Thirty-nine years, fifty-two days ago Angela was born. And she was an Angel. The first months were about getting the hang of eating, sleeping, pooping and trying out her little body and then she blossomed into a bright, but mellow little thing. Getting her teeth was her biggest struggle that first year - besides the initial colic suffered. I nursed her and was awed by the miracle - oh that's what breasts are for - with relief that my body was more than what I'd been led to believe. Sadly, the pediatrician directed me at 4 weeks to feed her cereal before nursing. Within no time she refused to work at the nursing when the empty calories of the sweet cereal required no effort.
Flash forward: How much do I wish I could have that tool in front of me right now? Or, more seriously, how much do I wish there had been family and friends with factual health and food information to advise me? Or, if only I'd known then what I didn't know and had felt moved to find answers in spite of the misinformation I was soaking in circa 1970?)
Flash forward: I look back and think, being a new parent is an odd identity to assume at the birth of a first child. I say this because from the outside world of strangers, family and friends one is treated like some kind of something for merely being 'open' to biological proclivities. 'Open' can be a euphemism- if you are a young, unmarried girl - for slut. So the unabashed praise is curious. Also, it is kind of funny when we are essentially taking credit for the beautiful bundle of perfection that is the product of the genetic, biological business of life. Similarly, we continue taking credit for our offspring's and our own physical aspects though this is the life stuff completely outside of our control or wishful longings.
Back to my thoughts on Angel. Her birth scared me so much. My water broke in the middle of the night where I was sleeping in the guest room on a twin bed. My wasbund (my new favorite term for ex-husband) was in the master bedroom on the waterbed. I'd stopped sleeping on that bed (it cost $15, had a lifetime guarantee and we built the wooden frame around it) when it became too difficult to hoist myself from the floor to upright a million times a night to pee. I woke him and told him it was time to go to the hospital. He was adament he needed to shower and shave and he had to use the bathroom. I was shocked that he was so clueless. This was almost forty years ago and if I were to guess at my reactions I would say I probably pouted and cajoled. I know I didn't bark at him to get the fuck over himself and pay attention to what was important - my body had things to do that were way out of my control. At any rate we left home and headed for the hospital.
The hospital I'd chosen was a Catholic hospital across town, because my research directed me to the only hospital in Sioux City, Iowa that allowed what they termed 'rooming in'. This was the prehistoric age where pregnancy and birth were not only moral issues, but were considered a disease. And, like every ob-gyn examination table the entire hospital was designed for and about the comfort and efficiency of hospital staff - with the doctors as high priests above it all. Every aspect of the hospital from staffing, scheduling and procedure was designed on the 19th century industrial model. So, I felt very new age with this tiny concession of getting to have my baby in the room with me - during the day only. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
The sun was just coming up when I finally got settled into the labor ward. I was mortified at all the invasive things the nurses did to me. The enema was mortification even though I'd had plenty from my 50's childhood when enemas used to be so common and considered healthy treatment. It is a kind of torture I believe to hold water in your bowels for some proscribed amount of time. (I hadn't eaten in a day as the night before I'd thrown up all of my dinner). I was opened up wide with a speculum or a gloved hand 4 and a half thousand times in the next day. I don't remember any reassuring words breaking through my humiliation or spasms of pain - coming now only occasionally.
The sun was just coming up the NEXT day when I was wheeled into the delivery room. I kept saying I didn't want to do this. I couldn't do this. Let me go home. It had been 27 hours of labor with hypos given every hour or so, of 'pill-buckles' (my phonetic recollection of the drug used to speed up labor), of my wasband moaning from the very first hour that he was hungry and his balls hurt when he used the bedside chair because the arms made it too tight for him and he needed a shower and talcum powder and waaa, waaaa, waaa. On top of this, his whole family (he was from a family of 11 kids) came up that first day to visit. Jeebus. I remember what they term 'transition' the evening before my 7 am delivery of Angela. It was when my wasband was timing contractions and he called me out by name in an accusatory way (as the crystalized spike of embittered memory offers up) for my contractions slowing down. Ah, this baby man had some quick growing up to do and when the rolling bed whizzed by in the men's waiting room (yes, they were all banished like an old B movie - remember this was about industrialized model) he had a major epiphany of what the last day - the last nine months were bringing.
Angel was our every waking moment and we were endlessly entertained. New parents witness so many million simple things in rapt attention. It is a remarkable love affair to see tiny miracles all around.
I still don't know much about medical things and the subject is something I am not that curious about as a whole. This might partly be because of my experiences in the hospital with Angela's birth and four years later with the premature birth of my son. I wanted to return to this time of Angela's birth to touch on some other aspects of the way this birth was handled compared to my friends (former neighbors) who just had their third baby girl - at home, delivered by mom and dad themselves this week. Baby girl number two was born three years ago in the home my son bought from this couple. Angela's birth, on the other hand, meant I was to stay at the hospital for one week. The best part of this was that I got to rest completely and that is nothing to shake a stick at . . .
It was also good for me to be around the nurses who handled Angela with such confidence. This helped me too. I had been a baby sitter throughout my pre-teen and teenage years. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for me to watch 3 kids under 5 for a whole weekend when parents were out of town - meals and all! But, my own baby was a brand new thing.