First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter VII - And Baby Makes Three
My roommate there (in the Mother House) was a woman from Abqaiq Camp named Rosemary Gushue (Mrs. John Gushue). When I arrived, she had been in the annex long enough to see two women, expecting their first babies, come and go. Although her baby was due on May 24th and mine wasn’t due until May 29th, she kept saying she was waiting to put me through the annex, too, because I had never had one before and this was her second.
Colleen Wilson in maternity clothes at the gate entrance to "The Mother House" in Dhahran.
Of course, we both thought this was a joke, but sure enough on the morning of the 21st, 1 woke up at 5:30 with a slight backache and cramps in the stomach. I thought nothing of this, particularly, but they kept up, and I had my suspicions then, so I told Rosemary, and all day we kept trying to time the pains, although they were still just slight ones. Then about 5 that evening, my pains started getting a little harder and more regular, so Rosemary thought I should go on over to the hospital. So, I went over there, got my blood pressure and temperature taken and was put in bed and prepared. Another woman had come in just before I did, and she was getting the same treatment. Shortly after that, my pains began to get pretty hard. Jackie Ryan, the nurse from Tyler, was our attendant. That was about 4:30 or 5 a.m. that morning.
I don’t know why we waited so long, but at 6:30 a.m., the nurse called Oran and he arrived about 1 and 1/2 hours later (it took that long to get from Ras Tanura to Dhahran). He visited with me awhile, then left and went to the home of some friends we had there in Dhahran to wait for further results. About 9 a.m., I started my hard labor pains. They gave me a sleeping pill that didn’t help much. The other woman who was brought in just before I was wasn’t making any progress at all. In fact, her pains had stopped altogether, so she was talking to me and sympathizing with me.
About 11:15 a.m., another woman was brought in, and it turned out to be Rosemary already in the last stages of labor. The doctors and nurses kept checking first one of us, then the other for dilation, and they knew it was going to be a race. About 12, they gave me a shot, which put me to sleep between my hard pains. Oran came to visit me again then, but just stayed a minute or two. At 12:50, Rosemary was taken into the delivery room, and they started setting up an emergency delivery room. They called in another doctor because they knew it wouldn’t be long before I delivered, too.
Rosemary’s baby was born at 1:09, but she was still getting worked on, you know, so about 1:30 they took me to the emergency room and the other doctor examined me. He decided I had just a little while longer, so since Rosemary was out of the regular delivery room, they were rushing to prepare it for me. Then my doctor, Dr. R. C. Brown, came and examined me and knew I could wait until the room was prepared. At 1:55, I was taken into it, and while Dr. Brown was getting everything ready, I looked at the clock and remarked that I was going to keep my 2:00 appointment with him (while staying in the annex all the pregnant women are checked once a week by Dr. Brown, and my appointment was that day at 2:00).
My legs and arms were strapped, and I was given about four good drags of gas and told to push. I was very dopey but remembered a slight pain. They gave me more gas and I gave another push and that’s all I remember until I heard one of the nurses say, “another circumcision”, (Rosemary had a boy, too). I said, “Is it a boy?”, and Dr. Brown said, “It sure is”. Well, I had said all during my pregnancy that I really felt like it would be a girl so was surprised. I said,” Is it really a boy?” Then Dr. Brown said, “Yes, see”, and he held the baby up so I could see. The baby was lying on my stomach while the cord was tied and cut, then he was taken away, and they knocked me out completely to finish up.
So, I had delivered a 7 lb., 7oz. baby boy at 2:25 p.m. on May 22, 1952, in the Arabian American Oil Company Senior Staff Hospital in Dhahran, in the Al-Hasa Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He had blue eyes, light brown hair, and was 21 and one half inches long. All that time, Oran had been sitting on a bench in the hall right outside the door of the delivery room. He said he could hear a lot of jovial sounding talk from everybody, even laughter, while that was going on. It sounded like we were having a party. That made him feel good, because he thought everything was o.k., which it was. My cup runneth over.
The next thing I remembered was waking up in bed in a room and Oran was standing beside it holding my hand. Rosemary was in the other bed in the room and her husband, John, was with her, too. How about that? Oran visited with me for a few minutes, but I was so dopey, I don’t remember much except that I was content and peaceful and happy. Oran said the first remark I made to him was, ‘1t’s a boy”. When he left, I slept until suppertime, and then Oran came again and visited for 1 and 1/2 hours before he went back to Ras Tanura, and I went to sleep again.
The rest of my stay in the hospital for the next week was very busy, as you can imagine, with learning how to take care of a new baby, to breast feeding and doing everything else involved with that. All of the nurses were wonderful, very helpful and concerned. The babies didn’t room in, but were brought to us at feeding time and when our husbands visited. As well as Jackie Ryan, the nurses were Barbara Hauch, Mary Lou Grovell, Miss Neut (Dutch), Betty Brown, Claire Richey, Ann McDowell, and Leslie Larson.
Our friends in Dhahran, Mrs. Krug Henry and Marilyn Bunyon came to visit us in the hospital, and Oran came down from Ras Tanura several times that week. He was also having the houseboy clean the house thoroughly from top to bottom and making arrangements for him to take all of that off my hands for several months. So it was on Wednesday, May 29th that he came down for the last time, and we all left the hospital together to go back home to Ras Tanura.
One of the older women who befriended me earlier, Bee Riggles, was there when we arrived to take care of Keith so I could go right to bed. She also had a casserole cooked so I wouldn’t have to worry with that the first day. She had children herself and knew what that would mean to a person in Arabia, especially without family of your own there. She was so right about that.
I was so thrilled with my beautiful, little, baby boy. Oran, too. I didn’t mean to brag, but he was a very pretty baby, not red or wrinkled at all, had quite a lot of hair, and perfect in every way. I had hoped he would be born on my mother’s birthday, May 31st, as he was due to be born on May 29th, but he came a week early. We sent my parents a cable as soon as the stork made his appearance.
We had named our baby, Olan Keith, not Oran, not Jr., and there was no mistake about it, as some people thought, but we would call him, “Keith”. Oran had been known by his middle name, Willis, by everyone at home in the United States and myself, but when he came to Arabia, he used his first name. It was hard for me to call him that at first, so I switched back and forth for a long time. Finally, I said, “Just what do you want me to call you, anyway?" and he said, "Oran”, so that’s who he became to me and most people from then on.
For the first couple of weeks after we got home from the hospital, things were really fouled up, and I was beginning to wonder if we would all get through it all right. You know with the first baby, you don’t know exactly what to do, and you can’t stand to hear them cry, and when they do, you worry for fear something is wrong. I thought the instructions automatically came with them and eventually everything would work itself out, but instead of getting better they just got worse. So I took him to the Dr., and he took Keith off breast-feeding and put him on the bottle. I seemed to have plenty of milk, but it wasn’t satisfying him for some reason. We decided it must have been because I was so upset and worried, had no appetite and didn’t eat enough. He was put on a formula of SMA powdered milk for babies. After that first bottle, he went to sleep and slept nearly 24 hours straight. Poor little thing was starving to death.
Ever since then, things got gradually better and before long I was beginning to feel completely human again. We settled into a routine that seemed to work for everybody. Although fussy in the afternoon or evening, Keith slept very well at night from the beginning, although he was awake about six hours daily. But he was doing beautifully, gaining weight steadily and was up to 9 and 3/4 lbs. in a month. We could tell he was filling out, and, of course, we still thought he was the best-looking baby in the world.
All of our friends came by to see him and agreed with us. Most brought him a present of some kind: Desda & Bill, 2 bibs, plastic pants; Charlotte Phillips, a rattler & 2 bibs; Benny Gouger, wool sweater; Edna Wilson, a comb & brush set; Edna Emerton, 1 pr. booties; Ann Brendell, 1 pr 18 Karat Gold safety pins; Mrs. Woodruff, small Bible from the Holy Land; Kate Rodarty, silver spoon (made in Arabia); Mrs. St. Clair, blue & white diaper shirt. My roommate in Dhahran, Rosemary & John Gushue, a kimono. Cards arrived from others in Arabia, and relatives and friends in the United States, as well.
About that time, Oran took over a straight day job for three months while someone went to the States on home leave. He would be in charge of education for the refinery crew (600 Arabs). He went to work at 7:30 a.m. each morning, came home for lunch from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. and got off each day at 5:00 p.m. He had every Friday off, and every other Thursday afternoon. I was certainly glad he didn’t have to work at night anymore. It couldn’t have been timed any better.
Oran was so good with Keith. He was really a better “Papa”, than I was a “Mama” even, and he did as much taking care of him as I did when he was off work. Since Keith was on the bottle, Oran fed him when I was busy with supper or gone to a movie or something of that nature. And he had been changing his diapers ever since he got home from the hospital, as well as putting out his wash every other day, and I had pictures to prove it.
By June 19th, Keith was 4 weeks old and I could truthfully say the struggling stage was behind us. Our lives had certainly changed, though, but we would alter it to accommodate our beautiful baby boy, because he was definitely worth it. He was getting cuter and better every day, and was beginning to smile when we talked & played with him, and I’d heard him “coo” once or twice. We put him on his stomach instead of his back to sleep, and he did that much more. We also took him for rides in his buggy outside around camp to get fresh air and sunshine and to let everybody see him.
Our friend, Guy Smyth, who had fixed us the Mexican dinner, came by to see Keith and to tell us his wife, Pat, still in the States, had just had her baby, too. It was also a boy they named Steve. They would play a big part in our lives later.
By mid July, I felt perfectly normal again, except that I was slightly heavier than before. I had found three dresses (yes, we wore dresses in those days) and a pair of shorts I could wear, so was happy over that, too. But the rest of my clothes had to stay in storage until I had lost a few more lbs. (about 10 to be exact). I had to put my canasta, bridge, and women’s club activities on hold for a while. I also gave up being church secretary and teaching a class, as well. Even my cooking so much was put on the back burner, at least all the experimenting with new recipes, and entertaining. I didn’t have as much time to devote to it, as I just wanted to devote my time to being a new mother.
We did give a little buffet dinner for three other couples on our birthday, July 26th, but I served only well known, tried & true dishes; fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, lettuce & tomato salad, pickles & olives. One of the fellows was supervisor in the mess hail, Benny Gouger, and he had a cake baked with “Happy Birthday Co & Oran” on it. It was a very enjoyable diversion on our 25th and 24th birthdays, respectively.
We had been writing my parents all about their new grandson, naturally. I had to apologize to my father for not remembering him on Fathers Day, but I was so busy with Keith about that time, I didn’t even remember my own husband had joined that organization that year. We also wanted to clear up when we would be home and what we would do after that. Of course, any decision was liable to change before the time came, but the way things looked then, we would stay in Arabia until the next spring (not later than May), which would give Oran a few extra months over his contract and about $3000 extra dollars.
Also, we hated to think of traveling in January, which was the month his contract ended officially, and we would not return to Arabia. Keith would be about 10 months old, and we were anxious to have our parents see their new grandson. We thought he was the prettiest baby in the world and knew they would, too. What else would he be with such handsome relatives? We were right proud of ourselves over him.
Each day was getting to be such a routine and they came & went before I realized it, so another month had gone by and it was August. Keith was changing so fast, I could hardly keep up with him either. He smiled a lot, cooed & gooed (talked) to us and was awake much more. He could entertain himself for about 30 minutes at a time and longer if someone played with him. He could hold a rattler for a minute or two, but it surprised and scared him a little when he accidentally moved his hand and it made a noise. He would smile at it, though, if we held it in front of him and rattled it.
He was very interested in everything and stared at the pictures on the wall in his room or the flowers and bright colored drapes and cushions in the living room. I noticed that he would stare at his hand for a little while with that curious look on his face. He was getting so big (14 lbs. 8 ozs.) and was a picture of perfect health. He was very husky but not fat, because he was a long baby. He outweighed two other babies in the apartment building who were 4 & 6 months old. When you were feeding him, and he had enough to eat, he would start smiling & talking, & looking around while the bottle was still in his mouth. When he was very tired & sleepy he would rub his eye with his little fist.
And you should see him when he took his bath. He loved having all his clothes off (like his father) and would kick and smile all over himself. He had already started eating Pablum & applesauce. I would start egg yoke the next week and vegetables the next. He didn’t like orange juice, so I was giving him Vitamin C drops in his formula. I would try orange juice again in another month or so. No one had to worry about his not being spoiled because we were doing that. He probably thought kissing was essential to existing for he got plenty of that from both his Mama and Papa. We still couldn’t get over the fact that this sweet, little baby could belong to us. It really made a difference in your feeling toward children when they were your own.