Since I made no blog-worthy mistakes this week (just mundane stuff like thinking I could soak in the tub without company), I am foregoing my usual Saturday feature. My mother-in-law, Deb Campbell, has kindly agreed to allow me to post the birth story she wrote for Ben. I’m proud to report she was inspired to do this by my post earlier in the week.
Happy Mother’s Day, Deb.
Here is Ben’s birth story without the great black and white photographic documentation.
It was March, 1977 and I was about 8 months pregnant and home alone in the afternoon. I had just finished practicing my LaMaze exercises, both breathing and stretching and walked into the kitchen. Suddenly, my water broke, like the floods rushing through the levy in New Orleans! I was shocked, since I still had a good month to go. I called the doctor’s office and actually talked directly to him. You must know that this was in the small town of St. James (MN) where there were only two doctors in town who had a practice together. They didn’t take appointments. If you needed to see a doctor, you just
went down to the office and waited in line until they called your name. Dr. Moulton said, “Well, I guess you are going to have a baby.” For this, his parents paid for medical school!
I called Larry at work and he came home early. There were no contractions that afternoon and Dr. Moulton said that if nothing happened by morning, I should call his office. That evening, we were expecting my brother Michael for supper. He lived about 60 miles away in Hector and drove down for the evening. I didn’t want a big fuss, so we had supper without him knowing anything was going on. Larry and Michael ate regular food and I feigned “no appetite” and had jello.
After he left, we walked about 5 blocks to the grocery store (honest to God) and picked up lemon drops and Wheaties. The reason we walked was because our brand spankin’ newish car wouldn’t start.
Still no contractions and it was time for bed. I stayed up and finished sewing a bathrobe I had planned to take to the hospital and finished packing my bag. Larry went to bed to be well rested for the coming birth. After the last button was stitched on the robe, I also retired for the evening. About 2:00 in the morning, I woke up with what felt like just a mild stomach ache. The contractions came once in a while, but I slept through most of it. At about 4:00 or so, they were coming along more regularly, but still very easy to take. I was doing my breathing and totally calm. I thought I had a long, long way to go and wanted to sleep and rest as much as possible to save my energy for when things really got going. The LaMaze classes were paying off and it felt like the breathing and focusing kept me very calm and in control.
At about 5:00 or so, I thought maybe we should go to the hospital, because I really hadn’t planned on a home birth. Larry went out to start the car and true to form for a Fiat (appropriately nick-named “Dud”) it wouldn’t start. Larry called the police and told them his wife was in labor and we needed a ride to the hospital. Hoot Malmgren (I will never forget this man’s name) was the officer on duty that night. He asked if we wanted an ambulance and we said, “Oh, no. Just a ride.” (Minnesota Nice.)
So about 2 minutes later, Hoot pulled up in the driveway. I got in the back seat and Larry sat in front (this must have been some kind of cultural thing) and Hoot took off for the hospital. He hit a few bumps in the road and said, “That should speed things up.” (Maybe it did!)
We got to the hospital about 5:30. The nurses took me into a room and did an exam and prepped me. After a very short me, they said it was time to go into the delivery room. I could hardly believe it. I was prepared for hours of labor and had been doing all the breathing exercises with each contraction. I hadn’t even started the more complex ones that are reserved for heavy labor because I honestly thought I had a long way to go. One of the nurses asked me how many children I had; she was surprised that this was my first baby and that I seemed awfully calm.
We moved into the delivery room and I started pushing. Dr. Moulton, roused from his slumber, showed up, getting suited up as he entered the room, as there wasn’t much time to spare. At 6:14, out came Ben, very quickly, after a number of hard pushes. He had a cone-shaped head, but was absolutely perfect, if not a bit tiny, weighing in at 5.5 pounds. The nurse laid him on top of me and I remember being amazed at what he looked like and how tiny he seemed. Since no ultra sound had been done, we didn?t have a clue about whether this was going to be a boy or girl, but for some reason had made the assumption it was a girl. What a surprise, when the doctor said, “You have a boy.” I almost said, “Are you sure?”
Since Ben was a month earlier than he should have been, the nurses took him fairly quickly and put him in a warmer. After a few hours they brought him back into my room and it was the most thrilling moment I had ever had. We kept looking at him and just couldn’t believe how perfect he was. I remember we unwrapped this tiny little baby on the bed and actually were just a bit frightened at how small he was. Ben?s little legs were about as big around as a thumb. The diapers were too big and actually had to be folded more so they would fit.
In the next day or so, as babies do, Ben lost a little weight so he slipped under 5 pounds. Dr. Moulton wanted to keep him in the hospital until he regained his birth weight. After 5 days, which in those days was pretty standard, I was discharged without my baby. The next four days were really hard, having our baby in the hospital and not being there all the time. We went every three hours to feed him, but he was not particularly interested in waking up and eating, so we usually had to wake him for each feeding. Finally after the 9th day, he had regained his birth weight and could come home with us. Ben was the smallest baby born in the Watonwan Memorial Hospital during the entire year of 1977.
The drive home was so different from what it would be today. I held Ben on my lap and we drove home. No car seat, no restraints, just holding a newborn baby and assuming the best. We brought him into the house and walked through telling him about each room. Then we changed his diaper on the living room couch. I don’t know why I remember that, but it seems like we could have probably found a better spot than that, perhaps the changing table?? We had the cradle that Papa had made in the dining room down stairs and we put him in it with a musical tiger. Life was perfect and so was our new baby.