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.