I was 20. He was 25. No one on this Planet was more wanted, desired, eagerly awaited than our child. We had been married almost a year when the new life started within me. Valentine's Day.
Due date in early November. November 5th. Election Day. I sent in my absentee ballot so as not to miss voting in my first Presidential Election.
On Halloween, Rob and I painted appliance boxes and wore them......We were disguised as a washer and dryer.....Covering my tummy, and wearing masks, no one even Guessed it was us. In fact, the friend dressed as Santa was suspected to be me....
That week, we drove in from our apartment in New Jersey to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital for a weekly pre-natal checkup. I had experienced no complications at all during my pregnancy. No morning sickness, no fatigue, no mood swings, no pain, not even any Braxton Hicks. This morning, however, I insisted to the doctor that right under my ribcage was the baby's head. I told him that whenever I bent over I was concerned about "breaking his neck."
"No, that is Definitely a butt," he told us. But just to make sure, he would schedule me for an x-ray. This was a Longgggg time ago (yes, Emily, you ARE at Middle Age now....), before the routine ultra-sounds and other such fancy tests for concerned mommies.
When I saw the x-ray, my first reaction was, "What's Wrong with his head?" The baby was definitely a breech presentation, his head not tucked and positioned downward, but rather UP and looking out (if you know Emily, you would be laughing right now. She has Never tucked her head nor sat quietly). The head was not rounded, but rather had a bit of a "point" on the back.
"Oh, that is not a problem," the doctor assured me. "And you should have no problem with delivery."
In "those" days, 2/3 of breech babies were actually delivered. Now, all of them are Caesarean Section.
All Saints Day was upon us. We had our one bedroom apartment all set and ready for the newborn. The hall closet held the changing table and all his clothes. Our bedroom housed the crib, complete with colorful mobile and new-fangled bumper guards. Playtex bottles were clean and ready in case I needed supplements for breast feeding (not many moms breastfed in those days). We had a high chair, an infant seat, cloth diapers, and a baby bathtub.
The phone rang that afternoon in our apartment. Doctor Brannon was on the line, asking me to come in the next day, and asked that I bring my husband with me. They wanted to "look" at his head.
"Dr. Brannon," I told him, "my husband's head is as round as an orange. What is going on?"
It seems that the physicians at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital had sent the x-rays all over Philadelphia. To Children's Hospital, the first hospital devoted exclusively to the care of children. Ranked #1 Children's Hospital in the nation (where they performed miraculous feats like separated conjoined twins and curing childhood cancers). To Temple University Hospital, one of the premier medical centers in America......And no one had seen a head like this before.
Their conclusion......Probably the brain was protruding out of the back soft spot in the baby's head. The Occipital Fontanelle. Up until this time, we only knew about the Frontal Fontanelle, but learned this day that there are actually two...One in front, a smaller one in back.
"We do not want to subject the baby's brain to any undue pressure, Mrs. Bailey. So we have scheduled you for a Caesarean Section on November 5th."
I was 20. Up until now, I had lead a charmed and protected life. I had been carefully and gently raised and indulged, and no "bad things" had ever happened to me. Now Life was presenting us with a dramatic and impossible canyon to traverse. I hung up the phone, held my swollen abdomen, and wept bitterly. Never before had I worked so diligently for something, only to have it fail so miserably.
My husband held me close and let the tears of sorrow and fear flow freely. Then he tilted my face up to his and told me, "You have declared all your life your love of God and your reliance on Him. Now is the Time to put that faith into practice. We will go through this together, and trust that He has the Best in store for us."
Sometimes I really hate Rob for his wisdom.
So, what does a girl do when Life hits her between the eyes......She shops.....
We went to Fields Department Store (this before the era of WalMart). We bought a new camera. We bought groceries and root beer.
Home again. Took pictures of my expanding tummy with me standing next to our avocado plant we had grown from a seed. It was taller than I was, but not as wide......
We propped ourselves up on pillows in the bed with a "fun plate" between us-----salami, cheese, crackers----and poured ourselves a root beer. The TV was airing a movie starring John Wayne (Rob's favorite actor) and Shirley Temple (my favorite actress).
So we watched the movie and happily ate our snacks.
At one point, while Shirley Temple is running down the walkway in pretty hat and gown, I notice that my "bulge" is becoming quite hard and turgid.
No pain. Not even any discomfort. The tenor is singing "Oh Genevieve," and we consume more root beer.
My abdomen returns to "normal," and, then, curiously, it hardens again several minutes later.
I mention this to Rob, and he whips out his left hand with the watch on it, places his right hand on my baby bump, and looks concerned.
After several repetitions of this "hardening/relaxing," he announces that we are "going to the hospital." Demands that I get dressed and out the door immediately.
I lumber to the bathroom, assuring him that this, is, in fact, NOT labor, just some weird game the Baby is playing. I find a pair of pants that still stretch over my middle, cover it with a voluminous shirt (no tight maternity clothes back then), and obediently descend the stairs to the car.
Rob is speeding. It is midnight, and not much traffic on the White Horse Pike heading into Philly. He is driving with one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on my paunch. Now we are on the Walt Whitman Bridge, crossing the Delaware River, and flashing red and blue lights pull us over.
Rob jumps out of the car, goes over to the policeman and tells him, "She's having contractions, and they are 5 minutes apart. I am going to the Naval Hospital. You can get in front of me or in back of me" (Never before or since has my diplomatic husband been so assertive and demanding).
The policeman, answering with a panicked voice, tells this soontobe new father, "Oh......Oh.....Oh........Okay.......," and careens his patrol car to our front, setting off alarms and bells from the toll booth, escorting us down Broad Street in Philadelphia to the emergency entrance of the hospital.
I am laughing. Holding my solid tummy and laughing. "Rob! This is so cool! We can tell the Baby about this when he is 10 years old!"
Rob, knuckles white on the steering wheel, eyes peering straight ahead, "Toni, are you in complete control?"
Swirling into the parking lot of the ER, I am assisted up the ramp, and swept into an exam room, don a backless gown, and instructed to lie down on a gurney.
"My husband made me come here," I inform the nurse whose head has disappeared underneath the sheet covering me. "I don't think there is really anything to rush on about."
She emerges calmly from the foot of the gurney. "Hunny, you are dilated 8 centimeters."
I am assigned a room, taken thru the proper pre-op procedures, and am told to lie down and wait for the doctor to arrive (he too, driving in from New Jersey, across the WW Bridge).
It was only when I lay down that I began to experience some discomfort. Back then, labor and delivery were "controlled" activities orchestrated only by the doctors and their nurses. It was unheard of to allow a laboring mother to walk around. So, I began my "practiced" Lamaze Breathing to power thru the contractions. The attending nurse told me that I should stop breathing like that because I could "hyperventilate." She then examined me and announced that I was in transition......And I knew that my breathing was right on track with my body.
There were 8 babies born in that hospital that night. Women screaming and wailing all up and down the hall. The Lamaze Breathing technique kept me sane and comfortable and focused. I was the first Lamaze patient to ever be admitted in that hospital, and the nurses were amazed at my "Little Southern Composure."
Because it was an emergency C-section, I was awake during delivery. It felt and sounded like someone was cutting stiff cardboard when they made the incision.
A girl! Not an 8-pound boy, but a 7pound, 13 ounce GIRL!
"Emily Ellen Bailey!" I screamed. "Let me see her! Let me see her head!"
"Her head is just fine," the doctor informed me, and then I slept.
Emily's head was just fine. My theory is that her skull had been molded in utero from so much "looking around." By day 3, it had rounded out nicely into the pretty roundness of a
Rob got a parking ticket. Emily was jaundiced. My long hair was matted and tangled, and the delivery nurse came over to my ward and combed it out for me.
According to my mother, Emily wasn't as pretty as her babies, but her assessment of her head was the same as the doctors. "There aint nuthin in the World wrong with that baby," she affirmed.
And she was right.
Happy Birthday, Em.