Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Past imperfect: Curmudgeon dredges up old memories about babies who are now about to give birth

Daddy's Home by Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein
I like the father's attitude here, even if I can't altogether agree with it.

Waiting still for Younger Daughter to deliver our first grandchild I can't help thinking about Younger Daughter's own birth (23 years ago this week) which highlights somethings about the past that were preferable... and not.

Younger Daughter came late. Four of our five were late. The only one who came early was Oldest Son... and he didn't look "done" yet. His eyes weren't open. I suggested we put him back until he was ripe, but you can imagine how well my wife took to that suggestion.

I had taken my law office into the Computer Revolution by 1989; I was still practicing with a firm then, a very junior partner. But I was the computer guru in the DOS Age, at least in our office, because I knew how to load software and I could show the secretaries how to use WordPerfect. This proves again the truth of the old adage "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King."

I had completed a big project just before Younger Daughter came. As I remember it, the tape had been transcribed (we used dictation machines in those days) and I'd made my corrections and changes before I was called away.

A lot of my memories of this time are indistinct because I was ill. I had redeveloped polyps in my colon in places where it interfered with little things, like walking, or staying clean. I was waiting to get this taken care of until after the baby was born, but I knew I was going to do something soon. I just didn't know who I was going to see. This recurrence had come along waaaaay too soon, in my estimation, and I will swear forever it's because the doctor I was seeing then took the last one out without giving me any anesthesia. And he didn't get all the roots. (It's my opinion that polyps are like dandelions; you have to get the roots, too, but I'm not presenting this as scientific fact.)

Whatever, I was in the market for another doctor. But first we had to get this baby born.

I remember trying to walk with the family to Wendy's for dinner the night before she came. Long Suffering Spouse was already in labor, she thought, and she wasn't up for cooking. She was up for walking. I could barely keep up with three toddlers (well, Older Daughter had just started kindergarten) and a heavily pregnant spouse.

We went to the hospital next morning. The Cubs had apparently clinched the NL East title overnight and a rally had been announced for the Daley Center Plaza at noon that day. My wife's doctor was a Cub fan; he knew we weren't. So his jokes, that morning, were along the lines of 'hurry up, get some Pitocin going, I have a rally to get to.' I didn't mind. Usually he would interrogate me closely in the delivery room, making sure I was still doing insurance defense work (if I was doing plaintiffs' work, you see, I might be suing doctors). I didn't mind that either. Both my wife and I liked this guy.

And he really was only kidding about Pitocin. Once Long Suffering Spouse got going, no medications were needed. In fact, she progressed so quickly that she never once, in the course of giving birth to five children, ever got the opportunity to get an epidural.

There was always a point, however, where my wife would request drugs.


At-the-top-of-her-lungs-screeching loudly.

Women who've delivered children since the end of the Forceps Era will know the point I'm referring to.

Younger Daughter came into the world without additional controversy, however, and I went home to take care of everybody else while Long Suffering Spouse was bundled off to a semi-private room.

Semi-private rooms were the best you could realistically hope for in those days; private rooms weren't covered by anybody's insurance.

My wife's roommate turned out to be a young girl from India. She was receiving calls from excited relatives back home.

All night long.

All night.

Long Suffering Spouse called me the next morning with a command. "Get me out of here!"

She was not in the hospital 24 hours on that occasion, including our time in Labor & Delivery.

But now Long Suffering Spouse was coming home to three excited kids, towing a new baby, and completely sleep-deprived. To get the older kids' attention away from their new baby sister (and give their mom and opportunity to rest) I needed a pretty powerful attraction.

Fortunately we live in Chicago, on the far Northwest Side. We could walk to the train and go right into the airport. And we did. We went wandering around O'Hare to look at planes. In those days, before 9/11, people could walk around airports without triggering security lockdowns. We could go to gates and everything so the kids could see planes pretty darn close.

I milked the trip for all it was worth. I kept them going as long as I could. I wasn't in as much pain as I'd been the night before last; maybe it was a post-partum 'high.' Who cares? I was trying to buy my wife some time to sleep.

But all in vain.

Remember that project I'd finished at work and left with the secretary, all corrected and everything? Well, my life's equivalent of Dilbert's Pointy-Haired Boss got a call from the client about it and panicked. He didn't know how to respond to the client because he only pretended to handle the business; he relied on my report to tell him what to say. He hadn't seen my report so he jumped to the conclusion that it was never done. He made the office manager call my house to track me down (this was before we used cellphones at all times). The office manager was mortified to reach my wife -- and to find I wasn't at home -- especially when he made her call again. And perhaps again. My wife said he called about 100 times. I haven't seen this guy for 14 years, but I still hate him with a deep-burning cordiality. Nevertheless, even I am willing to admit the possibility that he may not have made the office manager call 100 times. It merely seemed like it.

So, when I walked in the door, I had to drop the kids (who immediately climbed on their mother) and get on the phone to this jerk and tell him exactly where to look for his project. Surprisingly, I did not embellish. Maybe I talked to the office manager rather than take the chance of what I might say to this guy, my "partner." Either way, the "crisis" was speedily resolved.

So, about the past. Some things were simpler. I miss DOS, at least to the extent that a reasonably intelligent person could puzzle computer issues out for himself. The ubiquity of cellphones today is a decidedly mixed blessing -- but my having a cellphone might have done Long Suffering Spouse some good that day 23 years ago. Younger Daughter will have a private room when she delivers her baby; that's the new standard. That's certainly an improvement. I'm out from under my version of the Pointy-Haired Boss. That's good. But I'm going broke. That's bad. At least in those days I made some money. Even if it did give me polyps. OK, those were bad, too.

But I miss the idea of going out to the airport and just wandering around freely, looking at the giant planes and watching the kids' faces as they looked at the planes too.

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