Today would have been my mama’s 75th birthday and it’s our tradition to laugh our guts out each year on her special day. For this year, I wrote the story of my birth, which has my family rolling in the aisles.
We’ll see what y’all have to say about it.
The story of my birth began in a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Virginia during my father’s birthday celebration.
Back in the Sixties, Shakey’s was the ultimate in old-time pizza parlors where you sang along with the bouncing ball or picked a song on the player piano.
It’s a pretty safe bet my mom wasn’t singing along with that bouncing ball. Not only was she well into her tenth month of pregnancy, she had my brother in tow. He was a toddler who bounced enough for everyone already. Plus, she’d had a backache all day long.
When her water broke, she realized that backache was me.
As a mother, the prospect of childbirth wasn’t terrifying. As a nurse, the trip to the hospital wasn’t a scary prospect either. The spooky part of my birth was this was the first trip to Labor and Delivery that included my father. (He was off doing soldiery things when she delivered my brother two years prior.)
As a military captain in an Army hospital, my father spent his time and energy trying to direct the process. As my mom liked to say, she drove the doctors crazy and my father drove the nurses insane.
“What is that?”
“What will YOU be doing with that?”
“What should my wife be doing?”
“Where is the doctor?”
“How long will this take?”
For a nurse, these questions were stupid in the extreme, especially while enduring labor pains. My mom spent much of her time and energy trying not to snap at her husband.
Each time a new person entered the room, my father announced that “his wife was having their second child on his birthday.” He was terribly proud of my mother’s impeccable timing.
As the hours slipped by, he got more and more impatient.
At 11 o’clock, he pressed the call button for the nurse and asked them to hurry up and come in. When the nurse hit the door, he asked “what are the chances of this baby coming by midnight.”
Labor and delivery nurses are used to parents with timetables so she said, “I’ll need to examine your wife before I answer that question. Why don’t you go stretch your legs for a spell?”
After my father was gone, she examined my mom and let her know she was about an hour from ‘showtime.’ “I can tell that man is driving you plumb crazy. Do you need us to keep him out of the room?”
My mom told me later, her first thought was “Could you?”
Her contractions were coming much closer together, and she just didn’t have the energy for a fight. “I don’t think you’d be able to keep him away. He was overseas for the last one. Plus, he’s pretty excited about getting a child on his birthday.”
The nurse gave my mom a sympathetic look. “If you’re sure,” she said and went to let my father back in the room.
“Well?” he demanded.
“It’ll likely be another hour or so, unless this baby decides different.”
“Oh. Is there anything you can do to speed things up?”
“Babies come on their own schedule, Sir.”
My dad sat down and patted my mom’s hand, keeping one eye on the clock. At about twenty minutes after eleven, he looked over at my mom. “You’ve got more experience at this, Jo Anne. Do you think we’re getting close?”
And my mother — the pissed-off woman who was now in transition — gritted her teeth and said, “Nope.”
“Well, it’s coming up on eleven-thirty. I saw a TV on in the lounge. I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee and watch ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’ Seems like it’s gonna be a long night.” He paused at the door. “You’ll have them call me if the baby changes its mind, right? We could still have it today.”
My mom gritted her teeth some more and nodded her head, breathing through a contraction as the door closed.
The same nurse hurried into the room a few moments later. “Your husband just told me he was off to watch TV in the lounge. Are you doing okay, honey?”
“How are you feeling, dear? You look a bit pale.”
The nurse stared at my mom for a moment and asked, “Are you sure? That belly of yours is rippling something fierce. I’m just gonna take a peek.”
My mom clamped her hand on the nurse’s wrist and panted, “Tell me when it’s midnight.”
And that, my friends, is how I came to have my own birthday.
How do you commemorate your loved ones who have passed? Do you have any stories about YOUR birth? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!
Note: This story is part of a compilation of vignettes about my mom that I’m compiling for my daughter, so she can get to know her grandma.