Worth Keeping

A recent conversation with some Twitter friends got me thinking about some of the stories of my life, and the fact that, with my parents — in particular my mother — gone for several years now, I am the only keeper of these memories. My husband is aware, in a sort of surface way, of some of them; my kids have heard some of them, but no one knows them, of course, like I do. I’m going to put them here, so that, if any readers want to know, they can find out something about who I am, and more importantly, if my kids want to know who I am in my own words, they’ll be able to find them here. This, to me, is one of the most important aspects of writing a personal blog — it’s a place to store the memories. Thank you, WordPress.

Begin at the beginning

My dad was 53 years old when I was born; my mom, 36. They were both old to be having a baby, in those days, and I was a huge surprise in their lives. After all, my dad had another daughter, my oldest sister, who was already 23, and out of the house, married. My mom had three other kids, my sister 14 years older, my brother 10, and the brother next to me in age, nearly 6.

My mom used to tell a couple of stories that we always laughed at, but, in retrospect I think informed my self-image much more strongly than might have seemed reasonable.

At 36 she may have been old to be having a baby, but she was certainly young to be going into menopause, so when her cycle started “acting up”, she went to her doctor, a general practitioner who ended up telling her she had a “tumor” and would have to have her lady parts out. Into the hospital she went, the night before the operation (yes, can you believe it? not 10 minutes before, like today!), and the next morning, the surgeon stopped in to her room. She asked him what time the operation would be, to which he responded, “We’ll talk about an operation after you have that baby.” “BABY???” She was appalled, and cried the rest of the day, as she always told it. (Not wanted, much?) And, oh, hello? I’m sure there were *some* kind of pregnancy tests in those days. Weren’t there? Why did her doc jump right to the “cut you up and take out stuff you might want” solution? Never knew the answers to those…

Well, her reaction was understandable, no? Her youngest child, my brother, was already nearly 6 at the time, and she just wasn’t ready to do diapers and bottles and late-night feedings all over again. I do have to say, however, for nearly all of my childhood, one of the most prominently displayed photos on the mantelpiece was a large one of my dad holding me as a newborn, smiling down at me, while my mom, also smiling, sat next to him looking on. Wonder what ever happened to that pic…? It all means something, right?

The other story she used to tell, which again, sounds a bit sad in retrospect, but she always told so fondly and proudly, was about what a good and easy baby I was – she could “leave me in the playpen for hours without any fuss!” Hmmm…

Before the beginning

Oh, and maybe you’re wondering about the much-older-siblings thing? My dad’s first wife, my sister’s mom, died when she was very young, about 10 I think – he raised her alone through her entire teen years. Not very easy, I’d think, and very unusual for the ’40s. My mom’s first husband, the dad of my other sister and brothers, also died, from cancer, when my youngest brother was less than 2 years old. So she was left also, to raise three kids alone. She did have my grandparents to help her, and in fact the family lived with the grands for awhile. But it was no bed of roses; my grandmother was *not* a nice woman, and had always held it against my mom that she was a) born first and b) born a girl. I come by self-esteem issues honestly, let me tell you!

Anyway, at some point a mutual friend of my parents decided they should meet, that they might like each other, and so at the local town’s Firemen’s Carnival they were introduced for the first time. And things progressed and they did indeed like each other and married in 1950.

So. Enough for now. I’ll be adding to this page as things come to mind that I want to save. Happy New Year! 12/31/09.

My Son

I had originally thought I’d go in more or less chronological order in writing this memoir, but something came to mind this afternoon that I want to set down here.

I actually already wrote this down shortly after the birth of my youngest son in January 1994, so I’m going to just copy the original here.

“This boy has been a complete surprise right from the get-go. This is a mother’s prejudiced but definitive statement of fact. He got himself conceived against the odds — that is, in spite of us trying to make sure that didn’t happen; he manifested as a boy to a mother who had never been able to feature herself the mother of a son; and he got born on his own schedule (as do all babies, of course) in spite of everyone else’s plans. Here’s how that happened.

On January 22, 1994, I woke up a few minutes before two in the morning, just as I had most mornings the last few months, having to pee. When I was done, however, I suddenly realized that there was more going on than the familiar bladder pressure. Since this was the day we were moving, I spent the next 15 or 20 minutes telling myself — and the baby! — that this could not be happening, that I just didn’t feel very well after all the stress of packing all our stuff for the move, and we weren’t *really* getting ready to have this baby.

As the contractions got stronger, however, I finally admitted to myself that the baby was indeed getting ready to be born, and we’d better start getting ready for it. So I woke up Hubs, who took the news quite calmly and started right away to call the midwives. After reaching the midwife assistant, Hubs tried to get the primary midwife on the phone, without success. (We found out later that she, having just moved to a new house where there was no phone yet in the bedroom, had forgotten her pager in the living room and didn’t hear it or the phone out there!)

While he was on the phone, I realized that things were proceeding MUCH more quickly than I was prepared for — I suddenly HAD to push! What an amazing feeling — I hadn’t experienced it at all so strongly with my daughter, 5 1/2 years earlier. I could actually feel the baby moving down the birth canal, and when I checked, I could feel the bag of waters preceding his head.

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “What’s happening?” asked Hubs. I explained, and he rushed to get a towel to put on the floor for me to sit down on. Up to that point I’d been perched on the edge of a chair in the dining room, thinking “maybe I should write down the length of the contractions and how far apart they are; the midwives will want to know when they arrive…”, and, “where should I go when we get to the end of this? I don’t want to have this baby in the middle of this floor!” (An aside: I wasn’t resting comfortably in my own bed, because our daughter was sleeping in a little bed on the floor in our room, and I didn’t want to wake her before the baby was actually born. Also, we had — thankfully! — been planning a home birth anyway, so we had boxes full of various supplies for that. Which was why calling 911 or rushing to a hospital isn’t a part of this story 🙂 )

However, this baby had other plans, and while I was thinking those things in between contractions, the end came so much more quickly than I could have ever imagined. There, in the middle of the dining room, the coldest room in the house (facing north) during one of the coldest Januarys in years, amidst all the chaos of packed-up boxes and things left to pack, my son was born in about two or three pushes.

Hubs had helped me settle on the towel after I felt the head, and when it was clear both that baby was coming NOW, and the midwives were NOT, he put out his hands to guide the head which came out on the next push. With the very next one, the baby’s body was born in a splash and a whoosh. His papa caught him, and there he was, lying on the towel in front of me! All I could think was “Oh my God, he’s born!!” Then, he let out a huge yell to let us know it was COLD in here, and he wanted to be gotten warm, NOW!

It took me a few seconds to realize it was really over, and he was really born, before I could pull myself together to grab some blankets from the birth supply boxes Hubs had brought out a few minutes earlier. But then I did just that and cuddled my new son close while Hubs called the midwives again. The whole thing had taken just an hour from when I first woke up to when my son was born.”

There’s more to the original story, but for purposes of this blog, that’s enough. We did end up moving that same day, with a great deal of kind help from our friends and community. As I’d said to my midwife, when we discussed how close my due date was to the moving date (which had kept being moved and moved for various reasons), “what’s the worst that can happen? He’s born early and I don’t have to do any more moving work!” Turns out, this kid listens good 😉

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