Twenty-Three: A Healthy Baby–Any Kind Would Do

The day after the baby shower (see Twenty-Two: Death and Life), I went to the hospital, but the labor stopped, I went to sleep, and my poor mother waited all night to see what would happen. My husband was on call at his hospital. He was in his third year of medical school–the first clinical year where the students were actually on call like real medical staff. The following morning, the doctor decided to induce labor. I was terrified and elated.

Oh, how I had wanted this child. I had prayed for a boy. Feeling guilty about that request, I’d prayed for “just a healthy baby, any kind would do.”

Once he was born, I didn’t know what to do with him. I had never been around little babies. I’d never babysat. I was clueless, except for having read Dr. Spock, but reading a book isn’t quite like holding the real thing in your arms. The grandmothers came and stayed for a week each. My mother’s first night with us–our first night home from the hospital–she lay awake while the baby slept from eleven until about five in the morning. Yes, he slept that long, but she didn’t, afraid to close her eyes for fear that he’d stop breathing!

After the grandmas left, Baby and I were alone much of the time. It was fall, so that meant going out with the stroller on beautiful days, and that’s the way I lulled him to sleep sometimes. During the crying times, because all days and nights were not like that first one when the poor exhausted baby fooled us into thinking he would be a good sleeper, I would walk and walk and cry along with him.

I would be a stay-at-home mom. It’s what I was meant to be: wife and mother. Meanwhile, my husband’s every-other-night-on-call routine continued. He was good with the baby when he was around. He just wasn’t around very much.

He was a beautiful baby, my oldest son. Here is proof:


Can you pinpoint a time when your identity changed, not necessarily of your own doing?

This is # 23 in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge hosted by Jane Ann McLachlan.

16 thoughts on “Twenty-Three: A Healthy Baby–Any Kind Would Do

  1. It’s really interesting to read your perspective as a stay-at-home wife and mom. My dad was in his first year of residency when I was born, and my mom quit her nursing job to stay home with me. I imagine she had many of the same feelings that you describe. My dad worked too much, and her identity was changing.


    • It was what so many women did, you know? I don’t regret it, not for a minute. But maybe if I’d started writing ten or twenty years sooner . . . I didn’t though, so it is what it is. And it’s fulfilling now! Thanks.


  2. I wanted to be a mother all my life – had babysat and practiced on half-a-dozen nieces and nephews. My life was redefined when I got colitis at 23 – I became a “sickie” — so having it redefined 4 years later to Mother was amazing. When they put Amanda into my arms the love I felt was so intense I thought I’d burst. Thank you for your beautiful post this revived this memory! (I was 27, so it won’t come up in this challenge.)
    Jane Ann


  3. Felt the same Gerry. Also an only child, never been around any babies. Piece of glass in my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. My husband completing his masters left me home alone. But the difference for me is I lost direction in my university, never wanted to study science, never wanted to go on to med school, my parents were the Drs, not me. So I found a new purpose in Jonathan, in being a mom. Those were happy days.


  4. What a cute baby! Since I never had children, that instant change of identity isn’t quite my experience. The first time I heard the word “cancer survivor” after my diagnosis effected my identity for many years — but that was so long ago that, most days, it feels like it happened to someone else, so that’s not the same as motherhood.


    • Joy, I can imagine how those words change your identity! My early mothering seems so far away for me now that I can identify with feeling like it happened to someone else. I wonder how much I’m (unintentionally) fictionalizing!


  5. Definitely a beautiful baby, Gerry! Becoming a mother definitely changed my identity. Because I saw myself as part of my own family now, I became “wife and mother,” even though “wife” came four years later. I didn’t realize how dependent my sense of self was on that idea until my husband left, and then I felt like 1/2 mother and 1/2 giant hole: I had no other identity.


  6. I realized my life was changed forever when I found I was pregnant with my first child. A little voice in my head said, “No matter the outcome, you can’t get out of this one unchanged.”


  7. Enjoyed the post! I had the same experience – labor started and then stopped. But I wasn’t induced; I was sent home. Things started up again in a day or two – that time for real. Another difference was that my baby was a girl.
    And yes, I, too, had wished for a boy, for which I’m now ashamed. I think women wanted boys in those days because we felt undervalued and not in control of our lives. A son could vicariously fulfill our personal dreams. I’ll be doing a blog on that in a couple of weeks in the On Being a Woman series.


    • Having a son was also important to the men of our generation, Joanne. Even though my husband never expressed a wish one way or the other re gender, I thought that deep down, he wanted a son. It seemed important because his dad had died so recently and so tragically. I believe I thought I’d be a better mother of sons than of daughters. I’m not sure that would have been true, and I never found out because I never had a daughter. I’m getting to enjoy the granddaughters now, though!


  8. Great pics! I tell all new prospective parents that the first child is a life altering event. All your priorities get readjusted forever more. More kids is more work, but the life altering is mostly done with the first one. It was of our doing, though. 🙂


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