Friday, November 13, 2009

My Own Birth

At a funeral I attended a few weeks ago, the deceased was eulogized, in large part, from his own writings. One of his 9 children explained that one of their most treasured possessions was a 300+ page personal history, their dad had written. The story that amused me most was the story this man wrote about his own birth.

It is one thing, as a parent, to write about the birth of a child, but quite another to write about your own birth. Not that you weren't there, obviously, you were. And you're the hero of the story, which is always a bonus. But the fact of the matter is, you are oblivious enough of your surroundings, or your memory fuzzy, as yet unformed, that the story relies entirely on the hearsay of your parents. Basically, this gives you as a writer, license to say whatever the heck you want, which, of course, is the part I like the best.

Thus inspired, I will share with you the story of my birth.

My older sister was born in the middle of the night, so when I learned that I was born at 7:20AM on May 16th (1976 if you're nosy enough to want to know), I was pleased as punch.

"Ha!" I remember saying to my sister. "I was the nice daughter who let Mom sleep during the night. Then when she woke up, she had me at a reasonable time."

My mother looked at me a bit sadly, no, no that wasn't true. "I was in labor all night with you and you finally came in the morning."

So my story begins the evening of May 15th as my mom went into labor. My parents were watching a TV show. I don't know what show it was, except for the fact that I can tell you unequivocally, that it was not Dallas as Dallas had not aired yet, nor would it for years to come. And even when it aired, my parents would never watch it because they were not the type of people who watched shows like Dallas. (Apparently there was a character on Dallas named "Jenna" and for years people asked me if I was named for the show Dallas and my parents would like you all to know that I wasn't.)

Dad was pretty antsy about the whole having-a-baby thing and kept telling my mom that it was time to go to the hospital. Mom was determined to finish the show. Mom lost. She never saw the end of the show and was shuttled to the hospital before Dad died of a heart attack caused by impatience.

I'm sure there are a lot of gory details about the night, but let it be said that when I was born, I was humongous. The doctor thought he broke my collar bone during delivery and was delighted to see me unbroken upon further inspection. I weighed 10 lbs 7 oz (told you--humongous) and was in all ways healthy... and intelligent.

Not to brag, but when I was born, I was wrapped up and handed to my mom, who loved me up and was happy that I was out and she could finally breathe. Then she handed me to my dad and .. (drumroll please) I smiled. That's right. Me, right out of the womb with my almost broken collar bone, smiling. Not a gassy smile. No, a real smile. I looked right at my dad and smiled.

As a kid I never doubted this story and retold it as well as my mom. But grown-ups never bought this. No, they'd say shaking their heads, your parents were mistaken. So I'd continue. Dad wasn't the only person I smiled at during my hospital stay. The day after my birth, I smiled at the cleaning lady, who, appropriately freaked out, since it is a known fact that babies can't look at you and smile until they are at least 3 months old.

The cleaning lady hollered for her friend, Gladys or Martha or some such, and once Gladys-Martha appeared at my bedside I smiled at her too. In fact, I lifted my head and smiled at her.

In the wisdom of the day, babies were laid to sleep on their tummies. This was to prevent aspirating on spit-up and thereby reduce SIDS. So, I proved some kind of super-human strength to lift my head and smile. My mom always believed that my early smiling skill was a sign of superior intelligence. Not that I want to deny that, but it was really that I think I was just being congenial. I just love to meet new people!

Once I became a parent with my own little toad, I began to question the smiling story. I mean really. And I began to wonder along side the doubting grown-ups that I had ever really had such a remarkable skill. Then one of my friends had a baby and at a shower her baby smiled at me. He was only a couple of weeks old. It was remarkable. Yes, my friend Zoila confirmed, he'd been smiling since he was only a few days old. At that moment I knew it was true. I was a happy outlier in my own way.

The only other thing I know about the time that surrounded my birth was that when my parents brought me to the car my not quite two-year-old older sister was waiting for me. She'd heard a lot about the new baby and was eager to see me. When I was held down for her to behold all of my baby loveliness, she reportedly took one look at me and said, "What's that?"


HARA said...

HILARIOUS! This is such a great idea. Maya smiled after a few days, very real smiles, and I swear on my life she is smiling at me on my ultr-sound video. I have it if you ever want to witness the in utero miracle. shahara

Annalise said...

Love the idea of telling your own birth story! I have no doubt you were a very intelligent baby, as that trait has continued through to this day.

I have a friend whose oldest daughter rolled over when she was a day old, and did it repeatedly from then on. Some people just defy the odds!

Tara Rickards said...

That is so fun! I love the story! I can only remember parts of my birth story. I think I'll ask my mom again!

I think its appropriate that you came out smiling! In all of the memories I have of you, a big grin is spread across your face. You always seem so happy! Or, maybe it's just that you have a beautiful smile, so that's what hangs in my mind... :-)