Saturday, July 5, 2008

5th of July Celebration

Once upon a time (exactly thirty-seven years ago today), even though it was the day after the 4th of July, there was still one more spectacular event to ooh and aah over. Our daughter was born. (All together now . . . awwww.)

In 1971 we lived in a small farm town in Illinois that had only one doctor, a general practitioner, and a fairly new hospital. I had my heart set on having a home birth and asked Dr. Q if he would be willing to go along with that. He said that if my pregnancy progressed normally and if Ruth, his long-time nurse, would agree to assist, we could plan on it.

Dr. Q was a short, chunky man, had nine kids of his own, was nearing retirement age, and was well-respected as a physician. Ruth had been his nurse for over thirty years and they had done home births together before the community hospital was built. Besides that, we knew Ruth well as she was the wife of Roy's high school biology teacher. Ruth and George owned an apple orchard and chicken farm where Roy had worked after school and summers for many years.

My pregnancy did, indeed, go well. Never had a hint of morning sickness and felt wonderful the whole time. My due date of June 13th came . . . and went. All my frequent check-ups continued to be fine.

I remember the exact day of June 13th well because my folks lived about an hour away and Mom called that morning to see if her first grandchild would be arriving on time. She asked what I planned on doing that day and I told her there were peas in the garden to pick and process and strawberries to harvest and perhaps make into jam. The weather that day was extremely hot and humid and she didn't think I should be out in the garden. She and Dad insisted on driving up to help although I assured them I was fine and wasn't going to do anything I hadn't been doing for the past nine months. Their impromptu visit that day was intended to take pressure off me so I could relax and be ready for the impending birth. What actually occurred was that both of them nearly suffered heat stroke trying to "help" in the garden. They went home that evening exhausted and still waiting to become grandparents.

June 20th came and went, likewise June 27th, and July 1st. My check-ups continued to look normal, I felt fine and everyone told me I must have figured wrong as to when I actually got pregnant. All I could say was that I knew when my last menstrual cycle occurred and the due date of June 13th should have been right. (Our child was clearly in no hurry to make an appearance. Have I mentioned that she's never been on time in her life since?)

I'm sure these days, a doctor would have induced me or performed a Caesarean section birth but good, old-fashioned Dr. Q felt that as long as everything seemed okay, we would let nature take its course. Roy and I agreed. I wasn't the least bit uncomfortable except when the baby got the urge to tap dance on my liver or practice the latest karate moves.

Finally just before midnight on July 3rd, I awoke with contractions. Got up and made what preparations I thought needed to be made around the house. We didn't call anyone until 4 p.m. on the 4th of July when the SERIOUS contractions started. First phone calls couldn't locate Dr. Q so we called Ruth. She came right over, examined me and said she didn't think we needed to summon Dr. Q quite yet. I think it was about 8 o'clock when she did decide to call him. Still no answer at any of his usual numbers. She then made many more phone calls it seemed to me, but I'll admit I was by that time a little fuzzy and kind of in and out of it.

Around 10 p.m., still with no Dr. Q in sight, Ruth said she was no longer comfortable with the situation and wanted to drive us to the hospital. My water still hadn't broken and my main concern was that I'd make a mess in her new car. But to the hospital we three went without mishap.

There were two nurses waiting to meet us at the hospital door and one turned to the other and said, "Well, she's certainly not full-term." NOT FULL-TERM?? I was danged near 10 months pregnant and had been in labor for close to 24 hours! But I did understand where she was coming from. I had gained only 16 pounds during my pregnancy and didn't look "big" at all. Now, don't go thinking I was an early anorexic. I was eating like a horse as I usually do but had remained very physically active and was in good shape. Just didn't gain anything but baby weight.

It seems I was on the delivery table with the nurses working around me and Roy sitting on a chair at one end of the room trying to remain calm for hours and hours. By then I was so exhausted that when a labor pain subsided, I immediately fell sound asleep and didn't wake until the next one started. Ruth was nowhere in sight. She was out scouring the countryside trying to find Dr. Q . . . who, it turns out, had used the July 4th holiday as an excuse to go on one heck of a huge bender. Never did know where Ruth found him or what she did to get him upright and into the delivery room, but when he finally made his appearance shortly before 4 a.m., I remember noticing that his face was exactly the same color as the green scrubs he was wearing.

Didn't take long after that for our baby to be born . . . all 8 pounds 9-3/4 ounces of healthy, strong baby girl. Every year, come 4th of July, of course I can't help but think back to that very special one and how we spent the day. Totally missed the town's fireworks display in 1971 . . . but I was busy.



  1. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Thanks, Mommy!

    (And, see: I come by being-late-for-everything very naturally!)

  2. I loved reading this! I wish that docs and midwives now weren't so uptight about inducing when someone is 2 weeks "late." Given there's at least a 2 week window of uncertainty about due dates, it seems a bit silly to me. Certainly in this case, it wasn't necessary!

    And, I had no idea until reading this that W was due the day before my birthday!