T Minus 40: Birthday…

The events surrounding my birth have long been shrouded in mystery, mostly due to the fact that my mom was doped up beyond belief. I asked her to write the story as she remembers it through a forty year old looking glass of memory and the haze of pain killers that she was under when I was actually delivered. I give you, guest blogger… Mom!! Now I’m off to the spa. Peace out, yo.

The Night before the Blessed Event

It was Tuesday night, September 21, 1976. My husband and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child. We didn’t know the gender, but I was secretly hoping and praying for a little girl; a little girl that I could dress up in frilly things and bond with as my “bestest” buddy. This was in contrast to the hopes and prayers of my Italian in-laws, who seemed to place a little more attention on first-born sons. Those same in-laws kept feeding me and telling me, “you’re eating for two” which may have been why, over the course of my pregnancy, I gained 88 pounds. Yep, that’s what I said, 88 pounds.

I had no clue that this might be a bad idea. My own mother was more than a thousand miles away, and when I asked questions like, “What is it gonna feel like?” I got answers like, “Pooping a watermelon.” You’ve got to love Midwestern colloquialisms.

My obstetrician (we’ll now refer to him as Old Doctor Quack) had no objections to my weight gain and assured me that I would drop at least 30 pounds at the hospital. That may be why, on the night of September 21, I felt free to eat half of a pan of baked ziti and a dozen cookies. When I went to bed that night feeling a little twinge in my tummy I chalked it up to baked ziti and cookies.

Labor Day

The next morning, September 22, 1976, I woke up feeling pretty good but when I stepped out of bed, I immediately felt a little puddle at my feet. “Oh no, my water is breaking! Bobby, it’s time.”

We were both so excited. The long awaited time was near. He immediately went into action, called Old Doctor Quack, and began making preparations for our sojourn to Smithtown General. That included a shower for him, hairdo and makeup for me, and dressing up in nice clothes. After all, when we met our little bundle of joy, we wanted to be presentable.

(editor’s note: I envision this moment looking a lot like the scene in Saturday Night Fever when Travolta gets ready to go to the club)

This was a far cry from my mother’s reaction to going into labor with me. They tell me that when she arrived at the hospital, she refused to get out of the car. She had changed her mind about the whole baby thing.

The pains continued and intensified. The whole “watermelon” thing was far away, but even still, I was thinking, “How does anybody do this?” By the time we got from Ronkonkoma to Smithtown, I was sure no one but me had ever endured such excruciating torment.

I started to focus my uncomfortable feelings on my poor husband. After all, it was he who opted out of going with me to Lamaze. (Truthfully, I wasn’t all that gung ho about it either.) He said to me, “Why would I want to see you in such pain?” Well, he was getting a front row seat now.

Once we were in the labor room, I could hear other soon-to-be-moms, screaming and yelling in vain at their husbands. Wow! That added to my concern.

The first setback was that my water had not completely broken. Oops, here comes a long stick-like wand to finish the job. Ouch!

Then, because of the massive amount of weight I had gained, my veins were extremely hard to find. Stick, stick, stick.

The pain kept getting increasingly intense. My husband didn’t want to leave (so much for the “I don’t want to see you in pain” thing). On top of all this, I was suffering from the revenge of last night’s ziti and cookies. The nurse said, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you anything for the pain as long as your husband is here.”

(editor’s note: you’ve gotta love the ’70s. Stingy with the drugs in the hospital, but at the disco…)

Desperate times called for desperate measures. I took matters into my own hands. I promptly leaned over toward him, and heaved up the aforementioned ziti. Like a real trooper, he caught the ziti vomit in the green hospital gown he had been given when we entered the labor room. He left the hospital to go home and get cleaned up, and I was able to get the much needed pain medication. Victory was mine!

Delivery

Always be careful what you wish for. The much awaited pain medication knocked me for a loop. I was not aware of anything. Where am I? Why am I here? I think I’m having a baby. As out of it as I was, the hours crept by. My husband not only went home, but he went to pick up his mom and took her to lunch before returning to the hospital.

Meanwhile, labor was progressing. I vaguely remember the nurse mentioning something about it being time or crowning or something similar. The next thing I knew, I was floating down a hallway, with bright, white orbs passing over head. I could feel myself being placed on another bed of some sort, and my legs being raised upward. Just as I was regaining a modicum of lucidity, I heard Old Doctor Quack’s voice, “Jeri, can you count backwards from 100 for me?” “100, 99, 98, 96, uh, 85, um, 60, zzzz.” I vaguely heard voices, but I couldn’t make out what they said.

When the fog started to lift I felt nothing, but was becoming aware of my surroundings. A kind female voice said, “Jeri, you have a beautiful little girl.” She was holding my baby close to my face. Through my haze, I saw this bloody, screaming little face. “Oh, she’s so beautiful!” I said through my tears.

My long wait was over and I had gotten my wish. This tiny little beauty was mine and I felt total amazement. Later, I learned from my husband that our beautiful little bundle of joy weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 21 inches long. I could hardly wait to get her home. We had already picked out our preferred girl’s name, Amy Ann. My brother, who was a thirteen-year-old wise aleck at the time, thought we should name her Amy Sue; he thought Amy Sue Serrago would have a memorable monogram.

As soon as I could get a nurse to help me to the scale, I weighed myself. I was anxious to see that 30 pound reduction I’d been promised, but Old Doctor Quack had lied! I left the hospital having lost 8 pounds. 8!

There were other issues as well. My beautiful little girl had a large, cone-like bump on her head. Because of my position on the delivery table, her head had come in contact with my coccyx bone. The bone was broken, but due to my inexperience, I didn’t realize that my inability to stand without pushing off the floor was abnormal. In fact, I wouldn’t be aware of this until my mother came into town a few days later.

It really didn’t matter to me. I had my beautiful little girl and we spent countless hours dressing her up, being very careful to hide the bump under little pink bonnets. She was our precious jewel. My first and only baby (why mess with perfection) and the first grandchild on both sides.

Interesting Princess Factoids

(editors note: my mother has never actually referred to me as “princess”)

1. Amy is the oldest, of the oldest, of the oldest, of the oldest. Meaning, her great grandmother was the oldest child, her grandmother was the oldest child, her mother was the oldest child, and she is the oldest child.

2. Amy and I were both born in the Chinese year of the dragon (1976 and 1952, respectively).

3. Amy was born on the cusp between Virgo and Libra. Her daddy was a Virgo, and her mother a Libra.

4. Amy actually met her great-great grandmother (Mother Mable) and we have the pictures to prove it. One picture shows an inquisitive little Amy, face to face with blind Mother Mable. In another picture are the five generations, Amy, me, my mother Janet, her father Edwin (Papaw), and Mother Mable.

(editors note: our family takes terrible pictures, there I said it. Thank God they invented digital photography)

img_1123

5. Amy comes from a long line of musicians. Mother Mable graduated from DePauw University where she studied music. Then she attended the American Conservatory in Chicago. Amy’s great-great Uncle Cliff (her grandfather was named after him) was a trumpet player in big bands during the 40s and 50s.

6. Amy was born with a slight dusting of dark hair and dark blue eyes. The hair fell out and she was a baldy until about 2 and a half years. Her eyes became the most beautiful hazel we had ever seen.

7. Amy is the most precious gift I could have ever received. And now, through her marriage to a wonderful man, I feel like I also have a gift in him. Corny I know, but true!

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