It was the year spring was really late. When I went to the hospital, the day was gray and overcast and the trees along Grand Avenue were still brushy and barren. I only remember flashes of dull color and vignettes of flat sky and trees because I was having contractions. It was the pain that was vivid. By this time, I had been in labor for 15 hours.
The day before was a Sunday, Mother's Day, and I had spent it working in the yard. I had got some used bricks from somewhere and I split each one in half with an ax and then made an edge for the long flower bed in front of the garage, the one with the yellow rhododendron. It was hard work, now it seems incredible that I was 37 weeks pregnant and chopping bricks, but I was not unable to do it; I was so pleased with the way the brick edging looked from the street. Hard work, then as now, was a keynote.
That evening I wondered if I had overdone it as my back began to hurt. I settled into a warm bath to sooth my aching back muscles but it didn't help much and in fact, the discomfort eased itself into pain that woke me up on and off all night. I had a busy week that week, cooking a large turkey and freezing it and making last minute provisions for the house and for my baby's father, in anticipation of being incapacitated for several weeks. I was becoming quite tired and hoped that I hadn't injured myself in a manner that would shortcut my final preparations for delivering my first baby.
I called my mother in the morning and told her that I had hurt my back and that the pain was substantial. She said, "You are in labor, silly." I was very tired and really scared, the pain was nothing like I had ever known, and it was very, very difficult for me to remain poised and calm on the telephone. My mother seized the opportunity to impress upon me how stupid it was to have been chopping bricks the day before. At length.
So this was my life that day, on May 12. In a split second, I decided to go to the hospital because I figured they could help me with whatever was going on. Problem was, with whatever was going on, I couldn't drive. So somehow, this part I don't remember, I got in touch with the baby's father, who was my husband at the time. He was at work, but he came to take me to the hospital. He, like my mother, seemed pretty certain I was going to have a baby. I wasn't so sure, because the classes I had taken had prepared me for labor pains in the pelvic area and this was a low back/tailbone/tush pain that was fearsome.
The hospital attendants didn't even stop at the emergency room, but took me to labor and delivery immediately. Imagine that. I fell into the waiting arms of the most wonderful people ever, the nurses on duty. They got me into bed, held my hands, fed me ice, smoothed my hair away from my face and sweetly explained what was really happening. I was dilated to 6 and was having contractions 10 minutes apart. And lucky, lucky girl, it was back labor. Some of it was tricky to gauge, because the labor was all in my back and because of the muscle distress in my back associated with the previous day's labor--in the flower beds. But they told me that without a doubt, I was going to be a mother that day. I couldn't believe my ears. What part of the previous nine months had I missed that would make that information such a revelation? Because it certainly was. Baby's daddy disappeared to the Park Inn Tavern where he spent the day. I went into the delivery room at two o'clock, where they told me I would be holding my baby in 30 minutes. TWO hours later, I finally delivered an exquisitely healthy, brightly alert baby boy who weighted 7 pounds, 9 ounces. I made it through the whole ordeal with no anesthetic; 22 hours of labor.
This was a sleep and eat baby. He ate like a horse and in those days, they let you feed them anything you wanted, practically. He loved a bath each morning and evening, and grew quickly and greatly. He shot up to the 99th percentile, height and weight, in the first three weeks. At his three week check up, Dr. Kapstafer said he would be 6'4".
He was pink and white, with pretty blue eyes. He had no hair, in fact, for many, many months he had no hair. But after a few more babies, I learned that this is what blond people do--hold off on growing hair until they have everyone's attention.
I spent three days in the hospital and at last, it was time to go home, back to my life and everything that awaited me there. The drive up Grand was beautiful. During the time I was in the hospital, spring had come. The trees had leafed out in that beautiful new-leaf, lime-green color and the sky was a azure blue, with the whole world bathed in a brilliant light. When we got to the park, I said, "Go really slow here, because I want to remember this."
And so I do. Every Mother's Day, I think especially about that little curly-headed blond boy who came from that pink and white baby, who ushered in the spring of 1975. That was the year my life changed forever and I began to do the most important work I would ever do. I still chop bricks now and then, but not without thinking about the next day. And when I long and yearn for spring, when the gray and dull brown wraps me up with no apparent escape, I think back to that one ride home with my new baby and all the technicolor times that lay ahead....
~for Ben with much, much love
The 'Kan EWA