>I was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, those who are not from the Midwest seem to think those who are live the life of a Norman Rockwell painting. When I moved to Los Angeles to attend college, I was slapped in the face with this stereotypical ideal. “Oh, you are from the Midwest. So what was it like to have a normal childhood?” someone asked me at a freshman mixer. No one had ever used the word “normal” to describe any part of my life before. The only response I could manage was “define normal.”
According to Webster’s dictionary, normal means something that is standard, regular, usual—I was none of those things. Even as a fetus, I was the exception to the rule.
I guess you could say that up until 1978, my parents had a fairly “normal” life for their generation. They were married after high school, my Dad was drafted and sent to Vietnam, and upon his return, they started a family. In 1972, they had their son, my Dad’s namesake, and 2 years later a daughter, named after my Mom’s grandmother. They had the “normal” family unit. When my Mom was diagnosed with Endometriosis, a disease where the endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, it didn’t matter that the doctor wanted to perform a hysterectomy as a way of removing her endometrial tumors. They had their family. They had no desire to expand their “normal” family unit.
In March of 1978, my Mom was scheduled for her hysterectomy. She had chickened out twice before so this time my Dad decided he was going to just leave her at the hospital and go off hunting. With him heading out of town, she wouldn’t have anyone to pick her up if she changed her mind once again. So they started prepping her for surgery and as is customary in a Catholic hospital, they ran a pregnancy test. My Mom told them it wasn’t necessary but the nurses insisted it was standard procedure. And lets just say everyone was shocked by her blood test results. She didn’t have an Endometrial tumor growing in her uterus, she had a baby. She had me. She wasn’t exactly thrilled. She immediately called my Dad, catching him while he was packing up the truck with his hunting gear. Thinking she was chickening out once again, he started scolding her and she was forced to blurt out her unexpected news. “I’m pregnant,” she cried hysterically into the phone. Not exactly your “normal” pregnancy announcement.
Not to be outdone, my birth was just as abnormal as my parents’ pregnancy announcement. It was Sweetest Day 1978 when my Mom went into labor. She was home and having had 2 other children, she figured she had some time. She decided to clean the house. She was scrubbing the floors when she finally decided it was time to head to the hospital.
Since she waited so long, she was quickly taken to the delivery room. The doctors told her to push but made her stop once my head and shoulders were out. They told my parents, “You have one heleva good sized boy here. Father’s face and nice broad shoulders.” My Dad’s face lit up at the idea of another boy. But the nurses thought it could still be girl, the lower half of me wasn’t out yet. So the betting began. As they placed their bets, my mother screamed, “Just get the damn thing out so we can see what the hell it is.” So they let her push once again and then they all gasped. I was 8lbs 10ozs and 21 inches of girl. Yes, I had my father’s face and I had broad shoulders. But without a penis, I wasn’t exactly the second son my father wanted. And according to both of my parents, I came out bitching at the doctors for delaying my birth. That would explain why in my very first baby picture I am flipping everyone off.