My son Daniel’s birthday was last Saturday, so I sent him a card and wrote “Happy Birthday, beautiful boy” inside. Last year, he thanked me for his card by email; otherwise, we are “non-speakers”. I could indulge in a “Danny Boy” moment here – “And I shall hear though soft you tread above me and all my gr…” and all that malarcky, but he hasn’t been Danny since he started walking. And that was some time ago.
His birth was a notable occasion. For all concerned.
On his sister’s first birthday, I was walking the corridor of the labour ward, listening to the cacophony of vocalization attendant on severe pain from women who were getting somewhere. I was reciting Psalm 23 to myself. Because I was getting no where. Or rather we were getting nowhere, this new baby and I. Imagine the sheer embarrassment. Eventually, my husband had to be called out of class to come pick me up. Well, of course he had gone back to work. It was 1962. That’s what husbands did then or so he thought.
A week and a day later, I was back at being a toddler’s mother, getting dinner, when it slowly dawned on me that this “new” baby was going to make an appearance after all. My husband had moved smartly enough the week before, but now he was inclined to take things easy. He delivered daughter Julia to our friends around the corner in Don Mills and came back to find me waiting in my winter gear and it must be said in an agitated state.
“Surely, there’s no hurry,” he said. Julia had taken the better part of a day to arrive.
“I don’t think we have much time,” I replied, gesturing at the puddle of water on the floor.
Fortunately, the Don Valley Parkway had just opened and this north/south freeway would take us downtown. And Blake was nothing if not good at speeding. As it turned out, I had a skill I was not aware of. Unable to sit, I found I was able to climb over the back of the seat while the car careened around curves at 70 MPH. I was even able to conclude that underwear impeded birth and take appropriate action. I did a quick review of what would be involved in self-delivery. All the while clinging to whatever I could grab and more or less ignoring the shouted questions from the front seat.
Once we hit the surface streets, Blake leaned on the horn and cut in and out of traffic, running red lights as necessary. I was way past fear by now, off in some zone, trying to hold on, in spite of the urge to let go, but in the end, of course, the urge got the upper hand. Anything, anything to resolve this awful pain.
He pulled the Dodge up to the emergency room door and ran in screaming, “The baby is coming. The baby is coming.”
“Calm down. Calm down,” I heard voices say, as I climbed -very awkwardly- out the back car door.
A stretcher appeared and I was helped up onto it. The nurse took a look and all hell broke loose.
“The baby’s head is here,” she screamed, as she tore off my clothes.
In a split second, I was being wheeled stark-naked down the hall at very high speed. Who cared? Just get me out of here. Ether, epidural, whatever it takes.
In the delivery room, all was calm.
“I seem to always make you miss dinner,” I said to Dr. Anchelson.
“Oh, I’ve had my dinner,” he said.
“The baby’s heart is fibrillating,” someone cried.
“Have you eaten,” the anesthetist asked.
“No,” I said.
He brought a mask to my face. “Breathe deeply,” he said.
Absolutely, I thought, and passed into oblivion.
It was a glorious dark, deep sleep, but someone kept trying to wake me up. They were laughing and shouting.
“Wake up. Wake up and see your son!”
“I only have a daughter,” I said, grumpily. I wanted to be go back to sleep. “I don’t have a son.”
“Well, you do now,” they laughed.
And sure enough, there was a boy’s bottom being presented for inspection and a beautiful round pink baby face.
“What happened to you? You went out like a light,” the doctor asked.
“He gave me something,” I said, gesturing at the anesthetist.
“Oxygen,” he said and everyone fell about laughing again. “That’s why the baby’s so pink. No anesthetic, just oxygen. Now that’s what I call suggestible.”
I arrived at the hospital at 6:03 p.m. and Daniel arrived 3 fun-filled minutes later. Daniel just turned 52, but I still shake to tell it.
Not that you owe me, Daniel.