I’m here to talk about a birth that was of great importance to me. My own.
Frighteningly enough, I was born in Amityville, N.Y., a town upon which the movie “Amityville Horror” was based. Now that that’s out of the bag, I guess I’ll have to go into a witness protection program. I never saw the movie, and I am probably not really the Amityville Horror itself – or herself. But it does make me wonder about the effect of the circumstances of birth on one’s personality.
Long ago, my mother, who’d already given birth to a bunch of kids but apparently wasn’t satisfied with the lot of them, was nearing her due date with me. This was the same mother who told me that labor was “like menstrual cramps,” so that in itself may invalidate certain elements of this story.
A few days before her due date, Mom began labor. Based on the very easy births she’d had, she finished supper, likely cleaned up the dinner dishes, because that’s what women did back then, and went to the hospital.
Dad drove her there, whereupon the admitting clerk began asking the usual litany of questions.
“Look,” my mother said, “I have my babies very quickly. Can I please just go to the Labor Room?” My mom was kind, but direct.
“Address? Phone number? Doctor’s name?” the woman went on.
OK. I made that part up. I really have no idea what she actually asked my mom at this point, but I know she didn’t heed Mom’s warning.
“I’m telling you, I deliver very quickly. You’d better get me-”
“Oh, dear, you have plenty of time,” said the clerk.
With the next contraction, my mom became insistent.
“If you don’t get me to the Delivery Room, I will have this child right here in the lobby,” she said. (Go, Mom!)
The woman looked at Mom, decided she was serious, and wheeled her upstairs.
The doctor appeared. Dad stayed with my mother, somewhat unusual back then, but again, Mom was outspoken and she’d had three previous natural childbirths. She was not someone doctors – or my dad – tangled with.
“I’m going to scrub up,” said the doctor, after examining her. Then the foolish suggestion: “Feel free to give an experimental push or two.”
Exit doctor, stage left.
One push. One. Mom would retell the story again and again over the years to my adoring and possibly adorable smiling face. I mean, “Tell me again how I was born, Mommy” is still darned cute coming from a 45-year-old.
“One push and there you were …” (hand moves in a twisty, outward direction) “… just like that, you just shot out and landed at the foot of the bed.”
At which point, my dad, brave in all things, took one look and went screaming down the hallway yelling, “Doctor! Doctor!”
Thanks, Dad. No checking for possible need to resuscitate. No thought that maybe I needed a blanket. No checking to see if Mom was conscious (although knowing my mom, she probably was writing about the birth on scrap paper and calling for a good cup of coffee). This is where it all started. I’m getting there. Stay with me.
The doctor came back, most likely checked to make sure I was breathing (I was), and said, “You know, I had a feeling I shouldn’t have told you to push.”
Now, when you are born like a rocket taking off at NASA, you develop a few quirks. First, I like things done efficiently. None of this “we’ll get around to it” stuff. If something needs doing, I do it. Second, I came into this world alone, with the help of my wonderful mom, hereafter known as The Pusher. The Pusher taught me to speak out, although it took me decades to get it right. And third, if you shoot out of your mother’s womb like a speeding bullet and still land on the cot, you’ve got survival skills, which later turn to wisdom.
And the wisdom is this:
Kids grow up fast. Faster than speeding bullets. So put down your electronics, ditch the phone and talk to your baby. Hold her. Smell the sweetness of her face. Look into her eyes and sing to her. Because before you know it, that infant will be grown, childhood past.
And you will want to be so in tune with her that when she’s raising children herself someday, you’ll anticipate her most frequent request:
“Mom, can you tape this?”