369. Survivor Girl

Good morning.  It’s me again.  Because my going-on-80 blob didn’t start celebrating birthdays till late October of last year, I’m trying to catch up.

Today’s birthday is featuring my daughter Lisa Marie Ford – the third oldest of our seven children, the oldest of our five daughters, and a survivor if there ever was one.

This is how Lisa made her debut into the world.

My husband Gene was matriculating for his master’s degree at the University of Iowa, and working any jobs he could get to support us and our two little persons, Mark, 4, and Matthew about 20 months old.

We lived in a barracks-style unit in the University of Iowa’s married student housing section.  The hut was all metal, and heated in winter with an oil stove in the living room.  In the summer, the hut’s temperature reached the melting point, especially for very pregnant, perspiring mothers-to-be like me.

The section we lived in was populated by the families of several medical residents and medical students.  At the coffee klatches we shared every morning, the other wives gossiped endlessly about the famed brutality of one of the OB medical residents – let’s call him “Doctor C”.  Somebody had actually composed a grisly song in several verses describing his exploits and the number of pelvises he had enjoyed fracturing.  

I wasn’t long into my third pregnancy as the horrors of the legend of the resident doctor continued to expand.  I was enormously relieved that the OB resident assigned to me was noted for his kindness, and he was nothing remotely like the monster “Dr. C.”.

The sweltering Iowa summer simmered relentlessly on and I waddled through the miserable heat and “morning” sickness as best I could.  I clung desperately to my expected due date – my birthday, September 6th – and my hoped-for release from misery.

It was about September 4th when I went in for my routine weekly checkup.  After the pelvic exam, the doctor said cheerfully, “Well, looks like you’re just about ripe.  I’d say you’ll be delivering right on time.”

“Oh, good”, I said. “Could it be as soon as tonight?”

“Well, I wish it could be”, he said.  “That way I could be the one to deliver the baby.  If it’s tomorrow or later though, I won’t be here.  I’m going on vacation for two weeks. All my cases have been assigned to Doctor C.”

I was aghast. “I’ve been assigned to Doctor C”? I asked in numb disbelief.

It was my unexpected worst nightmare.

“Sure”, said the doctor, “But I’ll see you for your first post-delivery checkup in October.”

“No, Doctor”, I said slowly. “I can wait. I think you’ll be seeing me before that.” 

And so it was that I had to begin my campaign to convince my unborn child that s/he wasn’t “ready” to be born yet. “Listen, kid.  We gotta work together on this.  You can’t be born yet.  You gotta wait till the 19th.  You can DO it. Otherwise, trust me, there will be serious Consequences.”

Every day I tried to be as quiet as it’s possible to be with two toddlers to entertain in the sweltering heat. If there was ever a time to use will power – mine AND the unborn baby’s – this was it.

Finally, labor began Monday evening, September 19, 1955.  Due to the bizarre nature of Iowa weather, our September heat wave culminated in an ice storm, of all things. Gene – working on a carpentry job in Cedar Rapids, had to inch his way back to Iowa City. 

By pre-arrangement, one of our neighbors came over to sit with our sleeping boys, and Gene drove me to the University of Iowa Hospital.

When my doctor – just returned from his vacation that day – entered the labor room, it was his turn for dumb disbelief.

“I can’t believe you haven’t delivered this baby yet”, he said.

“We’ve been waiting”, I said. “All good things come to them who wait.”

And it did. The next morning.  A Girl.  Beautiful.  And unlike the birth of her bald baby brothers, she had some hair.  I thought she was unbelievably pretty – especially because instead of being very red, she looked kind of tan. Oh, oh. Not good.  Jaundice.

No sooner did they put her in my arms, but they snatched her away and except for glimpses in the Infant ICU, I didn’t see her for a few days.  Turns out, Lisa was the first of our “RH babies”, adversely affected by my RH negative anti-bodies. And the longer time she spent in the womb was bad for her blood. Every hour brought encouraging lab results though, as she was kept under observation.  All by herself, with no need for transfusions, the baby’s own chemistry and strength rallied and restored her.  Even after I was discharged, Lisa was kept in the nursery for several days for study and observation of her miraculous recovery.

That’s just how she is.  Lisa is always going to be a survivor.  She can DO it.  

My son Matthew was reminding me of how our kids were divided into two armed camps when they were growing up – the two older boys, and the five younger girls.  As the oldest of the girls, Lisa could never understand how she had to be grouped with them instead of with the boys.

Today, though, it’s pretty obvious that she treasures them all and that she and her sisters are best friends for life.  And as she deals with the challenges she’s faced, she continues to teach us all a lot about the survival of the fittest! 




Happy birthday, Lisa.  Go for it!  You can DO it! 



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4 Responses to 369. Survivor Girl

  1. Chris says:

    Happy Birthday, Lisa!! Enjoy, you obviously held out for this late September day, I hope it brings you fun and contentment.

  2. Gretchen Covey says:

    Happy Birthday Lisa Marie!

    I’m so glad that we are sisters! Thanks for all the talks and walks. You are wise, thoughtful and encouraging. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    A big (and belated) happy birthday to Lisa Marie! I hope you had a fantastic birthday!

  4. Susy says:

    Happy Happy Birthday to you dear sister Lisa Marie! Wonderful things are in store for the year to come. I loved this blog and I love you very much.


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