Please forgive that I have not been writing for a while. I have had the flu for at least the past month, making life quite miserable. I will talk more about the flu and its significance later, but for now I would like to share the story of my daughter’s birth, as tomorrow is her 26th birthday. I would add some of her baby pictures, except, sadly, we left them in Oregon.
My daughter, Kristina Marie, was born on a crisp, clear, cold day, the twenty-sixth day of the year, 1988, in a rickety old naval hospital on Whidbey Island. I can remember the icy wind; it seemed to seep right through the walls and windows. (This is why I joke with her about being born in a barn. That and the fact that the medical corpsmen treated us like cattle.) Luckily, I had a bed away from the window. Unluckily, since it was a shared room (having four beds), I bunked with a woman who must have thought hairspray was the glue that held the world together. She was a typical big-hair eighties type of woman, and so she was constantly applying makeup and fumigating the room with aerosol Aqua Net and nauseatingly floral perfume.
As a side note, Hairspray starring Ricki Lake hit the big screen in 1988, garnering its title from the simple fact that big eighties hair took a lot of spray to hold it all up. Since we are talking about eighties culture, I would most likely have been listening to Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, and Heart, but my favorite song in 1988 was George Michael’s Faith.
Back then, we could get a gallon of gas for under a dollar, and postage was still under a quarter. Back then, I managed to get in and out of the grocery store, including diapers and baby food, for under $100 a month. Starbucks was just an infant itself, and coffee had not yet become the rage it is today. Checking accounts also typically earned interest. In fact, my first checking account was earning 5.25%. That’s unheard of nowadays. Savings accounts do not even earn that much today.
Kristina Marie was born on a Tuesday, although she was due over a week earlier, on a Friday (the fifteenth). I have always told her that she was born fashionably late, because she took her sweet time coming into the world, after 38 hours of labor, finally arriving just before 2:30 in the afternoon, on January 26, 1988. This was a leap year, something she and I have in common. Incidentally, my son was also born during a leap year.
Since she was determined to be fashionably late, I was likewise determined to employ just about any old wives’ tale to make her want to leave my womb. Someone told us that spicy food would trigger labor. Therefore, the Saturday before she was born, we went out for Chinese and then went to see Hello Vietnam, starring Robin Williams. The spicy food did not work, but between the MSG and hitting my head on the doorframe of our 1971 Chevy Malibu, I did have a whopper of a headache.
She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 5 ounces, and although this was considered “large,” especially for a first child, labor was a breeze. That is, the actual hard labor, when I was actively pushing, not the 37 hours that preceded it. I have never told anyone this before, but when I began pushing, a beautiful sense of peace came over me. It was as if nothing else mattered. Life. Death. The price of a cup of coffee. Nothing. Yet everything would soon matter for this new life that was entering the world. As I disappeared into the selfless act of birthing, the outside world went suddenly still. Although the doctors and corpsmen continued to buzz noisily around me, I heard nothing but angels singing. Even though I chose a drug-free birth, I felt no pain while pushing. Absolutely no pain. When I heard a faint voice say, “push,” I pushed. Instead of pain, a sense of warmth and joy overwhelmed me. When the voice said to push again, I pushed again, but still no pain. There was only this overwhelming peace as I floated, as if buoyed by the voices of angels. Four pushes, then I held my daughter in my arms for the first time. It was the single most beautiful experience of my life.
I had heard other women tell of not remembering the pain. Even though the women telling these stories acknowledged that there had been pain, they could not remember the severity. Thankfully, pain has a way of disappearing from our memories in this way, and it only leaves traces behind. It leaves an “oh, yeah, I remember now,” type memory, which we recall only when we go through it again. This was not the case for me. I seriously felt no pain. During the bulk of my labor, I do remember a great amount of pain, and fear. In fact, I cried out for my mother. Kristina’s father called my mom and told her I needed her, and so she and my sister drove five hours, to arrive just after Kristina was born. But during the active part of labor, it was as if God had placed the angels there to take the pain from me and allow me the full beauty of the moment. The pure ecstasy of it all. I thought maybe I had imagined it, that is, until I had my son. The pain from his birth, I distinctly remember going through it all. Unlike his sister, he was in a hurry to enter this world, and if his head had not been so big, he probably would have been born in the car on the way to the hospital. The pain from his birth was overwhelming and so sudden that it sent my body into shock, but his is another story not meant for today, other than as a point of comparison.
My newborn and I spent three days in the hospital, which was a typical length of stay back then. The Navy charged us a whopping $26.85 for our hospital stay, which was the cost of the meals consumed. I bet you couldn’t pull that off today, without having double coverage or some other wickedly good medical plan.
My prayer for you today is for peace, love, and joy through all of life’s challenges.
In His grace,