It was Friday. I was due on Saturday, but doctors don’t like to work on weekends, especially Easter weekend, so my mom was scheduled for a C-section and hysterectomy on Monday morning. She crossed her fingers and legs and hoped I’d wait.
Her mood was up. In fact, she felt a strange, placid peace within, while also having an urge to do some housework. So she went about her day tidying things up, and also preparing my baby bed, and making sure all was in order for the big happenings scheduled for Monday.
What she didn’t know, but may have realized subconsciously, was that this was all part of Mother Nature’s plan as prelude to labor. Just before childbirth, the mother’s pituitary gland releases a hormone called oxytocin. The oxy gets busy stretching the cervix and uterus. And it also causes psychological changes. Mood improves, and a “nesting” desire develops, prompting the mother to busy herself with preparing her shelter for the arrival of her newborn.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, the first hard contraction hit. Now Mom made no mistake about what was happening. She picked up the phone and called my dad at work. “Get home now! I’m having the baby! I need you to take me to the hospital!”
Dad went into panic stage, dropping the phone and rushing out of the machine shop, where he worked, while forgetting to clock out or even say anything to his boss. He gunned the car onto the highway and sped up the winding grade to our home in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
It had snowed the day before, and this day, approaching my birthday, was very cold. Patches of black ice remained in the shady spots of the highway. And my dad, speeding along, straightening out curves, hit one of those patches and spun out of control.
His car flew off the grade and plummeted down an embankment. An axle broke. A tire blew out. And the surprised engine chugged to a stop with one final blast of black smoke from the tailpipe.
Dad was now stranded and unable to assist my mother.
But if there was anything my mother knew how to do well, it was how to raise an alarm. Because as soon as she hung up the phone with my dad, she called my grandparents. She needed them to come over and babysit my four siblings, while she was at the hospital.
Grandma and Grandpa showed up a half-hour later. Grandma stayed behind to babysit, while Grandpa packed his daughter into their car and headed straight for the hospital.
“I have cancer, and have to have a C-section and hysterectomy,” my mom matter-of-factly informed the emergency room staff.
The hospital contacted her old man Seventh-Day Adventist doctor, who had been preparing for the Sabbath. Dr. Senesquez dropped everything and immediately rushed to the hospital, driving a whole five miles per hour faster than the speed limit. Which was pretty fast for the way this old geezer normally drove.
My mother sat in the emergency room’s waiting room, feeling the contractions gradually increasing in strength and frequency. A little after 6:00 pm, Dr. Senesquez hobbled in and spoke with the staff. He was a little hard of hearing, so everyone had to speak louder than normal. And so everyone in that waiting room, including my mother and my grandfather, overheard this conversation:
Dr. Senesquez: She has cancer, and must have a C-section with hysterectomy. Prepare a room for me. I will do the surgery.
Nurse: Doctor, I looked at her records. She does NOT have cancer. She has a benign tumor.
Dr. Senesquez, after a long pause: Oh yes. It does say that, doesn’t it? (another long pause) I’ve been praying at my bed for this woman, every night. (another long pause) This is a miracle! God has answered my prayers!
Nurse: But doctor, she never did have cancer. See?
Dr. Senesquez: Isn’t that strange? The Lord works in mysterious ways. It seems God has erased all traces of her cancer. Even in the written record. I’ve never seen such a wondrous miracle before, in all my years of practice!
Soon after, Dr. Senesquez appeared in the waiting room and conveyed the miraculous news to my mother.
“No doctor, I DO have cancer. I just know it. I feel it. I still want a hysterectomy.” Nothing, not even a miracle, could push my mother from her belief in cancer.
Her contractions continued to increase. But now that everyone in the hospital except my mother believed she did not have cancer, nobody was in any great hurry. A C-section and hysterectomy still had to be performed, in order to remove the benign tumor. But this surgery was going to be far less complicated, and much more routine, than cancer surgery.
At around 10:00 pm, my dad burst through the emergency room doors, breathlessly asking for my mother. A nurse led him to a hospital room, where Mom was being prepared for surgery. Dr. Senesquez was examining her.
He was filled in on what had happened, what was happening, and what was about to happen. And then he turned to Dr. Senesquez and mentioned the “C” word.
“Oh Mr. Gnu, you will be so happy to know that your wife no longer has cancer!” proclaimed the good and saintly doctor. “She is cured! The Lord and strong prayer have worked a miracle.”
Dad was stunned. “How-how do you know this?” he asked.
“It’s in her medical records,” murmered Dr. Senesquez, with a hushed tone of numinous mystery.
At midnight my mother was wheeled into the operating room and, at 12:31 am, two old hands reached into her opened up belly and yanked me into this world.
And that’s when I woke up, kicking and screaming, from a hard slap to my rear end.
Come on back in a few days, or so, for the final installment of The Birth of Tippy Gnu, entitled, Conclusion: After Birth.