It was a hot, muggy, late August day in Dallas, Texas. At age twenty-one, I had worked all day in the circulation service department at the Wall Street Journal, picked up my two year old from the baby sitter, and was at home trying to fix dinner in the small cramped kitchen of our two bedroom rental home. My husband was still at work, and the nauseating smell of meat cooking drove me to the bathroom…..again. There it was, I knew I was pregnant. Although I had had morning sickness with my first pregnancy, this time I was destined to have “evening sickness”; didn’t matter; it felt just the same. My pregnancy progressed, and I was able to work until my seventh month, when I was required by the company to take leave. (Unlike my first pregnancy when the company required that I leave before I started “showing” or at the end of my first trimester).
Pregnancy was different in 1964 from today. Although we could say the word aloud (not so when I was growing up); there were still no sonograms, and you wore “maternity” clothes and heaven forbid that anyone should see you unclothed (as in Demi Moore on the cover of a magazine or young women in bikini’s while pregnant today). Maternity clothes were generally skirts with a hole cut out in the tummy, and ties to pull tight or loosen as you grew. The voluminous long tops came to about the tops of the thighs so that your stomach would never be seen. It was about the same effect as wearing a tent (I can see now why young women want to wear form fitting clothes while pregnant; at least you don’t just look fat as I must have). I didn’t mind; I was very excited about having another baby. Children (at least in our family and circle of friends) were never told that their mother “had a baby in her tummy.” I did begin to tell my other baby that she was going to get a baby sister or brother about a month before the birth. We called the baby “Pete Timothy” which was the name I had chosen as we were hoping for a baby boy. Pre-sonograms, there was just no way to know. The old wives tale of “carry high, it’s a girl” or “carry low, it’s a boy” (or was it the other way around?) just didn’t seem to work…..I couldn’t decide if the baby was high or low. Lisa, my first born, lisped, “Timotheeb, timotheeb.” I had chosen the name, Amy Lynn for a girl.
Fast forward to the last week of March. My due date was April 12th, 1965, and I was at the doctor’s for a visit. The last month, I was scheduled to go to the doctor each week; schedule was once a month through the first and second trimester. Then every other week for a month, and then once a week. Dr. Wilke, who had delivered my first child, was pleased at the way the pregnancy was going, and said it would be a “big baby”. “How big”, I gasped (as my mother had had three ten pound babies, and none smaller than eight pounds and my first had been 8 pounds, 6 and ½ ounces).
“Oh, seven or eight pounds”, he said. Whew, I relaxed. That was nothing. Then he delivered a bombshell. “Well,” he said, “This baby is ready, how about scheduling the birth next week?” I was shocked, I had heard of “inducing labor” but I believed in the old fashioned method…..waiting, which I said.
“All right,” he said, “but I will be on vacation that week, so Dr. ____will deliver your baby.” My head snapped around and I told him I preferred that he deliver the baby…..so the date was set. He told me to come to the hospital the next week, on a Thursday, the 1st of April. I demurred, no, I didn’t want my child to be born on the first of April; I had suffered too many April Fool’s Day jokes as a child; didn’t want my child to suffer that on their birthday, for heaven’s sakes! “Oh, don’t worry,” Dr. Wilke said, “I’ll have you check in after my office hours, about 3 p.m. and the baby won’t be born until after midnight.” I agreed to the plan. The next week, right on schedule to the day, I was having “false labor” and other signs of impending birth; meaning that the birth would have been while Dr. Wilke was out of town.
On Thursday around 3 pm, I checked into the hospital. My mother couldn’t keep my older child as her two youngest had chicken pox; that was a huge concern to me, but my friend, Pat, who worked with me offered to take Lisa. She and her husband had no children and would love to take care of her; that was settled. They started my labor; everything was very smooth. I actually read a magazine while in labor. The magazine article was about sextuplets who were born that year. I was just grateful I was only having one….to my knowledge at that point. My labor intensified and I asked for something to “take the edge off”. That is when I was told that I couldn’t have anything……in the event that the labor would stop. Oh, great! They failed to mention that little detail. So I definitely wouldn’t have the twilight sleep I had had with my first one that was in vogue at the time. Of course, we were to learn that wasn’t good for the babies, so it is no longer used. My husband finally arrived at the hospital, and during one of my pains, talked me into changing the baby’s name if it was a girl from Amy to April. His mother had suggested it based on the fact that she would be born on April 1st. No, I explained, it would be after midnight. I protested all the way to the delivery room at 9 pm that it was too early! The doctor had assured me that the baby would be born April 2nd!
So at 9:37 pm on Thursday, April 1, 1965, April Lynn was born. She came into the world howling (probably because it was April Fool’s Day). She cried and I cried (from joy). She was beautiful! Seven pounds, six ounces and all complete from head to toe. That is all a mother could wish for. We went home after the prerequisite (in those days) week in the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get home to her sister. In the hospital, I was never asked or counseled about breast feeding. Just asked if I would return to work; and when I replied that I would when she was 3 months old, my baby was put on a formula by the doctor. At that time, in my immediate culture, doctors were in charge, and healthcare was not a team approach with the patient as part of the team, so I thought that was what was best for my child. Most people did not breast feed at that time; we were modern; with sterilizers and formula. I did however, have to use cloth diapers; pampers were not yet on the market. So, at night, at the first sound of the baby, I would head first to the kitchen to put the bottle of formula from the refrigerator into a bottle warmer. Consequently, the baby would cry for a few minutes longer. That tended to wake the entire house, including big sister, Lisa, who was three on the twentieth after April was born on the 1st; almost three years between them. Many a night she would sit beside me, cuddled close to my side, and “hold” the bottle. April was an easy baby, not crying much, and sleeping for long periods of time between feedings. She slept “all night” when she was three weeks old; all night being from her 11 pm feeding to her 5 am feeding. I actually woke up first and fearfully approached the crib as I had heard of “crib deaths” now known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She was just waking up, and her large dark eyes blinked at me.
Having always been a night person, and loving to sleep in, I had learned to arise early with my children. But one morning around ten am one of my friends dropped by and was astonished to learn that I and my two babies were still sound asleep! Lisa had “helped” me feed April at 5 am, and we had all fallen back to sleep in my bed. I was lucky to have two such beautiful angels.
The pediatrician had told me a schedule to start the baby food so that April would not develop allergies, but now we know that we used to feed babies solid food too early. Still, I was careful. One day I picked her up from the baby-sitter just in time to see mashed potatoes being stuffed into her mouth! She loves table food, I was told. Terrific! Whether it was table food or the solid food I fed her; she did develop food allergies, asthma, and had to hospitalized for pneumonia when she was six months old. They put her crib in a regular room, and let me sleep in the patient bed in the room; after a sleepless night soothing my baby, the doctor walked into the room and asked who the patient was. My grandmother was beside herself. I, a product of the antibiotic age, less worried. My grandmother’s baby probably would have died if it had had pneumonia. Mine got well.
At age eight months, April said her first word. When I would come home at night, and start to cook supper, I would put her and her sister in front of the television set as a way to amuse them (a habit which would come back to haunt me as I had to limit their T.V. watching later on). One night, just as the music came on for a favorite show, my baby cried out, “Batman!” I raced to her side, hardly believing that I had to record her first word in her baby book as batman!
April didn’t walk until she was 17 months old. Today, I’m certain, a parent would be very worried about that. I just assumed it was because she never had to walk anywhere. We spent a lot of time with my parents and siblings and my siblings were ten, eight, and six. Her feet hardly ever touched the ground! One day she just stood up and walked and that was the end of that. Of course, I’m sure another reason I didn’t worry about the walking was that she not only crawled; she scurried everywhere. She was always into something. One day, she was across the room from me, and had opened a drawer and was emptying it. Stop that, I cried, crossing the room to intervene. She took one look at me and worked faster to empty that drawer before I got to her. As a toddler, I was constantly following her around. She had a lively curiosity. I asked her doctor what to do as my parents and grandparents had used “spanking bottoms and hands” as a method of teaching right from wrong. I would be spanking her constantly, I told him and I didn’t want to. “You only spank when their life is in danger”, he told me, so I was back to following and intervening. Later, I was to learn that crawling is very important to a child’s fine motor skills. April can draw anything. I, who walked early, can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.
Now I never think of April 1st as April Fool’s day but April’s Day although I’m sure she suffered many a joke and nickname as a child. It is still one of the most special days of the year to me. It is one of the blessings of life when a child you nurtured grows up to be one of your best friends (my children are my very best friends). Lucky me; I am a fortunate woman. April 1, 2009
My little golden girl
With the sparkling, dancing eyes,
You are so precious to me,
A wood nymph in disguise.
You dance in and out of my life,
Bringing sunshine to brighten my days,
The sound of your merry laughter
From my mind lifts the haze.
You have power over me, April
And for now I’ll let you win
For oh, the joy that you can bring
With that special little grin.