A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

20 January 2009

On Birth

Which seems to happen to everybody sooner or later.

Amanda of A Bit Part in Your Life is having a baby. Real soon, apparently. And she's a touch nervous:
I get it, everyone that has a child had to get that child out of them--but it's only now that I'm really starting to get what that means. I'm going to have to do this. And soon. I can't put it off for three years like my wisdom-teeth extractions.
As a male, I feel that to venture comment on this it to risk defenestration. So let me instead write about a person who was a significant figure in the years of my young adulthood. I have taken the rare step of using the true names of the principles involved, as I have lost touch with them and wouldn't mind knowing where they're at these days, if indeed they're still alive.

Her name was Mama Morel, or as near as dammit. She was married to an Air Force sargeant who I believe was a refrigeration tech. She had a young son, Kenny, and a middle daughter whose name presently escapes me.

Her eldest daughter was "Bernie". Bernie joined the Forces a year or two after I did, which was how I came to meet her mother.

(I inject here a note of satisfying self-flattery when I say that my then-best-buddy Dave cornered me that night in the mess and asked me point-blank to leave her alone because he was mad for her. Already I was cultivating a reputation that would mystify the hell out of me for decades.)

Mama's family originated from some hick hill town in Appalachian Ontario so far back in the holler that "the hoot owls trod the hens." And the uncles trod the nieces and nephews, the daddies trod the daughters and sons, and ... well you get the grisly picture.

From such humble origins Mama naturally turned up pregnant at 15. Her mother waved the Bible at her and told her she'd suffer the torments of Hell for her sins, or summat like that.

So at 15, scared and alone, Mama found herself in hospital having her first labour pains. She was, I think, determined that her baby should at least be born in a hospital.

As the pains laid on, Mama shrieked and caterwauled, fearing that she herself might part and rip in two, disgorging an untidy heap of intestines and offal onto the tile floors. Having no information other than her mother's curses and gloating, she was sure, she felt, to die in agony for her "crime."

Just then the woman in the bed next to her pulled back the curtain between the beds and glared at her.

"Do you mind trying to keep it down?" she said fiercely.
"But, ... I'm having a baby!" the terrified girl shrieked.
"Yeah. So am I!" replied the intruder "Quit advertising or the rest of them will be wanting one too!"

"And the pain went away," Mama, now roughly three hundred pounds and in her mid-forties, told me around the smoke-hazed, coffee-ringed table in her trailer, "And I never had any trouble giving birth since."

This is just one little story. It utterly fails to encompass what Mama meant to me. I have taken liberties with the specific quotes--What did you expect? The story was told to me some twenty years ago. But Mama was a queen and her life and experience are worth passing on, I feel.

I hope she's still out there. But I doubt it. She was a big woman who smoked a lot and had a rough history. But part of her is in me. I owe her a lot. And I hope I do her memory justice.

One way I try to do that is by passing this story on to nervous mothers-to-be. I don't know if it does them any good, but a person is alive as long as their name is spoken.

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At 10:37 a.m., Blogger Pugs said...

LOL! The only image that comes to me is one of Mama Cass giving birth while smoking AND eating a ham sandwhich while wearing a pink flowery muumuu...

At 12:49 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Physically, I have to admit there was some resemblance at the time I met her.

But she was a fine example of a person who really tried to make life more livable for the people around her.

At 10:40 a.m., Blogger Philipa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:05 p.m., Blogger Philipa said...

So sorry, Metro - slight bitterness to that comment I see. Gone now.

At 3:04 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Oddly enough I never saw the original, so all's well.

And as a footnote, through the miracle of social media, I've re-established contact with Mama. She lives roughly two hours away!


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