The Boys Club

vintage men

Vintage Post Card

The birth of my brother saved my mother’s life. There is no other way to see it.

He was the first son. There were already 3 daughters, the baby girl named after my father, just in case there was never a boy.

For years after the tragic death of our grandmother, Mom had been hospitalized, medicated, sedated and shocked with ECT . None of it worked. She was deeply depressed, and getting worse.

Her physician suggested that she might want to get pregnant again; prenatal hormones were sometimes beneficial.

It worked.  She was better. We all breathed easier.

She delivered a boy, someone for my father to raise. It was not presumed, it was spoken aloud, and often. We 3 daughters took notice.

As if that wasn’t enough to make him special, he was born on May 24, one day before my father’s birthday. She told me she tried to delay her labor to synchronize their special day.

But there was a problem. He almost died in childbirth. He was an Rh factor baby, long before the prenatal tests and injections to correct for it. Every drop of his blood had to be transfused. He was rushed by ambulance 40 miles to Philadelphia. Our local hospital was not equipped to handle the crisis.

My mother waited behind in sheer terror. We girls were 11, 9, and 3 and were never made aware, until he survived. And he did, Mom’s miracle baby.

Dad was a WW II veteran, but Memorial Day was even more special to my family now.

It was our new Christmas. The celebration grew even stronger when a second son arrived, just a few years later.

There was a lovely 4th daughter who came sandwiched between those 2 boys. She struggled to define her place in this lineup.

It was the culture of the time. Women raised their girls, men took responsibility for the boys.

There was no blame, that’s just how it worked.

The messages were everywhere. It was the 1950’s. Happy Days.

But oh, the 60’s…they were just around the corner.

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31 Responses to The Boys Club

  1. Thanks Van. I always enjoy the glimpses into families that people share. Birth order, gender roles, culture, individual personalities are all so interesting when they are blended together. And in small ways, the stories are universal, narrowing the difference between us..

  2. LaVagabonde says:

    I love these insights into your life, Van. Pregnancy is sometimes advised for various ills. I’m glad that in your mother’s case it worked. Happy Memorial Day.

    • It worked for quite a while, Julie, she had 2 more babies, spent many years with those helpful hormones. These were some of her best years, and I like to focus on them. ❤

  3. Nurse Kelly says:

    Wonderful story – a miracle indeed 🙂

  4. George says:

    Ahhhh..the sixties. Now that’s a whe different ballgame.

  5. Erika Kind says:

    What a wonderful story and what a big family.

  6. Amy says:

    Keep the stories coming !

  7. Nice sized family – I only have one brother and my daughter is a single child! ❤
    Diana xo

  8. mandy says:

    Great memory, Van. What an amazing story. I had the Rh factor shot w/ each child, never realizing they really would need to have all blood replaced If I didn’t. Wow!

  9. Angie Mc says:

    The time you describe so well seems like a distant dream to me now. Yet, I experienced it…but I don’t live it now. A bit surreal, isn’t it?

    • The women’s movement came just in time, I think, changing the way we raised our children; gender issues are diminished when opportunities open for everyone. Surreal…for sure, Angie.
      My father was supportive of education, but believed that there were only 2 professions “good” for women..nursing and teaching. So..oldest girl became a nurse, next 2, teachers. None of us stayed with those choices, but it’s where we started out. Programming ! ☺

      • Angie Mc says:

        When I explained that because I was a “smart girl” I was advised not to be a secretary because I could be either a nurse or teacher. That’s it! No blood for me so teacher it was 😀 Oh, my, I could go on but perhaps that is another post! All I know is that when I think of the biggest error of the time, it was a deep down lack of respect for the humanity of women. For their fullness of being. I’m privileged to have lived to see my daughter have a life with more options, yet I’m not convinced that our culture necessarily embraces the fullness of her and her life choices to the extent that I would have hoped for. But then again, the challenges she faces only make her better, stronger. Like her mom 😉

      • Hey Angie, As a baseball fan, you know this one. In “A League of Their Own”, they showcased how ready those women were to default to the returning soldiers; it seems the seeds should have been planted there..Rosie the Riveter, etc. had proven that women could manage/succeed in non-traditional roles. It took several decades, but I was sure things were better. Like your daughter, mine has experienced some setbacks in the tech industry that were gender-based; just part of the reason she walked away, now teaching yoga. ❤

      • Angie Mc says:

        Our near history and the history we have lived through is so rich, so turbulent, so amazing. I’m very grateful that I can be grateful for what is good, for positive change, for movement in the right direction even when it looks like “one step forward two steps back.” While my life as a woman hasn’t been one of 100% justice, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Somehow it all got me here…and I love here ❤ Yoga stretching sounds sooooo good to me right now!

      • “and I love here ” Perfect. Me too, Angie ❤

      • Angie Mc says:

        It’s a sweet place to be. Glad we’re here together, Van ❤

  10. lbeth1950 says:

    Imagined prescribing a baby to help with illness. Glad it worked. We were definitely aware our brother was my fathers pride and joy. I didn’t feel hard at my brother, just wanted to be a boy too. Women were in charge of girls. Men raised the boys. I worshipped Daddy and was allowed to tail him till I went into puberty, then it was “hands off.” He turned me over to Mother.

    • Yep…I saw a lot of heartbroken young girls in the neighborhood who were turned away by dads who used to welcome a show of affection. Not sure what to say about that one.

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