contributed by my mom, Pauline Villa
There was once a time when I heard the expression “forty years ago today…” it meant eons ago, a time in long lost history, an era when everything seemed so pre-historic. Well here I am recounting something that happened in my life “forty years ago today…” and it seems like just yesterday, a blip on the screen of life.
December 2, 1965 I was a young and a very pregnant woman waiting the birth of my first child, gender unknown. My husband, Don, and I expected to be parents a week earlier, Thanksgiving Day. After that day when I did not go into labor we settled into a strange lethargy. We just became resigned that when it was time, it was time. And whenever it would happen, it would happen.
The morning of Dec. 2, 1965 was a glorious day. It was sunny and warm. So warm that I didn’t even wear a coat or jacket to go to my weekly obstetric visit which was in walking distance from our apartment on Orthodox Street in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
The doctor’s office was full of women who were in various stages of gestation. There was one woman in particular who exhibited great discomfort. I felt so sorry for her as I watched her try find some relief sitting on a small, hard folding chair that the nurses had brought out for additional seating, that I offered her my more comfortable, soft cushioned chair. Soon she went in for her exam. Not too long after the OB doctor, Dr. Kennedy rushed out the front door.
The nurse came out into the waiting room and announced that it would be awhile before we would be able to see the doctor so she suggested we come back at a later time that day.
I was still feeling euphoric about my situation. I could not imagine that soon I would be giving birth. I was also relieved that finally I did not have to be concerned about my weight! All during my pregnancy the nurse in the doctor’s office scolded and chided me for every ounce I gained. I was terrified of her and therefore watch every morsel I consumed. But not this day. I was feeling too good to let anything keep me from enjoying such a beautiful, warm December day.
The doctor’s office was just a few blocks away from the bustling, harried shopping district of Frankford Avenue. I leisurely walk there and enjoyed window shopping and treated myself to an, up to this point forbidden butter pecan ice cream cone – the best I had ever eaten! Calories were finally no longer a concern.
I returned to the doctor’s office and patiently waited while other women went in and came out.
Around four o’clock I met with Dr. Kennedy and he could not believe I was still holding on to that baby. After an exam he announced that I was at least 5 centimeters. Now to those of you who are uninformed that means “Here comes the baby ANY SECOND NOW!!!” He told me I had to get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY. My only option was to walk the three blocks from his office to Frankford Hospital by myself!
Now at age 22 I was scared, big time. I had to walk to the hospital alone with nothing but this little thing moving inside of me to give me strength. I remember rubbing my stomach as I lumbered along and saying out loud “Well, little one, we are both about to experience a great adventure!”
At the hospital I went to Admissions. The clerk asked why I was there. My reply – “To have my baby”. She look behind me for my husband or relatives and was shocked when I told her I was “just me and my baby.”
From that moment on was just a flurry of activity. I was prepped, shuttled into a wheel chair, sent up to delivery and then had to wait and wait and wait.
After about an hour or so my “water broke”. Again, for the uninformed it means the poor mother-to-be then knows exactly what it feels like to need a diaper. What a cold, wet mess it was.
Oh, my God! Soon after I experienced PAIN! Yes, GREAT PAIN! No amount of screaming, pleading, bargaining, would cajole the cold, cruel nurses who periodically looked in on me to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to put an end to the torture.
It did finally come to an end. Thank God. I was wheeled into delivery and 7:34 on Dec. 2, forty years ago today Paul Altobell uttered his first, audible sounds and they have never stopped!
Where did the years go? Who knows? How does one become a young mother and then suddenly a grandmother? Today, 40 years after his birth, Paul will be experiencing the birth of this third child. While this wonderful event takes place I will be watching over his two other children, Rachel, 11 years and Michael, 2 and a half. I will see in them my sons eyes, smile, quirks, laugh, qualities. I will see in them all the wonderful things I saw as I walked from Dr. Kennedy’s office to Frankford Hospital forty years ago today. And I will reaffirm that we have and we are experiencing a great adventure that will continue as long as we are Mother and Son.
Happy Birthday Paul!