Monday, June 24, 2013

Push! Don't Push!

Happy birthday to my girl.
Forty three years ago, June 24th was on a Wednesday. Three days earlier, on what was Father's Day and my mom's birthday, I had called home long distance from Alaska and reversed the charges because we were so poor. I was in an army hospital with my belly as big as a super-inflated balloon. We lived in a rural small town at the end of the Alaska Highway. The only hospital was 105 miles away in Fairbanks. I pleaded with the obstetrician at the army dispensary, begged him to send me up a week early. No way did I want to be flown in a helicopter or have my (then) husband drive those mountainous roads with me in labor. "My due date has passed and I need to go!" I insisted.

"You aren't anywhere near ready. I'll see you next week for your appointment. We'll consider sending you next week," he said. I was having contractions. They were Braxton-Hicks, but the doctor said, "Fine! I'll write an order to send you, but trust me, you will be there for a week or two."

I wasn't one to listen. I was on a ward with several other women in prenatal and post-natal stages. A week passed. June 21st was the day I just KNEW I'd give birth...a present to daddy and grandma. It didn't happen. Next day, I walked three flights of hospital steps, and foolish girl that I was, I jumped off the last step onto the landings. Every hour on the hour I did this. Around midnight my water broke, but the nurses said I had urinated on myself. It took two hours to convince them.

I was sent to labor and delivery. The ward was filled, so they placed me in a semi-private room with a Captain's wife. She labored for hours with her husband coaching her, "Don't you dare scream!"

I did my best not to whimper. I was going by protocol. When they wheeled her out to delivery at 5:00 p.m. I looked at the clock, and knew I'd be next. At midnight I was in full throes of hard labor. I felt the urge to push and called for a medic (a soldier assigned to maternity ward).

"It's TIME!" I shouted.

"Ahh, zee time is 12:45." he said as he looked at his watch.

"NO! I need the doctor!"

"Ahhh, zeee doctor is on break."


A doctor arrived and ordered me to transfer from the bed to the gurney and not get any blood on the floor. I was in a nightmare that lasted for three days. I looked above me in the small oval mirror and watched my baby being born. Then the demerol kicked in and knocked me out. The nurse wheeled me to a ward and in the hall she said, "Wake up and count her toes and fingers. Here's your baby."

Tracey Lynn was laying on the gurney next to me. I looked into her face, grinned and said with satisfaction, "Awww, she looks like my grandma." Then I passed out.

I awakened in a fifty feet long room divided by curtains into five sectioned wards. The first section was for the moms in labor, the second room was for those who had just delivered. I'd never heard so much screaming and moaning through that curtain. It sounded like a horror movie. A large African-American nurse passed my bed and deliberately bumped it every time I dozed off. She placed my hand on my stomach and barked gruffly, "Rub your fundus, or you'll get a blood clot."

I didn't know where or what my fundus was. I soon learned it was the top of my uterus. Day two found me behind the second curtain with new moms. One young woman was disappointed she'd had a girl; she refused to feed or interact with her baby. Instead of having compassion, the staff taunted her.

Tracey's daddy drove two hours after his shift to see her, arriving at 10:00 p.m. during feeeding time. I saw him walking down the hall and darted with baby in arms to show her to him. The old battle ax Captain grabbed my arm, spun me around and told me I would not be contaminating the nursery. Then she looked at Tracey's daddy and said, "Visiting hours ended at 8:00."

There were words! Lots of words. She ordered me to take the baby to the nursery and she allowed him to peek at her through the viewing window for three minutes. I was living in a nightmare.

In the morning, she ordered the new moms to get up and make beds with military corners (none of us were soldiers) and then she told us to walk to the nursery and retrieve our babies, feed them and not return our baby to the nursery until they burped. Wouldn't you know it! My baby wouldn't burp.
I looked into her pretty little face, she had a perfectly round head and I called her, "My baby." Calling her by name seemed awkward, although I had done it for nine months. "Burp, my baby, burp. Please, baby, burp."

"Did she burp!?" the old hag asked.
I lied, and then I cried. I recognized my baby's cry all the way down the hall.

My only consolation to giving birth in that place was the medic who sat in the nursery and rocked the babies in a large rocker. He looked exatly like Frankie Avalon. Oh my, did I waddle those halls and spend a lot of time standing at the viewing window. The tears flowed at the sight of my baby... and "Frankie".

Each post-partum day I was moved further back behind a curtain.

On the third post-partum day we were told to go poop, gather our newborns and listen to instructions on infant care. We were asked one last question, "Nursing or not?" Those who said, "Not," got a shot to dry up their milk. A nightmare, I'm telling you, a nightmare.

Fast forward about thirty years. I discovered conincidentally that the mom of a student in my class, was born three days before my baby in the same hospital. Although I didn't know her mother, she and I exchanged letters. We both had written identical horror stories about our first birth experiences in that army hospital. A nightmare, we both concluded.

Today, my baby, is a wonderful, hardworking mom to two of her own, one grown and one almost grown.

Happy birthday, My Baby. My, how time flies!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--I love that 'do of haven't changed too much. I see so much of YOU in that younger version of you.

And having met your daughter--such a lovely young lady--it was great to hear how she entered this world.

Thanks for sharing...

Unknown said...

Awww, Linda. I love this. I bet your daughter Tracy loves it more. The photo of you and Tracey is so sweet!

My daughter Julie was due in October but was born in mid November 1969, in an Force hospital in Illinois. The conditions and nurses were a bit better - but not much - than yours in the Army hospital in Alaska.

Happy birthday to Tracey. What special memories!

Southhamsdarling said...

Hi Linda. Happy birthday to Tracey. What a lovely photo of the two of you. My goodness, childbirth was so different back in our day, wasn't it?! Yours dies sound like a particularly nightmare experience. When I had my first baby 42 years ago , I remember being really scared of the nurses. They spoke so harshly to all us new mums and certainly didn't have any compassion. But! We lived to tell the tale and have our beautiful daughters to prove it!

Connie said...

Oh my gosh, Linda, that is indeed a horror story and a nightmare! Wow.

Happy birthday to your daughter! She sounds like the only bright spot in your birth experience.

Val said...

Love your Marlo Thomas That Girl 'do.

I got 24 hours in the hospital for my delivery. It limits the damage the staff can do, I suppose.

Bookie said...

We are all glad we did this years ago and grateful for the memories, but I don't think anyone wants a repeat of those scenes any time soon. My babies are men now...sad, wish it could have lasted long...on some days that is. Ha.

Susan said...

Hi Linda....Oh my gosh, that was quite an experience for a first time Mom. I think things have changed for the better, at least a little bit.

Happy Birthday to your "baby!" Susan

tracboy2 said...

Aw, sure lived a nightmare in that army hospital! Glad you are my mom. Love you :-)

Tammy said...

Oh, my - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! Happy birthday to your baby, and hugs to you for having survived that.

Pat Wahler said...

Sounds like bedside manner was considerably lacking. My, how things have changed (thankfully). Hope your girl has a wonderful day!

Critter Alley

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Holy smoke. I can't imagine going through that. You make me feel spoiled. When my son was born (31 years ago) we lived in Las Vegas. My auntie was head nurse on the OB floor at Women's Hospital, and one of my sorority sisters was head night nurse in the nursery. Yep. Spoiled.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Oh yeah -- and happy birthday to your beautiful daughter! You certainly earned your mommy rights!

Janet, said...

Oh my, what a story! I was born on the 25th of June, but a little more than 43 years ago :o)That is one thing us mothers never forget- the birth of our children. Wish yours could have went a little better.

Cathy C. Hall said...

You do have a way with words, Linda, but that story--goodness! I bow to your mastery. (And happy birthday to your lovely daughter!)

jabblog said...

Nightmare! Happy Birthday to your daughter:-)

Two of my children were born in military hospitals, one in UK, one in Germany. In Germany my two little children were not allowed to visit me and I had to wave to them from the high-up window.