The story of my birth, not shockingly, is on my mind this morning. I wonder often about how much of our personalities we are born with. I was born early, very early, and as it’s always been repeated to me by every woman in my family, this means I was eager to be born and as a consequence of this I am always anxious for the next thing, always ready to move along even before the time is right. (My sister was born a month late and is as pokey about getting ready as the day is long, so who knows. Of course my mom also calls us “The Anarchist” and “The Imperialist” but that’s a story for another day.)
So I was 3 weeks premature. The story goes like this: my parents went to pizza with some friends and then caught a late show of A Clockwork Orange. In the middle of the night after that my mother thought she had terrible heartburn which got bad enough she decided they should go to the hospital. At the hospital the nurses declared my mother to be in labor, very advanced labor. As it was a small town and the early 70s they refused to admit my father into the delivery room. So my parents despite the nurse’s insistence that I was coming at any second, my parents got back into the car and drove 20 minutes or so to next town where they would let my father into the delivery room. I was born less than an hour later, some tellings have minutes after they got to the second hospital. Total labor time for me was just over 3 hours.
I came out quietly, only let a single yell, enough to start me breathing. No screaming, no noisy gasping for breath, just a surprised vocalization when air came in.
I was tiny, like just over 4 pounds, in the days before incubators and good preemie care. The doctor wouldn’t let my mother take me home until I weighed 5 pounds.
Does any of this affect who I am now? Was it predetermined that I would never scream even when I had the chance, even when I should? Am I still rushing headlong into things only to be held up, my own urgency leaving me waiting until the time is right, until I’m big enough, strong enough, ready?
Hesitation before birth. If there is a transmigration of souls then I am not yet on the bottom rung. My life is a hesitation before birth. – Franz Kafka