Party of 5…

When Shannon was 3, something strange happened. Other people’s babies were suddenly cute again. To me that meant one thing: I was ready to have another child. Went off the pill. Still took a few months to get pregnant. That was ok cause Shannon was not quite self-sufficient yet, or very good at cooking supper. Getting there though. But this isn’t a story about Joshua, our middle kid. (Don’t get a complex Josh, your stories are coming). When Josh turned 3, babies still weren’t cute. Instead, he was starting pre-school, and would be gone a couple hours, 2 mornings a week. Shannon was in grade school. I felt a giddy sense of freedom. No more diapers or cribs.

Joshua 3, 1978…

A few months later though I was having a health issue. A couple days a month I couldn’t sit, sneeze, cough without considerable pain, or wear anything besides loose clothes. Stomach hurt bad. Went to the doctor. He wanted to know why I was on the birth control pills I was taking? (Who’s the doctor here? Trying NOT to get pregnant dipstick) “They worked fine after I had Shannon, so I asked for them again after Joshua was born,” I said. “Those pills are 10 times stronger than we’re giving women now,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons you feel so rotten in the middle of the month. Your body is not able to cycle right because they’re way too strong. You have to stop taking them.” “But what should I do about birth control?” I asked. He shrugged, “you don’t have worry about getting pregnant again. I don’t think you’re even ovulating.” Guess my baby days were over at 28.

Couple months passed and I was back in his office. Dizzy, queasy, seeing black spots before my eyes. He hardly dared walk back into the office after some tests. First thing out of his mouth, “hope you’re not going to get hysterical when I tell you you’re pregnant!” I was not excited. All I could think of was diapers, cribs, and my fleeting freedom which lasted like 2 minutes. John was ecstatic. Sigh. (Side note: Joshua spilled the beans about this pregnancy early to my mom. She was furious that we were adding to our family and didn’t speak to me for 5 months. Peaceful, but short-lived).

Soon I had a change of heart. If I wasn’t happy that God was giving us another baby, that was just wrong. I zipped down to Sernett’s, a small department store in Spencer and bought a couple packs of some new-fangled baby wear. Novel idea, Onesies, in pale yellow, mint green and baby blue. Yup, I was over the doldrums. Another baby would be great. I was 8 months pregnant in August. Big as a barn, literally. See for yourself.

No one in their right mind tries to have a baby in August or September. Going through a hot, humid Iowa summer, wearing the tent instead of sleeping in one. Went in for routine check-up and had my first pelvic exam in several months. Dr. Quack looked concerned and said the baby’s head appeared very small, and he needed an X-Ray. It showed baby’s tiny feet deep in my pelvis, his head under my right boob. “Not to worry,” said Quack. “I can turn the baby.” He put his hands around the baby’s head (on the outside of my belly) and slowly worked his hands down to my pelvis. Ok, needed another X-Ray. While waiting for that to be developed, I watched baby’s head moon-walk the other direction to his favorite hang-out spot. Quack came back in, saw where the stubborn little twerp was and said, “I think there might be something wrong with the baby. His head should be tucked down towards his chest, but he’s looking straight up your throat with his head tilted way back. It’s not normal or right.” You can imagine what I was picturing in my mind, worried sick. Quack then said he was done trying to turn the baby. This was my third baby, I shouldn’t have any trouble giving birth.

Joshua 4, Shannon almost 9, 1979…

John thought otherwise. He was STRONGLY opposed to me having this baby in Spencer. Small town, little hospital, plus the Quack thing. John wanted to take me to Sioux Falls or Sioux City, each about a 100 miles away. That didn’t sound appealing. Too far from the kids. Shannon was almost 9, Josh 4-1/2. I got my way, but there wasn’t much to feel good about in this decision.

I’ll try not to freak you out with too-many-objectionable-graphic-details-with-the-rest-of-my-story. I was advised to get to the hospital pronto when labor started. My water broke in bed a few days past my due date. (Only Josh arrived on time and easily) We hustled to the hospital. After 4 or 5 hours, baby decided it was time to s-l-o-w-l-y make his grand entrance. One foot popped out. Just the one. Facing the wrong direction. (Little Dude really, could have used some help here) Quack had the answer for this too. He reached in (ouch) grabbed the other foot, took both feet and twisted hard to turn the baby facing down. This was 35 years ago, but the description of what that felt like remains the same and spine-tinglingly vivid. Getting hit in the lower back with a sledge hammer.

Nature intended when the biggest part of baby (shoulders) were out, the cervix starts closing. (This is where the song, head & shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes got invented) Unfortunately for this-feet-first-baby, after the shoulders came his head, which now would not and could not come out. Quack’s assistant, Messup jumped on the table, straddled me (not in a kinky way, honest I wasn’t doing very well at all) pushed and pushed on my belly, (black and blue weeks later) and finally the Van Berkum’s had their new baby boy. His head was a little smashed, he had newborn tremors, I couldn’t stop bawling, but we were both ok. Thanks God, appreciated your help that day. Had I been living on the prairie in the 1800’s, I don’t think either one of us would have made it. In retrospect, I should have gone to a specialist and had a C-section. Something John still brings up once in a while.

The addition of little Adam marked the beginning of our-elite-family-of-5. We no longer fit in a restaurant booth without an extra seat. Four-per-pack-tickets didn’t cut the mustard. If you thought there was a big difference between having one and two children, the difference between 2 and 3 was enormous. For the next decade, anytime any one of the 3 were gone for ANY reason, school project, grandma’s house, day trip with a friend’s family, using the bathroom, it was an automatic reason for celebration for the rest of us. Didn’t have to be a biggie, just something. Go out for ice cream, or sit in a restaurant booth and order water. Nothing against any one of the 3, but everything was easier in our family when there were equal amounts of parents versus children.

Josh 4-1/2, Adam 3 mon. Shannon 9, 1979…

Adam might not have been planned, but he certainly wasn’t an accident either. Getting him here was tough, but we were so lucky to have him. He deserved the game ball. We had our 5-man-roster…

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