Monday, October 31, 2011

First Christmasl

Bruce wanted a plain fir tree. I would learn in the future his search for an appropriate tree was more like Charlie Brown’s. Taller, yes, and more branches than Charlie’s. He preferred one w/o balance, one which had not been groomed, pruned for sale in a tree lot, more like one he could cut down in a back field somewhere.  
Christmas Tree Preference

I didn’t realize this first time that annually this would be the search for the right tree to set up in our home season after season. This idea of his had a long life. This season we found that tree and set it up in our living room by the double window, hiding the bookcase. We wrapped a bed-sheet about its trunk. For adornment we bought a few strings all blue Christmas tree electric light-bulbs. Tiny lights were not yet on the market.  We added some tinsel, a few glass ornaments.  When night came we plugged the string of lights into the extension, and sat together in the darkened room to enjoy the soft, blue light. If my memory serves we did this work on the night preceding the night before Christmas. 
Though I chuckle now through our many Christmas’ with family I have to admit I found such a tree a disappointment, personally. One never knows how something so weird can become a memorable tale. This more current season, 2010, to top off my story I opened a grab bag type gift in our extended family exchange on Christmas Day Eve. It was Charley Brown’s little tree. Now I will treasure it all my  remaining days. 

For many years we'd been hearing a lot about 'Put Christ Back in Christmas. Put Christ Back in Christmas'.So much was made of Santa and elves,  fireplaces, decorated trees and all of that for many seasons. This year we chose our cards from the Thomas More Book Club about a month previously. The decision we made was each year we’d send the  identical choice liturgical choice of card to each person on our list. The cards were artistic pieces and a meaningful message for a Christian Christmas greeting. For several years now we’d been hearing a lot about ‘Put Christ Back in Christmas’. ‘Put Christ Back in Christmas’. Being a member of the Book of the Month Club, also we bought a book as a Christmas present for each member in our family and the book package arrived at our home through the mail. I didn’t believe the books were very exciting gifts. It was easy shopping for us. None were novels.
My parents hadn't done much decorating the past few Christmas seasons. They claimed the holiday was mainly for the little children and even brother Jimmy was grown. Several years running mother got a package prepared for Douglas and Karen Morris, the youngest of all our cousins. She saw that activity as a nice thing for an Auntie to do. Bruce's mom, Gran, would set up her tiny tree in front of the large windows in their new little home on the hill, adorn with a few lights, ornaments, and attach to a branch a small gift for each of their dozen grandchildren. When the grandchildren arrived they would rush to the tree and search among the branches for their little package. Was a simple celebration and the grandchildren expectations were satisfied. 
Gran's and Grandpa's Tree

I remember being judgmental thinking the children should have more. Later I would appreciate the simplicity of it all and the lack of commercialism which can truly tire one out in a Christmas season. These grandparents did it right. 
Town Square Straight Ahead

On the day before Christmas, December the 24th, we planned on driving the eleven miles to Woodstock to do some shopping. And so we did. Most likely we visited Montgomery Wards on the square, perhaps the jeweler, the bank, grocery, whatever. What I do know is we crisscrossed that square a number of times that afternoon of December 24th, 1951, on foot. Young as I was I remember I began to drag my body the last hour or two. Even my tight athletic muscles were feeling strained. Home again we had chores and supper, relaxed beside the lighted tree and soon retired to our yellow roses bedroom. Bruce enjoyed his cigarettes and would often have a smoke in the bedroom before retiring. He was consistent in our saying our rosaries together before nodding off. I fell asleep before we finished. Late that evening I began to really, truly, feel the strain of the afternoon’s shopping inside my groin and abdomen, my legs, thighs, just all around and kind of regretted so much afternoon activity. After midnight I awoke Bruce  because I realized this was more than mere day’s stress. I was having those things begin which everyone called ‘labor pains’.

I leave this story’s progression temporarily to share this accurate information I promised to share in the story of my brother, Billy’s birth, Milwaukee, 1929, found on Google.

 With this change to primarily hospital birth came changes in the care women received during labor:  in the 1940s it was common for women to be routinely sedated and for babies to be delivered from their unconscious mothers with forceps. Other routine obstetric interventions have similarly come and gone: shaving of the mother's pubic region; mandatory intravenous drips; enemas; hand strapping of the laboring women; and the 12 hour monitoring of newborns in a nursery away from the mother.
Beginning in the 1940s, childbirth professionals began to challenge the conventional assumptions about the safety of medicalized births. Physicians  and midwives such as pioneered birthing centers, water birth, and safe homebirth as alternatives to the hospital model. Research has shown that low-tech midwifery provides labor outcomes as good as those found in hospital settings.
The term "natural childbirth" was coined by obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read upon publication of his book Natural Childbirth in the 1930s, which was followed by the 1942 Childbirth Without Fear.
Grantly Dick-Read's book became an international best-seller. I did get a hold of this book but vaguely recall reading it and certainly not seriously. He was a British physician. He gained a following in England, but it wasn't until the late 1940s and early 1950s that his teachings found a receptive audience in the United States of America. He dedicated his life to educating expectant parents about the benefits of giving birth naturally and with as little interventions as possible from birth attendants - whomever they may be.
Natural Childbirth is a philosophy of childbirth that is based on the notion that women who are adequately prepared are innately able to give birth to their child, without external intervention.
January 30, 1950 Childbirth Without Fear made it to the cover of Life magazine.

I had his book in my hands. I never finished reading the book. I haughtily thought I had all the education I needed for this job. My attitude was ‘any woman can do this’. Consider all the babies ever born into this world. Birth is natural for a woman and there is nothing to fear. The women in England deliver their babies naturally and without fear. So, what’s to fear. I held onto this idea of mine all the way to the calendar date December 25, 1951. 

I had glanced through mother’s baby guide which was by Dr. Herman Bunsen. Proved, too, to be filled with  instructions. I definitely did need current education, instruction, guidance.

Dr. Forrest was a tall, slim, well-dressed distinguished appearing, personable gentleman. He exuded confidence, independence, knowledge with his craft, a doctor whom I felt I would be placing myself and my child in extremely capable hands. I was pacing my trust in him as my mother similarly mother similarly placed her trust in a Specialist April 1929. Forrest had done nothing to prepare me emotionally, intellectually for what I would be dealing with here. He prescribed my vitamins, monitored my monthly visits, always saying, ‘Everything is fine’.  'Everything is fine'. I already knew he delivered babies at the Woodstock Hospital near the edge of town. He advised me to call him when labor pains commenced and he would advise me when to leave for the hospital. So simple. So routine.
Resuming the story- I was having those happenings begin which anyone would called labor pains. ……..  Bruce called the doctor though it was very early in the morning, about 3 AM and a holiday. We drove to the Woodstock Hospital. I was admitted, and the nurses proceeded to ‘prep’ me. All the 'stuff' described above. Didn’t know what that was. Bruce was only occasionally allowed in the room and then asked to leave. The pains in my abdomen began to f eel awful, terrible, gosh darn horrible . The nurses identified these as ‘labor pains’. I was in bed, all alone, in a strange  and silent room. From time to time a nurse arrived to check how far this birthing had proceeded. Centimeters, centimeters. I had no clue what this could mean. Much later, in the afternoon,  after being rolled over onto a gurney, I was wheeled into a Delivery Room.

This room was very bright, sunshiny, a very busy place, andr as the nurses and doctor moved to and fro about their birthing preparations for this patient, me. were busily sharing their Christmas morning experience  They were laughing, joking, sharing with each one another, so gosh darn cheery all around me and I was feeling like I was about to die. I clung to my blue rosary for dear life. Surely something must be wrong. Nothing could hurt as I am now hurting. I remember the very hot water poured  on my buttocks, with my legs propped up in stirrups which I was not permitted to relax from. Oh, this was pain all right. Eventually, a young woman’s voice said, ‘You’ve got to get this baby out’. Which words confirmed my idea that something was wrong. I pushed hard fearing for this baby's life. And I know nothing at all following until I awoke next morning in a bed in a sunny hospital room. Where was my husband? Where was my baby? Was  a baby born live?

Somehow, realized I was awaking. Bruce arrived about then coming directly to the room. He shared how he had come directly to my bedside following the delivery to see me before he left for home to do evening chores. I had thirteen stitches, episiotomy, and blood loss because I had pushed so hard fearing for this baby’s life.   I hadn’t seen my baby. He was a boy, they said. eight pounds and 8 ounces. Big boy for me. We knew this was our baby Michael, the name we had decided on long before. I was in a daze. I was weak. The nurse had me   sit up, brush my hair, eat something. She told me the photographer was here from the Woodstock Sentinel and wanted to take a picture of baby Michael and me as they   considered it newsworthy to be born on Christmas Day. I look quite woozy.

Woodstock Sentinel December 26, 1951

Bruce had shared our good news with both families. He was able to visit me for a short time each day following during visiting hours as I ‘recovered’. I stayed a number of days, as was the custom then. Sit up, dangle legs, eventually stand, use the bathroom. I was introduced to a Stitz bath, soothing treatment while stitches were healing.
I was able to see baby Michael periodically through the days, 6-10-2-6-10-2, about every 4 hours, even though the hospital personnel knew I intended to nurse our son. No Rooming In. Any woman who has nursed knows that with this kind of regimen breasts begin to ache and swell up. I was just so limp lying in this bed. Michael was circumcised someone tending to this operation  daily. About three days into baby Michael and my stay, on an afternoon visit, Bruce saw something was grossly wrong here. Without medical training he knew I had lost blood. I was in need of help. Why hadn’t anyone noticed? Now he called Dr. Forrest insisting something be done. Forthrightly, I was given a blood transfusion and began to perk up. Basic stuff. This is an example how bad things happen. Happened to my mother, happened to my brother, with life long consequences. Stupidity. Negligence. I learned many years later doctors were thought not to need much education on something as natural as babies being birthed.  They could certainly make it unnatural. 

When our stay in Woodstock had expired it was a day the snow was melting, there was a light sleet forming, it was so damp, so very cold. We wrapped baby Michael in clothes from his layette, bundling us both up, and we were delivered to our Chevy. I had shared what a daredevil I was at 2 years old on the slide at the park. But, truly I was often that way through those years growing up. Let me tell you with this baby in my arms I was scared silly all the way to the farm, scared for this child’s life. The roads in IL can be treacherous when covered with a layer of ice and this is the kind of day it was. Responsibility hit me square in my head and heart. I could never be that same daredevil again. I owed this child, this loving spouse. “Be careful, hon”. “I am being very careful.” I can never, ever be careful enough. This parenting is awesome. 
Michael in his Bassinet

At home we had this bassinet to lay Michael down. I learned with later babies that they slept better laid on their tummies. What did I know? Michael lay on his back, with no change of position,  so much that his soft head began to flatten. Many years later  we were told not to lay babies on their tummies for fear of suffocation. With new information we are able to correct old ways. I began the many, many years of nightly being awakened from my sleep by the cries of a small child. Up to this point in time my undisturbed sleep was a precious priority for me. I would learn to lay my resentments aside in response to our infant’s needs.  What I have memory of is my father came over to visit and to  see Michael and me. When he arrived I was nursing Michael. He looked at us with so much love, a look I never forgot. I am his daughter. She is a mother. This is my first grandchild. Miraculous! And indeed it is. I do not recall much of visitors and the early hours home.

I am inserting now the anecdote.  During those 3 years I was a student at Hebron High School I had assigned chores morning and evenings. These jobs mainly involved my care and feeding of the flocks of chickens. There were the hens who were kept in the hen house. Sometimes we had pullets which we were raising up for egg production. We had capons, these were roosters which had been castrated, to fatten up for the dinner table. We filled the old railroad tower building, ground floor and 2nd floor, with these birds. Daddy would have us buy various milled grain products plus grit, plus meat scraps, all the ingredients I would need to mix up a batch of nutritious chicken feed which differed depending on what birds were being fed. Several recipes. I would throw the grains into the cement mixer and add a certain amount of  water to the mix. The flocks loved this stuff. In addition we would have cracked corn to feed or whole kernels.  I needed to keep their water jars dispensers clean and filled with fresh water. Additionally , in the hen house eggs were collected daily and brought to the basement room for candling, sorting for size and placed in appropriate egg cartons and cases for delivery to Daddy’s companion workers in Chicago at American Printing Ink Company. On a given day Daddy had his egg cases in hand as he left for commute to work and return with the empty cases. I am uncertain as to the involvement of my sister and brothers in this operation, lost from memory. I remember mine. Recall that I, with the others, had agreed initially with the family’s decision when taking on the farm that we were all in this together and required each one’s commitment to succeed. This promise kept us involved. At our ages, Elayne, Billy and I took the plan seriously. Though we really hadn’t a clue the amount of dedication involved nor the time span. 

Recall my prior reference to using the animals also for my distraction, enjoyment, and consolation. An adult might see this behavior and say I often doddled over my chores, endlessly distracting myself.  Often it would take me double or triple the time needed to accomplish my chores. 

Recall Charles Schultz’s, Charlie Brown videos? These are the instances when Charlie is in his classroom and his teacher is giving directions. All we hear is wah-wah-wah-wah-wah. He tuned out his teacher’s directives. I did this to my father, even though I loved and respected him so.  Apparently there were the times when I came up quite negligent. Those times I picture myself standing in the farmhouse kitchen, alone, with my father, as he sat in a chair putting on his work shoes, boots, or whatever. He would light into me in a stern voice sharing his disappointment with my attitude. Perhaps this would be a 15 minute scolding. Should have, why didn’t you, need to, must, have to, introduced all his sentences-- coming from the ‘poison parent’ not the ‘nurturing parent’ . When his tirade died down I wouldn’t recall a word he said. I would go mentally numb until he finished. Afterwards I would wonder if I missed something new which could be important. We wouldn’t know until the 1960 when Eric Berne’s , Games People Play became popular. Another thing I learned, after the fact, it is wise when one talks to one’s child to wait for the child to feed back what was just said. Then the parent knows a child is listening. Great parental stress reductive. 

What I have memory of is my father came right over to visit baby Michael and me. When he arrived I was nursing baby Michael. He looked at the two of us with so much love, a look I never forgot. I am his daughter. She is a mother. This is my first grandchild. Miraculous! And indeed it is. I believe my daddy now, as he was viewing his daughter, me, as a young mother following baby Michael's birth, was showing me how very proud he was of his daughter, all grown up. He was now a grand daddy. He'd done well.

I heard from the Stewart cousins and sisters and friends many times that childbirth is easily forgotten. Hmm.

On our first trip to Dr. Forrest’s office for our checkup we discovered Michael was tongue tied. Forrest took a little scissors and snipped some tissues, frenulum,  beneath his tiny tongue. He cried so softly. Now his cry was robust. This is a situation which could interfere with breast-feeding I learned much later. In spite of my attempts to keep to a 4-hour schedule as described in Bundesen’s baby book I was quite successful nursing Michael. I had no models whatsoever to gauge myself with. After 3 months Michael would kick his little legs, like little baby Jimmy did which I thought, when I was 8 years old, looked like  riding a bicycle. As I prepared to breast-feed he would look up at me and roll his little legs in anticipation and excitement. I’d pick him up and cuddle. I began to think I must cease nursing him due to his being male and his excitement which had , of course, nothing to do with male/female sex. What did I know. For certain there was a lot of education needed here. 

Who could I turn to for enlightenment? My sister-in-law, Charlotte, had a newborn babe January 31. She bottle fed Priscilla. Most woman those years believed as she did, they were incapable of breast-feeding a baby. No tips here or from Bruce older sisters, even the nurse sister, Cese.  Books, no help there. Sister instructors, no help there. Parents, mothers, no help there. Didn’t learn anything of this in Home Economic classes. I was on my own with merely the God given desire, instincts, to use my womanly body for what I was made for. I was a mother, [a woman who gives birth] wasn’t I?   I saw myself as woman, as spouse, and now as mother. For this I was created by God. I would do my darnedest.

Truly a shame. A woman, a man aught to be well-schooled for this most important life event, becoming a parent. Sometimes a single happening in their lives.

Every newborn on this planet earth deserves the best up to the minute information available in his/her lifetime be constantly applied from the moment of conception onward. To this day I continue to ask, "Why isn't this our most important curriculum?"
Letter from my Godmother Auntie Flo

Daddy helping baby Michael get rid of hiccups
Grandmother cuddling her first grandchild
Learned to carry Michael on my hip
September, 2011 Michael Moore, Irish, same background as I, had his bookHere Comes Trouble  published. Page 33 through 36 in his short story, 'Crawling Backwards' he describes babies being birthed. Uses familiar humor. I related 100%.


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