Today is my birthday. And I woke up with a birthday headache that seems to be wanting to hang around for the entire day and night.
I’ve never been one to hide my age or live in fear of revealing my age. I’ve never understood people who lie about their age. We ARE the age we are and that’s not going to change, no matter what. Why are people ashamed of their age or afraid to tell their true age? It’s simply the number of years we’ve lived on this earth. That’s all. It’s a fact that from the minute we’re born, we begin to age and we’re all going to die some day. Some people are very private about how old they are. Whatever. I say blurt out that birthday number with pride when you’re asked!
Today I’m 55. I went to the doctor yesterday and when I was in the lab getting my blood drawn, the lab technician said, “Well happy birthday one day early!” I thanked her politely. She asked if I had any special plans and I told her not really. The older I get, my birthdays just seem like any other day. She informed me that everyone should do something to celebrate their birthday. I guess she’s right. I told her there was something about turning 55 that made me feel I was “going over the hump.” How can I already be 55? My body feels every bit of 55 but my brain doesn’t.
I miss my parents on my birthday, especially my mom. I guess that’s understandable. I miss her telling me my birth story as she always used to do. How on that 17th day of July in 1959, how she woke up in the hospital after just having given birth to me, hoping to see a blue bracelet on her wrist, but instead there was another pink bracelet on her wrist. Back then, there were no ultrasounds to learn the sex of your baby. It was standard procedure to be “knocked out” (as my mother would say) during your delivery and so you didn’t find out the sex of your baby until you woke up and looked at your arm to see whether the bracelet they had put on your wrist was pink or blue. She was already the proud owner of two pink bracelets so I was supposed to provide her with the highly coveted blue bracelet. Didn’t happen. She had just given birth to her 3rd daughter and there was another pink bracelet on her wrist . The first words out of her mouth were, “Oh damn, not another girl!” (That’s my mother— you’d just have to know her). She used to tell me that the woman in the next bed, who she was sharing a room with, laughed and said, “Well, I’ll trade you, I just had my 3rd boy!” They had a good laugh over that. Somewhere in this house, and probably in a crowded drawer, I think I might have that old pink bracelet.
I wish my mom was alive so I could ask her more questions about the day I was born. I know very little about that day. Today I dug out my old worn, faded, and dirty pastel pink baby book. My mother hardly wrote in that book. The word “scarce” hardly begins to describe it. “Empty” is probably more appropriate. There’s no locks of my hair or other mementos and not many pictures. The few pictures that are in the book have nothing written on them and are undated. My mother always told me she was always too busy chasing my two older sisters around and she just never seemed to find the time to write in my baby book. Or take pictures of me. And that bothered her so much, that on her death-bed she actually apologized to me for not having taken more pictures of me when I was growing up. When I was about 11 or 12, I decided to start filling my baby book out myself. I wish I hadn’t done that. It’s filled with a 6th graders scrawling and silly scribbling. I wish I had left it empty. Like the way my mother had left it.
I look through my old pink baby book and I learn that I was born at 12:24 am (almost a July 16th baby!) at The Bethesda Maternity Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. The obstetrician’s name was Dr. Ralph Heery. I weighed in at a whopping 6 lbs. 5 oz. and was only 18 inches long. My mother was in room #246. My mother used to tell me all the time that it would anger her when people referred to me as a preemie because I wasn’t. I was a full term baby but small (now we know that babies born to mother’s who smoke often have low birth weights). And yes, my mother smoked heavily when I was curled in her womb. I was baptized at age 9 months on April 24th, 1960 at All Saint’s Church in Cincinnati. I know that my two grandmothers and my mother’s brother, my uncle, were my Godparents.
In the old pink baby book, it was recorded by mother that I had a strawberry birthmark on my left buttocks which eventually faded to a barely noticeable scar. She wrote that I had no hair at all at birth and still no hair at 4 months. At 6 months of age, she reported I was growing hair finally (just fuzz) and that it was a light color but that she couldn’t yet tell what color it would be. Other recordings:
- I turned over from back to stomach at 4 1/2 months
- I sat up in the “baby butler’ (with support) at 5 months and alone in “baby butler” at 6 months
- I began saying “Da-Da” at 7 1/2 months
- pushed myself into a sitting position at almost a year of age
- crawled in July at age one year (wow- I was slow at getting going)!
- pulled myself up into a standing position in August of 1960 at 13 months
- cut my first tooth at 7 months
There were a few heights and weights recorded and most of my series of baby vaccines, polio shots, and TB patch test results.
For a baby book that goes from birth to old age, that was about all that was recorded. All the rest of the pages are blank. I wish that was not so. I wish I could have known who came to visit my mother in the hospital, how long she was in labor with me, my father’s thoughts and feelings about my birth, who was keeping my two older sisters when I was born, etc. I wish I knew how my parents came up with my name. I wish there were things written on the funny antics page and the amusing sayings page. I wish there was a photo of my first home. I wish more had been recorded about my childhood illnesses, When did I have the chicken pox? The mumps? I wish she had written more about what my young school days were like.
It’s fun and interesting to go back and read things about your history, especially your birth history. I wish I could say I did a better job at recording milestones in my own two sons’ baby books, but I can’t say I did a whole lot better. Time slips by and being able to retrieve that information from the depths of your memory is not easy.
My advice to all you new moms is to keep up those baby books! When you are departed from this earth, your children will probably also be curious about what their actual birth day was like, their milestones, etc. One day you won’t be around for them to be able to ask you about those things. Sit down one day and write them a story about what their birth day was like. Tell them your feelings, the funny things that happened along with the serious. It’s fun to know that stuff.