P is for Peter

P is for PeterP is for Peter

Peter has been one of life’s happy surprises, right from the start. On March 19, 1990, my husband took me to the local hospital for a non-stress test to check on my pregnancy. As with my 4 previous pregnancies, I was “overdue.” We left our 5 little girls – our 4 wonderful little daughters, Taryn, Sarah, Robyn, and Wendy, and our precious little niece, Sheila, whom we had joyfully welcomed to our family as well – with a neighbour, assuring her we’d be back in a half hour to pick them up, as she needed to go to an appointment of her own. At the hospital, the doctor had other ideas. After checking the baby’s heartbeat, he slipped in a tiny tablet – and suddenly I was in full labour! I glanced at the clock; it was exactly 1 pm. The doctor laughed and said I wouldn’t be going home any time soon.

My husband, Lionel, picked up the children from our friend, and went home. He started frantically phoning everyone he could think of, who might be able to baby-sit, but everyone was at work or otherwise busy. Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the labour pains were coming fast and furiously. A lab tech came in and took a blood sample. The doctor quickly rounded up the delivery room crew. The door to the hallway was open a bit, and I could hear a public health nurse in the hall giving a tour and talk about baby delivery to a crowd of new expectant parents. And exactly at 1:40 p.m., Peter made his appearance! I had always had quite speedy deliveries, but this was definitely a record. As he appeared, the doctor chanted, “It’s a… it’s a… it’s a… BOY!” Everyone cheered, knowing that we had five little gals at home.

Just then the door flew open, and the lab tech came running into the room, shouting, “You have to get Norma hooked up to IV and prepare for a blood transfusion, because her blood count is so low she’ll probably hemorrhage!” The doctor laughed, and replied, “You’re a bit late! Baby is here, and mom is fine.” Meanwhile, the public health nurse had also popped her head into the room, and asked, “Would it be alright to bring the group in to see a little bit of a delivery in progress?” The doctor grinned and said, “Well, come on in, though you’re a bit late for the delivery! How about seeing a 5 minute old baby?” “Sure,” she said, opened the door wide, and in traipsed a crowd of 15 expectant moms and dads! There I was, my hair a mess, sweaty and tired, blankets thrown over me quickly for modesty’s sake, my baby nursing at my breast – and a labour room full of people packed in wall-to-wall, all staring at me, and firing curious questions! I certainly hadn’t seen that coming!

Now you have to understand that my husband really, really wanted to have a son. In fact, with our first baby, he had laid $20 bets with everybody in town, that we’d be having a son. It was a good thing that his friends were forgiving, for otherwise we’d have been in big debt! However, Lionel soon realized what a treasure his new little daughter was, and when we left the hospital to go home, instead he took us uptown, where he paraded Taryn and me through all the stores, going up to everybody, friend or stranger alike, and excitedly asking them, “Have you seen my new baby?” Like any proud new father, he seemed to think he’d done it all himself! With the next pregnancies, Lionel stopped the foolish betting procedure, but each time he was convinced this one was going to be his son. After daughter number 3, he was getting a little concerned, and gave her the middle name, “Petra,” the feminine form of the name he’d been saving for his son – “Peter.” Yet, of course, each time he was totally thrilled with his new little daughter.

After the crowd finally wandered out of the delivery room, and I got cleaned up a bit, the doctor suggested I might want to call my husband. So I took Peter, and went out into the hall and sat down by the phone. As I dialed the number, baby Peter started crying. Meanwhile, back at home, my husband was getting frantic, as he still hadn’t found a baby-sitter, and he didn’t want to miss out on the delivery. When the phone rang, he grabbed it, hoping someone had changed their mind, and was willing to rescue him. Instead, he heard my cheerful voice, saying “Hi there!” He also heard a baby wailing in the background. “Oh, how are you doing?” he asked anxiously. “Why aren’t you in the delivery room? Whose baby is that crying? Did the other people have their baby already?” I laughed, and replied, “This is your baby, silly!” He gasped, then said, “You’re kidding, right?” “Not at all,” I giggled. “We have another baby? Really?” he responded. “Is she okay? Is she pretty?” Obviously, Lionel had finally gotten to the point where he’d decided he was going to have all daughters! “Well…,” I replied slowly and as sadly as I could manage, “She is okay, but she isn’t very pretty…” Quickly he responded, “Oh, don’t you worry. It doesn’t make any difference how she looks at all. She’s our beautiful baby, and we’ll love her just the same.” It was all I could do to keep from going into peals of laughter! “Well,” I continued seriously, “It is true that SHE isn’t very pretty, but that’s because she is a really handsome little HE!”

For a moment there was dead silence! Then, “It’s a boy??? It’s really a boy???” Suddenly there was a crash, as his phone receiver landed on the floor. I could hear him desperately trying to pick it up, but he was obviously so excited, he kept fumbling with it. Finally, he put it to his ear, saying, “Are you sure? How do you know it’s a boy?” Well, that was just too much! I really burst into laughter! Meanwhile, I could hear him shouting to the kids, “You have a baby brother! A brother! He’s a boy!” The happy shouts of 5 little girls joined in with their daddy’s joyful shouts. And just then, I also heard familiar voices in the background of all the din, calling out, “Congratulations!” It was my mom and dad, who had on the spur of the moment decided to drive the 3 ½ hours from their home to come and see us, and to encourage me in the usual long wait for the baby! “Mom, dad!” Lionel shouted! “We have a son! Can you babysit?” And into the phone, he laughed, “Honey, I’ll be there right away!” And he hung up the phone, not waiting for any more details.

Now the hospital was normally at least a 15 minute drive from our house, 20 minutes or more when the roads were busy. Yet just 10 minutes later, Lionel came running into the hospital, the sound of his racing footsteps preceding him down the hall. In his hand he clutched a little black toy car! In that 10 minutes he had managed to jump in the car, stop at the drug store to buy a toy car for his son, arrive at the hospital, and run up to the 3rd floor! You cannot imagine a more surprised and excited dad! Even when he arrived, he was still gasping, “Are you sure he’s a boy? Are you sure?”

Well, of course things eventually settled down, and a little while later my mom and dad also arrived with our five little gals in tow. We have an adorable picture of the five of them all standing around Peter’s bassinet looking at him with love and admiration. And on the side of the bassinet, written in big letters by the nursing staff, are the words, “He/him,” which they had posted with great amusement because I kept referring to Peter, out of long habit from having had so many little girls, “She/her!” Years have passed, and it is certain in every way that Peter, our surprise, is indeed a boy. And now we are getting into the grandparent stage, and our first grandchild is also a boy. Peter is delighted! There’s finally another boy in the family.

Norma Hill

Date: May 17, 2007

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