My oldest son was born late March, 1968. A fairly easy birth, the first contractions commencing a little after K-Mart closed while I was hula-hooping in its parking lot on Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls. Now a Hy-Vee, a backdrop for other businesses–a bar, paint stores, a kiddie daycare.
His father and I, almost the last to leave. Not sure when but it felt like midnight. Besides last minute baby supplies, for the due date was soon, I purchased a hula-hoop with which to exercise after the baby was born. With those leaving the store herding for their cars, not paying attention to me, I decided that I would try out the hula hoop, just to see if I could make my immense belly swirl enough to twirl that hoop. But after the second or the third swirl, the buttons on my winter coat catching every once-in-a-while my mini movements in infinity, those noticeable contractions that then I thought were Braxton Hicks, prevented another lame attempt. Prior to that time, I felt invincible, capable of immense feats.
At first I thought the contractions false, for the due date, some two weeks away; but at 3 am that next morning, there was no doubt I was in the early stages of labor. I considered my last burst of energy in the parking lot a pregnant woman’s frenetic cleaning attempt that often occurs prior to labor.
His father and I lived on South Western Avenue, a nice two-bedroom bungalow without a basement, now a chiropractor’s office. At that time women were kept close to a week in the hospital after giving birth. During that time, I tried to nurse, but my son was always hungry. The nurses, who were coaching me about how to nurse my child, attempted to console me, saying that once I returned home, the stress would lessen, and I should be able to satisfy my child. At home he was still hungry, crying almost constantly. I thought my heart would break. He might be colicky, I thought, as I often heard infants were. But no more than a week after his birth I supplemented my breast milk with formula: then the crying and fussiness eased.
That inability to provide sustenance to my child left me feeling inadequate, shrunken and shriveled. But before I relinquished my attempt to become a natural mother, someone I called at the hospital referred me to a Lamaze specialist. I tried so hard, following her phone instructions as if they were biblical injunctions; but his crying prevented me from even considering lasting another day without resorting to formula. My doctor at the time tried to offer a viable medical explanation, one that I repeated to another; but when that person’s expression slowly became nonplussed, I furtively avoided further inquiries from those who I thought considered formula a choice, mumbling something regarding the inconvenience of breast feeding whenever someone broached the subject. But I did want an excuse, something that would reignite in me some sense of motherhood. But I blame my deficiency on the binding of my breasts in Oklahoma when milk gushed through the tight gauze and fell not on swollen infant lips.