Russo’s Birth Story

Have you ever heard of one of those unbelievable births; the one that takes place in a taxicab, along the freeway in rush hour or even on a transatlantic flight? We are fascinated and mystically in awe of that woman who can give birth in such a strange place without the assistance of trained medical personal, a sterile room or the use of instruments.   We sit riveted to her story, amazed that her body did what it did despite the adversity of the location. Since these events occur so rarely it is a moment for the Press to herald the uniqueness of the birth, and to marvel at the health of both mom and baby.

I am one of these women. I can entertain crowds of people with my birth tales. They have become legends on their own.   The story I tell is the birth of one of my daughters.

July in Southern California is hot; I was 42 weeks pregnant and eagerly looked forward to birthing my fifth child. Early one morning my four young children and I headed out to the airport to pick up my mother who was flying into town to assist me following the birth. Upon our arrival, I discovered my mother’s flight was delayed. Her plane was on the ground, I could see it, but due to mechanical difficulties with the Jetway, the plane sat on the tarmac. All the other gates were occupied with aircraft.   The situation was a bit vexing to a very pregnant and hot woman, but alas, it was out of my control. To my credit the children were well rested and fed. The toddlers were pressed up against the windows watching planes coming and going. They shrieked with delight as planes almost within their grasp raced down the runway. My 15-month-old, much to my glee, was snug in his backpack fast asleep. I sat down to wait for my mother’s plane to arrive and to enjoy a few minutes of cool air conditioning and quiet.

Five minutes went by, and I stood up to retrieve a toddler from sounding an emergency alarm. As I repositioned her in a new safe area I had a contraction. Not just a “little take notice of me contraction”, but one that made my knees weak and my hands grovel for support. The contraction was long. It lasted what seemed forever and it hurt.   From out of nowhere, a little old lady approached me. She gently placed her hand on my arm and guided me to a nearby chair. She was quite elderly and frail with gold fillings in her teeth. She was well dressed, in a pink suit adorned with a huge pink flowery hat and white gloves. Her smile was kind and her words were soft and comforting. I knew I was in labor…. The next contraction was upon me, and it took all my concentration and training not to jump up in my chair and start screaming. I had no previous symptoms of labor; I awoke that morning feeling like I had the entire pregnancy; wonderful. I was a bit concerned about the logistics of my situation. I was a grand-multip, stranded in an airport with 4 small children; my husband was away at business meeting and my mom was stuck on the plane that I was using as my focal point. Yet this little old lady, this angel, my birth angel, stayed by my side. She did not become anxious, or nervous, she did not screech for help but rather she sat beside me calm and collected and reaffirmed that I was doing well. Her confidence enveloped me. She reminded me that I had done this before, but just not in an airport. Why should my resolve be any different?   I allowed the remaining waves of the contractions to do their work, and within a few contractions I had the urge to push. As I began to tell my birth angel I had to push, she quickly removed her gloves, held them flat, and placed them on the seat next to her along with her pocket book. With great effort she maneuvered her frail and arthritic body to her knees between my legs. With precision she removed my underwear from under my sundress. I recall her muttering to herself that she should have worn red. I chuckled to myself and then mumbled a feeble “sorry.” She replied in a soft southern accent, that she herself had born 8 children and not to worry. My expulsive efforts and lack of muscle tone were quite efficient.   The first pushing effort birthed the baby’s head. My angel remained calm, and guided my hand to touch my baby’s head. As I sat waiting for the next contraction I could not help myself from finding tremendous humor in the situation.   I could only imagine the scene: a woman with a head sticking out of her vagina sitting in an airport with an old frail woman with an outrageous pink hat crouched between her legs. Oblivious businessmen streaming by trying to make that deal and excited /exhausted families on their way to or from Disneyland. The woman’s children playing in nearby seats, while the woman’s mother sat on a plane only yards away. As I began to laugh, the next contraction hit, and with one last push the baby slid out. This birth angel cradled my miracle, and with expertise placed the baby on my breast. Almost at once, the shroud of quiet was gone; the bubble burst with the cries of a newborn. People began to take notice. My children came over to inquire into the noise, airport personnel began to investigate and panic ensued. Families gawked as businessmen only glanced. From within the crowd I see my mother approaching with mouth wide open, and eyes surprised. My children started screaming, “Grandma, Grandma”. As she arrived she said to me, “ What! You couldn’t wait for me?”. I started to laugh again. I looked at my perfect new baby, completely unaware of the novelty of her entrance into this world. Before too long, paramedics and a stretcher arrived. Eagerly they attempted to start an IV and entice us with oxygen. I refused all intervention. After all, I only had a baby, not some life threatening attack. As I argued with the paramedics, the crowd grew larger. The custodial staff looked concerned with all the blood and birthing fluids sliding down the chair onto the carpet. Airport security tried to keep the ogling crowd moving along, but to little avail. Police and firemen showed up decked with all their equipment.   There I sat; center of attention with a cord hanging out of my vagina, my breasts exposed and a mucous stained baby suckling from one…. It was not my best hostessing moment.

As I looked around, I failed to notice my birth angel. She was gone, slipped into the crowd. I strained to look for a big pink hat, but I saw nothing. She simply disappeared in the confusion.

My mother took the children home, and I went to the local hospital for evaluation. My husband was summoned and arrived two hours later. I was fine. I had no tears or rips and did not require a repair. The baby was 7 pounds even, and in great health. I discharged both of us by dinner, and we were home before the other children retired for evening. In fact I even drove home, much to my husband’s chagrin.

I never did find out the identity of the woman who helped with my birth. She probably boarded a plane and flew off into the morning sun. I am eternally grateful for her presence and her confidence in me to give birth. It was the perfect birth; the location was a bit odd, but the birth itself was magical and miraculous.   Where ever you are, and who ever you are, thank you!

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