Today is the day my oldest daughter was born, 29 years ago. I had been staying at my grandmother’s house in Eureka because that was the hospital where you would be born. James was in Jamestown in our little house we rented because he was teaching there at the Children and Adolescent State Hospital School. This had been going on for the month of January. I did not go back to Jamestown after Christmas. I would stay with Grandma all week then we would come to Herreid on Friday to help at the café. My mother served a German food special on Fridays. In Herreid Friday was the big day in town as that was is and will always be when the Livestock Market has their sales. In fact when Jess was in High School they would recruit workers from the hallways before school started. Now they have a four-day week and Friday is off. But I digress.
This particular Friday, as in Jan. 24, 1986, I woke at my parents’ house. I was staying in the middle bedroom upstairs. The bed was positioned to face the door, and my two cats were in bed laying tight against my back, they were warm, and it was comfortable. (I went to Herreid on Thursday night because I was needing other company.) Anyway at about 5 a.m., I woke with pains. I woke this morning at 5 a.m. because one of the cats needed to come inside. Anyway, back to the story. I went to the bathroom, and realized that when a pregnant woman has cramps, it means something. I didn’t want to wake anyone, so I went back to bed to think about it. This was when the cats crowded around me because they could feel something was up. They were so warm and comforting.
At 6 a.m. my parents were up and about ready to face the day. I went down stairs and said this is it. My mother said get dressed, I will drive you over. She made a few calls to have the others cover the café, and I made a call to James to come home early. We headed out. It felt weird to be driving there with my mother rather than husband, but sometimes you do what you have to do.
At the hospital it was get prepared and wait. It really didn’t take all that long for James to show up. He came with Melissa in tow. She was in college at Jamestown. I have no idea how fast they drove, Melissa might remember. I recall her saying something about James having white knuckles the whole trip, and she hanging on to the seat for fear of hitting the ditch. James has been known to speed, but I believe they set a record that day for travel from Jamestown to Eureka. When they arrived, I think that my mother and Melissa went back to Herreid to see on the café. That is a little less than a 25 mile drive.
I don’t remember much of the day except back labor and nurses in and out. The delivery room was not a fun experience. This was the only birth that I had to do there. We were around the time when things changed in all hospitals where all rooms in that ward became and are delivery rooms. All I remember is not being able to get comfortable. Jessica showed up at 6:15 p.m. I have told here this before, and I put this out there for young mothers to pay attention. I got to hold her only briefly. I felt weak and that table was not a bed, and there were no rails or anyway for me to sit up. I couldn’t hold her. They laid her on my chest, she wasn’t wrapped very well, and it was cold in the room. I was afraid she would be cold and that I would drop her. I don’t know what James was doing at the time, I think running around with the phone card telling everyone. Why is it that is the most important thing to do with a first child.
So, the nurse took her to the nursery and cleaned, weighed, measured, etc… then she proceeded to rock and feed her. The nurse, who was a baby hog–a nice lady, but a baby hog, said that I should rest and have a little supper and she would take care of the baby. I was put back into my room and they brought me a tray. They some people who knew my parents, but James and I didn’t know came and stood in my room to visit. “Hey, I look like crap, I am in this hospital gown that isn’t exactly modest, and now you strangers have to come and watch me eat. Go away!”
I think that there was more family who showed up. The new grandma for sure came. I know that because she borrowed our phone card (no cell phones in those days, the best you had was a phone card attached to your house bill) and called her brother in Denver at the time. Between her and James they pushed the bill up an extra $100, and we were a little bit broke at the time. We also lost some of James’ pay because he didn’t go back to school the following week. It was before the medical leave act. We were living on a shoe string, and that check was less, and we had a new baby and all those bills. It was no wonder I started working two weeks after Jess was born.
Just a few other incidentals that you might like to know, Jess. During that long day of contractions, I remember watching the Dukes of Hazard. I have no idea which episode, but I will always like Dodge Chargers. On Sunday was the Super Bowl. Dad remembers that the Bears won. We have to look up who lost. It was my Patriots. Score: 46-10. Of course we were still in the hospital. A stay there was always five days or more. We were released on Thursday or Friday, and went home to Jamestown sometime over the weekend.
The Tuesday after you were born, it was just me and you and your dad in the room. We were watching tv and waiting for the news to end and Days of Our Lives to begin when the show was interrupted by the blast off and explosion of the Space Shuttle, The Challenger. James and I were in that Space Age generation, who watched those blast offs from day one. We saw the moon landing before we were even in high school, and so watching these lift offs had become “old hat.” This one was different. We had never seen this sort of tragedy before and we all realized the cost of this new technology. As teachers we were really hit by this loss, the first teacher in space never made it there.
Besides this story and the physical gift that Paulina will bring to you, I would like to give you the words of the 121st Psalm. It is my favorite, and yes I use it at funerals, but I think it is for all times. The first verse starts with: “I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Read the rest of it for yourself and you will know who holds you in your darkest days.
Jess: I have heard from a “little birdie” that you have been wondering about why you are where you are and doing what you do. Maybe to know where you started will help. I also want to share some sunrise pictures with you. I know that the sun comes up in other parts of the world, and that it is pretty in those places, too. But maybe, just maybe these will help you know, what you are working for, and why sometimes when the food or whatever makes you sick, and the company is ok, but not family, and when your dog takes a vacation without you, that what you do is important to the rest of us, and to quite a few more. Think about all those who went before you, why did they get out of bed each morning? What is your goal, not politically, but for the people you care about and who care about you?
In the meantime, have a Happy 29th Birthday. I promise to take some time to share Grandma’s 29th Birthday here later this week.
Now, a few other sunrise pictures as I played with the camera setting. The first one was taken by Paulina, of course.