If you remember from a week ago, I was having a little trouble Arriving on the scene back in 1953… Letʼs begin with review: with infant me fully two weeks overdue, Seventh-Day-Adventist Dr. Onofrio had induced labor for my mother early in the morning on Friday, but nothing happened, until hours after she had been released to go back home and rest. About 2:30, labor contractions began.
And there was my mother, at home alone, entering labor, with the doctor and the delivery room about fifteen or twenty minutes distant. In those days, apparently, school administrators didnʼt call teachers out of class, even for a birth. What was this mother-to-be going to do?
Drive herself to the doctorʼs office, of course, having left a message for my father to receive at the end of the school day. She drove the whole twenty minutes alone in the car, as her contractions arrived more frequently, lasted longer each time, and grew more intense. As she personally never told me any of this story and as I have never endured childbirth myself (an acting exercise in college in which one of my peers, female and feminist, cast me as the mother in delivery notwithstanding), I donʼt know just how unbearable and difficult this experience was. I do know she made it and staggered up the steps and into the office area of the Old Folks and Obstetrics facility sometime around 3:30 PM.
Her water broke either in the car or as she arrived in the doctorʼs office (I have heard, or I remember hearing, both versions), so the birth was imminent. The staff got her in a wheelchair and took her to a delivery room where the contractions continued and the birth proceeded with Dr. Onofrio on hand. (That wheelchair may be an elaboration on the truth of my own…)
My dad got the message as soon as the day ended, and I think he hooked a ride with a fellow teacher over to Victorville in time to arrive not long after my birth, perhaps even just in time. (It was, of course, the Fifties, when fathers-to-be were separated from their wives in a waiting room, pacing and waiting to hear the news arrive secondhand from a staff member, although my proud paternal parent would not have offered to the others thereabouts cigars of celebration, nor drinks of any kind, not even cokes or coffee*). So he waited.
My mother thought the doctor and nurse acted a little awkward or uncomfortable, seeming to avoid her eyes, as the birth progressed, but she delivered successfully, at 4:04 PM on Friday, November 13, only to have the staff hurry the baby off instead of laying it/me on her bosom, once the stern slap, to encourage infant lungs to breathe, had been administered. It was my father, who seeking the baby-viewing area once he had been permitted to visit my mom and see she was doing all right, eventually learned that his newborn son was receiving the Fifties version of intensive care. The little tyke was born blue.
Yes, in my extra time in the womb, or earlier, I had gotten bored and tied my umbilical cord around my head and neck. The blueness of my crowning bald infant pate had startled and concerned the doctor and changed the atmosphere in the delivery room. I hadnʼt responded well to the lung-starting slap once I was out and freed of the umbilicus, either. So they rushed tiny me away to an incubator.
It sounds so dire to say it was “fetal distress from nuchal cord,” but although I recovered well (some would insist there has been brain damage, but I think they werenʼt serious), those first hours were evidently touch-and-go. But the good doctor and his staff did his/their job well. I survived getting born.
I didnʼt have to remain under treatment long, but my sister says that if Onofrio hadnʼt been an Adventist, religiously unable to deliver a Saturday baby, I would have been born in worse shape than merely a bit blue in the face, probably not actually born at all, just another in my motherʼs string of disappointed pregnancies. Waiting another day or weekend would have been simply too long.
I may have arrived not on Halloween but instead a fortnight late on Friday the Thirteenth (appropriately, my students always felt), but at least I did arrive and went home with my folks early in the next week. Margaret has often said that if I choose to write an autobiography, perhaps I should entitle it One Foot in Heaven for (if you think about it a little) a lot of reasons, ironic and otherwise (it has been done before, though).
* I have often joked my father should have been a Mormon.
So thatʼs my story, which perhaps twenty years of Andrew speech students heard in even grittier and more glorious detail (all invented on the spot and all, I hope purged for this rendition). The problem is that I believe Ms. Morissette wants the tale reduced to a Facebook post, and I donʼt really think I can do that. Do you? (No, wait, I found the link to e-mail her the whole 1900 words of the story. Here goes…)
Now, depending upon requests, I also have The Tale of the Time I First Drove… (and I could even scan the photos Janet and I took of the location a few years back).