An Excerpt from The Charm
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Today is Ian’s birthday. Twenty-six years ago, on this day, I woke early from my sleep at the sound of the train blowing its whistle as it passed through town at 3:00 in the morning. We were living in Rouleau, a small town about twenty-five miles outside of Regina, Saskatchewan. I had been teaching there for the previous three years. Tom had gone out of town and I was at the house on my own.
Next door lived my dear friends, Inga and George Greenman. George and Inga were the most pleasant couple, and often welcomed me in for a cup of coffee or some of Inga’s wonderful baking or cooking when I would walk across the gravel street from the school to my house. George and Inga’s daughter, Gayle, who lived in Regina, was also a dear friend and had been conscripted to be my labor (or labour, as we would have spelled it at home) coach. That morning, Inga was in Regina, having stayed with Gayle and Gayle’s seven year old daughter, Kristin, who had recently had her tonsils removed and needed someone to care for her while Gayle went to work.
As I lay in bed, trying to go back to sleep, I noticed that my tummy felt strangely tight. I was scheduled to visit my doctor in Regina at 11:00 that morning, and George had assured me the night before, that if I didn’t feel up to driving the twelve gravel miles and twelve highway miles to the city, that he would be glad to accompany me. It was Monday, and the due date for the baby was on Friday, so I was sure that the tightening in my tummy was either false labor pains or simply a figment of my imagination. I tried to go back to sleep, but every time that I did, my tummy would tighten some more. I decided to check the time on the clock at each tightening. Sometimes I was able to rest for six or seven minutes. Other times, only three or four, but nothing was regular, so I continued to try to rest. After an hour and a half or so, I thought that I had better call Gayle and ask her advice. By then, feelings like that of a corset tightening around my midsection were four minutes or so apart. Gayle excitedly told me to phone her father, wake him, and have him drive me to her house. I didn’t want to bother George, though, if this was a simple warm up exercise for the event to occur later in the week. Gayle reasoned with me that if it was a false call, nothing would be lost by my being in the city and closer to the hospital and my scheduled doctor’s appointment and assured me that her Dad would not mind.
I called George. He answered the phone on the third ring. I apologized for waking him and asked him if he wouldn’t mind giving me a ride into the city. George, believing that he had slept late and that my request was for him to accompany me to the city for my appointment, assured me that he would dress and get ready to go. I told him that I had coffee ready for him and that I would be right over. I got his coffee, picked up the small bag that I had packed the week before in preparation, and walked across my back yard and into his, putting my bag in his vehicle before knocking on his door. When he answered the door, he looked a little nervous. He wondered if I really needed to get to the city this early. “Yes!” I told him. He said that we would be way too early for my eleven o’clock appointment. I told him that I wasn’t at all sure that I would make the appointment.
George was usually a pleasant conversationalist, but this morning, he barely looked at me as we drove along that country road. His eyes were fixed on the road ahead. A couple of times, we bounced and jarred over the ruts and dips in the road, which would cause me to moan ever such a little. Each time that happened, I think that George drove a little faster.
Once at Gayle’s house, at around six o’clock, we began timing the contractions in earnest. They were fairly regularly at three to four minutes apart, however, I wasn’t feeling as though I was in a great deal of pain or anguish. In the prenatal class, we had been told that we could stay at home until we could no longer walk or talk through the contractions. The family had some breakfast. I didn’t want any, thanks. We drank some coffee, as we were accustomed to doing when together, and chattered about all manner of things, while George nervously paced the hallways and rooms of Gayle’s house. I walked and talked through the tightening feelings until ten o’clock or so. I recall standing next to Gayle’s kitchen counter when a pain grew up and out from my belly button around to my back and down my legs. I steadied myself with my hand on the countertop, bent down slightly, and let out a long, slow, and what I thought was a quiet “Mmmmmmmmmm.” That’s it! Gayle announced that it was time for us to go.
We arrived at Regina General Hospital around eleven o’clock and were escorted to the labor and delivery unit. I was escorted to a bed, and Gayle and I were introduced to our nurse, Duna Barber. Duna was the most wonderful nurse. She announced that she had had several children of her own, several more grandchildren, and that she had been involved in more deliveries than she could count. Her confidence and mastery was evident in every movement she made and every word that she spoke. Her smile was strong and kind. Duna, Gayle and I were all surprised when, after an hour or so in the labor department, Duna announced that it was time to have the baby.
We were moved to a delivery room, Gayle got dressed in her gown and booties, and after an hour and a half of extreme effort, the baby was born, all 7 pounds, 15 ounces! It was a precious, handsome baby boy. His name was Ian George Draper.
Baby Ian and Gayle
This evening, Rod, Ian, Andrew, Eric and I went out for birthday dinner. Back at the house, I put some Lego shaped candles into a key lime pie, two of Ian’s favorite things.
It is amazing how, after Eric’s return for R and R only a day and a half ago, all things seemed so magically normal. All of my boys were here. We were together marking another hallmark. Everything was whole again.