June 11th, 1965
John Andrew Shankland
Get up, the baby is coming. Words to strike terror in most men's heart, but I was experienced, or so I thought. The first delivery took a couple of days including a false labor so I rolled over and went back to sleep. Jan woke me a little later and said we needed to get going. I got up, called my mother, and went upstairs to ask Sally if she could come down and get Robyn until my mother arrived. I then called Dr Horton's service. He returned my call and said he would meet us in the hospital in LaGrange, about 15 miles away.
Jan finished packing and made herself ready, she was standing up and had another pain. She said "the baby is coming now," No way said I. A minute later she had another and insisted. I had her lay down and I checked her during the next pain. She was crowned about 4 inches. I remembered in the labor room for Robyn I saw that she was crowned less then that when the nurse checked her and immediately flew out of the room pushing Jan's bed into the labor room. I knew there would be no getting her to the hospital in time.
I hurried to the phone called the service again and breathlessly said we weren't going to make it to the hospital, have the doctor call me. As I was hanging up I heard the voice on the other end desperately screaming you have the wrong number. Funny story now! I wanted his advice, stay and deliver, get to the hospital by ambulance, if deliver how.
Around 1960 I had read an article in a magazine about delivering a baby in an emergency. The article flashed before me in total recall. ( I normally do not have this power) I could see the page numbers and every line of print as if it were projected on the wall. The first paragraph stated that all should be done to get the mother to the hospital until actual birth started then it was considered less dangerous to deliver yourself. As the delivery progressed I literally looked up and read the next paragraph. Later I was so amazed by this that I went to the library and found the American Legion magazine. I had recalled it verbatim.
I told Jan we were not going to make it and she calmly accepted the fact that I would deliver her baby. I prepared by spreading newspaper on the bed. Newspaper ink chemicals are antiseptic and one of the most sterile things in your home. I "scrubbed up". Sally came down and screamed when she heard and said she would put a pot of boiling water on. Not necessary but you can't overcome the power of the movies.
One thing I was not prepared for was the look of the baby. The head was misshaped and blue. As I held it I thought he was dead. My god, I thought, I have to tell Jan that the baby is dead. When the head was delivered it popped into normal shape almost like a balloon, the soft spot had done its job. A little relieved I thought that maybe the color would change when he got his first breath. I cleaned out his mouth with my little finger and had Jan slow down the process by panting instead of bearing down. Clearing one shoulder then the other the chest came out to about the waist. He took a breath, then and there, and immediately turned pink. I was so relived. Another couple of pushes and it was over. I was the first in the world to see my son. I wrapped him in a blanket, cord and all, and gave him to Jan.
I went to the bathroom to wash up and noticed a pot of water on the stove boiling away unattended. I had to smile. Just as I returned the phone rang and it was Doctor Horton. Too late I said the baby was here. He gave me instructions to cut the cord and get her into the hospital.
About that time my mother arrived. I answered the door and invited her to come and see her grandson. She got a strange look on her face and said quit joking around. Jan was butt naked and the baby was slimy and bloody. She came right into the bedroom and laid on the bed next to Jan and played with the baby. Everyone was calm and happy.
When I followed Jan into the hospital after parking the car she was already in an examining room. I walked in and incredibly the nurse started screaming at me to get out. I stopped and said look lady, I just delivered that kid. Dr Horton intervened and had some questions for me. At the first doctors visit he commented to me that he was surprised that the baby didn't have lung problems like most born at home kids. I told him I had cleaned the baby's mouth before the first breath and he was surprised that I knew to do that. I then told him about the magazine article.
I can still remember this experience like it was yesterday. It was a highlight of my life.