The years 1978 through 1980 were among the most difficult, exhilarating, glorious and heartbreaking in my life. After so many years of talking about the ways Bill could improve conditions in Arkansas, he finally had a chance to act when he was elected Governor in 1978.
In 1979 I was made a partner at the Rose Law Firm, and I devoted as much energy as possible to my job. Often I hosted social events at the Governor’s Mansion or presided over meetings of the Rural Health Advisory Committee, which Bill had asked me to chair as part of his effort to improve access to quality health care in rural Arkansas.
As if that weren’t enough, Bill and I were also trying to have a baby. We weren’t having any luck until we decided to take a vacation in Bermuda, proving once again the importance of regular time off.
I persuaded Bill to attend Lamaze classes with me, a new enough phenomenon that it prompted many people to wonder why their Governor was planning to deliver our baby.
As my March due date drew near, my doctor said I couldn’t travel, which meant that I missed the annual White House dinner for the Governors. Bill got back to Little Rock on Wednesday, February 27, in time for my water to break. That threw him and the state troopers into a panic. Bill ran around with the Lamaze list of what to take to the hospital. It recommended bringing a small plastic bag that could be filled with ice, to suck on during labor. As I hobbled to the car, I saw a state trooper loading into the trunk a thirty-nine-gallon black garbage bag filled with ice.
Our daughter’s birth was the most miraculous and awe-inspiring event in my life. Chelsea Victoria Clinton arrived three weeks early on February 27, 1980, at 11:24 P.M., to the great joy of Bill and our families. While I was recovering, Bill took Chelsea in his arms for father-daughter “bonding” laps around the hospital. He would sing to her, rock her, show her off and generally suggest that he had invented fatherhood.
Chelsea has heard us tell stories about her childhood many times: She knows she was named after Judy Collins’s version of Joni Mitchell’s song “Chelsea Morning,” which her father and I heard as we strolled around Chelsea district in London, during the wonderful vacation we took over Christmas in 1978. Bill said, “If we ever have a daughter, we should name her Chelsea.” And he started singing along.
I was able to take four months off from full-time work to stay home with our new daughter, though with less income. Bill and I both recognized the need for parental leave, preferably paid. That’s why I was so thrilled when the first bill he signed as President was the Family and Medical Leave Act.