May 15, 1991
Austin Leo Davignon arrived at precisely 5:l5, on April 4th, l99l. His mother, was tired and relieved that it was all over. His father evinced absolute euphoria re: the avidly-anticipated external plumbing. His paternal grandfather spent a whole hour on the phone assuring friends and family, "Yes, a boy. Big 'un, nine pounds or sommat. Named him Huston. Or Dallas. Somethin' Texas, anyway." His grandmother was just plain tuckered.
The day had begun inauspiciously.
"Ellen? You awake? The phone's ringing." I opened one eye and peeped blearily at Phil. "Wha? Oh." I rolled over the edge of the bed, staggered upright and jogged out to the kitchen where the phone was shrilling its head off.
"H'lo?" At 5-bloody-30 in the morning, during my off-season, I do not exactly effervesce.
It was our oldest son, Toby, a strong, pragmatic man, well into his thirties, getting just a bit thick around the middle, a little thin on top. He's a heavy-duty mechanic, some kind of an over-seer at the Territorial shop, solid, experienced, imperturbable. "Baby!" he squeaked.
Both eyes snapped open. "Boy or girl?" I breathed.
Sifting through the babble, eventually I determined that Juanita was in the hospital, in labour, but in no imminent hurry to be delivered of her burden. Toby just thought that we would want to know.
Well, of COURSE we did. I thanked him for sharing, hung up and went back to bed. Phil turned over in mid-snore. "Whazzat?"
"Juanita's gone to the hospital but nothing's gonna happen very soon. 'Nite, again." And I corked off for another forty, or so, winks.
I lie. I did go back to bed but it was not to sleep; not even, perchance, to dream. My mind had better things to do. It had the memories of a child birth of its own to re-live.
Phil and I were married in l955. I was a very young eighteen, Daddy's little girl who had just become Phil's little wife; awkward, self-conscious, and abysmally shy. Kind of boggles the mind, don't it, that this brash, strident old broad could ever have been bashfull? S'truth, though. And finding myself pregnant after only a few months of marriage didn't do a whole lot to bolster my self-confidence. Now people were going to know what we had been up to! Ah, life was very difficult.
Except for the on-set of migraine, a recurring malady that would plague me all my adult life, my pregnancy progressed uneventfully to its final days and finally, after several false alarms, I found myself alone in the labour room in the drafty old Whitehorse General Hospital. It was forty below outside; not a whole helluva bunch more within.
Labour room. The implication in the name alone is enough to give a frightened young woman the willies; the fact that it was just across the hall from the men's ward was excruciating. As I lay on the narrow bed in that tiny, bare room, I could hear, without straining, the laughter and conversation of men in varying stages of recovery and realized that every groan, every whimper of mine would echo down the hall as well and they would all know what was going on.
"Heh,heh,heh," I could imagine them snickering. "Another one been at it. Yer makes yer bed and now yer lies in it, heh, heh."
Friends, you have to know: I may have been shy but being of good Scandihoovian stock, I was tough, too, and I went through twenty hours of labour without making a sound.
Much of that time was spent by myself. They didn't encourage paternal involvement in those days - indeed, Phil had no desire to be there, nor did I want him. But I wasn't exactly neglected. Every half hour someone came by to hold a cold disk on my stomach and check one portal or other, to see how I was 'coming along.' First a nurse, then Dr. Tanner, then another nurse, and towards the end, there, I think one of the janitors was consulted. Finally, with one prolonged, silent surge, it was all over and the wet, wrinkled little morsel of humanity lay steaming on my jelly belly.
"Oh my!" exclainmed one of the nurses, "He's just a beautiful little boy." Wearily, I gazed down at the result of all that effort and tried to find beauty. Dr. Tanner laughed out loud. "You don't look all that sure, Ellen. Don't worry, he'll get better."
The beauty came later. After the initial trauma of delivery, Toby shaped up rapidly and became a handsome child, happy and good-natured and a joy in our lives. Eventually, I too grew up, lost my backward ways and discovered that I was not the center of everyone's attention.
I learned a few social graces and the art of small talk. In fact, on my way to becoming an adult, about the only thing I didn't learn was that a few well-timed bellows during child birth not only speeds the baby's arrival, it earns lasting respect for the bellower.
"See that crack up there by the ceiling? The Old Lady did that with one yell, just as the little bugger was comin' down the old chute!" The tone is one of awe and pride.
Juanita knew. Hooked up to a half dozen machines and wired for sound, with three people taking turns rubbing her back, she loosed a screech that raised the hackles on nearby wildlife.
"Through your nose, babe," Toby coached, gently. "Breathe through your nose."
Juanita glared balefully at him with red-rimmed eyes. "YOU breathe through your nose," she snarled. "I'LL breathe anyway I damn well please!"
In the end, though, she did as she was told: breathed through her mouth or her nose and pushed or panted according to directive,-- finally ensuring the perpetuity of the Yukon branch of the Davignon name.
"Oh my," coo'd one of the nurses. "What a beautiful little boy!" Wearily, Junaita gazed down at the result of all that effort, trying to find the beauty. When she raised her head, our eyes met and I grinned at my daughter-in-law. "The dead spit of his Dad," I assured her. "Don't worry, he'll get better."
"I dunno," she said. "Seems to me he looks just like E.T."
Kinda nice to know that some things don't change.