In 1966, 41 years ago today, my mother was at a birthday party with my older brother, a party for one of his preschool buddies. The cake had just been served with ice cream and my mom was enjoying her treat, when… *BAM* time to go to the hospital! Apparently I wanted some cake and ice cream too because I wanted out right then! She was rushed off to give birth to yours truly. I have always wondered what happened with my brother. Did he have to leave the party? If not, how did he get home? Was there someone there to take care of him? It’s very unclear to me, and while I’m sure it doesn’t matter, it leaves me with this vague picture of how that day went, and I’d like it to be more clear.
My dad apparently didn’t rush off to the hospital as he’d learned from the first baby that these things take time, so why rush? My mom was a bit less than thrilled about this obviously because she mentioned it to me. Why bother remembering it if it didn’t bug her, right? I think that in those days the dad was not in the room when babies were born anyhow, and knowing my dad, he probably figured what was the point in being there if he was just going to sit in a waiting room chair for hours. I really don’t know. Asking him would just bring on the tears and the “woe is me, i was such a terrible father” routine, so I doubt I’ll ever ask. I’m less than impressed with the big show of contriteness. Perhaps if he wouldn’t make it out like HE was the victim to feel sorry for I would be more forgiving, but frankly I was the one who was ignored most of my childhood, so an apology and request for forgiveness would go further with me than the big sob story.
The next chapter of the birth story is a little disturbing. I was a Rhesus baby, meaning my mother had developed antibodies in her blood to my blood cell type when my brother was born. (During any pregnancy a small amount of the baby’s blood can enter the mother’s circulation. If the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive, the mother produces antibodies (including IgG) against the Rhesus D antigens on her baby’s red blood cells. During this and subsequent pregnancies the IgG is able to pass through the placenta into the fetus and if the level of it is sufficient it will cause a Rhesus D positive fetus to develop Rh disease. The mechanism is maternal anti-D IgG passing through the placenta to the fetus causing destruction of fetal red blood cells. Generally Rhesus disease becomes worse with each additional Rhesus incompatible pregnancy.) The effect on me was her blood cells were trying to kill off my blood cells. (Rh disease (also known as Rh (D) disease, Rhesus disease, RhD Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn, Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn or RhD HDN) is one of the causes of hemolytic disease of the newborn (also known as HDN). The disease ranges from mild to severe. When the disease is mild the fetus may have mild anaemia with reticulocytosis. When the disease is moderate or severe the fetus can have a more marked anaemia and erythroblastosis (erythroblastosis fetalis). When the disease is very severe it can cause morbus haemolyticus neonatorum, hydrops fetalis, or stillbirth.) In 1968 the US began vaccinating women for this, but prior to then, when the baby was born and noted to have anemia or jaundice, there would be a blood transfusion required to try to fix the problem. Now, one must remember (or be told) that in 1966 babies were still whisked away immediately by a nurse. No tender bonding period with mother and father in a nice comfy birthing room back then. So, given that i was born jaundiced (that means i was all yellowish and sickly looking) I was extra quickly whisked off and my mom wasn’t given the chance to see me at all, nor was she told what was going on. I suppose this wasn’t completely foreign to her since it was common, but it went on for longer than usual. She was in the hospital bed writing out baby announcements (how organized of her! gee!), when my dad came in the room and said “I wouldn’t send those baby announcements out just yet….” and then left again. My mom was freaking out. My dad isn’t a bad guy, he’s not malicious in any way, but he’s clueless sometimes with a capital C, and thoughtless in the “not thinking” way, not in the selfish way.
As it turned out, the transfusion went well, I became a nice pink healthy baby, my mom got to send out the baby announcements, and all’s well that ends well in the birth story of me. When reading over the Rhesus information however, I suddenly realized how lucky I was! Lots of babies died or developed severe retardation.
As a child I was pretty small. My stepmother used to think I was being malnourished because I was so little and skinny. But I don’t think it had anything to do with the Rh disease, just genetics. Besides at 12 I grew and grew (I have stretch marks to memorialize the fact) until I stopped at 5’2″ making me a giant in comparison to the other kids in my 6th grade class. In those days wavy bottom platform shoes were all the rage. When I was entering 7th grade I looked everywhere for something without the height because I didn’t like being so much taller than the rest of my classmates. Turns out I was the same height as everyone else in that year, and my fuss was all for naught (as usual.) By 8th grade everyone else had grown past me and I became the shorty I am today. If only I could have stayed skinny though! 😦
Today I am thinking about my mom and what she had to go through more than I am thinking about myself and turning another year older. Must be one of those developmental things.
Tonight my husband is making me his (IMHO) “WORLD FAMOUS BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE”. I couldn’t believe it when I found myself asking for macaroni and cheese for my birthday. (“Who are you and what have you done with me?”)
Last night my lovely daughter gave me this very cool mug for my birthday. (WHICH I JUST TURNED UPSIDE DOWN TO SEE WHO MADE IT, ONLY IT STILL HAS/HAD COFFEE IN IT!!!!!!!!!! o m g! what a dork!)
I think gift cards are the gift of choice these days. So far I have received a Starbucks card, a Fred Meyer (a Pacific NW store that sells … well, basically everything ….. food, pharmacy, clothes, shoes, jewelry, electronics, furniture, tools, plants, etc.) card, and an Applebee’s card.
My mom stopped by my work yesterday afternoon to bring me a card and a present (earrings) and some money (woot!). I’m not entirely clear if she thought my birthday was yesterday or if she was just trying to be on top of things. She’s well known for missing birthdays altogether until a week after the fact, so being early was remarkable. She’s also 70 years old and getting a bit…. well, confused and forgetful. When I’m around her I definitely feel like the parent to her child. It’s kind of sad for me watching her become the person that I need to take care of and knowing that she can no longer take care of me if needed. On the other hand, she’s always there for me when I need a temporary financial influx (she loaned us the money to buy a house.) So I guess she does still take care of me in some ways. But I have to help her figure out how to get places and remind her what she’s doing and who people are and what’s going on. Her father died with Alzehimer’s Disease and I expect she may too which I am really dreading. And worse, I’m severely afraid I too will end up in that limbo of being alive but not being able to remember who my loved ones are or why I love them.
Anyway, today is not a day to be maudlin, today is a day to celebrate my being here and being alive and being well-loved. So, HAPPY DAY!
p.s. I have noticed that I am practically incapable of writing a SHORT entry. I should learn how, perhaps I would post more often!