Friday, May 30, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Fame 48 Years Ago is Still Fame

I have wanted to have Uncle Joe's mother tell the story of his birth on our blogsfor a long time. While we were at her home last night for a party for UJ she agreed to tell the story........

Only the name of Uncle Joe has been changed to protect his innocence.
The other cast of characters are very real. (This part is written by UJ)
Mom/Betty: Joe's sainted mother.
Utah: Joes' dad.
Dolores: Betty's sister/ Joe's aunt.
Don: Dolores' husband.
Dr. Matthews: The Dr. who birthed over 8000 babies in the Muskogee community. I did a recent post on his death.

And so the story begins............

Joe was due June 16, 1960, but since I had been having what I suspected might be light contractions on May 26, Thursday, when Utah left for work at the Coke company on Friday, May 27, I decided I’d better go into Muskogee to be closer to a doctor (and the phone) in case they really were labor pains. So I spent the day at Dolores’s little house (no longer standing) on B street , right off Fondulac.

Sure enough, when Utah finished his Coke route about 2:30, I was having fairly regular pains. So we drove to a phone booth on East Side Boulevard and I called Dr. Matthews’ office. I explained to his receptionist Marie that I was having pains about 10 minutes apart and she told me it was way too early, and if I was standing up talking they obviously weren’t hard enough, so I should return to my sister’s and wait awhile; I was due to come in the following Monday for an X-ray (done in the 8th month with first pregnancies in those pre-Ultra sound days.) A few minutes before the office closed at 5, I called again, and explained that they were 5 minutes apart and getting a little stronger. Marie thought I should go on to the hospital and let them check me.

So back we went to Dolores’s, and I took a bath and changed clothes. I had forgotten to bring any shoes except a very worn pair of rubber thongs which looked pretty crummy. Don had small feet and had a new pair, so I put his new thongs on and away the four of us went to the hospital.

We got to Oklahoma Baptist Hospital about 6:00. Around 7, after some predictable stalling and delays, I was taken to a room and told to lie on a kind of gurney there and someone would come in and check me. The first nurse who came in took one look at me (I had gained 15 pounds) and said no way could I be ready to deliver; I was too small and the pains were obviously not bad enough. A few other hospital employees (I will call them nurses since I don’t know what their credentials were) and murmured agreement. I lay there about 30 minutes fretting because Dr. Matthews wasn’t there. The nurses assured me repeatedly that I couldn’t possibly be in labor, and even if I were, first babies took hours and hours, so there was plenty of time for him to get there.

Suddenly the pains became more intense, so much so that I indicated I thought I would do better if Utah left the room, so he joined Dolores and Don in the waiting room. Around the same time, Doctor Matthews arrived. Since it was Friday night, he had been at the stock car races, but decided he’d better come and take a look. He sat down beside the gurney. Another nurse came in and murmured “She’s hardly showing,” and he said, “No, and she’s not showing any signs of intense contractions either,” and had barely sat down when the amniotic sac ruptured. He jumped to his feet. Holy Cow!

Within seconds I was on my way to the delivery room: no enema (also done-pre delivery in those days); no shaving for prep; no time. As they wheeled me toward the delivery room, we could see Dolores, Don, and Utah standing behind double swinging doors looking through the windows. When Utah realized where they were taking me, he burst through the doors and ran alongside the gurney, leaning down to kiss me every step or two and running to keep up.The people could hardly push the gurney for laughing, and I was dimly aware that people were emerging from other rooms to watch also.

What a shock awaited me in the delivery room. First, they insisted I lie down on a hard table and put my feet in stirrups and they strapped or buckled me in. I spent considerable time telling them that I believed having a baby would be a lot easier if they would let me sit up, but they ignored me. Next, the contractions became really, really, painful, and constant.

I explained that the pains were too severe to be normal, and I felt sure I was going to die.“But I can’t believe God would let me die while I’m having a baby,” I said to Dr. Matthews. “Do you?”“No, of course not,” he said reassuringly.“Do you really believe that?” I said.“Yes, I do.”“Then say Amen,” I said.

There was full-fledged laughter from him and the only other person I was aware of in the room, a nurse.“Say it again,” I said.“Amen,” he said.The nurse laughed again.“Make her say it too,” I said.“Amen,” she choked, laughing. I made them each say it another time or two, and then the pain was very great indeed, and then they were telling me I had a baby boy.

Joe was born at 8:29 P.M. I felt jubilant that I had done a great thing. Utah , Dolores, and Don crowded around the bed, where I was enjoying a wonderful feeling from a wide, tight, warmed band they had fastened around my stomach. I kept trying to throw back the covers to show them I had a hole in my stomach, and asked people who came in the room if it was normal for me to have a hole in my stomach. I also wanted everyone to admire my feet, which looked very skinny to me.

Apparently I was wearing a short hospital gown and the warm band and nothing else, and Dolores and Utah kept trying to put the cover back on me.There was a storm that night. Between the wind blowing through an open window and banging the Venetian blinds, the woman in the next bed moaning, and visitors who tiptoed into the room, patted my foot, and smiled and left, I slept very little.

When a nurse came in to check the moaning woman in the next bed and me, I roused myself to ask crankily, “What’s wrong with her?”“She had a baby last night,” the nurse said. ”A little girl.”“Well, I had a baby too, and I’m not doing that,” I said. “But I had a little boy!”

The next morning a friend with whom I had worked at the drug store who worked as an aide on another floor came in.“Hi,Toni,” I said. “I had a baby boy last night!”“I KNOW you did,” she said. “Everyone in the hospital knows about it!”“Really? Why?”“Well, first people were telling us how funny it was to see Utah running alongside the gurney trying to kiss you, and then Dr. Matthews came up to the lounge and told us about the revival you led in the delivery room, so everyone wanted to see you!”

Joe's birth brought me my 15 minutes of fame

~written by Betty, Mother of Joe


  1. i loved reading that. thanks for sharing it.

    the birth of ones child is such a special thing. i haven't cried much in my life, but when both my kids were born i was a blitherin mess.

  2. What a neat story! Isn't it sad, though, that doctors used to strap women down, even when they insisted they would do better sitting up? My mom wanted so badly to walk around during her labor, but she wasn't allowed. Of course, we know, now (as women seemed to know then) that walking around during labor makes things progress more quickly. Sorry, I'm about to get up on a soap box, and I don't want to ruin the sweet story.

    I LOVED the revival. That was very cool!

  3. What a sweet story! Thanks for sharing.
    Is it really because UJ is so innocent that you have to change his name?

  4. he looks pretty much the same now only with less hair.


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