Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

There are so many remarkable aspects in today’s events. But once again, I was struck by the power of Obama himself: Throughout this entire process, he has exerted an air of calm, steady, directed focus and control. He seems effortlessly wise, and well, grown-up, as when he said today, “the time has come to set aside childish things” as we usher in a “new era of responsibility.” If his speech, which I thought was a knockout, is any indication, he was signalling that the era of living selfishly is over and that hencoefrth the US is going to return to its tradition of humane concern for its people and its neighbors. He referred as well to a third group, a group who more and more our government seems to have forgotten: our children. For too long, we have been living as if there were no tomorrow, and Obama is not a man about to do that. In his stirring concluding words, he urged that “it be said that we have carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered to safely for future generations.”

On George W. Bush’s Inauguration day in 2001, my youngest daughter, then six, said to me, “I feel like our Dad is going away and leaving us with a bad babysitter.” I was worried too, but I tried to reassure her, never thinking that things could go as badly as they have. Today, she is 14 and has gone to Washington to see this historic event for herself. Meanwhile, I feel like we have been delivered back into the hands of responsible adults, and in times like these, even we grown-ups need someone to look up to. Barack Obama is more than I could have hoped for.

— Dr. Elizabeth Ford

it’s hours since I left the Mall. I’m a bit achy from all the walking–and the cold. I’ve seen the recaps on television and watched the President and First Lady dance to the Etta James song, ‘At Last’, sung by Beyonce Knowles. I’ve dozed a bit in front of that same television, and saw more in the recaps than I was able to see from 14th Street and Independence Avenue.

But, I was there and felt the excitement, the enthusiasm, the hope. I hollered, clapped and chanted O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma with the crowd, got shivers when Yo Yo Ma and Itzak Perlman played Simple Gifts. In the crowd, others and I sang along in hushed voices, with lyric gaps when words did not come to mind.

I couldn’t always see the Jumbotron; I think there needed to be more than were out there. The crowds were intense, and we were packed tightly together. My friends and I had dressed warmly, and even then we might have been colder than we were but for the body heat we all generated in the close quarters. A woman fainted but did not fall. People made way and gently helped her to the ground, gave her room to breathe. Those who were perched on tops of the port-a-potties signaled to the volunteers who pushed through and got her to a place where she could get care.

People talked, joked, dreamed and counted the minutes ’til the oath. One young woman kept asking “Keetch, what time is it? They have to do it before 12 noon.” Her friend, also African American, kept the countdown. “It’s 11:30. It’s 11:40…” And both groaned when it seemed as if the swearing-in would be late.

Cheers went up for General Colin Powell, “He was late, but he came through!” More cheers for both Clintons, “She’ll do a good job” “Get things done.” She’ll be respected.” George W. Bush was booed each time he appeared on screen. Some were upset at the boos, “That’s rude.” “He’s done, be respectful of the office!” Later when the helicopter took off, we all sang the good-bye song.

And at the end, as the last words of the speech hung in the air the only thing left to do was to share a hug, a smile with those around, and say, “We did it. Yes, we did.”

— Alexsandra Stewart

1993: I was invited to attend my first Inaugural Ball with friends from New York. I chose to avoid the day’s events and arrived at the Willard Hotel fresh from the hairdresser in New York for what I had imagined was to be a fairy tale experience. I was 45 years old chronologically, but clearly developmentally about 15. I should have known that this would be a night like no other.

My host, the charming Billy of Latin American lore, was also the husband of a good friend whose child I had delivered 4 years before. If I had just taken time to imagine what insanity this man was capable of, I can assure you I would have passed on this invitation. His wife had a very high risk pregnancy that required bedrest and special testing of the fetus for weeks. Once the pre-term labor risk had passed, she still had weekly tests for evaluation of fetal well being. Normally this husband would accompany his wife to these tests, but on the day that she was admitted emergently to the delivery floor from the antenatal testing unit, he had been unable to be with her because he was hung over from a stag party the night before. He had arrived home just about the time that she was leaving for the test at the hospital.

Once she arrived on the delivery floor, the wife called Charming Billy and told him to either bring her pregnancy suitcase previously packed by her or she would send her sister for it and he could just stay home. “OH NO, he wouldn’t hear of it he was on his way.” The fetal heart rate was normal and the patient was not in labor at 37 weeks so there was no imminent problem. But Billy didn’t know this. He just knew that his pregnant wife was admitted to the Delivery Floor with a problem. So, Billy did show up. Three hours later, he showed up. I was standing in front of the elevator when the door opened and Billy walked out. He was wearing–honest to God–aviator glasses and a leather bomber jacket, jeans and looked like Hell. He was no happier to see my judgmental puss than I was to see him.

It seemed my job was not just to take care of the mother and unborn baby, but to help the patient get through the day without divorcing her husband. So, I managed him. Or so I thought. I whispered in her ear that every marriage hits a rough spot now and then and stag parties do get out of hand, so let’s make the best of your baby’s birthday. She agreed. He joined us, momentarily appearing chagrined. He was given the chair for father next to his wife’s bed. I left the room to make hospital rounds and return. I hadn’t been off the delivery floor for more than 20 minutes when I was paged by the head nurse on the delivery floor–stat. I ran the stairs to find a very annoyed Ada staring at me.

“Dr. Allen,” she said, “You know how accommodating we try to be for your patients, but this is just too much.”

“What is the problem?” I asked. “You paged me Stat!”

“The problem is your patient’s husband. Her nurse asked me to intervene because he is using the oxygen mask to recover from a hangover. This simply isn’t permitted.”

Well, I knew it wasn’t permitted and soon Charming Billy knew it as well. We had a long day after this with a great outcome but the antics never stopped. He made new best friends with another couple. He volunteered to attend the births of other women’s babies. It was an unforgettable day.

So with this background information no sane person would agree to attend an Inaugural Ball as the date of a childhood friend of a friend that Billy had known growing up as an expat in Guatemala. “You will LOVE this guy”, he enthused. “He is tall and a Senator in the Guatemalan Congress. We will have a great time.” How did I not know that Guatemala had only recently ended the longest civil war in Latin American history? Charming Billy assured me that my date for the night was an important politician in the Constitutional Democratic Republic of Guatemala. I knew nothing about the infamous death squads.

At 9 p.m., my date arrived. He was at least 60 and towered over me. He spoke not a word, not a syllable, of English. I had expected a limousine. I was told at the exit from the Hotel that the BUS in front was my transportation to the ball. Weren’t the pumpkin and the mice supposed to come after midnight? My heels were high but my spirits were already low and we had just pulled out of the hotel driveway. Our destination was… the Inaugural Ball given by the state of INDIANA. A nice state. Right next to my birth state. But who knew that at the Clinton Inaugural that Indiana would host a Ball? And, they could clearly have used a New York Party Planner. In a random hotel ballroom, lots of drinks, this was not a top tier party. Maybe we had been driven to Maryland for all I knew.

As these things go…no it didn’t get better. It lasted as long as purgatory. The food was dreadful; not that I could eat in my bustier. He couldn’t dance, he couldn’t talk. Then, I heard from Charming Billy, “Don’t worry about the separation, he is definitely getting a divorce”. My date for the Ball was, indeed, also a married Senator from a Central American country—who spoke no English and couldn’t dance and for all I know, was a part of a junta.

So, somewhere tonight in Washington, I know there is at least one woman who had no idea that there would be no carriage and no prince at her first Presidential Inaugural Ball.

— Patricia Yarberry Allen

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