When I met my husband Joe, he was divorced and 12 years my senior with two children as part of his package deal. We were married in 1979 and moved halfway across the country to settle into family life in Omaha, Nebraska. Since he had primary custody, the kids were with us during the school year and part of the summer, as well.
Having children was a serious decision for us. Being a product of an older father himself, Joe didn’t want to be the oldest parent going to PTA. If we were to have children, we decided it would have to be within the first five years of our marriage. We decided to increase the family and became pregnant in 1981. When we told Andrew and Melinda, then ages 6 and 12, about our pregnancy, they were both delighted. Melinda was especially excited being at an age when she was getting too old for dolls. This meant she would have a real live doll to play with. To Andrew, the new baby meant that he would no longer be the little kid in the family. He was going to be the “big brother.” Up until this time, both children had called me by my first name. It was during our time of pregnancy that Andrew decided it was time to start calling me, “Mommy.”
We had determined by use of a pregnancy test that I was pregnant. But one morning when I got up, I discovered that I had quite a bit of vaginal bleeding. I dressed and went to work with the assurance that Joe would talk to some of the ladies in the church office to get the name of an OB-GYN. I had planned to use our family-practice doctor during the pregnancy but this seemed like something we should trust to a specialist. The school secretary called me out of the class I was teaching and an anxious Joe told me via the telephone that we had an immediate appointment. The doctor to whom we had been referred was wonderful. He indicated that it was not necessarily a problem and went on to listen for a heartbeat. Even though it was very early in the pregnancy, we were able to hear a strong and regular heartbeat. It seemed that I was just producing more blood than was needed and this old blood was being expelled. This lasted through the first trimester then gradually disappeared.
As the pregnancy progressed our doctor began to be concerned about how quickly my girth was increasing. He feared I might be pregnant with twins and he hated multiple births. Our doctor was cautious when it came to doing ultrasounds but, in order to be forewarned should this be a multiple birth, he ordered an ultrasound. Apparently this baby liked being horizontal rather than vertical so the baby was showing early. In these days before ultrasound technology could accurately determine the gender of the baby, we speculated as to whether this would be a boy or a girl. There were three votes for a girl but Andrew held out for a little brother.
I was just 26 years old and healthy so we weren’t anticipating any problems with delivery. We signed up for Lamaze classes; Joe had been through Lamaze with his first two children. The classes were wonderful for me to prepare for the whole birth process. What I learned was so beneficial because it took the unknown out of labor and delivery. Though I was not opposed to the use of drugs, if needed, I preferred using the techniques I had learned without drug intervention.
I was fortunate to have only minimal experience with morning sickness. While my stomach did feel queasy in the first couple of months, I never felt the need to vomit. I loved being pregnant! The feel of the baby’s movements inside me made me realize how special this experience was and helped me to feel close to the developing child. As a school librarian, I did a lot of reading to my students. This child heard a lot of stories in utero. As the baby grew, my students would watch in fascination as a foot or elbow pushed out on my belly while I sat reading to them. I remember feeling lots of movement while singing in the choir and ringing hand bells especially during the Christmas Eve service at church. This child was obviously moving to the music. It was also during this time that I took my first computer programming classes. How was I to know that my interest in instructional technology was transferring to this baby and that he would grow up to work with computers?
We had timed this pregnancy perfectly. I had just enough sick-days at school to be able to work until the due date and be done for the rest of the school year. The main downside of going until my due date was doing library inventory at 8 ½ months pregnant. Remember, these were the days before most school libraries were computerized. We were still using card and pocket technology in books with cards in a catalog drawer.
I worked until my due date and took the rest of the school year off. I enjoyed going out to lunch with friends and having time to finish up the nursery including completion of a rainbow baby quilt in pastel colors. Our doctor said that he would induce at two weeks overdue. Knowing that there would be an end to this stage was encouraging. Six days proceeded with no movement toward delivery but at last the time came when I woke up during the night with contractions. Joe took the kids to a church member who also lived in our neighborhood and we headed to the hospital. I remember on the drive to the hospital we had to go through a cloverleaf-style traffic area. My contractions were becoming a bit intense as we headed into the first curve. Oh, my goodness, but it felt like a carnival Tilt-a-Wheel ride. We checked into the hospital in the early morning hours on May 19, exactly one week past our due date.
Joe, a minister at a local church, had a funeral scheduled that morning and was concerned about whether he would be able to make it to the funeral or needed to find a replacement. The nurse didn’t give him much hope explaining that first babies usually take a while.
Our labor and delivery was a classic, by-the-book process. We headed to the hospital around midnight. I was dilating steadily and the contractions continued to get steadily more intense but with breathing and concentration, it was manageable. In order to keep the process progressing, my water was broken manually and things started to move quickly. My tolerance for pain is very good but by the time I started to think I should have considered drugs, I was in active labor. I do remember that at some point close to delivery, I became nauseous and vomited. It did serve to take my mind off of the pain for a short time.
Timothy Brendan Scahill came into the world at 5:23 a.m., in plenty of time for Joe to make it to the funeral. The widow was comforted by this cycle of life event … the thought that Tim was assuming the place in this world that her husband had held.
Timothy arrived exactly one week overdue but healthy and very beautiful. Joe had taken some fast-developing Polaroid photos so that he could show off the new baby. He stopped by the school to show Melinda and Andrew pictures of their new brother and give them I’ve got a little brother pins. When they got to hold him after school Andrew marveled, “I can’t believe it … my little brother.”
Our foray into breastfeeding caused a bit of anxiety for me. It took a couple of days for my milk to come in but the nurses were very helpful and calming. By the time we left the hospital, Tim and I both had the general process under control. Once we got home, though, Tim started projectile spitting up toward the end of his feedings, especially during the night. It seemed that I was producing more milk than he needed. It took me a while to figure out how long to feed him.
My employer, the Omaha Public School District, was instituting a brand new program for staff members. As a new mother, I was one of the first women in the district to take Child Rearing Leave. This allowed me to take a year’s leave of absence without pay to stay home with my baby. Although I wouldn’t be guaranteed my same job for the next year, I would be guaranteed an equivalent position with no loss of salary or benefits. This was a wonderful option for me since I didn’t want to give up my career but I did want time for bonding. With two older children at home, this allowed me to have some alone time with the baby. As it turned out, I didn’t take the full school year. A school library position opened up mid-year in a single building just a few miles from our home; I had been driving over 20 one way and splitting my time between two schools prior to pregnancy.
I loved the time I had at home to bond with our happy, active Tim. However, I am grateful to have worked and put in the years that allowed me to retire in a timely fashion. I have time to enjoy retirement: traveling and working on projects with my husband, and taking time to be Grandma.
Written by Marilyn Scahill
Read the birth story of Allison Leigh Scahill, Marilyn’s daughter