Fifty-two years ago today, I sat on the side of the bed waiting, and amazed. After twenty-three hours of labor, I wasn’t tired and I could sit on the side of the bed with no pain. But that wasn’t on my mind. The slow tick of the clock had my attention. I had to wait until 9 AM, when they opened the drapes on the nursery window, to see my newborn daughter for the first time.
We hadn’t told anyone when I went into labor a month early. We hoped it would stop, and as it progressed, we decided to wait to call family after the baby was born. We’d know if we had a boy or girl and could tell them everything was alright.
So, while I waited, I decided to call my mother and give her the news. “Hello, Mama, guess what we got.”
“Oh, I don’t know. A puppy?”
“No. A little girl.”
“Oh, Deanne!” I can still hear my mother’s surprise and excitement as though it was just a few minutes ago. She lived a couple of hours away and decided to come help us with two-year-old Tim and the baby when we came home from the hospital.
As the nine o’clock hour neared, Dan escorted me to the nursery. We were there with our noses pressed against the glass when they pulled the drapes. We spotted the name tag on the isolette positioned a few feet on the other side of the window. Durrett Baby Girl was absolutely beautiful. Tiny (4 pounds 12 ounces) and perfect. I still have that first view of her in my mind. Healthy pink coloring with tiny little eyebrows. I longed to hold her. But back then, parents were not allowed in the nursery or near the child in the isolette.
I had to wait a few days. I don’t remember how long… except it was a long time. When I held her the first time, I was alone. Visitors, including daddies, were not allowed in the room with the baby. So it was just Joy Lynn and me. She was so tiny! I wanted to remember how small she was. She didn’t open her eyes but her tiny hand gripped my finger. I made a mental note that her fingers were no bigger around than a matchstick.
We hadn’t really had time to get acquainted when a nurse came bustling in, pulled the blankets away from my baby’s feet and started thumping them, hard. I bristled. The nurse shot me a stern look, “Preemies don’t wake to eat. You’ll have to thump her feet to get her awake enough to nurse. She has to eat.” Thump! Thump!
By this time, my milk had come in. We learned that this was a big disadvantage for a tiny baby. Maybe it was payback for the foot thumping, anyway, nursing was very painful for both of us until she got the hang of it.
Joy Lynn couldn’t leave the hospital until she weighed five pounds. One evening, the doctor came in with the good news that we could go home the next morning. But the next morning, he changed his mind, “Someone weighed her with a wet diaper,” he said. And we had to stay another day.. a week in all.
I had a two-year-old at home I wanted to see. I called Timmy every day but he didn’t believe it was me. I’d say, “Hello Timmy, this is Mommy.” He answered the same every time, “No. Mommy went to get the baby.” But when we came home, he was waiting at the door, not to say hello to me. Instead, he said, “Gimme dat baby,” with his little arms reaching for her. My mom snapped the photo but I can’t find it.
This is the story of your birth, Joy Lynn, my beautiful daughter. Happy birthday across the miles!