Mother’s Day: Fast Forward

May 13, 2008

I once had a friend who celebrated her birthday for the entire month each year. Every day, she gave herself some sort of present. That’s how I feel about Mother’s’s Mother’s Day Month. Sincere apologies to my middle children, but I need to skip ahead to child #4 because it’s his birthday today. In 1979, May 13th was Mother’s Day. So, Nick was a true Mother’s Day present.

By this time, we had moved back to Northwest Indiana and were living in Highland, Indiana. Again, pregnancy was blah, blah, blah, but a notable difference was that I was POOPED. With three other children at home, the fatigue was overpowering. It was all I could do to get the 6, 4, and 2 year olds back and forth to school, activities, baths, etc. In addition, Child #3 was impersonating the Energizer Bunny. His capacity and stamina were remarkable. His parents’ capacity, however, was not. But more on that later. The two older girls were very helpful, but the prospect of having one more kid in the house, and a baby at that, was pretty daunting.

Despite the fatigue and apprehension, things were advancing to their inevitable conclusion. It’s May, now, and as with the other kids, my due date had long passed with no baby in sight. At the last doctor’s visit, the doctor said it would be “this weekend.” So, on Friday, I prepped my father and stepmother and told them we would need them on call to stay with the older three kids.

On Saturday, May 12th, I had been having contractions all day, but so what? I’d been having them for weeks! Since they were very strong, I called my dad and said it MIGHT be tonight. A couple of hours later, the contractions are gone. So, dad and stepmom get into their jammies and settle in for the night.–at their house. An hour later, I took a shower and yes, the fun had begun. Another call and the folks were on their way (still in their jammies). Contractions were fast and furious, but I tried not to alarm Gene, so I just sat patiently until the folks arrived. They raced in, we raced out. I decided to get into the back seat just in case. (In case of what?)

As we turned the corner past our house, I told Gene how fast the contractions were coming. He remained calm. When we got to the ER, I was beyond coherent, but the nurses were able to whisk me away into the labor unit (which of course was sans the horrors of the hospital for baby #1.) By now, birthing had advanced, dads were in the delivery room, and baby monitors had made the scene. The monitor revealed that baby was in some distress, and of course I panicked. The doctor, however, did not, and after a couple of hours of careful monitoring, we moved to the delivery room. Shortly after midnight, Nick was born–on Mother’s Day. I insisted that since he was the first baby born in that hospital on Mother’s Day that we should be receiving a prize package similar to the ones people received for the New Year’s Baby. (I do find it ironic that Nick married a woman who was the first baby born on New Year’s Day in her hospital!) The doctor scoffed at my greediness, but she did tell me that all the moms would have a surprise on Mother’s Day. We did receive a rose on our lunch trays, and steak and wine for dinner! Although he had inhaled some meconium, all turned out well, and we were able to come home to his sisters and brother in just a few days. Happy Birthday, Nick!

Next–Back to the Future in Texas


Mother’s Day, Continued. The Ice Storm

May 10, 2008

On the pregnancy front, things were chugging along just swimmingly. My friend Pat called in early December from the hospital after giving birth to Michelle. I was insanely jealous of her. Her baby was HERE! Move forward past Christmas, into January. I’m working away on my Smith-Corona (yikes! Pre-Computer! How old AM I?) on my master’s thesis, on Milton’s Paradise Regained. Nothing is happening in January except the fact that our black lab, Zeke, is getting tired of my sighs and exhortations to the God of Milton to hurry things along. Finally, it’s the end of January. Like a mother bird sitting on her hatchling (except this one was inside), I started to rumble and things started to happen. It was early evening, so Gene and I fed the dog, packed up our troubles in our old kit bag, grabbed our focal point picture, and headed to the hospital. A fairly decent snowstorm was also hatching, but we were undaunted. We got to the hospital, got examined, and suddenly, everything stopped dead in its tracks, except the snowstorm. The nurse said I was close to getting contractions started again, but she encouraged Gene to go back home, get some sleep, and come back in a few hours. (Apparently, the nurse hadn’t looked out the window.) My dutiful husband got back in the car, drove the several miles home. As soon as he walked in the door, the nurse called him. Come back, she said. Your wife’s in labor. Still dutiful, he scraped off the windows and drove back. By now, I was involved in a heated game of poker with my roommate and two friendly orderlies. Every so often, one of us would wince, but realistically, we were fairly comfortable. We got the guys involved in the poker game, and soon, the  roommate left to labor in a more suitable location–an actual labor ward, filled with 8 screaming women. I could hear them through the door. What was up with the whole puff-blow-push documentation? Why wasn’t it working for these women? I dreaded my imminent entry through that door. Shortly after my roommate left (she had won a few bucks), my water broke, and the poker game was halted. We started our Lamaze techniques, hoping to forestall moving into the ward as long as possible. To this day, I can’t believe there actually was a ward, even in the early 70s! I was soon close to screaming mode myself, but I was determined not to take any drugs of any kind. We moved into the ward, and we followed our directions. I wanted to spit at the focal point picture after a few hours, but Gene wouldn’t let me. The nurse said I was doing fine, but I was getting ready to push. We asked where the doctor was. She said brightly: “Oh, he’s on his way. Don’t you know there’s a snow storm going on?” In a few minutes, the nurse said that although I was ready to push, I shouldn’t because the doctor wasn’t there. Finally, I couldn’t manage it any longer, and we hustled into the delivery room. Doctor X swooped in like the dignitary he was. I’m sure he was wearing a white cape of some sort, but all I could see were his white buck shoes. That part is not a lie. Dr. X got there just in time to catch our daughter and hand her to Gene. By now, I was delirious, and I heard some interns coming in to watch. One of them asked: “Who’s this other guy?” The nurse said: “This is a man who just watched his wife give birth to his daughter. He gets to give her her first bath.” And so, we entered the age of Acqaurius with one beautiful creature to our name.

Mother’s Day: The First Child

May 10, 2008

I’m not going to focus on my torrid romance with my husband that led up to having four children, but instead, just get straight to the point. Not only did I want to be a mother–I wanted to be pregnant! By age 23, I was expecting Angela Therese, our first. I loved being pregnant, and had no serious morning sickness or other side effects save two: I fainted during Mass (way before Marie Osmond fainted on Dancing with the Stars, I was a world class fainter). I conked my head on a pew but otherwise had no issues. The second instance of “pregancy distress” occurred during a “Hawaiian Theme” party after consuming M&Ms and Beer on an empty stomach. The host of the party, Jerry Cork, who had survived Auschwitz as an infant (and was one our best friends, but that’s another digression), was able to diagnose my pregnancy in a jiffy by the M&M-beer reaction. Other than those two incidents, pregnancy was uneventful. I exercised daily, did all my Lamaze moves, and more. The only other notable event was our decision as to where to give birth. We planned to have the baby at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights, Illinois. However, having become friends with another couple, Bill and Pat Seiler, who had their first child in Oregon, with Bill in the labor room and through delivery, we decided that we wanted that plan for our child. (Bill and Pat were expecting their second, Michelle, at that time, so we had support.) We all marched over to St. James Hospital to discuss our wishes with the Head of the Hospital, Sister Something-or-Other who had a large beaked nose and a permanent scowl. She told us it was impossible to accommodate us, since she didn’t want new fathers dropping like flies in the delivery room and having to sweep them off the floor like bugs. Realizing that we didn’t have enough time to fight Nun Hall, we moved our birth locations to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois.

Coming up next–the ice-storm and birth of an Acquarian

Mother’s Day

May 7, 2008

It’s that time, again. Friends and family are burning up the air-er-Internet waves with cute mothering and parenting stories. Some are schmaltzy, some endearing, some heartbreaking, and some are even fake urban legends! Some even come from Hallmark. In my mini-Mother’s-Day countdown, I’m going to “try” to skip the schmaltz (as best I can) and record some thoughts on how I made my journey to mother-and-grandmotherhood.

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Like any self-respecting 1950’s kid, I had plenty of dolls and friends to play dolls with. Playing dolls gave me some relevant practice with bossing people–an important trait of good mothers. My brother Bob, 3 years younger than I, didn’t really dig the doll-playing, but he did his fair share of GI-Joe make-believe and often ordered the baby-dolls to get out his way or he would shoot them. This was pre-Barbie and Ken, of course. However, I wasn’t keen on becoming a mother immediately. My mother had once written in her diary that she wanted to be a secretary for a rich man so she could travel with him around the world. Instead, she joined the Navy Waves and saw some parts of America, and then she married my Dad. They didn’t make it much past Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as far as I know. I wanted to be a doctor or a geologist or an archeologist, but Sister Faith, my geometry teacher, always said I should become a missionary in Africa. I thought about the nun thing quite a bit, thinking that I could become “mother superior,” a term I still like, if I went that route. I once threw a major temper tantrum while in 8th grade to convince my parents that I should join the convent in high school. My mother promptly told me that nuns don’t throw tantrums and that I needed to be a “good girl” in order to enter the convent. A “good girl” meant “well-behaved,” “not sassy,” and not “mouthy,” none of which described me then or now. Following my high school graduation, I joined the ranks of college students who didn’t really know what they were going to do when they grew up. Shortly after graduation, my mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. We had no health insurance and she had ignored the lump until it was the size of a grapefruit. The story is a short one–pre-Chemo and effective radiation, she had a radical mastectomy and did radiation treatments. She lost her breast, her hair, and her energy. The skin on her torso was burned black from the radiation, and she felt stupid wearing a wig, so she was bandanna clad most of the time. I dropped out of school temporarily to come back home to care for her. The last months spent with her gave me the best example of motherlove I’ve ever seen or am likely to see again. My mother was funny, with a class-clown personality and infectious laughs, cackles, and giggles. She never stopped being the class clown. Even down to her last week in the hospital, she was cracking jokes with nurses and doctors and making all of us smile. The long part of this very short story is for other posts, but the most vivid memory I have of her during her last days was her longing for our youngest brother, Mike, who was just 7 years old at the time. In those days, hospitals didn’t have much in the way of visiting privileges for family members, especially little ones. But since it was Christmas-New Year’s time, we were able to sneak Mike in for a hug and a cuddle. She absolutely wouldn’t give up without being able to hold her youngest in her arms for one more time. (Next time–Baby #1)

The Pig

April 28, 2008

Since I’m still having difficulties with my photo uploading, I’m linking to my son Joe’s blog, which includes a photo of the pig described by us both in earlier posts.


User Friendly Machines–Ukraine Style

April 28, 2008

People close to me know that in addition to reading, hanging out with my husband and family (but especially my grandboys), and swimming, my favorite pastime is doing laundry. In addition to working at a bookstore or a library, Computilo the Elderly would be very happy running a laundromat as a potential retirement career. My brother, Bob, has often referred to me as “The Mad Laundress,” and my children have resorted to locking their suitcases when they come to visit just to prevent me from snatching their dirty clothes to wash. The only other person in my family and friends circle to possess the same compulsion is my son-in-law’s mother. Needless to say, the birth of any children is always a high spot, not only for the potential to see the new grandchild, but mostly, to add their laundry to our respective piles. When we are together in the same house, we have worked out a friendly arrangement as to who has the priority to do the laundry at specific times.

When we went to Ukraine to visit our son Joe, I was very heartened to find that a) Joe had a washing machine, and b) that our rental apartment had one! How delighted I was that since I couldn’t understand anything on Ukrainian television, I could spend any vegging time doing laundry!

Having worked in computer book publishing for nearly 25 years, describing complex activities in plain English has become second nature to me. What I soon discovered was that the washing machines in Ukraine include picture directions! With no explanation as to what the pictures referred to! For example, a picture of concentric circles with a line drawn through it meant something you didn’t want to do or didn’t want the machine to do. But what? I soon found out that the concentric circles meant “centrifuge” and that you didn’t want it to do something. That something was to use the “centrifuge” to spin out the water. I found this out after I began to drag heavy, water laden towels from the machine. Did I forget to mention that very few people in Ukraine have clothes dryers? Most everything is air dried. It took 2-3 days for our towels to dry, it should be noted. Other controls were equally enigmatic. What was the delicate cycle? Which control meant you could (or should) add bleach? Trial and error finally saved me from myself, but it’s clear that the Italian manufacturers (all washers seemed to have been manufactured in Italy) have a ways to go in their icon representations. Once again, the impatient, dull, Amerikanskis were foiled by the more advanced technology found in other countries.

Flying Home

April 22, 2008

After checking our bags and checking in for our flight, we wandered around the Kyiv terminal looking for food. Our options were: Toast with Tomato, Toast with Dried Up Cheese and Tomato, Toast with Grey Meat and/or Tomato, Toast with Mayonnaise, Toast with Ketchup. We opted instead for two waters, “bezgaza” or “without gas/bubbles”. While waiting for KLM to call for boarding, we were approached by two women–one in her late 60’s-early 70s–the other in her 40s. We were suspicious, yet open to hearing their story. The young one asked us if were flying to Chicago as our final destination. The older one then blurted out in very practiced English–I Need Help! The younger one, who we later found out was not related to the older one, asked us if we could help shepherd “Jane” to the right connecting gate once we got to Amsterdam. Jane spoke almost no English, and, as we’ve documented thus far, our Ukrainian is primitive at best. Through clever hand gestures and pantomime, we all got to the gate on time and even got to the Ladies Room and the Snack shop! Before that, however, we had to sit through the Kyiv-Amsterdam flight next to Felix Unger, Monk the Detective, and any other obsessive-compulsive individuals we’ve ever known. For the sake of drama, let’s call him “Mr. Crazy.” Mr. Crazy kept talking to himself, using hand gestures to make a point to some invisible audience, and proceeded to wipe down his tray table at least 12 times during the 3 hour flight. When he wasn’t making his tray table free of germs and vermin, he was counting his credit cards and sorting them. For awhile, we thought he was going to ask us to play cards with him. We thought he wanted us to play Kings in the Corner: Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and American Express being the four kings. Nonetheless, we didn’t understand his language and didn’t much care to.

We got to Amsterdam, grabbed Jane, and took off for our gate. Our hopes for a fairly empty flight were soon dashed. The 747 was packed to the absolute gills with many (this time very friendly) flight attendants, babies, more babies, toddlers, punk rockers, college students, and a rapper who silently rapped her way through the entire flight right in front of us. Our seatmate was a lovely woman from Mongolia who worked for the U.N. and was currently stationed in Kazakstan. We told her about Joe’s upcoming trip to Kazakstan for his friend’s wedding, but we didn’t talk about the upcoming horse barbecue at the wedding feast because we couldn’t remember whether his friends were barbecuing the horse in Kazakstan or Kyrgystan, and we didn’t want to act stupid about our ignorance of food customs in central Asia. We did talk a little about food in Mongolia. Surprise! They eat Mongolian Beef and Mongolian Barbecue in Mongolia!

At any rate, we made it through 8 1/2 deadly, hot hours of cramped cabin. Lucy and Tarek picked us up at O’Hare, we chatted with them at their house and picked up our car and headed home. Pictures and Final Reflections coming later this week…or sometime!