Dan, Joe and me on the steps of the tarpaper shack in Pelham, Alabama where Joe was born.
My parents' generation included a total of fifteen siblings among the two families, and ALL those people were born at home.
I happen to know that most of their spouses were also born at home. And of around fifty cousins, at least half—and probably more—were born at home, too; usually on a farm, or at least somewhere out in the rural countryside. Even my little brother was born at home.
The vast majority of Americans born before about the middle of the 20th Century screamed their first screams and cried their first tears at home. It's one of the most traditional aspects of the unique Americana heritage we revere, and that tradition was the absolute norm in South Carolina and Alabama, where my ancestral roots run deep. There's just something . . . I don't know, something humble, something earthy, something trustworthy about someone who can honestly claim homebirth.
But I was born in a hospital. I feel kinda gypped about that, too.
See, as a serious American history buff, I'd LOVE to be able to smugly say, "Like the Founding Fathers and other great Americans before me, I first drew breath in this world surrounded by family and the warm and welcoming walls of home." Or, on occasion, maybe something like, "Yep! I was delivered in the same bed where they placed the order for me, you know."
Or, driving down some shady country lane, I could point at a deteriorating old farmhouse, sigh wistfully, and say, "See that dear old homeplace? I was born there, in one of the back bedrooms, and my soul yearns to return there someday after I've shucked this vale of tears."
Okay, maybe I wouldn't say it so that it sounded so old-fashioned and overly-sweet with contrived sentimentality, but that would essentially be the effect I'd be going for.
If anyone had asked me, and if I'd known then what I know now, I'd have been happy to make my wishes known before I came into this world.
"Why, yes," I'd have said, "by all means save the money a hospital will cost, and let's make it happen at the house! Then, maybe, have a little barbecue to celebrate."
But it was not to be. I was born in Moncks Corner's Berkley County (South Carolina) Hospital anyway.
My beloved Aunt Bessie is more pragmatic about it. She says I'm crazy. After giving birth at home five times with only a harried country doctor and an even more harried husband for company, she would gladly have traded them both for even a third-rate hospital and a fourth-rate flush toilet (rural Alabama was like that back in the 1950s).
When I thought, while it was too late for me at least my children could carry on the noble Americana home birth tradition...well, let's just say the idea was met with considerable reluctance on the part of my dear bride.
Yep. Considerable. So considerable that I'm still a little hard of hearing on one side (just kidding, Darlin'!).
I wasn't born at home. I was born in a hospital, and I still feel a little left out when all my home-born relatives get together and . . . well, they don't talk about being born at home. In fact, it never comes up unless I mention it. But I KNOW THEY WERE!
And, okay, it rankles a bit.
And, okay, it rankles a bit.