LIFE IN THE WILDS OF NORTHERN CA

AND BABY MAKES THREE

7 3/4 weeks before baby

I’d been sick with the stomach flu for several days but we were coming up on Valentine’s Day and Kit was going to be in Eureka – a two hour drive south – as it was his weekend to spend with the National Guard.  I usually went along on these weekend ‘outings’ and we would go out to dinner when he got off duty on Saturday evenings, and maybe take in a movie.  So even though I was just barely recovered from being sick, I decided to go with him.  Eureka was considerably larger than Crescent City with a lot more stores and shops for me to happily peruse during the day while Kit was doing whatever it was he did for the Army on those weekends.

And those were the days when one saved up books of Green and Blue Chip Stamps and redeemed them for good stuff, and there were redemption centers for both in Eureka which made shopping there even more fun.  And I hit both centers ‘buying’ things for the expected baby with books of stamps – a baby bathtub, for one, and a car bed – remember those? (now deemed completely unsafe!)  The one I got had extended legs to turn it into a bassinette with rockers if you wished it to rock.  I also got a changing tray which conveniently fit over the crib rails – rather important since the baby’s bedroom in our little cabin was only 7 ½ feet wide by 10 feet long with barely enough room for a crib and chest of drawers!  But I had to be careful because even though I had enough stamp books to ‘buy’ more, whatever I chose had to fit in the back of that little Karmann Ghia!

For lunch, I found a nice little café offering tasty sandwiches, good coffee, and a table in a bay window with a pretty view and I was thinking how nice it was to have found it, and how lucky I’d been to find the baby items I’d wanted at the stamp redemption centers when I felt a strong cramp and was rather annoyed to think the flu I’d just recovered from was making a reappearance.  I gave a brief thought to its possibly being a birth contraction, but the baby wasn’t due yet, so I quickly dismissed that idea and after lunch, continued to shop around town – all the time cursing the stupid flu cramps.  And they were cramps almost exactly like the ones I’d had during the flu.  Once again I wondered about them being something else, but all the books I’d read talked about feeling pain in the lower back as well during contractions.  But I didn’t have any pain there so obviously this was just the flu revisited.  What I didn’t stop to consider was I had been faithfully doing exercises every day to eliminate or at least lessen back pain and they had apparently worked!

When Kit was finished for the day, I picked him up and before we went to dinner, he had me pull up in front of a florist shop.  The day before had been our first Valentine’s Day as man and wife and he had failed to give me even a card and I had been a bit upset about it!  This, however, was a rather obvious stop and all I could do was laugh to myself and thank him for the lovely bouquet of a dozen red roses he brought out of the shop as a belated Valentine’s gift.  Little did either of us realize that less than fifteen hours later I’d be giving him a surprise Valentine.

We went to dinner at The Sizzler – a place I usually loved with its wonderful buffet of miscellaneous foods, but while Kit dined on surf and turf, all I wanted that night was a dish of jello and a milkshake!  We then went to a movie – “The Stalking Moon” with Gregory Peck.  I’ll never forget that movie and how I grumbled to myself the whole time about how the stupid flu was ruining everything.

Back at our motel we went to bed, but I woke up around four in the morning with the worst cramps I’d ever experienced and finally admitted to myself that even though my lower back continued not to hurt, maybe – just maybe – this wasn’t the flu after all?  (Duh!!!)

I woke Kit up an hour later and said I thought perhaps we should leave and head back to Crescent City to the hospital there because it might be that my cramps weren’t a relapse of the flu, but something else.  Kit has never been one to awaken out of a sound sleep fully aware, so he mumbled something like: “MmmK” and appeared to drift back to sleep.  A moment later, however, he turned over again and asked in a kind of fog: “Right now?”

I assured him I meant “right now” and told him why and he was out of bed and dressed in record time.  We threw everything in the back of that little car haphazardly – including the bouquet of roses which we tried to protect by sitting them in the baby bathtub, and off we went.  Except first we had to stop by the Army office so Kit could leave a note explaining why he wouldn’t be there that day!

On to Crescent City then.  Kit wanted to take me to a hospital right there in Eureka, but I was registered at the hospital in Crescent City and that’s where my doctor was, so I insisted on making the hour and a half drive up the coast.  Besides, my pains were only twenty minutes apart and this was my first baby so I reasoned it should probably take a while.  Of course I’d forgotten I’d been having pains since lunch time so I was now somewhere in my seventeenth hour of labor!

We reached a spot along the way which I knew to be about half an hour from our destination and even though my pains were now coming five minutes apart we breathed a sigh of relief since my doctor had told us to head for the hospital (from home – a half hour drive away) when my pains were five minutes apart. 

Since I was preregistered at the hospital, they took me right in to the OB ward.  I told the little German nurse as we walked down the hall that I wasn’t sure if I was actually in labor – that I’d had a really bad case of the stomach flu recently and thought maybe this was just a recurrence.  After her examination, however, she gave me a gentle chiding smile and said “Honey, this babe is hell bent and halfway down the track!”  And so he was.  Twenty minutes later our son, Ross, was born!

Meanwhile, no one had had time to tell Kit where the waiting room was so he had simply been standing around in the hallway unsure of what to do or where to go, but someone had tossed a gown and cap to him to put on since he wasn’t out in the waiting room.

He saw a nurse come out of the delivery room with Ross, telling him he had a fine new son as she headed for the nursery to get him cleaned up.  I was brought out then, but everything had happened so fast all my things had been left in the labor room and my nurse didn’t want to leave them there and turned to go get them.  At the same time, the other nurse came out of the nursery with Ross and handed him to my nurse who started to lay the baby across my stomach.  But I was lying flat on my back on the gurney and felt uneasy trying to hold him that way, so she simply turned and handed the baby to Kit who was standing at my side.

In this day and age when everyone’s sisters and their cousins and their uncles and their aunts can now be present during the delivery of a baby you might think handing a newborn baby to its father is a common occurrence.  But back then, it wasn’t the norm.  Fathers generally viewed their newborn offspring through a glass window from the waiting room, so being able to hold a minutes-old baby was a big deal and I’ll never forget the look on Kit’s face as he looked down at his tiny son in both wonder and apprehension!  He told me later he went fishing that afternoon and planned his son’s whole life.  He was joking, of course, but I understood.  I think mothers are sort of preprogramed to simply accept what comes with having a baby.  But fathers are kind of hit, suddenly, with the realization they are now responsible for another human being and I can imagine that might be just a little scary!

I was in the hospital for three days and nights.  Back then medical insurance paid for longer stays which was very nice.  And what a place to be!  The hospital was located on the ocean and the OB ward, on the first floor, had large picture windows with a wonderful view overlooking a lawn, a beach, and the water beyond.  I felt like I was vacationing at an oceanside resort.  I had breakfast in bed every morning and could ask for coffee and snacks whenever I felt like it.  My baby would be brought to me and I’d feed him and cuddle him for as long as I wanted, and then someone would come and take him back to the nursery and I’d relax for a while and gaze out over the ocean, or read or write letters . . .   I concede the current “rooming in” idea may have merit.  But there’s also something to be said about having those first few days to rest up and get used to a baby in relaxed increments because once you’re home, it’s “tag – you’re it!” 

Three days later, then, Kit brought his wife and new son home.  We had wondered how Shoen (Kit’s Irish Setter) was going to behave with the newest member of the family, but we needn’t have been concerned.  She thought Ross had been born just for her!  She became his ‘nanny’ – coming to whine at me when she thought he was upset about something.  She’d also come find me if something fell out of the crib or the buggy.  Somehow she knew she shouldn’t pick it up herself but find me and lead me to it.  She was a remarkable dog!

Speaking of the buggy – my Grandma Louise gifted us with a wonderful perambulator.  It had big white rubber tires and heavy-duty shock absorbers that made gravel roads and driveways seem like glass.  The bed was deep with an oversized hood and it even had a ‘lap’ cover complete with a clear plastic ‘windshield’ so I could go for a walk in the snow with Ross nestled down in the buggy and he’d stay toasty warm and dry in there.  It was a marvel.

So now we were three (well four, actually, if you count Shoen) and life was throwing new challenges at us every day.  No longer could we just hop in the car and go somewhere.  Now there was the diaper bag to be packed first with diapers and tissues and rash cream and talc, and burp rags and changes of clothes and pacifiers and bottles of formula, not to mention the car bed and extra blankets and waterproof pads.  But you adjust – although I will never forget Kit’s expression when I mentioned all the things we needed to include the first time we took the baby to the beach!

Next: Raising A Wee One In The Wilds
La Nightingail

Scotsue 07.06.2013 13:26

What a wonderful, emotional tale!

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Latest comments

07.11 | 19:18

The Sierras are beautiful. I look forward to driving up into the mountains every summer on the way to the lake! :)

07.11 | 19:14

There are additional passes both north and south of the ones I've mentioned. I was concentrating on those I've used to get to my favorite lake. :)

07.11 | 19:10

Interesting is how one climbs gradually from the west to cross the passes but from the east it's a steep continual climb due to the way the mtns were formed.

07.11 | 02:00

I fell like I've been on a tour bus! And without any motion sickness! Our eastern mountain roads are plenty twisty but no match for those heights!