His mother’s oldest son

My son, Steve, was born the last day of June in 1968. It was a hot day long before noon came when I took the second half bottle of castor oil-the first have downed yesterday in an attempt to get labor started. I mixed both halves with orange juice, as that was what I vaguely remember in the story my Oklahoma Aunts and my mother discussed one summer sitting around our Granny’s dining table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. I believe I was ten or eleven years old and it was a hot day. I was likely not in the room but rather in the bedroom with my nose in a book. I filed the information away in my brain under “might-be-good-to-know-sometime.” So now there I was, age nineteen and pregnant out to here (imagine outstretched arms circled very wide!) I waddled around in thrift store thin summer dresses purchased because real maternity clothes seemed very impractical to me. I spent the first half of the day finishing sewing baby blankets-yellow and green with a few blue just in case…Just in case was because I had been praying very hard for a baby girl. I almost did not even consider the possibility of it NOT being a girl. I prayed hard I am telling you! People, other women more experienced in those matters, all said it was going to be a boy. I informed them all that I thought they were wrong because I had asked God for a girl. I remember the knowing smiles on all their faces.
After finishing the little sewing project, I tidied up the small apartment and began to walk. It was well past 100 degrees when I started up the shady side of Hemlock Street that afternoon in Abilene, Texas. I walked up the mulberry stained concrete sidewalks and back down for several hours. Exhausted from lugging myself up and down the street in the heat, I went home to wait. I checked my suitcase and the baby suitcase to make certain all was in place. I waited some more. After starting dinner, late in the afternoon, I settled down to wait and read in my book. Rosemary’s Baby was a very engaging book and it seemed like I had read for a long time. Waiting sure was hard when it was well-past 100 degrees and I was so swollen my shoes barely fit on my feet. Supper came and went, as did my shower after dinner. I was more than halfway through the book before I felt a single isolated cramp. Hooray! I watched my little Timex wristwatch and started timing the pains. It was past eleven when I woke my husband and told him to call the hospital. The pains were about ten to twelve minutes apart. He was very excited! His excitement spilled over on what had been my sense of calm expectation. I went in the spruce up my hair spraying the teased hair with Right Guard deodorant. (That would explain where I used the Aqua net hairspray which later glued me to the labor room bed for the next 18 1/2 hours.) Several times the Dr. popped in, twice to flip my breech child. You have not truly experienced child birth unless you have a doctor manually reach inside your womb to flip your child who is begging to both be breech and to not come out into the world, all the while I still insisting on natural childbirth. No drugs, nothing for pain, and then the air conditioning went down in the small base hospital. My entire maternal-to-be demeanor changed. It was likely still over 100 degrees late into the night. It was daylight when the nurse, no doubt a childless hag, suggested to the doctor to rupture my membranes and perhaps speed the process along. Nurse Hag, my assigned nurse went off shift…she and I had long since passed exchanging pleasantries. After spending eight hours grunting and moaning and clutching the iron headboard in the squeaky small bed, I loathed her and somehow knew instinctively the feeling was mutual. The next nurse must have been to a different nursing school or perhaps given birth herself as she was so much more tolerable. I still whined and moaned and cried but she did not seem the least bit annoyed with me. The rupture of membranes did nothing. The sun grew high in the Texas sky and still no baby. Rosemary had her baby and the coven whisked her son away while I was stuck to the bed still laboring…held fast by aerosol sprays under my armpits and on my head mixed with the sweat produced by my futile pains and lack of air-conditioning. New nice nurse announced it was a record heat of 118 degrees. I really did not care at that point I just wanted that demon child out of me. It was nearly five pm. I was starting to move along with the pains. My back hurt like I had been thrown down the stairs, dragged up and thrown down again. When they finally all circled ’round the bed and announced it was happening. In almost no time the doctor sliced into my hemorrhoids and with a huge pair of tongs reached in and brought forth my first born son. The nurses held him above me while the cord was cut so I could see he indeed was not a little girl and took him away to wrap in swaddling clothes and whatever else they did out of my eyesight. The few tears shed for my little girl baby were obviously lost on the team who tended to the afterbirth and baby weigh in and assorted chores. A few days later, the nurse brought in the babies for feeding. Afterward I was allowed to change his diaper when to my delight I clearly saw girl anatomy. I stayed very quiet. For several hours I cooed and cuddled her before the mistake was discovered by the other mother who was feeding by son. We had the same last name…My son safely back in the nursery while they waited for me to confess I knew they made a mistake. For an hour I had a baby girl and that was all the proof I needed boy babies were just as great.
My son brought me years of joy and tears of pain for the next three and a half decades. It was twenty days until his birthday, and another very hot humid June day in Texas. Another phone call and another trip to the hospital, this time: his exit from the world and escape into the afterlife. The tears were all real and all for my boy who had lived and loved and brought such happiness to the world and then left without so much as a moment’s notice.
Today marks the twelfth anniversary of him going. My pillow was wet last night and still wet this morning. It is a hot day with clear blue skies overhead. It is, after all, his favorite kind of day.

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