it's about life, my life, quilts, midwifery, and whatever else occurs to me.

28 September 2013

Stories from Dad #1: Birth, 1951-style

A new occasional feature, capturing my Dad's memories while he is still around to tell them. This one, starring me! 

It was the evening, or maybe late afternoon, of August 28, 1951. Mom's water broke, and Dad brought her over to the hospital. 

At the time, Dad was part of the broadcast team for the local baseball team, the Elmira Pioneers, an A-league farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Interesting fact: during that same 1951 season, Don Zimmer, then a Pioneers player and later the bench coach of the New York Yankees, got married at home plate, Dunn Field (the Pioneers' home stadium). Wonder what the bride really thought about that!

The Pioneers had a home game that night, and Mom apparently wasn't doing much in the way of contractions so she sent him off to the game. He left the phone number of the broadcast booth with the labor room nurses in case 'something happened I should know about'. But nothing did, and after the game, around 10:15 pm, he stopped off at the hospital to see how things were going with Mom. 

(Ed. note: I was surprised to hear they let him in to see her, being under the impression that until the late 60s or even later, fathers were banished entirely until the bundles of joy were out, cleaned up and moms likewise cleaned up, spiffy in their new pink nightgowns and beaming with bundle of joy in arms. But perhaps not. Or maybe it was up to the doctor in charge, and he would have let Dad in. Anyway on with the story.)

Dad stayed with Mom for (he says) about an hour or so. (I couldn't get him to clarify this so I'm just guessing that she still wasn't doing much contracting.) He left to go get some sleep and given the 'not much happening', the GP who was our family doctor and Mom's attending doc - since other than being a bit old, she was normal, and GPs did births all the time back then - would also have been home trying to get some sleep until needed for the big event.

Home for both Dad and Doc Gridley was Horseheads, only about 6 miles north of Elmira but at the time requiring a long distance call and the services of an actual human operator. When the labor nurse saw that I was getting ready to make my debut, she called Doc - and called - and called - and the Horseheads operator never answered. In the end it was some intern who caught me, unless it was actually the nurse but she had to credit the doctor for it. Because, good heavens, how could someone who's not a doctor catch a baby on their own responsibility!!?? That was at 2:34 am on Wednesday, August 29.

Dad says he got a call from the hospital around 7 am to tell him he had another daughter. (I haven't asked if he was disappointed about me not being a boy. Too threatening.) Presumably he was soon enough at Mom's bedside admiring the new bundle.

That bundle would later: cause so much trouble in her first grade class that she was sent up to second grade; set a kitchen on fire; read left-wing periodicals; vote Democratic; throw tear gas canisters back at police; hitchhike across the country and back twice; experiment with illegal mind-altering chemicals; convert to Judaism; and get divorced. Had he known all this at the time, I am certain he would have been horrified.

It was later determined that the hapless telephone operator had fallen asleep at the switch(board), and sadly, though not unsurprisingly, was sacked for it. 

And that's the story.


Gramma B said...

Fun read, Maryann.

Heather said...

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