Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Biggest Surprise of My Life!
It was Halloween, 1969, the day I learned that I was having twins and the beginning of a life filled with excitement and wonder at every turn. I was only twenty-one years old, just a baby having a baby according to my mother. My husband Jim and I had only been married nine months when we learned we were expecting. Jim was also on the verge of enlisting in the army and facing the likelihood of being sent to Viet Nam.
The wonderful thing about youth is that we haven’t had enough life experiences to know when we are in over their heads. What did it matter that we had no money, no health insurance? We had each other and love is grand.
I knew I was pregnant almost from the moment of conception. This was long before home pregnancy tests but all the symptoms were there never mind the fact that my stomach began to protrude even before the after glow had begun to fade. In fact, I wore a maternity smock to the first doctor’s appointment to receive the confirmation that I was indeed “expecting”.
I was five months into my pregnancy when my young husband was called to duty. The day he left I stood at the airport comparing my pregnant belly to that of another soldier's pregnant wife. I asked her when she was due and she replied “Any day”. This was a surprise as I was 3 times her size and not due for another 4 months. But ignorance can be bliss and I thought nothing more of it.
With Jim off to defend our country I had nothing else to do but expand and expand I did. Each visit to the doctor only confused me as he would measure my girth and then say things like, “This is going to be a big baby” followed by “I think this baby is going to come early.” Now what confused me about that was I had never heard of a big, premature, baby! But, oh well, he was the doctor!
By the time Halloween approached I was so big I couldn’t lift my foot up on a curb without grasping a parking meter and using it for leverage. It had been months since I had seen my feet and I needed a crane to get in and out of the bathtub. I had endured the heat of summer with only one minor mishap. In August I had gone to a sidewalk sale with my neighbor (Mrs. Farckle) and her 4 young children. It was 108 in the shade that day and just after entering a local drugstore to cool off and to get something cold to drink, I had no more seated myself in the booth when I passed out and rolled into the floor. I woke up to find the soda jerk sponging my head with a dirty dishrag while the entire lunch crowd looked on as if they were witnessing the beaching of a great white whale.
So, on Halloween I presented myself for my monthly doctor’s visit. The first thing the nurse said to me as I entered the exam room was, ‘‘Oh, you’re the one having twins,” as she perused my chart, not even glancing up.
With some minor difficulty I choked out the words, “No way, you must have the wrong chart.”
The nurse looked up and quickly excused herself coming back shortly to advise me that they were going to take an x-ray.
So, feeling very confused and a little dazed I followed the nurse down the hall to the x-ray room. There, a young male x-ray technician handed me one of those tacky hospital gowns and instructed me to go behind the curtain and remove my clothes and to put on the gown.
I did as instructed and emerged wearing the gown holding it closed in front. There was no way I could reach behind and tie it in the back. So, I climbed up on the table and lay down with the gown pulled securely as possible across my enormous belly. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing so when the young man said laughingly, “Now, let’s get a look at what’s going on in there.” I immediately threw back the gown exposing my bare midriff complete with a cavernous navel that could float a toy boat.” The x-ray tech. let out a holler and said, “Whoa, too much information” as he pulled the gown back across my blushing belly!
He quickly took the x-ray, probably hoping he wouldn’t get flashed again, and then instructed me to wait behind the curtain until they were developed. There I sat with my bare bottom stuck to a cold metal stool when I suddenly heard the doctor describing out loud what he saw on the film. “Now, there’s a head and there’s a head, ” reported the doctor.
I literally jumped off that stool flashing God and whoever was in my way as I bolted into the x-ray room. What did he say? Was he describing MY two-headed baby?
As soon as the doctor saw me (and all my glory) he quickly shouted, “You are having twins.”
Well, after imagining for a moment giving birth to a two-headed baby the news of twins was a relief!
Leaving the doctor’s office the only thing on my mind was finding a name for that second baby and calling my mother who upon hearing the news responded, “What have you done to me now?” after which she immediately began drinking margaritas and prioritizing what she needed to start worrying about.
I on the other hand just figured it was only one more baby and how hard could it be? Why I had babysat more than 2 children lots of times. My only concern was how I was going to tell my soldier husband and would he just throw himself on a mine rather than come home to a houseful of screaming babies. (I was young and a drama queen so cut me some slack).
I began visiting the doctor weekly who upon each visit said, “Next time I see you will probably be at the hospital.” But week after week I kept stretching until finally he stopped predicting.
I waddled through Thanksgiving and into December. My due date was December 10th and on December the 5th I had my first indication that things were about to start happening. I woke up that morning with a severe backache. I felt so much weight pressing down on my pelvic bones I could hardly walk. Even though I wasn’t having contractions I gave the doctor’s office a call. They said we were approaching lift off and that when the contractions began I should go on to the hospital.
I then called my mother and she came over to wait with me. It was a beautiful day so we thought we might speed things along if we went shopping. Bad idea! I hadn’t taken 10 steps into Target when I just couldn’t move my legs. Still no pains but I just couldn’t walk. We decided to go back home and wait.
It was 12:00 midnight when I felt the first contraction. I waited a little while before telling my mom it was time to go to the hospital. Bless her heart she was absolutely terrified. She jumped out of bed and put her clothes on inside out. I sat on my suitcase while she undressed and dressed again. We got to the hospital and the nurses immediately started prepping me for delivery. While I endured the indignity of an enema (now really) and the whole shaving protocol (which I understand isn’t done anymore) my mother phoned every relative bordering Oklahoma. Soon the waiting room was filled with anxious aunts and uncles as well as various well-wishers. Unfortunately, they were all in for a long wait.
Hard labor didn’t start until about 10:00 a.m. Shortly after things got rolling my family members started dropping. My father was the first to pass out in the middle of a contraction. My mother was his back-up and she didn’t last an hour followed by the burly likes of my older brother. One-by-one they went down for the count and one by one were ushered to the waiting area. Fortunately my mother-in-law got there and coached me the rest of the way. (Guess she had no emotional attachment)
On Sunday, December 6, 1970 at 4:00 p.m I was wheeled to the delivery room. Baby #1 made her grand entrance at 4:40 p.m. weighing 6 pounds, followed by her sister at 4:42 weighing in at 5 pounds 8 ounces. They were each 16 ½ inches in length with only one curl topping their identical little heads. As they were being examined I was somewhat deliriously arguing with the doctor that they weren’t mine because as I reminded him, “You said I was having boys.”
By the time I left the recovery room and was resting in my room the full impact of what had just taken place finally hit me. All I wanted was to tell their father that our two beautiful daughters were here and I remember crying because I was scared that he might never see them. When they were finally brought to my room I sat there in awe looking down at the two squirming little beings that lay on my bed. Twenty fingers I counted, and twenty toes. They were perfect in every way though I had no idea who was who. I quickly checked their wristbands and read baby #1 printed on one and baby #2 on the other. I then introduced myself. "Hello" I said to Julie Ann, my oldest daughter and Jamie Lynn, my youngest. "I'm your mommy, your one AND Only!