Cultures around the globe have stories about how they came into being. From the sky, or the seas, or magical animals. The stories gave meaning and context to their lives, a beacon of sorts.
I don’t know how the following origin story provides wisdom to my family, but it has been one of our favorite stories throughout our lives as a family unit. It is the story of how my younger sister came into this world. She would be the third and last of the siblings.
My parents were living in Carmel, California. On Rio Road, close to the Carmel Mission Basilica, built in 1797. We lived across the road from the Beardsley family, who were fictionalized in the Lucile Ball movie, Yours, Mine and Ours. One or two of the older girls provided babysitting services for my parents.
Mom was on the precipice of birthing little Shannon. She called my dad’s office and told him to come home – it was time. His office was in nearby Monterey, and he was in no rush. Mom had many incidents of false labor. He coaxed the gray Volkswagen Beetle over Highway 1, and then dipped down the hill into our neighborhood.
When he arrived to find my mom in full-blown labor, they hustle my older sister and me into the car. Mom was in the front passenger seat and we set out for the babysitter’s house in Carmel Woods. Dad was off-loading us in a hurry, and when he returned to the car, he found a quiet and still baby in the front seat with his wife. (If you’ve ever been in a Beetle and if you’ve ever birthed a child, you know what a feat this must have been.) He assumed the child hadn’t survived, but took off at full speed for the hospital in Monterey. Somewhere on the pine-studded hill of Highway 1, a motorcycle cop pulled him over for speeding. Being the law-abiding citizen he was, he stopped the car along the highway. The cop took one look inside and said, “Follow me.” He gave my parents an escort to the hospital front door.
Dad leapt out of the car to find help inside the lobby. While mother and baby were waiting alone, her obstetrician showed up, assessed the situation, jumped into the driver’s seat and sped my mother around to the Emergency Entrance. When dad rushed back outside with some assistance, the car was gone. His wife was gone. His (probably) dead newborn child was gone.
A quick thinking staff person figured out what had probably happened, and led my dad to the Emergency department, where they found my mom being taken in. Dad told the doctor he would park the car and be right in. The doctor stopped him and encouraged him to go home and hose down the interior of the car. “You’ll never get that stuff out of it dries,” he advised.
Dad was hosing down the mess in the driveway when a neighbor approached him; “Boy or girl?” he asked. “I don’t know!” he replied to his mystified neighbor.
Dad made it back to the hospital to find his wife and baby girl, very much alive, settled into a hospital room. For some weird hospital policy, sister Shannon could not be in the nursery with the other babies since she was born outside of the hospital. My poor exhausted and undoubtedly traumatized mother tried to get her rest while her baby exercised her newborn lungs.
I don’t remember any of this, being two and a half years old at the time. It’s all from the tongue of my dramatic story-telling father. Verified, wearily, by my mother.
Here's another good birth story: