My First Child Ben

My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.

When I got pregnant for the first time at age 30, I wanted to have the full experience.  I figured being as tall and big-boned as I was, delivering an eight-pound (the doctor-predicted weight) baby would be a piece of cake.  I confided my plans to my mother, who had birthed five children—the first three with only my Grandmother Junkins in attendance. “If you could do it,” I said, “surely I can. I want that religious experience you’ve told me about.” Religious Experience.  That’s how Mama always described the euphoria following childbirth.

Mama shook her head.  “Yeah, but I was just fifteen when I had you.  And I was younger than you are now when I had my fifth. Old as you are, you could end up at the Pearly Gates.  Better take all the help they’ll give you.”

That pulled me up short, but I still mentioned the possibility of natural childbirth to my older obstetrician.  He rolled his eyes. “That’s up to you,” he said, “But make up your mind now.  If you decide on natural, don’t start screaming for relief halfway through. I can deliver that baby without your help.”  Well, that shut me up.  I never have volunteered for pain, but I still hoped for an easy delivery.  I longed to see my bald-headed baby (Infants with piles of hair had always looked weird to me) and have that religious experience anyway.  

Three weeks past my due date, I finally went into labor.  I was huge by that time, but I still found good reasons to expect an easy delivery.  After all, the labor pains were five minutes apart when I called the doctor, and they were very bearable.  About an hour later, in the hospital, when the real pain started, I began to realize what I had taken on.  Benjamin later said he heard me screaming all the way down the hall in the father’s waiting room. It was a ten-pound baby, turned wrong for the best delivery.  I was happy to take whatever they gave me and then more.  And they must have given me a lot!  I didn’t wake up to see the baby right after delivery.  In fact, it was hours later when they brought in my baby all cleaned up.  The first thing that registered with me was black hair.  Huge amounts of black hair.  My baby looked weird!  I cried.  Maybe it isn’t mine, I thought.  Maybe they had mixed my baby with someone else’s.  But wait, that couldn’t be—he looked so much like my mother-in-law, that it had to be my baby.  

Back in those days, thank goodness, they kept mother and baby in the hospital four days unless complications required even more.  So by the time I went home, I had realized that my baby was perfectly beautiful.  The nurses in the delivery room thought so too.  He fussed and cried less than any other newborn in the nursery.  And he slept all night the first night home from the hospital.

How beautiful is that!

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