Nine Hundred Miles to the Hospital

E. M. Schmoll

© Copyright 2006 by E. M. Schmoll

      This baby was overdue—by almost two weeks—and my husband, John, had orders to go to Germany in thirty days.  He was in the Army, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and we had a two year-old daughter.

      The first thing we did was to cancel our contract for a new home that was being built for us.  Then we gave up waiting on this tardy little person, deciding that I would be better off in Boston, near my parents, in a situation with two babies and a husband overseas.

      So we packed up our old Pontiac, left our rental home, and bravely headed out on the 1400-mile drive!

      I had met my sweetheart while he was assigned to Fort Belvoir in Virginia, and I was working for the Navy at the Pentagon.  Immediately we discovered that we were destined for each other and ten weeks later had a small fairytale wedding.

      Our first baby, Nancy Jean, arrived within a year, and I left the work world to stay home, enjoying life as never before.

      After John was transferred to Missouri and found us a rental house, my little toddler and I took a long, long train ride to join him.  Already into a third pregnancy, and hoping for another miracle (every child is one, you know), life seemed magical, since both of us had suffered through unhappy marriages before finding each other.

      The Missouri winter was harsh.  Snow piled up for five feet, and John was forbidden to drive home for many nights in a row.  But military wives learn the task of going it alone; so I shoveled out and tackled the drifts to bring in oil and kerosene to keep the hundred year-old house comfortable.

      This was good training for the day when the wife becomes the only parent and the husband is in a faraway land, an eventuality most service wives face.

      Before starting out on the trip, we had requested my medical records from the clinic, since I had lost a baby the previous year, but were refused.  We were, however, given a map indicating locations of various military hospitals along our route—none more than six or eight hours off the road (thanks a lot).

      Leaving in the early evening, we had put our daughter Nancy’s crib, playpen, and folding highchair in the car.  However, when we stopped in St. Louis at midnight, there was no room in the back seat for her to lie down and sleep; so after a lot of finagling, we finally left her new highchair in a gasoline station.  Then we struggled through the night in a blinding snowstorm.

      John had always liked driving on through without stopping at motels, whereas I hated all kinds of travel and liked to take it slow and easy.  Since my husband was “the boss”, we stopped only occasionally for rest breaks and snacks.  Fortunately, our Nancy Jean was her usual untroublesome self, always content, so it could have been a lot worse.  She spent the long hours busily tearing leaves off a twenty-foot-long ivy plant that I’d been nurturing for two years.

      At one point, when we stopped to eat, the new baby’s bassinet, which I had made by hand, embroidered with yellow French knots and decorated with lace and ribbons, fell out on a driveway, dumping all the tiny sterile outfits I had been collecting for months.  This small incident brought on a cascade of tears on my part, and also a string of complaints.

      “My poor baby has no home, no hospital or doctor, pretty soon no dad, and no clean clothes!”—and I cried and cried, to my husband’s dismay.  (Small problems seem so big when you are pregnant.)

      Finally, after driving thirty hours straight and covering 900 miles, we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike—still 500 miles from Boston—when I went into labor.  And where are the Highway Patrols when you need them?  Maybe on Mars?

      We checked our list and found a military hospital a few hours away, in Carlisle---the Army War College.  By the time we arrived, I was in terrible pain, and my husband, a Captain out of uniform, informed the nurse at the infirmary that I was going to have a baby.

      She said to him, “Come back tomorrow; we have a clinic then.”

      He told her she didn’t understand, that the baby was coming now; and she rushed me into Delivery.  Little Lois Ellen arrived about an hour later, seven pounds of pure beauty; and the name sign on her crib said, “Stopover Pickering,” as everyone knew that we had to go to Boston after a few days.

      As for John, he was overcome with elation, having waited many years to have children, and could not hide his absolute joy.
      Most of the other mothers were wives of high-ranking officers, but to my surprise I was treated as well as the rest, with special attention for all four of us due to the circumstances of our arrival.  John and Nancy moved into the Bachelor Officers Quarters for the interim; and—all too soon for my liking—it was time to get on the road again.

      My parents were going to allow us to stay in their home until I could find an apartment, as John had about five days of leave remaining before he had to report for embarkation.  On the fifth day, it was time to check out and get on the road again.  Most of the crew from the maternity ward came out and acted like family as they waved us on our way.

      Those last 500 miles and twelve hours were really difficult and painful; but with a healthy new angel, a perfect two year-old, and a considerate and loving husband, I was tired and ill but wonderfully happy.  My family, and my life, were finally complete; and also our trip!

      So, no matter the circumstances of having your baby, it is surely one of the most amazing things that you could ever imagine; and you will never be sorry!

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