpenbach said.

Jack McKenna died eight years ago. Meghan Slick chose the younger McKenna because her mom had such a good experience with his father.

“He’s been through a lot with us,” Slick said. “We’ve had three miscarriages in the past three years and he’s been such a support, mentor and friend to us.”

In fact, Slick and her husband, Tyson Slick, had decided to undergo in-vitro fertilization, but before they began the process, they discovered Payton was on the way.

The coincidences didn’t stop with doctors and hospitals. Both Slick and her mother attended birthing classes taught by Linda Petersen.

On May 2, at 8:33 a.m., Payton Michael Slick arrived at Holy Family Hospital – not in the ER like his mom, but in the maternity center, which opened in 1983. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 1 ounce.

“Exactly the same weight as his mom,” Erpenbach said.

The family described the elation that filled the room when this long-awaited, much-wanted child arrived, healthy and robust. “I was breathless,” Slick said. “I felt like I was dreaming for hours afterward.”

For John McKenna, like his father before him, it was all in a day’s work. A good day’s work. He sighed and said, “They now have a baby in their arms.”

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