BIRTH OF THE FIRST
My husband, Don, returned from Vietnam and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1968. We had been married for 2 years and at that point had yet to live under the same roof. I needed to finish school and when Don was stationed in the States, his post was always ‘temporary’. During that time, Uncle Sam certainly didn’t seem to be very forthcoming in what may lay ahead for his soldiers.
With Don’s military duties satisfied, we were excited and anxious to start a REAL married life with a home, children, happiness and lots of love. We moved from Kentucky, into a small apartment in Michigan and began making our way toward the American Dream. Don was working in an automobile factory on the assembly line and I began working in the bookkeeping department of the local bank in our new small town.
Life was good and we wanted that first child. Making a baby turned out to not be as easy as we had thought. We tried and tried and then tried some more but other than lots of practice, nothing seemed to be working. Just when we were ready to resign ourselves to being childless, it happened. It was 1971 and I was pregnant. We were both thrilled.
I made an appointment with the ob/gyn that all the young pregnant wives in our little town saw. My friends talked about Dr. Vanderyatch as if he walked on water. Sadly, I was not particularly impressed with the good doctor when we first met and my opinion didn’t improve as the months went by. To be fair to Dr. Vanderyatch, I believe he was a good doctor, but he and I had a personality clash from our very first meeting.
Naturally I was nervous about my first pregnancy. I had heard all the horror stories from my mother’s side of my family about breech births. As a matter of fact, it seemed that the first-born of each female in my mother’s family was born butt-first with their little legs folded up onto their chests. My mother was the baby of her family. I was her first-born and I was the first baby to live after such a traumatic birth. According to what I’d been told, this was some sort of inherited trait and I was cautioned to severely discuss this with my doctor so he could be prepared.
Being the good, obedient, Kentucky, Bible-belt daughter, I brought this up with Dr. Vanderyatch at our very first visit. His dismissed the idea as ridiculous and said that this was nothing but an old wives tale, nonsense. “Don’t be silly;” he said to me, “you’re going to be fine. I’ll see you in six weeks.” And with that he left the room.
As I dressed, I seethed inside. I was NOT silly and did not appreciate being called silly. Nor was my mother spouting nonsense. I’d believe my mother any ole day over some doctor that I’d seen only for a few minutes. So I just filed this little bit of information away to be brought out a few months later when I was struggling to give birth to a 7 pound 11 ounce baby boy, who was insisted on coming into the world butt first.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My nine months were pretty normal. I watched my diet, making sure I ate healthy foods to produce a healthy baby. I took my vitamins and saw Dr. Vanderyatch every few weeks. Each time, it was the same. He spent a total of 5 minutes in the room, told me I was fine and to set up my next appointment on my way out.
I was not particularly happy with him but I was young, in a small town where the people I knew consisted of co-workers. Every single woman that I talked with absolutely loved this doctor and couldn’t understand why I didn’t love him as well. I stuck with him, thinking he would ‘grow on me’, telling myself that what he lacked in personality, he made up for with skill.
Baby Dumpling, as Don and I called the baby, was growing and kicking. In the early 70s, new parents were not given the opportunity to find out the sex of their baby. It was simply a big surprise on Delivery Day. The days, weeks, and months floated by as the two of us anxiously awaited the arrival of Baby Dumpling.
My Due Date (as per the fine doctor) was December 25, 1971. What a Christmas present we were going to receive! However, Christmas Day came and went with no delivery from the stork. A couple of days after Christmas, I was on the doctor’s exam table and he was telling me that I would probably not be keeping my next appointment. He would most likely be seeing me at the hospital before the week ended.
I hadn’t forgotten about the old-wives-tale regarding breech births and as I well knew, he and I were NOT going to agree on this subject. So I rephrased the question I wanted to ask and simply inquired, “And how is the baby’s position, Dr. Vanderyatch? Do you think we are going to run into any trouble?”
As usual he was already on his way out the door as he paused briefly to answer, “The position is perfect. This is going to be a walk in the park.” (HA! A walk in the park for somebody but NOT FOR ME)
The next week seem to crawl by. My body seemed bigger and clumsier thatn ever. New Year’s Eve came and went. My husband and I were certain that Baby Dumpling would make an appearance on New Year’s Day, just to make sure that there were no extra exemptions on our 1971 IRS 1040 Form. But New Year’s Day came and went and still we waited.
The morning of January 7, 1972, began extremely early for me. I don’t know what time it was but it was still dark when I woke feeling the need to make a trip to the bathroom. I struggled to a sitting position and then to my feet, finding my way to the bathroom with my eyes barely open. It seems the second I sat, the need to ‘go’ vanished so back to bed I went. This same feeling came over me a few minutes later and again, once I sat, the feeling was gone.
It was nearing time for Don to get up and get ready for work so I just sat down in our rocking chair and tried to rock a bit of comfort into my heavy weary body. When Don was almost out the front door, he came back to ask me if I was ok. “Do you want me to stay home with you today?” He inquired with a concerned look on his face.
“No,” I answered, feeling very out-of-sorts, “I’m going to carry this baby forever! I can call you if I need you. Right now, I’m just tired. I’ll feel better if I’m ever able to go to the bathroom.”
Don was just pulling out of the driveway when the crampy feeling hit me again. This time a light bulb went off above my head and I thought, “Is this labor? Are these labor pains? What should I do? Time them, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll check my watch and see if there’s any regularity to these cramps.”
When this feeling hit my tummy three times with exactly 10 minutes between each hit, I got excited and decided to call my husband back home. Unfortunately he hadn’t even arrived at the factory yet. Remember it was 1971, there were no cell phones, not even a pager. I’d just wait until I knew he was there, telling myself that according to everyone, the first baby takes HOURS and I probably had lots of time.
While I was waiting I called my mother in Michigan. This would be their first grandchild and her bags had been packed since before Christmas. Her intention was go get on the road, get to her oldest daughter and her grandbaby a.s.a.p. I tried to tell her that I felt fine and that this very well could be a false alarm, that I would have Don call her after we saw the doctor.
Next I called my best friend from work and chatted with her for a few minutes. Finally I called Don’s work. His foreman, Paul, answered. I told him who I was and asked if he could send Don back home, that I thought he might be time for the baby to arrive.
The poor man became so excited that he could hardly speak, “Wait, wait, I’ll get him for you.”
“No, I don’t need to talk to him. Just send him back home.”
“He’s here somewhere. I just saw him. I’ll get him. It’ll just take a minute. Hang on, I’ll be right back.”
“I DON’T NEED TO TALK TO HIM.” But I realized that I was speaking to dead air when I heard the phone being dropped with a loud crash.
True to his word Paul had Don on the phone in just a minute. I told him that he should come back home but to not hurry. I still thought we had plenty of time. He asked what the doctor said.
OH, the doctor! I forgot to call the doctor!
For those who may have never visited Michigan in January, take my word for it, IT’S COLD. I was still feeling only slight discomfort when we arrived at the hospital and had the silly notion that perhaps this truly would be a ‘walk in the park’ as my doctor had assured me.
The first order of business was to separate my husband and me. The mother-to-be needed to be prepared for delivery. When I heard my nurse say that I needed to be prepared, I envisioned sort of talk/lecture or perhaps I needed to be prepared by donning one of those attractive hospital gowns. Whatever it was, I THOUGHT I was ready.
WRONG! Once my clothes were removed, wadded into a plastic see-through hospital bag, and I was redressed in the gorgeous gown, the next order of business was completely unexpected.
“Lay down on the table, Mrs. Chandler,” the nurse began her instructions, “bend your knees, and bring your feet up the table, as close to your behind as you can get them.”
“What? I beg your pardon. You want me to do what?” I asked, completely NOT understanding what she was asking me to do.
“Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the table. Now scoot your feet up the table as close to your butt as you can get them.”
“Ok.” I answered as I tried to get into this position.
“Now, Mrs. Chandler,” she continued, “let your knees fall apart as far as possible.”
“I need to shave you Mrs. Chandler, so spread those knees and try to lie very still.”
Oh dear, suddenly the romance and beauty was leaving the birthing experience. I had no clue that shaving was part of the process; as I squeezed my eyes closed and tried pretend I was a statue. I may not have known much but I was pretty sure I didn’t want a razor cut on that portion of my body. And YES, it was a razor with a blade, not an electric shaver, a RAZOR and SHAVING CREAM.
Once this unpleasant ordeal was over,I was told to turn onto my side facing the wall. “That’s easy for you to say,” I thought as I tried to maneuver my mountain of a body on the narrow table.
I should have known that the embarrassment of being shaved was only a prelude of what was yet to come. As I finally settled into a semi-comfortable position on my side, I heard the nurse say, “Now I’m going to give you an enema. You’re going to feel warmth. Don’t be alarmed, it’s only water.”
“YIKES! Why didn’t my doctor tell me all of this was in store for me?” I thought. “Where is that man anyway? He should be here. I want to talk to him! He needs to tell me these things.”
As the enema began to do its job, I was working myself up into a pretty significant Mad (with a capital M). But, there wasn’t a lot of time to ponder a punishment for the good doctor, because suddenly, I needed to get to the bathroom FAST. The nurse had left the room as I tried to struggle over onto my back and then onto my side facing the room so I could raise my whale-like body to a sitting position. Right then, time was my enemy as I did my best to hurry. As I sat up, I spotted the toilet in the corner of the room. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to waddle down the hall to a bathroom.
Just as I sat, with much relief, the nurse bounded back into the room with my husband in tow. “Mr. Chandler can stay with you for a while. I’ll be back later.” The now annoying cheerfulness of Ms. Evil Nurse (as I had nicknamed her in my mind) was starting to get on my last nerve.
The smell in the room quickly became pretty unpleasant and what did my brilliant husband say to me, “Whacha doing?”
“What am I doing? What does it look like I’m doing?” I answered with a few more choice words that might better not be repeated.
I’m sure it wasn’t, but it seemed as if hours passed before I was finally settled into a hospital bed with a sheet to cover my near naked mammoth body. The cramps had advanced to PAIN and the ‘walk in the park’ was completely forgotten. If there was ever a modest bone in my body, it didn’t stand a chance of survival as it seemed most of the hospital staff on the Baby Delivery Floor had been into my room, flipped up the sheet to take a ‘quick peek to see how we’re progressing, dear.’
At long last, Dr. Vanderyatch walked through the door, right in the middle of a contraction that nearly took my breath away. True to form, he and I were only in the same room for a very small amount of time. By the time I was able to form coherent words, he was on his way out the door (just like he was during office visits.)
“Dr. Vanderyatch, wait.” I nearly yelled.
He didn’t step back into the room but he did stop and turn to face me with a questioning look on his face.
“Is everything ok?”
“Yes, everything is fine.”
“The baby’s position, Dr. Vanderyatch? Is the position ok?”
“The position is fine but you’re going to be here for a while. I’m going back to the office. I’ll see you this evening.”
And with that, MY DOCTOR was gone. I didn’t want him to leave me. I didn’t want him to go back to the office. I surely could not live until THIS EVENING. I was near tears when my husband said, “Honey, I’m going to go out get some air, and stretch my legs. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
As he leaned down to give me a quick kiss, I latched onto his arm and growled, “You are not going anywhere! You are going to sit right back down!” and again my newly acquired potty mouth began with words I’m sure he’d never dreamed of hearing me utter. I had such a grip that the only way he would be getting out of that room was to amputate his right arm, so he calmly sat back down to share in my misery.
The next person into the room was a young intern, to ‘take a quick peek to see how WE’RE progressing.” After his quick peek he queried as he looked over my chart, “What time are you scheduled for your cesarean?”
“Oh, I’m not having a cesarean.”
“Mrs. Chandler, it appears that you’re having a large baby and the baby is incorrectly positioned.”
“My doctor was just here and he said everything is fine. He told me the position is fine!” I said as I neared panic mode.
The young intern must have felt he’d made a blunder because he said he’d check with my doctor and he’d be back to see me in a few minutes. However, I didn’t wait a few minutes. Evidently Baby Dumpling decided that it was time to make an appearance and he wasn’t waiting any longer.
As an intense contraction cut through my body, I know I’d not be waiting until evening for Dr. Vanderyatch to return. I practically begged my husband to find someone to help me. He must have also gotten the message that things were quickly changing because without a second of hesitation he ran from the room and grabbed the first nurse he saw.
As Don dragged the nurse back to me, she’s trying to calm both of us by saying, “Mrs. Chandler, you were just seen a few minutes ago but if you’re uncomfortable….. UNCOMFORTABLE???? “I’ll take a ‘quick peek to see how we’re progressing,” as she flipped up the sheet.
Before the sheet had settled back into place, she was at the head of my bed, pushing me out the door and down the hall, shouting at staff as we flew by. “Get a doctor! This baby is coming NOW!” Her excitement must have affected her ability to drive a hospital bed though, because she was off a tad as she tried to race through the delivery room door, and rammed squarely, full speed, into the door frame. I thought that I’d been shot! I thought I had been killed and just had not yet died.
Quite suddenly the room was filled with people, lots of people, and not one of them was Dr. Vanderyatch. An IV was started and I was helped into position. Baby Dumpling was on his way and he wasn’t waiting for any one. It was too late to further discuss the cesarean. It was too late for drugs. The baby was being born butt first, as had been my fear for nine months. I tried to listen to the conversation going on around me but could barely focus through the pain. The only thing that registered was “We’re having a boy.”
It seemed that all those around me were in quite a frenzy when suddenly, relief washed over me like an ocean wave. The baby was born. The baby was lying on my stomach. The baby was perfectly still and silent. Silence can’t be good.
Oh no, panic was beginning to grip my entire being when through the swinging doors, like Superman, came Dr. Vanderyatch. He grabbed Baby Boy up by his heels, swatted his little bottom a couple of times and the whaling began.
When he was laid in my arms, his little legs were still up on his chest but the doctor assured me not to worry. They would straighten out in time. As I tried to check him over for fingers and toes, I also noticed that his scrotum was bruised and very swollen. Again the doctor assured me that this too would pass. Baby Boy had just endured a stressful birth and the bruising there was perfectly normal.
I was wheeled out of the room with our newborn snuggled in my arms, still screaming as if he was angry with the world. We were met by my husband. He gave me a quick kiss, then looked down at his son, who had already kicked the loosely wrapped blanket off.
Don leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Hon, did you see the size of him? He’s going to make some girl VERY happy one day.”
MEN! Before Don could raise his head from so close to mine, I whispered back, “It’s only temporary. He’s going to be just like any other little boy in a day or two.”
Then we were whisked away from a new daddy with a bit of a crest-fallen look on his face.
In the months to come, I tried to remember what the silence in the delivery room sounded like when Jeffrey was first born. It would besix months before we would hear silence again. It would besix months before he would sleepthrough the night.
My mother arrived to welcome her first grandbaby that very day. I think my dad must have broken all speed limits to get them there. New Nana arrived with a suitcase containing seven pairs of shoes and not one single change of clothes.
Like Don and I, she expected a Christmas Grandbaby and packed her bags in December. By January she’d had to remove clothing from her suitcase because she needed to WEAR them. Items weren’t replaced and in her haste she grabbed this bag, that contained a pair of shoes to go with each outfit …… each outfit that was no longer packed.
As an adult now, Jeffrey has heard all of the stories about his birth. He has always ‘marched the beat of a different drummer’ and at times I will tell him “Just because you came into this world ass-backwards doesn’t mean that’s the way you’re required to live your life.”
A mother’s love is unconditional and no matter where he is or what he does, my first born will always be Baby Dumpling. And when he has his first baby, I plan to arrive with shoes AND clothing.