Editor’s Note: This column was published in 2004. It has been edited slightly.
This week several years ago, I was born. Neither of my parents was present for my birth. My father, as was the custom of the day, paced the hospital waiting room. My mother was knocked out cold.
She had been injected with “twilight sleep,” a sweet name for a powerful drug that gave mothers a pain- and memory-free birth. Mom’s only recollection of my delivery was “waking up” and begging the doctor to free her from the various constraints. He responded by walloping her with another dose of the drug.
All in all, my birth sounds rather pleasant. Mom awoke the morning of the 28th, got up, realized she was in labor and lay down on the couch. My father stayed home from work to keep her company. At 3 p.m., she decided it would be a good idea to have her hair done.
She went to the beauty parlor for a shampoo and set, never once mentioning to her hairdresser she was in labor.
A nurse having her hair fixed at the same time saw my mother in delivery later that night. “I thought you were going to a dinner party,” she told her. “I didn’t know you were having a baby.”
Sometime around 11 p.m. Mom thought maybe she should go to the hospital. She was met by both her obstetrician and pediatrician, who knew her by sight and name.
“It’s about time you got here,” one said. “We’ve been waiting for you all night.” Truth is, they were just hanging out, having completed their rounds for the evening.
At this point in the story, I always expected Mom to say the doctors jumped up, high-fived each other and shouted, “Let’s deliver a baby.” They didn’t, of course. The high-five wasn’t invented yet, but it’s a nice mental image.
When my mom went into delivery, she thought she was having a boy. The doctor insisted I was a boy, but a nurse knew better. “It’s a girl,” she said with authority. She could tell by my heartbeat.
At 3 a.m. I arrived, a girl, to the relief of my sisters, who missed the whole thing. They were staying with friends on Tybee Island outside of Savannah, where we lived. Hurricane Able was bearing down on the coast, so in the midst of my birth, my sisters were evacuated inland. Savannah was spared, but Beaufort, S.C., less than 40 miles away, was hit hard.
My mom entered the hospital on Aug. 28 and was released Sept. 5. This was normal procedure. Doctors felt mothers needed to rest after a delivery and give their bodies time to heal. Mom said she was so weak she barely could walk when they released her.
For some reason, my parents kept the receipt from the hospital. Given the cost of health care now, it’s amazing. Eight days of board and general nursing cost $96. The double dose of “twilight sleep” cost $1.50; the delivery room $14.50. Oxygen for the baby was $3.30. All told, the bill was $169.65.
At various times in my life, particularly during my teens, I’m sure my parents gladly would have returned me for a refund. All in all, I think they’d agree, having a healthy baby girl for less than $200 was a bargain.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.