Monday, May 16, 2011

Pieces Of Me Part II

Having had a baby once, and being incredibly young and stupid, I assumed that I knew what every birth thereafter would be like.

My daughter had come in mid October. It had been easy, and drawn out and quiet, full of naps and whispered conversations with my husband about the future. My second child came in a much more frenzied manner. I woke knowing that this day (December 1rst, 1978) was it. We couldn’t afford a phone so I put on my parka and boots (contractions 10 minutes apart, no big deal), grabbed my small bag, plopped my 14 month old in her stroller shrouded in heavy quilts  and headed out the door into a 10 degree winter morning for the one mile walk to the base.

My husband’s unit handled nuclear devices so security was tight. I stopped at the gate and identified myself and told them what I needed. A phone call was made. A second, higher ranking man came to the gate and took my ID. For some unknown reason these soldiers always felt the need to remark on the fact that my husband had an American name and was Belgian and I had a French name and was not. My contractions had begun coming closer together and this lieutenant showed no signs of being in a hurry. I hopped from foot to foot, patting my woolen mummy of a child on the head and tried to see around him. He was jovial and talked to my daughter and complained about the frigid weather and asked did I like the snow and were we ready for Christmas. By this time the contractions had sped up considerably coming about 3 minutes apart and the hospital was 15 miles away.  I heard my breathing take on the tenor of a steam locomotive, I felt a terrible urge to put both hands between my legs just in case I had to catch the little bugger myself, I was just about to lose control of my mounting temper (as any army wife knows, permanently destroying my husbands chance of ever being more than a PFC) when I saw my man running flat out across the parade ground toward me, waving the car keys and shouting Breathe! Breathe! He leapt in the car, gunned the engine and shot out of his parking spot He did a sliding stop at the gate, throwing the door open, allowing me to stumble in as he snatched up my daughter and threw her face first into the back seat leaving the stroller where it sat.  Sliding back in he gave a wicked grin as he saluted through the window and ratcheted the car into reverse and then back into gear and we peeled out spraying ice and salt all over the starched officer.

The hospital was old, six stories with the OB-GYN rooms being on the top floor. Normally a rickety old elevator, pre WW-II, serviced the upper floors but as luck would have it the thing had died during the night and was taped off. I looked at the stairwell, feeling like someone on TV, looking for hidden cameras. What could I do? I took off my coat and began the hump up 120 stairs. My husband took my elbow but was called back by the young soldier behind the desk. Government institutions, any government institution, runs on paper and this military hospital was no exception. He turned around to fill out what seemed to be fifty forms in triplicate while I heaved myself up.

On the ground floor my contractions were about a minute apart. By the fourth floor they were hitting me like surf, constant, and by the sixth floor I was done. I slung open the fire door with a bang and grunted NOW. A young corpsman stood in front of me looking terrified and glued to the spot. I can only imagine the hot, sweaty, red-faced, pissed-off, heavy breathing behemoth that stood in front of him at that moment. Two men, who thank heaven turned out to be doctors, literally lifted me off the floor by my elbows, through a door and plopped me unceremoniously on a bed. I yelled ARGGHHHH or something similar as my drawers were ripped off and whoosh, one fellow stood at the end of the bed, drenched in amniotic fluid and holding a freaking gorgeous 10 pound baby boy like he was a football while the other was struck immobile in the process of closing the door. I still had my coat clutched in my hands.

We remained frozen in place, a vivid tableau with the only sound that of water dripping off the bed frame until my husband burst in the room with our daughter on his hip and a disbelieving look on his face. He hit the puddle and slid into the bed and gave me one of the best kisses of my life. I started laughing, he started crying, my daughter and the new baby both started howling and both doctors started whooping with glee and adrenalin release. The entire thing took less than an hour. I resolved to climb stairs and walk miles if I ever went into labor again.

I found out later that the officer was a friend of my husband and had been sent to occupy me while he finished up whatever a gunner does. He appeared at the hospital an hour after our son was born bearing flowers and a toy for my daughter and a cigar for my husband. I often wondered what happened to him. I haven't seen him since.