A Birth Day

She always knew she wanted more than one child and seemed to be able to get pregnant easily. Staying pregnant was another matter. And no one talked about the miscarriages. It wasn't done.

She was nervous about miscarrying again but there was nothing else to do but try, try again. They waited for the doctor to give the okay.

When she got pregnant this time, she was apprehensive, tired, sick. The nausea would set in around 4, just in time to make dinner. She never threw up but felt so sick she could barely eat or cook. Saltines were worthless but grapes - smooth and sweet - worked wonders.

Once the evening sickness passed, she was ravenous, nourishing the baby within with every meal.

They attended natural childbirth classes together, determined to have another birth without painkillers, just like her first, only, hopefully, easier since he had been sunny-side up and she had labored with him for 36 hours. For that birth, they had educated themselves with a pre-publication book about natural childbirth written by an acquaintance. This time, they would know what they were doing and they had a doctor who supported their choice.

And, hey, second births are supposed to be easy, right?

As the end of the pregnancy neared, her husband painted the nursery a neutral, easy white and she climbed a tall ladder over and over again to hang a wallpaper border around the top of the room - pastel tulips fit for either a boy or girl, whichever was nestled inside her belly.

This baby was a little overdue, but then so was their first, so they entertained friends for Easter. One, a single man, said “I’ve never seen anyone so big, you must be about to POP!”

Some things are the same across generations.

(One can imagine a caveman saying this same thing to his cave neighbor’s wife.)

In the early morning hours of April 17th, she awoke in pain. It was a little after 3 am. It was beginning.

She got up, showered, and carefully shaved her legs, knowing it might be weeks before she could attend to such things again.

She woke up her husband around 6 and he left to pick up two necessary, if conflicting, things: the babysitter, who was a 16 year old diabetic daughter of a friend, and a bag of Winchell’s doughnuts, fulfilling both the needs of and a promise to their firstborn son.

Before she could leave the house for the hospital, she had to give the babysitter an insulin shot, while in labor. Neither knew how, but it had to be done in the sitter's bare thigh, so it was her job, not her husband’s. The babysitter closed her eyes.

Jab in it in my hip, and please do it fast like my mom does.

She waited for her own pain to subside briefly before inflicting it on someone else.

They made it to the hospital and checked in by 7:30 am. The doctor showed up and stayed for the rest of her labor. He was a nice man with six children of his own, the best doctor around for natural childbirth.

Still, even without a sunny-side up baby, this was not easy. No popping the baby out like in those natural childbirth books. This was hard, painful work.

Then, a little after noon, there he was. A baby, with a head of dark brown hair. A boy.

9 lbs, 6 oz.

Oh thank God.


What should we call him?

I don’t know. I guess we have until we sign the birth certificate to decide.

What were those family names again?


By that evening, she was in surgery to control for post-birth bleeding that could have killed her.

Before she would be released, she endured several surgeries and received many units of blood.

To add insult to injury, when she left the hospital, she was plagued by a spinal headache that would last for the first few blurry weeks at home.


There is a picture of her getting out the car with her new baby boy, named for a distant relative, her three year old son poised to jump on Mommy. This is the universal arrival of second children. The universal expansion of heart and attention and motherhood. The universal exhausting blur of the first few weeks at home with a new baby.

She was weak, so weak and tired. A handful of vitamins and iron pills were her breakfast.

As the first weeks went by, the baby cried, oh how he cried. He would wail and pull his knees up close to his chest in apparent discomfort. Sleep was elusive, no rocking, patting, singing, or walking seemed to work. And yet they did it all endlessly.

So this was colic.

It's his diet. Your diet. Cut out orange juice. Cut out onions. It’s just colic.

Doctor, it’s been three months. Shouldn’t "three month colic" be over by now?

Listen Mother, you be patient with him and I’ll be patient with you.

She looked for a new pediatrician.

She gave him soy milk and watched his crying subside.

It was not an easy birth and it was a difficult year. She greeted his first birthday with gratitude that they had made it through, with love.


My mother in law gave birth to my husband 37 years ago today.

His birthday belongs to him of course - but also to her.

Thank you MB, you're my hero. Thank you for birthing my wonderful husband. And for letting me tell your story.


Fran said...

What a story it is! I saw myself in a few of the things mentioned and that made me smile. Happy Birthday to him and Happy Birthing Day to her. How sweet :)

Marie Green said...

How great, that you get a chance to tell her birth story! As a doula, I write birth stories for my clients, but I doubt a service like that was available 37 years ago. What a special story!

Gina said...

What a wonderful birth story! It's so cool that your daughters will have not only their birth stories to read but that of their dad too! And how awesome that your mother-in-law was able to have a natural childbirth 37 years ago when it really went against convention.

KG said...

This is so lovely! What a gift to CG and MB. Happy birthday CG! Way to go, MB!

Cortney said...

So sweet and special that you know your mother in law's birth story! Thanks for sharing.

twisterfish said...

Being able to give this to your husband, this piece of his past, is so special. And also special is the connection with your mother-in-law. How wonderful that she opened up to you -- to tell you her story... and how well you told it to us.

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