My daughter-in-law is in the last days of her pregnancy. As we all wait with excited anticipation for the birth of her and my eldest son’s first baby, I have been drawn back in time to remembering those last days of my pregnancy with my son. As any woman who has been in those last days of pregnancy knows, they are full of a combination of growing discomfort, nervous excitement, a strong wish to get the birth over with, and, for a first time mother, a little bit of fear of the as yet unknown travails of labor and delivery. I remember mostly sleepless nights because there is no comfortable position to lay when one is big with baby. For me, heartburn raged, my back constantly ached, and the only way I could truly lay down and still breathe was semi-curled up on my left side like a beached whale. If I did happen to drift off to sleep, I was soon awakened by toe-curling leg cramps that could only be alleviated by lumbering out of bed and walking the charlie horses out. If leg cramps didn’t wake me up from my light, uncomfortable sleep, then the urgent need to empty my squashed bladder did. Fun times for sure! Yet, still, there was the almost constantly held breath of waiting for labor to begin.
101 years ago today my paternal grandmother, Maud Lee Spence Wood, was in the same expectant position, awaiting the birth of her third child, my father. However, where I and my daughter-in-law waited/wait in comfortable apartments with soft carpets, tight walls, running water, electricity, and central heat, in a modern city of thousands, my grandmother waited in a wooden house on the southern end of the great plains. The house had been built by her husband, George Washington Wood, after they arrived in Lubbock County, Texas in a covered wagon a few months earlier in October, 1913. They traveled 350+ miles from Dallas County to Lubbock County in that wagon with their first two children, Harrel D. and Jewel, and all their worldly goods. I’ve often tried to imagine what that trip was like for my grandmother, and, quite frankly, I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around it.
Now, here they were, 101 years ago today, waiting for their third child. I don’t know anything about my dad’s birth other than that it occurred at home in that little house on the prairie, hopefully assisted by a doctor or at least a midwife. Daddy arrived on January 23, 1914 and wasn’t named L.D. Wood until six weeks (months?) later because George and Maud couldn’t agree on a name for him! This was how Daddy’s long, full life began. He lived to be just shy of 93 years old and the world changed drastically in those years.
As we wait for Baby Cooley now, L.D. Wood’s great-grandchild, I can’t help but wonder what their life will be like and how the world will change in their lifetime. In three generations, the world has been transformed from wagons, rudimentary Ford Model T cars or trains for transportation, letters or telegrams for communication, primarily lanterns for light, wood stoves for heat and cooking, and no indoor plumbing to fast, computerized cars, trains, buses, and airplanes for transportation, 24/7 instant communication via high speed internet and cell phones, electricity (provided by a variety of energy sources), indoor plumbing and central heat and air. Our modern hospitals are prepared for any health needs or emergencies, including labor and delivery.
My grandfather died of pneumonia contracted while sick with the Spanish Influenza in 1920 at the age of 42. There were no antibiotics to treat pneumonia or anything else yet. My father lived 93 years and died of Alzheimer’s and old age, essentially. How long will Baby Cooley live? 100 years? 120 years? That’s not as improbable as one might think given the progress of modern medicine.
Regardless, as we await Baby Cooley’s entrance into this world, my constant, grandmotherly prayer is that the birth will be easy and uneventful for my lovely daughter-in-law, that Baby Cooley will be healthy and strong, and that they will live a life as long, full of grand adventures, and happy as their great-grandpa Wood’s. Come on baby! Let’s get started!! We’re all waiting!