Birth & Afterbirth
March 23, 1957
“Oh, God Mitchie!” Clenching her jaw against the pain of the contraction. “It hurts so bad.” When the pain passed, “What time’s it?” she asked for the fifth time in as many contractions.
Holding her hand, wiping her forehead with a damp washcloth, glancing at his watch, “Eight-thirty-two.” Getting the early morning call, Mitchell had arrived at the hospital about two hours earlier.
The contractions had now dropped from five to three minutes apart.
“Whew!” Taking a deep breath, forcing a smile, “Know what?”
“No, honey.” Lifting her hand to his lips, “What?”
“I don’t like this no more. Tell ‘em I wanna... emmm! Tell ‘em I wanna go home.” Like the stretching of a rubber band, the cramping sensation once again tightening within her lower abdomen. “Oh, God!” Biting her lip, “Bad!” screwing her eyes shut, the veins in her neck and forehead standing in embossed relief against her pale, damp flesh. “This one’s so bad!”
Feeling a stinging in his eyes for the pain of his wife, “Honey, it was closer this time. What do you want me to do? Should I get a nurse?”
Breathing rapidly, “Yeah, Mitchie, go get ‘em and tell ‘em I changed my mind.”
“Changed your mind?”
“Yeah! Natural childbirth! Tell ‘em screw natural childbirth! Tell ‘em I wanna be knocked out!”
Remembering the conversations with her aunts, cousin and Rosalie, Mitchell could not tell if she was serious. “You don’t want to be awake?” Wanting no mistake in this. “You really want me to tell Greenblatt that you do not want to be awake where you deliver?”
No response for a moment, then, as the squeezing lessened and the pain leased, “No,” Marsha whispered. “I guess not.”
“ ‘No’? you ‘guess not’ what, Marcie? That you don’t want to be awake, or you do want to be awake?”
“I wanna be... Oh shit! Oh, God! Oh, my, God!”
Feeling her shoulder being shaken.
Opening her eyes, she saw the bright glare of a powerful overhead light. Squinting, Marsha looked from the light to the white gowned, masked figure standing alongside the gurney, or whatever she was laying on, thinking, If it’s Mitchell, he’s shrunken. ”Huh?”
“Marsha, It’s Doctor Greenblatt. Do you want me to put you to sleep or do you want a saddle-block? Mitchell said you didn’t know and you’ve got to let me know, now!”
Coming out of the light anesthetic, feeling another sharp contraction, grimacing in pain, “Yes, yes, yes!” She said emphatically moving her head from side to side negatively.
“Marsha, do you want to be awake or asleep?”
“Asleep, Doc!” She said without hesitation. “I want to be asleep!”
Cradled in her arms, the nurse held the baby tilted upward so he could see its little, red face.
“Oh, God!” he said aloud, thinking... Actually what he thought was not so much a thought as a deeply felt sensation that even the thought that he, Mitchell Lipensky was a father was... incomprehensible. Tapping on the window, “Hi, my baby.” he said as, feeling foolish, he glanced to his left, at an elderly couple, obviously its grandparents, “Kootchie-kooing.,” to a newborn grandson or granddaughter from the hallway site of the nursery window.
Turning away, the nurse began to lay the baby into a basinet, but, tapping on the window, he motioned to her by holding a finger forward, mouthing, “One more minute, please.”
Simply put, the reality of this would not sink in and once again Mitchell Lipensky wondered, how can this really be? The idea of him being a father, a ‘daddy’, was about the same as the concept of pushing a feather through a rock” Impossible!
Holding the baby forward a minute longer, the nurse then lay him onto his back in the bassinet, and still he stood, looking at this ‘little thing’ that was his baby, his child and Mitchell’s heart swelled with joy and pride and the sweet strain forced a tightening in his chest and throat and tears came to his eyes as, pressing his forehead onto the window, covering the sides of his face with his hands so no one will hear his whispering or see his tears, “I love you, my baby,” Mitchell whispered, “Your daddy... Oh, God, Your
daddy loves you so much!”
Her eyes closed, Marsha appeared to be sleeping.
Sitting alongside the bed, taking her dry, warm hand into his, “Marcie,” he said softly.
Opening her eyes, “Hi, Mitchie,” she said drowsily.
“So, did you see him?”
“Yes, I did. He’s beautiful, Marcie! You made a beautiful baby.”
“No. We, Mitchie! We made him; you and me! You think so? You really think he’s beautiful?”
Lifting her hand to his lips, kissing the tip of a finger, “Nah, I was lying.” He lied. “He looks like a shriveled up old man.” Which, actually, the baby almost did. Teasing her, “One thing, sure,” he added, “the kid’s got your nose.” Which, actually, the baby did. “And what about the ‘bobbea meisseh’ (old wives tale) about heartburn meaning lots’a hair? The kid’s bald as a cantaloupe.” Which, actually, he was.
“Yeah, but he’s got your bubble chin and pixie ears,” Which, actually, though it was too early to tell, he did.
“Yeah, okay, you can blame me for that neat stuff, Marcie, but he’s sure got your mouth; you should hear him cry!”
“Michael was crying? Maybe he’s hungry!”
‘Michael’? Preferring a girl... or a boy, they hadn’t been too sure of the name before, but then, as Marsha
said it, ‘Michael’ fit perfectly.
“No, baby,” he smiled, “I was only kidding, ‘Mikey’ was quiet as a church mouse.”
“Good.” Her eyes closed, then opened. “Did you call everyone?”
“Yeah, sure. As soon as Greenblatt told me everything was okay, I called your mom first, then mine and told them about you and Mikey and asked them to call everyone else.”
“Good. Guess that means the phone calls should be...Mmmm!” Moaning, Marsha grimaced as she changed positions.
“What’s the matter? You okay?”
“I’m just sore, from where they stitched me.”
“Stitched? What do you mean ‘from where they stitched you’?”
“Mitchie, they had to cut me to help get the baby out.”
‘Knocked out’, ‘put to sleep’, did not, in Mitchell’s mind, equate to: ”They had to cut me.”
“For God’s sake, Marsha, I didn’t know that!” Asked stupidly, “Where?”
“ ‘Where’?” Smiling, “Here,” pointing to her forehead, but seeing the look of concern on his face, motioning towards her crotch, “No, It’s okay, Mitchie. They cut me down here. It’s called an ‘episiotomy’, and unless you’re going to have natural childbirth,” smiling wanly, “which I didn’t, or having a ‘cesarean’, most women have episiotomies now.”
“Excuse me, Mrs. Lipensky.” A nurse coming into the room asked, “are you planning on breast feeding?”
Emphatically, “Oh, yes!”
Looking at Mitchell, “You’re the father?”
“As unbelievable as it seems,” looking at her name badge, “Miss Black, that’s me.”
“Okay, you can stay if you want, but please, call me Joyce.” Going to the foot of the bed, consulting Marsha’s file, “This is your first child, so if you’d like, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
“What’s to show? I thought all you’ve got to do is put the baby here,” touching a breast, “and he’ll do the rest.”
“Hypothetically that’s true ,” the nurse said, “but sometimes it’s not quite that simple.”
Watching, Mitchell sat in a chair to the right of the bed.
In a hospital gown, Marsha had slipped her arms through and lowered the gown off her shoulders, revealing her entire chest.
“Sit up just a bit higher. Lean against the pillow and cradle Michael this way.” Standing to the left
of the bed, placing Marsha’s arm a bit lower, Joyce moved the baby’s face to her right breast...
Outside of their pregnancy induced size that Mitchell liked, A lot; hoping that once she was through nursing Marsha’s nipples, at least, would return to how they’d been... Mitchell wondered when it had happened, because, though the areolae had flattened and enlarged before she had the baby, they had now changed color also and completely gone were the, in his opinion, beautiful, domed, dusky-pink areolae of Marsha’s nipples. Considering himself an aficionado of breasts – well, really, his wife’s breasts – he saw that the appearance of her breasts had changed once again, because lines of crooked, dark-blue veins now ran beneath the translucent, tautly stretched flesh that appeared to emanate from, or end at the, now, dark-brown areolae.
With Michael’s head cradled in the crook of her left arm, holding her right breast from beneath, squeezing the nipple between her thumb and forefinger, producing a driblet of thin, white substance, Marsha directed the wrinkled, erectly standing flesh to her baby’s mouth...
Watching his wife and the newly born child in her arms, Mitchell felt the solid ache of his barely continued love of Marsha and his son... But also, looking at his wife’s newly changed, pale-white breasts with their strange, dark-brown nipples – which he did not think of as ‘pretty’ – sensing the familiar tightening within his crotch, he wondered at his perverse nature for allowing himself to even think of sex at such a wondrous time – but then realized that his thoughts were not of sex – but if I’m not thinking about sex, he thought, then why in the hell do I have boner? And again, as many, many time in the past, the thought that his penis truly does have a mind of it’s own flitted through the mind... the upper mind, of Mitchell Lipensky.
...But Michael did not accept the nipple.
“Try leaning back a bit, Marsha.”
Glancing at Joyce, feeling the pain of her stitches, scooting downward a bit, trying again...
“Now let’s see if the little guy ‘latches on’.”
But jerking his head to the side, smacking his lips, Michael began to cry.
“Hold him a bit firmer, and try to keep the nipple in his mouth.”
Complying, but afraid to hold him too tightly, Marsha again moved his head to her breast and again held the nipple to his lips and relaxed as, feeling a pleasant drawing sensation, the baby stopped crying... Only for a moment, though, till releasing his tenuous hold, again jerking his head away, Michael made two hard, drawing motions with his lips, then, his face becoming crimson, cried harder than before.
“He doesn’t want it! He’s so hungry, but doesn’t want it!”
“Don’t get too upset over this, Marsha. Newborns aren’t really in need of nourishment this soon after birth.
The sucking is just a reflex and he’s not all that hungry. Go on, keep trying.”
The manipulation of her breast had forced more of the thin, watery fluid to ooze from the perforation at the tip of the nipple.
“Marsha, rub some of the colostrum over his lips.”
“ ‘Colostrum’?” Mitchell questioned. “That’s not milk?”
Looking across the bed, “It’s a form of milk. The real milk won’t come for a few days.” Explaining to Mitchell as well as Marsha. “Colostrum is the fluid secreted by the mammary glands and it gives the baby the start to its immune system, so it’s real important he gets it.”
“Okay, baby.” Trying again. “Okay.” Holding Michael’s head a bit firmer, squeezing her nipple, forcing colostrum through the nipple, Marsha rubbed the fluid over the baby’s lips... And Michael did stop crying and did allow his mother to place her nipple into his mouth... For no more than three seconds, until it slipped away again and he began to cry with renewed vigor.
“What’s wrong, Joyce?” Becoming even more flustered. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“You’re not doing anything wrong. Sometimes it takes a number of tries till the baby ‘latches on’. Just keep trying, and when you do get it, go for about five minutes on each breast. I’ve got another mother to see, so I’ll stop by a little later to see how you’re doing. Okay?”
“Come on, baby,” Marsha cooed, “please hold on, please!”
Sitting on the edge of the chair with both crooked arms on the side of the bed holding his chin in his hands, his lips pursed, as though by doing so Michael will get the idea and follow his father’s lead. Also, about a foot from his wife’s breast, Mitchell subconsciously did want to put that strange, swollen nipple into his mouth, and as he – going beyond just sex – loved the sense of ‘cunnilingus’: of taking Marsha’s fluid into his body, of becoming spiritually one entity rather than two, the thought of taking this new fluid, this colostrum his wife so miraculously produced into himself, to become even more a part of Marsha was all but overpowering. This philosophical concept, of course, loomed as a non-comprehensible thought that transposed to a sensation of longing in the pit of his stomach, that transmitted from stomach to brain – upper brain – to his – lower brain – in the form of desire and, hidden by the bed, Mitchell, once again had unwittingly achieved a full erection.
“Come on, Mikey!” But the baby would not pull enough suction to latch onto his mother’s nipple and it slipped from his lips again... And again, in his frustration Michael began to wail and, her eyes becoming watery with the tears of her own frustration, “Mitchie, He won’t...”
The sudden silence was startling as...
Michael ‘latched on’ and the sensation of his, surprisingly, strong suction caused a contraction in her uterus transfusing Marsha with a flux of electricity that surged throughout both, mind and body.
A ring of white foam forming around Michael’s lips and the flesh of his mother’s nipple, “He’s doing it,” Marsha said in soft wonder.