Thirty years ago today, I became a mother for the first time. I can’t truly describe what I was feeling then. You see, I was 21, had been married for about 2 1/2 years and now my husband had lost his job while I was pregnant and we eventually lost our first home, too. So now, into my third trimester, I was miserable, fat and broke and had recently quit smoking. For these last 3 months of my pregnancy, we lived with my father and my step-mother. And they both smoked. Back then, we didn’t know the effects of second-hand smoke. I just knew I wanted a cigarette, but, I was going to take care of myself while I was pregnant. So, when I wanted one, I ate instead. My favorite foods were french fries from McDonald’s ONLY and Utz Bar-B-Q Potato Chips with chocolate milk. I remembered reading that pregnant women needed extra sodium for the baby, so I was being good. Oh, and I also remember eating lots of peanut butter. I needed that protein. No wonder I gained almost 60 pounds! (And I also realize that, to this day, I still blame this pregnancy for my weight gain!)
So, I ended up with, what I was told, was pre-eclampsia. Guess all that extra sodium was causing my blood pressure to rise. I was admitted into the hospital at the end of February and my due date wasn’t til St. Patrick’s day, March 17! What a bummer (it was the 80’s…we said ‘bummer’ back then!) Well, with all of this time on my hands at the hospital, and no potato chips or fries, I started reading, especially about pre-eclampsia. I read that the symptoms could get worse…headaches, seizures, even death. I figured that I wasn’t going to go home, only to come back in a couple of weeks to have the baby, so I told my doctor I was starting to have some really bad headaches. In other words, I faked symptoms so I could have my baby. I was only 21 at the time…
On March 2, the doctor decided I should be induced. They set me up in a tiny labor room and, first, gave me an enema. I won’t describe that part here, in case you’re eating supper while you’re reading this. I’ll just continue… They stuck an IV into my vein, near my third knuckle on my left hand and injected some drugs to bring about my labor. They also hooked me up to the fetal monitor, so I could see myself have a contraction, just in case I didn’t feel it…
I spent the good part of the day in that little room and guess what? Nothing happened. Nothing. Nada.
So, the nurse told me they would try again tomorrow. A little no-sodium soup and no-salt crackers for supper (reduced to bread and water, but no more enemas!) and bright and early the next day, I was up and at ‘em and we would try again.
The next day, on March 3, 1981, the doctor broke my water, and again, I won’t go into details. The IV thingy was still stuck in my knuckle and again, I was monitored. This time, I started having horrible contractions! The nurse said, “See on the monitor? You can watch the contractions as they rise and fall.” Oh, wonderful! I could have the pleasure of anticipating excruciating pain! Thanks. I was in that little room a good part of the day again and guess what? Nothing happened. Nothing!!
By now, it was getting close to quitting time, almost 5pm. So, the doctor said I needed a C-section. I cried when I heard that. I decided I would come clean and tell them that I really wasn’t having any headaches…the baby just wanted to wait til St. Patty’s Day to come. But it was too late. I was going under the knife. Again, I’ll spare you the details. It seemed as though, in just a matter of minutes that I had given birth. My husband and I were convinced we were having a boy, so when the doctor lifted up the baby and the cord was hanging down, my husband shouted, “It’s a boy!” only to be immediately corrected by one of the nurses. Lying there with a drape up around my head, my first thought was, “Am I having twins??” But, I was reassured it was just one baby and it was a girl!
I saw her for a moment before they whisked her away to take all kinds of measurements and figure Apgar scores and such. When they finally brought her to me, wrapped snuggly in a pink blanket with matching cap on her head, I thought she looked foreign, kind of like an Eskimo. Her eyes were deep blue and she had yellowish skin (she was a little jaundiced) with fuzzy dark hair on her head. Who was this child? Who did she belong to? Is she really mine? She’s so, so, so…beautiful! She looks like me, like my side of the family! Look at her little fingers, look at her toes! Have you ever seen such tiny toenails? Look at that little mouth. She’s just perfect!