I've been getting some positive feedback from the excerpt I read at the Feb 18 CWC Peninsula meeting from Love in Any Language called "And Baby Makes Four", so I wanted to post it here:
I unwrapped pink diaper bags, pink onesies, and frilly pink dresses at the April 1971 baby showers thrown by the Hawthorne school faculty and the women in our UC student-housing unit. Those who doubted that I could choose the sex of my baby, thought impossible in 1970, gave me yellow blankets, sweaters, and booties. (I’d read a Life magazine article about how to conceive a girl. My husband loved the method.)
When birthing Tony, our first child, four years before, I’d been caught off guard by the pain. Then, my obstetrician had quickly administered a saddle block anesthetic. The painkiller deadened me to all feeling in my lower extremities. For days afterward, I had excruciating headaches every time I lifted my head. I didn’t want a pain-deadener with this second birth. I wanted to experience the pleasure of a natural birth, like so many women said they did in the ’70s. I enrolled in weekly evening Lamaze classes the month before my due date, and hoped for a painless, enjoyable childbirth.
I arrived unaccompanied at the Albany Adult School at seven in the evening on July 6 for the third Lamaze class entitled, “Labor Pains.” Antonio hadn’t come with me to any of the classes. Childbirth wasn’t a major medical event where he came from. He said women in Peru delivered their babies without their spouses involved in classes. Antonio hadn’t been present when Tony was born, so I wasn’t surprised by his lack of involvement with our second child’s delivery. It had been my decision to have this baby, and I would attend Lamaze classes by myself. I gritted my teeth and went alone.
“Your abdomen will become hard,” the perky, young Lamaze instructor said describing a labor pain, “and you’ll feel pressure on your pelvis.”
I looked around at the circle of women leaning against their husbands. The couples resembled wheel- barrows holding various sized pumpkins. Most appeared more relaxed than I, even though most were first-time parents. I was a single pumpkin reclining against a pillow with no wheelbarrow to hold me.
A sharp movement around my abdomen startled me. I couldn’t recall having felt this tightening before Tony’s birth. Alarmed, I sat upright and raised my hand.
“The contractions move in a wave-like motion from the top to the bottom of the uterus like a cramp,” the teacher continued, then looked over at me.
“Yes, Evelyn?” she said, swishing her blond ponytail.
“I’m feeling something,” I said, concerned. “Could it be a contraction?”
“Can you wait another fifteen minutes until the eight o’clock break?” she asked, looking at the clock above the blackboard.
A warm glow went through my body. I felt so mellow I could have agreed to anything. I nodded and rested against my big pillow. After all, I was having my second child. I should know how a contraction felt. Maybe my daughter was just changing her position.
At the break, Miss Perky felt my belly, timing what she now agreed were contractions. I waddled be- hind the instructor to the office of the night school principal, Mr. Hughes. The principal looked at me with unsmiling concern. Then, without warning, my water broke and splashed all over his office floor.
“I think,” the instructor said, now less cheerful, “you need to get to a hospital right away, and I need to get back to my class.”
Principal Hughes’s eyes opened wide with bewilderment. I looked at him amused, still in a euphoric state. I’d driven to class in our little VW bug. Mr. Hughes said he’d come to work on his motorcycle. With my contractions now seven minutes apart, I needed to get home so Antonio could take me to Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. I called him on the office phone and instructed:
“Get Tony ready to stay with a neighbor. ”Antonio sounded surprised, but calm. I hung up and got back to Mr. Hughes.
“I need to get home. This baby feels like she’s about to slide right out of me.” “I can’t just put you on the back of my Harley,” the hip principal said.
“If you can drive a stick shift,” I said, “you can drive me in my car.”
“I don’t,” the principal said, “but you shouldn’t go alone.”
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll drive. You can sit in the passenger seat.”
I got behind the wheel of the VW with Mr. Hughes beside me. Each contraction felt stronger than the last. The car and I reacted together, halting with each spasm. I stepped on the gas, and then cringed and braked each time we hit a bump. The principal and I drove the two miles to our apartment avoid- ing conversation. I had no time to be concerned about how Mr. Hughes would get back to his office. We certainly couldn’t drop him off on our way to the hospital.
As soon as I arrived home, I called the woman in the complex who’d agreed to watch Tony. The neigh- bor arrived. I grabbed my bag. We got into the VW and raced to the hospital. My contractions were now coming so close together, and so strong, I was certain Antonio would have to stop driving and deliver our daughter in the car somewhere along Interstate 80.
The attendants at the emergency entrance rushed me into a delivery room. This time Antonio stayed around to complete the admission papers. I was in no condition to do so. The nurses had no time to prep me or ask about painkillers—the baby was too eager to come out. I got the natural childbirth I’d planned for, but with pain and tearing. I waited to hear my baby girl’s cries.
At 9:23 p.m., the doctor said, “You have a beautiful baby boy.”
“Are you sure?” I said, surprised, but grateful to have the birth over. “I was supposed to have a girl.” “Well, you have a healthy boy,” the doctor repeated.
I hadn’t felt the physical pleasure of this natural childbirth as I’d expected, but was happy all had gone well. The physician placed my infant on my stomach. Any disappointment at birthing a second son evaporated. Except now, all those pink baby gifts would have to go back.
Evelyn LaTorre is a memoir writer living in Fremont, CA.