My older son, who is my second child, turned fifty yesterday. I cannot attend his weekend birthday celebration, but I did spend time on the phone with him last night. Feeling nostalgic, I spent part of yesterday afternoon looking at pictures that spanned from his birth to the present. While fondly recalling different periods of his life, I sat for a while and reminisced. For some reason, the memory that was the most vivid was of my pregnancy and delivery, and the first two weeks of Mike’s life.
I suffered with anemia when I was pregnant with Mike so I did not feel well physically. I had to have B-12 shots regularly and I dreaded those appointments. I don’t know what a B-12 shot feels like today, but in the early sixties they were very painful. As the vitamin left the hypodermic and made its way into my body, it would feel like molten lava coursing through my hip. The injection site would stay sore for hours, and sometimes days, and just when it felt okay again, it would be time for another shot.
I also had constant nausea, and food was not my friend. The medical establishment had not yet conducted any studies on the result of women smoking and drinking while pregnant. I did not drink a lot but I was a smoker. I can still see that red package of Pall Mall cigarettes laying on the kitchen table, and how drawn I was to them. However, I couldn’t smoke because the taste of the tobacco would send me running to the bathroom to upchuck. Even though I could not smoke while pregnant with Mike, I still spent a lot of time worshipping the porcelain god.
Though my pregnancy was uncomfortable, my delivery was fairly easy. Mike was delivered by Dr. Joseph Brocato ,on February 2, 1962, at Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. I went into labor during the early hours of the morning and delivered a 7 pound 9 ounce baby boy at 11:30.When babies were born in the early 60’s, mothers were kept in the hospital for 7-10 days. Unlike today, a simple vaginal delivery was treated like major surgery.
When I was ready to leave the hospital, my grandma and grandpa picked me up and took me to their house in Norco. My grandmother insisted that she was the one who needed to take care of me and my new baby boy, and I was happy to comply.
One of my favorite memories of that period was of Mike’s bath time, which was done on the kitchen counter. My grandma would light the oven and leave the door open for a while so the kitchen could get hot. When she decided the room was as warm as toast, she’d fill her large roasting pan with warm water.After spreading a big bath towel out on the counter top, I’d undress my baby and hand him to my grandma, who believed she knew all there was to know about bathing newborns. She deemed herself to be my teacher, because she wanted me to do it correctly.
She’d gently lower Mike into that nice warm bath, and I’d watch as her soft hands caressed his little body. She’d talk soothingly to him as she splashed warm water on his chest and back. After bathing him and washing his head with Ivory Soap, she’d rinse him and hand him to me to wrap in that nice fluffy towel that had already been laid out.Together we’d carry our little bundle into her bedroom where we’d gently lay him on her bed. Once he was completely dry, she’d sprinkle Johnson & Johnson baby powder all over his body and rub it in. Then she’d put a soft cloth diaper on him, a little T-shirt, and a clean pair of pajamas.
I’d pick him up and hold him close so I could snuggle my head into his neck and smell that sweet, clean baby smell. Then I’d carry him into the living room and wait for my grandma to get herself situated comfortably in her big rocking chair. After handing Mike to her, I’d go to the kitchen and get his freshly made, warmed bottle of milk and give it to my grandma. She’d rock him and croon to him while giving him his bottle, stopping every now and then so she could put him on her shoulder and make sure he burped. Laying on the couch across the room, I’d watch this act of love and bonding between my grandma and my newborn son and daydream about what kind of person he would become, and how his life would turn out.
Here it is, fifty years later, and I’m still feeling the same sense of pride and love for my child. Even though he is a grown man with teenagers, an avid gardener who could teach me a thing or two, and a successful business man with his own talk radio show, he’s still my little boy. Part of my nostalgia is wishing I could still scoop him up in my arms, and gently rock him and croon to him as my grandmother did.
Does a mother’s heart towards her children ever change? It doesn’t seem so. My son has other arms to hold him and kiss away his boo-boos, and I trust he’s getting the nurturing he needs and deserves; but I think I’ll always want and need to be his mother. Happy 50th birthday to you my dear son.