David Bruce: Birth Anecdotes (Some Serious)

• In January 2011, Cynthia Mello’s water broke in Hartford, Connecticut. The weather was very bad and very snowy, but she needed to get to the hospital to give birth. She said, “I didn’t think we were going to make it to the hospital on time. I told my husband to start shoveling the driveway. He came back in minutes later and told me there was too much snow.” Her husband called 911, but of course the snow was a problem for the ambulance as well as for regular automobiles. What to do? Some people are problem-solvers, and this problem was solved. The ambulance made it to the Mellos’ home, and so did a snowplow. Mrs. Mello said, “The ambulance driver told me he had such a hard time getting to us. We live up on a hill, and they had a plow with them leading the way.” They made it to the hospital, but the trip took two hours instead of the usual 20 minutes. Mrs. Mello said, “We were on I-84, and there were four tractor-trailers that had jackknifed. We had to turn around and take back roads to the hospital.” Without the snowplow, they never would have made it. Pat McDonald, a nurse, said, “She called the ambulance because her water broke, and the next thing we know we have a snowplow leading her in the ambulance so she can have her baby on time.” Baby Jack was born in the hospital, and he was immediately given a nickname: Jack Frost. (In a comment on this story, Bedford Brown wrote about a similar incident. At 2:30 a.m. on January 27, 2011, her son, Danny Brown, who lives in Danbury, Connecticut, called 911 because his wife, Stacey, was having labor pains. Mr. and Mrs. Brown received lots of help. An ambulance arrived, along with the Danbury Fire and Police departments, and four city snowplows to clear the way to the hospital, where a baby girl, Cameron Noelle Brown, was born at 5:42 a.m. Mother, daughter, and father are all doing well.)

• When Mem Fox, the Australian young people’s author of Possum Magic, was giving birth to Chloë, her daughter, she remembered reading somewhere that singing songs was supposed to lessen the pain of childbirth, so she started singing “Penny Lane.” The pain remained the same, but at least the expressions on the faces of the nurses were amusing. The pain of childbirth was so great, in fact, that at one point she told her husband, “This is the last time, my darling. I’m never doing this again.” The reward of childhood is a child, and Mem greeted her firstborn—who is also her only child, more because of the pressures of having a career than because of having made a declaration during childbirth—with “Hello, my darling.”

• At Auschwitz, Dr. Josef Mengele performed horrible experiments on pregnant women that left both the women and their fetuses dead. Therefore, Dr. Gisella Perl, who was in Auschwitz, determined that no more women would be pregnant in Auschwitz. She performed abortions whenever they were needed, feeling bad because she was killing a fetus, but knowing that the abortion was necessary to keep Dr. Mengele from killing both the fetus and its mother. After the Holocaust ended, she worked delivering babies, and she always prayed to God before delivering a baby, “God, you owe me a life: a living baby.”

• When children’s book author Tomie DePaola was in kindergarten, his mother got pregnant, and he let her know that he wanted a sister with a red ribbon in her hair, although his mother told him that he wouldn’t know if he had a brother or a sister until the baby arrived. When the baby arrived, he had a sister. As his parents were bringing the baby home, his mother made his father stop by Woolworth’s where they bought a red ribbon and tied it in his baby sister’s hair before showing her to him for the first time.

• On February 19, 1473, at about 4:30 p.m., astronomer Nicolas Copernicus, who popularized the heliocentric view of the solar system, was born. Usually, we don’t know such exact birth dates of people born so long ago, so how do we know this about Copernicus? Fortunately, an astronomer cast a horoscope for this founder of modern astronomy. Ironically, Copernicus’ astronomical tables were used to cast a horoscope for theologian Martin Luther, who had a geocentric view of the solar system.

• James McNeill Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1834. Lowell was then a new town that was devoted to the manufacture of cloth — it was not a classy town. However, Mr. Whistler had the perfect reply when a society lady asked, “Whatever possessed you to be born in a place like that?” He answered, “The explanation is quite simple — I wished to be near my mother.”

• In 1969, New York Met Ron Swoboda became a proud father. The birth occurred back home in New York at 1 a.m. at the same time that Mr. Swoboda was playing an away game in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. due to the three-hour time difference on the coasts. On the scoreboard flashed this message: “Congratulations, Ron Swoboda. Your new son was born tomorrow morning.”

• Babe Ruth was playing bridge with three other men on a train. The train stopped at a station, and a woman carrying a baby in one of her arms stood at the platform and stared at him. He looked at her, noticed that she was attractive, and looked away. The woman kept staring at him, and finally Babe told her, “Better get away from here, lady — I’ll put one on the other arm.”

• When ballerina Maria Tallchief was giving birth to her daughter, Elise, her labor pains were intense and she moaned with pain. Her husband, with a straight face, told her, “Now, Maria, tell me when it hurts.” During a pause in the contractions, she laughed.

• “When I was born, I was so surprised I didn’t talk for a year and a half.” — Gracie Allen

• “Birth is the beginning of death.” — Thomas Fuller


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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