His dad would say, "My Ray of sunshine." And as a baby he was. Beautiful, blonde with rosy cheeks and a great belly laugh. He was the easiest of the three deliveries. He was the largest of the three boys, at birth.
He came into the world shortly after one a.m., the thirteenth of September. The room wasn't full of people, just me, my friend Bonnie, two nurses and..the doctor who, having just arrived at the hospital entered breathlessly, checked me and proceeded to tell me to push with each contraction. Push once, twice and voila, there he was, thwunk, she caught him like a football. "You have a boy"!...to which I replied, unhhh, having been convinced that "he" would be a "she".."He is perfect"..and he was. Ten fingers, ten toes and squalling, loudly, with a scrunched up face. Oh, I did love him from the moment I saw him and he was perfect and an easy baby. And yes, his older brother did cry as if his world collapsed the first time he saw Ray, and yes, Chuck did insist on crawling into my sister's lap everytime she held Ray. But there he was that September morning.
It had been only twenty four hours earlier that I had my first contraction, just after one a.m. Chuck and Paul were sleeping soundly when it woke me and I walked sleepily down the hall to the bathroom. The second one was at two a.m., the third at three. Between each contraction I fell back to sleep and by seven, when I dropped Chuck off at the sitter's house they had increased in frequency, but not by much. During the morning break, the girls and I went to McDonald's, someone asked me if I was having contractions. At that point, they were down to every twenty to thirty minutes, like clockwork. By lunchtime, they were still occurring at fifteen minute intervals and it did cross my mind to go swimming which I did daily during my lunchtime but opted not to swim that day because it was a short day. Our division of cataloging was to meet at the Heritage House for dinner.
Three p.m. and there was an overwhelming urge to use the toilet, it was there that my water broke. Not being a nurse at the time I thought I had wet myself and excused my person from the workplace for the day, drove quickly to Judy's house to pick up Chuck, took him home, changed and called the hospital asking to talk with a nurse about the possibility of my going out to dinner that night. She listened to my description, the progression of contractions, and deemed me worthy to go to a nice restaurant for dinner. At that point the contractions were occurring at five to seven minute intervals. "It could just be false labor.." she had chirped, cheerfully. So, while Paul stayed home with the Chuckster, I went to dinner. The restaurant we went to is now defunct. It was an old plantation house which sat back off highway 63 north. The group that gathered that night was small. We worked in the bowels of Ellis Library, cataloging non-fiction, art, history. 1991. That was the year. September. The new school year would have been starting. But that night everyone looked nice, suits and ties and dresses and me, very pregnant and sitting between Alan and a woman whose name I have forgotten but whose story I rememeber.
This was our yearly department dinner, hosted by George, our division chief, old, heavy-set, single. The dinner was collegial, congenial, nice. And oh, I did so like those department dinners. We all ordered something expensive, I had prime rib, with contractions five to seven minutes apart thank you and Alan, who was on my left, laughed nervously after the woman on my right asked "Are you having contractions?".."Mm, yeah..."..and she laughed because she had two grown daughters, and others laughed and continued to eat while Alan's fork was suspended half-way between his plate and mouth while I continued to glance at my watch. Everyone finished their main course while I was in the bathroom (again) and had started ordering dessert when I returned and requested a take-away box and excused myself with contractions three to five minutes apart, driving directly to the hospital where they checked for dilation and descent and told me to walk around but to "not leave the hospital"..so, I left the hospital and returned home to pack my suitcase and talk to my husband who didn't want to come with me and then returned to the hospital and called Bonnie at about ten p.m. and her husband Bill was an absolute doll and told her to go and when she returned shortly after one he asked, "You left Ruth there?" and she told him no, but that, "She had the baby."..But all this was told to me later.
That night, Bonnie was with me, coaching and getting me ice chips and seven up and happy when the baby Ray was born.
It was a perfect night and he was a perfect child, if perfection could ever have a form. And his dad was happy to see him later that day and his grandparents were happy to see him and I, was happy to see him and glad that I didn't go swimming the noon of the 12th of September 1991 because earlier in the week I had a dream of delivering a baby on the Natatorium locker room floor.