Charleyne and the Giant Cookie

One morning in March of 1972, Charleyne woke up and informed me, “I’m pregnant.” That was a surprise, though we wanted to have a baby. “How do I you know?” I asked, unclear on the rules. “I just know,” she replied brightly. Within a few days a lab test confirmed her procreative status, and we started planning for a life of new parenthood. Both of us went at it with enthusiasm, and Lamaze classes were attended, baby showers held (see photo above), endless streams of items purchased, and advice received from every direction we faced.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to live with a pregnant woman, but it can get strange. We took a cruise from L.A. to Alaska that September, and things were fine up until then. In the photo we’re at a stopover in San Francisco, and a department store window had oddly posed their mannequins, so we took turns imitating them. Alas, the cruise was in bad weather (“If only you could see it,” the tour guide would say, “this is a beautiful view of Glacier Bay”), and there’s a reason that the City of Ketchikan has a cartoon of a bird shivering under an umbrella as its municipal symbol.
But when we returned, Charleyne, who was in her last year of law school at the Indiana Law School Indianapolis (where I was teaching), suddenly was too warm wherever she went. This included in her own home, where ice sickles formed on most ceilings (both Fred, our parakeet, and I complained about the indoor climate to no avail). Charleyne’s mother once came over for a visit in November and kept her coat on while in the house. When Char went to classes, she’s zip into the classroom a half hour early and turn the thermostat down as low as it would go. Thus when class was underway, she’d sit there happy in her summer maternity clothes, while everyone else shivered and could see their breath when responding to questions. There were investigations into this phenomenon but no one proved anything.

Particularly in the last month Charleyne couldn’t get comfortable in bed, and tossed and turned, complaining, keeping us both up (“If proto-Momma ain’t happy,” etc.). When she did sleep, she had very odd dreams. In one, as she told me the next day, she gave birth to a giant cookie, and passed it around to her parents and me. “Oh,” I said hesitantly, and then, not sure I wanted to know the answer, asked “What happened to the cookie?” She beamed. “We ate it!” A number of her dreams were terrifying ones in which birth complications led to an emergency C-section and Charleyne’s death! I don’t believe dreams are prophetic, but they certainly do reflect the dreamer’s own fears, and I promised her that I would do all I could to make sure doctors didn’t put her in unnecessary danger.

The baby’s due date was two weeks before Christmas of 1972, but that holiday came and went, with both of us getting grumpier about this pregnancy which seemed to have gone on for most of our lives. On Wednesday, December 27, we went to the movies to see the “The Poseidon Adventure,” and toward the end of the picture Charleyne’s water broke (and, given that movie is about disaster on the high seas, that couldn’t have been more appropriate). She didn’t mention her new condition until the movie ended (okay, in 2010 she says she did, but, trust me, if I’d have known her water broke, I’d have destroyed whole rows of seats getting us out of there). We rushed home and called her doctor. Contractions promptly started, so we raced to the hospital, but then they mysteriously stopped, and she was sent home. Our nerves were shot. By Thursday night nothing more had occurred, but the doctor said Charleyne should come early Friday morning and he would artificially induce labor. It was time for our baby to be born.

Neither of us slept that night. Next day when we arrived at the hospital, Charleyne began a labor that lasted more than seven hours. Contractions first increased, then decreased, then increased again; it was very hard on her, Lamaze be damned. All I could think to do was hold her hand and coach her, aware I was of little help. I did resist Dad’s method of taking his wife’s mind off labor pain when I was being born. At a particularly difficult moment, Dad leaned close to Mom’s ear and endearingly murmured: “Sissy.” I don’t believe he was ever forgiven for that.

Nothing the doctors did produced a baby, and eventually they took me aside and proclaimed that the umbilical cord appeared to be wrapped around the baby’s neck; they would have to immediately perform a caesarian. Oh, no! I thought—Charleyne’s nightmare scenario has come true! I made everyone evacuate the room, and then took her hand and explained what the doctors had just said. “Honey, I know you don’t want a C-section,” I said as tenderly as I could, “but the doctors think it’s the best thing for both you and the baby.” She almost snarled at me: “You idiot! Why are you holding this up—get this baby out of me and NOW!!!” All righty then—that message came through clear. Char was promptly wheeled into surgery and I was consigned to a waiting room, where I first tried to read (ha, ha), then just paced around in a stereotypical expectant-father mode. When a nurse came in after 45 minutes or so, she told me with a broad smile that I was the father of a baby boy, who was doing fine. “What about my wife?” I asked, more concerned about Charleyne and her dream. “I don’t know” was the reply, and with that she left me alone to pace anew.

Eventually I was told that I could see Charleyne, and I was taken to a waiting room just outside the surgery, where she was lying on a gurney. As I approached, nurses walked by wiping a baby with a cloth, which, in my anxiety over Charleyne, I barely noticed. Instead, I took her hand and asked how she was doing. “I can’t feel my legs,” she replied, very worried about this. “Just the drugs, I assume,” I ventured, but she asked me to stay with her until she could feel them, and I of course agreed. “Did you see the baby?” she wanted to know. “Only in passing,” I muttered, concentrating on her, holding her hand, patting it softly. Shortly thereafter she was moved to a hospital room, and, happily, felt sensation returning to her legs. “Go see the baby,” she commanded, “and make sure he’s all right.” Relaxing for the first time in days, I nodded, kissed her, and went to view our child and check number of toes, etc.

At the huge maternity window, with lots of babies in bassinettes on the other side, I held up the sign saying “WHALEY.” One of the nurses promptly fetched a baby, and brought him close to the window.

I’m here to tell you it was a life altering moment, that was—wow!—totally unexpected! Up until then I’d been focused on Charleyne and the process of having a baby. Now, suddenly, amazingly, THERE WAS A REAL LIFE BABY TO DEAL WITH, AND IT WAS MINE!!! A wall of bricks collapsed on top of me, and—already exhausted from lack of sleep and the stress—my knees almost buckled. 

Clayton Robert Whaley
December 29, 1972

The one thing I was sure of was that neither Charleyne nor I had any idea how to take care of an infant. We weren’t licensed or trained or anything. It would be highly irresponsible of the government to put that tiny child in our care! How dare they! Surely they wouldn’t let that happen. Surely.

I felt panic sweep down to my toes, all ten of them. I suddenly remembered the giant cookie’s birth, and wished that the solution was that easy. Gulping, staring stupidly at the baby, who was asleep, looking worn out himself, I nodded my thanks to the nurse. Then I turned and walked woodenly back to Charleyne to tell her my astounding news.

She’d be amazed to learn we’d become parents.
Related Posts:
“I Married a Hippy,” April 14, 2010
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
"Bowling With Charleyne," February 13, 2011
"The Cheesecake Incident in Williamsburg," January 6, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


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