Sushma Dwivedi Jindal was having her baby last week at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
As she was getting an epidural in her spine to halt the pain of contractions, her anesthesiologist started chatting with Jindal to calm her nerves.
“She happens to mention that there was a mad dash to hunt down the hospital chaplain for a wedding,” said Jindal, 37.
A couple down the hall — together for 10 years but never married — had their hearts set on tying the knot before the baby came, the doctor said. They had gotten their wedding license the day before, but then the woman unexpectedly went into labor.
Jindal blurted out: “I don’t know if this will feel helpful or weird, but I was ordained on the Internet and I can perform the ceremony.”
The doctor replied: “That’s nice of you to offer, but I think they want to use the chaplain.”
But once the staff found the chaplain, they learned he was not ordained to perform a wedding. Which is why, a few minutes later, a different doctor appeared at Jindal’s bedside and said, “I understand you have the ability to officiate weddings?”
Jindal was all in. She’d gotten ordained about four years ago with the Universal Life Church online but had never performed a wedding.
“I was like ‘let’s do it,’ ” said Jindal, a public relations professional in New York. “They’re in a bind and it’s the right thing to do.”
It was shortly before midnight. The doctors and nurses on the floor had spun into action to make the nuptials festive.
One grabbed some flowers from a nurses’ station and another braided the hair of the bride, Brianna Doyle, 28, with a crown of flowers.
A third dabbed lavender-scented stickers on her so she’d smell nice, and a fourth handed out battery-powered lights for everyone to hold. A fifth wrote a poem.
Yet another fashioned a bow tie for her fiance, Casey Walko, 30, made from baby bonnets.
Nobody was more surprised by the turn of events than Doyle when the staff told her they were making her wish come true. It was happenstance, Doyle said, that she grabbed her purse that had the marriage license when she and Walko rushed to the hospital.
She was still more than two weeks away from her due date. It was May 15, and they had planned a city hall wedding for May 17. They also planned to hold a large family wedding sometime after the baby came.
“When the nurses said to me, ‘We might have another patient in labor who can marry you,’ I looked at them and said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Doyle said.
Doyle noted that the other patient was, in fact, in labor, so perhaps it wouldn’t be convenient.
“They said she’s really nice, she’s super excited to do it,” Doyle recalled.
It was good timing for both women. Jindal had some time before she needed to push out the baby. But she couldn’t get out of bed because she couldn’t feel her legs after the epidural, so the wedding would have to come to her.
Doyle’s water had broken, but she had many more hours before her baby would come.
It was about 12:15 a.m. when a nurse found the wedding processional song on her phone and piped it in. The staff in their matching scrubs resembled a wedding party of sorts.
“We’re a very tightknit group, we have so much fun on the floor,” said labor and delivery nurse Sarah Callahan. “We just wanted to make it special for them.”
Doyle and Walko — who had proposed to her on St. Patrick’s Day — walked down the aisle/hallway to Jindal’s room.
When they entered Jindal’s room, she began the matrimony, “Brianna, Casey — welcome to the most unexpected wedding ever.”
Then she presided over a short ceremony that included a poem written quickly for the betrothed couple by Callahan. It read, in part: “Relish in this moment in your grip socks with no shoes. We’re so happy to be part of this day, we’re all so happy for you.”
Jindal pronounced the couple husband and wife, by the power vested in her by the Universal Life Church.
“I tried to sound as official and ministerial as possible,” Jindal said. “I wanted them to feel like they were having a nice wedding, not like they were being married by some crazy lady in the next room who was loopy from an epidural.”
Jindal’s husband, Vivek Jindal, took a video. Several nurses wiped away tears. Doyle tossed her bouquet to the staff.
“I was amazed we were able to pull it off,” said Doyle’s obstetrician, Inna Landres, who was the one who swiped the flowers from the nurses’ station. She gave the newlyweds a present of diapers.
About five hours later, Jindal delivered her son, Nayan. And about 12 hours after that, Doyle delivered her daughter, Riley.
Doyle called Jindal an amazing person and said she will be grateful to her forever. And she said she and Walko have decided to shelve their second wedding.
“Nothing can top this,” she said.