Thirty years ago today, at 9:47 am CST, I gave birth to my first child.
The heat on the Oklahoma plains in Stillwater was a sweltering 88 degrees the day before, on July 4th, when I went into labor around 2:00 pm. Our home had one window air conditioning unit. It was about as effective as opening the refrigerator to cool off the kitchen.
When I finally went to the hospital that evening, I made them promise not to send me home. “Please, I can’t stand the heat anymore. Can’t I just have this baby and stay here where it’s cool?”
The nurse laughed, “Honey, you ain’t going nowhere. You’re 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced.”
Whatever that meant, but my relief was palpable, though not for long.
I was placed in a labor room. Back then, the practice was to take the delivering mothers to the operating room once the baby was close to delivery. The staff let me have ice chips and placed a monitor on my swollen belly. I heard my baby’s heartbeat and watched as the printer paper showed undulating lines corresponding with my contractions.
This was the pre-epidural age, and I was given a Demerol drip for the pain. However, this slowed down the progress and made for a long night.
Around 8:00 pm the doctor arrived and without saying much, took a long, hooked device not unlike an over-sized knitting needle and said, “I’m going to break your water.” He promptly stuck it up there and I almost swallowed my tongue I was in such shock. Gasping, I felt the warm, wet beneath me.
Terrified, I asked if that meant I was going to have the baby tonight. He chuckled. “Young lady, you’re about to be a mother.”
I was young indeed. At only 19 and just a couple of months shy of my 20th birthday, I was giving birth to a tiny human being. I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
My ex-husband tried to help me with some breathing exercises and comfort techniques learned in Lamaze classes. I was having none of it. “Don’t touch me anywhere but my hand! This is all your fault!”
He backed away with hands raised in surrender.
I was more powerful than I realized, but I was so frightened I hardly noticed.
I labored through the night, watching some of the Statue of Liberty event. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy stood proudly by as she was unveiled. Independence Day fireworks filled the black skies over New York and New Jersey where Lady Liberty stood resplendent, all fresh and new, in the middle of the Hudson River.
As midnight approached, the nurse came in and said they were taking me for an X-ray because the progression “…was a concern to the doctor.”
I asked what that meant and the nurse said, “He wants to check and see if you may need to have a cesarean section because the baby is taking too long to come out on its own.”
Holy shit! “I want to go home.”
My nurse touched my hand and said, “One way or another you ain’t leaving here without a baby, so you just calm down and it will be alright.”
After he read the results, my doctor was assured the baby was in correct position and I was physically developed enough to deliver it. He said he was concerned because I was a “skinny thing with narrow hips” but apparently, “You got good baby-making bones. You’re a baby-making machine!” He laughed at his own joke and my ex laughed with him.
I wanted to tell them both to fuck off, but I was a soft and tender girl, unable to voice my feelings as assertively as I do now.
I prayed for a boy. When I learned I was pregnant, I just knew I would have a son. Yes, this was the mid-80’s, the end of that era when people didn’t know the gender of their babies until birth.
At last, around 9:00 am on the 5th, I was told I was 10 cm dilated and 100% effaced.
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’re ready. But you have to breathe and don’t push during your contractions because we’re waiting for the doctor to get here.”
For those who have never given birth, the urge to push during a contraction is not dissimilar to the need to urinate or defacate. When you have to go, you have to go.
My baby was ready and I had to wait?
They wheeled me in on a gurney to the operating room, where I could see my breath it was so cold, and plopped my nearly naked butt on an even colder stainless steel table. My feet were placed in stirrups and I was told, “Breathe. Don’t push!”
Sweet, young Kim became outraged, “Somebody better get down there and catch this baby because I’m pushing, goddammit!”
Doc materialized and pulled up a stool, and in seconds I pushed and the baby came out.
I heard my ex say, “It’s a girl.” Only he said it in a pleasantly surprised way.
“No, it’s a boy.” I said.
He just laughed along with the rest of them and the doctor placed my daughter on my belly.
She looked up at me and cooed, and I began to cry. She had a head full of black hair and the prettiest little mouth.
We named her Amanda, and called her Mandi. She was a firecracker! Yes, my almost 4th of July baby was full of spirit and flame.
For several years now we all call Amanda “Zach.” He’s transgender, female to male, and he was apparently born with XY chromosomes.
So, I was right after all. I told them I was having a boy.
He’s been a pain in the ass and an utter joy. His laughter is infectious, his smile a soothing balm, and his heart is tender and kind.
I love my Boomer Sooner.