The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the baby is born! (That’s me!)
After you read this letter: For more notes about my middle name and other related topics, see the 2015 blog post where I first posted about these letters.
Note: Contains fairly detailed descriptions of childbirth. Also, this was written two days after Martin Luther King was assassinated; there's a reference to the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots.
The link that I added on the phrase “family portrait” goes to a copy of the image in question, which I posted on Facebook a couple years ago. I believe it’s visible to anyone, even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
March[pencil: April, '68] Dear Granma an Granpa (or would you prefer -maw and -paw?), At last a letter. I've written it in my head a dozen times, but it's truly been impossible. The first two days after Jed was born, Peter was sick with an allergic reaction to some pollen he ate accidently in a honeycomb, then it turned into a cold and I caught it and Jed caught it and we were all an exhausted mess. We hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before he was born, as he wasn't really expected any more, and then I never recognized the earliest contractions that I had all day Wednesday, and that's when you're supposed to sleep, and by the time I did get to sleep Wednesday night, I had about 10 minutes before the next stage set in and I had to be awake to control them. And then I had two days of comparative rest x till the milk came in and the cold got worse, and then Jed was up every few hours and because of the cold wasn't getting enough milk so he would nurse for an hour and then sleep for two and then want more, and all in all it has been very strange, and totally exhausting......then on Thursday everything got better all at once, The vaporizer we'd gotten began to work right, and people began producing a number of home remedies to make the milk come in (brewers yeast, tea, massage, breast pump, etc)--last night we nearly drowned in it over night, and I've been thinking about the waste of good milk from the drips when he nurses (as you may not recall, one breast drips while the other is being sucked) and from just plain overflow during his nearly four hours of sleep (most x of the time, anyway) so this morning I taped plastic baggies over the nipples till he woke up, and then left one on while he nursed the other side (he takes it in snacks, xxx a few minutes on and a few minutes off, or falls asleeep at the nipple and has to be jostled gently to continue sucking) and got 3½ ounces of milk, to use as x a between-feeding-supplement or drink myself....there are places you can sell it for fantastic amounts of money, but none around here. Peter once saw a quart of human milk in a health foods store in New York for $8. Peter has been doing a fantastic amount of work, cooking and cleaning up and doing laundry and making the bed and such things, and I have been sitting and feeding Jed and very little else. The woman he has been working for (the widow of the seismologist who died not long ago) said her garden could do without him for a while, so he has been home and running around busily all week, doing beautiful wonderful things. He decided to write to his parents finally, xxxxxxx as we feel so fine and expansive and we want everyone to know about Jed, and he is their first grandchild, and there is no real point to being cold and unpleasant to them just because they have been so to us. So we sent them some pictures and hope for a least a warm reply. Ah, the pictures! We are most impressed--they were taken on Jed's third day out in the world, by our next-door neighbor, and he printed them as a birth- celebration present, hoping the delighted [inserted handwritten: parents &] grandparents would perhaps order a print or two.... xxxxxxxxxxx as you can see, the prints are cropped and much more beautiful than the proofs would indicate...I'm keeping one of me nursing him (#5) much lightened and enlarged, and a much larger one of the "family portrait" that you have, the one that's mounted on white. Peter things he looks terrible and I look great, I think I look terrible and he looks great, and everyone xxxx else who's seen them says "the three of you are terribly photogenic"---guess that's how it is with pictures. [handwritten: prob will send picts by reg. mail] Jed doesn't look xx quite so terribly impressive by now, as he strongly resembles every other 9-day-old baby in the world, full of milk and gurgles. He had almost pointy ears for the first few days, hut doesn't any more, his hair is growing slowly, he spits up real good, his bowel movements are the prettiest golden color, he wails as loud as anyone else, has a stirringly beautiful reflex smile, and both of his second toes (next to big toe) are funny-crooked--Peter has the same toes, says they run in his mother's family. As for names---it was very strange that you settled on Elizabeth...I was always xxxx kind of awed by your mother, from the one picture I saw of her, she was so stately and beautiful.....but the wierd part is that there had been a name in Peter's head for a couple of weeks, that we had decided might be a good middle name anyway, and we couldn't figure out where it had come from--now we realize you and he read each othrers' minds over time and space--so Jed's full name is Jedediah Elysdir Hartman. (Had you decided to stick with wanting to name him after "Grandpop Harry Sachs" [handwritten: sorry: Sax] (which is what I used to think of him as, I remember) we would have spelled it Hare, which is the first part of a beautiful Indian prayer, which simply says Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Hare Rama Hare Hare, Hare Hare Krishna Krishna Hare Hare and is repeated over and over---Krishna and Rama xxx are two names for manifestations of the same deity, Hare (pronounced Hahray) probably means Hail, or something... A friend xxx of ours who does calligraphy made a small scroll for Peter's birthday that says over and over Hare Om Namo Shiva...... ) Guess I never x told you about being in labor....because I was so tired, my breath control wasn't all it should have been, and the labor took about two hours longer than it needed to, getting stuck in the middle with medium-heavy contractions and not getting anywhere till I got some rest, so I xxx started falling asleep between contractions...which lessens control somewhat, but I needed to do it. We considered going to the hospital, as Paul (the midwife) said a shot of demerol would help me rest, but I did not want to be drugged nor have the baby drugged, nor for him to be delivered by strangers and taken away from me immediately, and Peter would not have been able to be there, and it sounded so terrible we didn't even consider it much.....so I kept napping and contracting and soon we were over that stage, and into the final contractions. Got very near the end and the bag didn't break, so Paul sent for the local G.P. who stretched the membrane till it popped and plop! there he was---and we cried and laughed for hours and everything was back to normal xxx except for a pool of blood and glop and a beautiful incredible perfect baby. I was up within four hours so Peter could change the sheets and to go to the bathroom. It's certainly fine to move around, though my balance was unsteady from the sudden weight change, and I was slightly torn, making sitting difficult for a few days. All healed now. But, here is the interesting part: xxx the whole thing of control and breathing and not having to scream from pain comes from the necessity of being in a hospital, with other mothers and other patients who could get upset. In a hospital, you just can't scream, or they clap a hand over your mouth (this really did happen to a friend of ours--she socked the doctor in the face and he let her go and continue yelling) or, worse yet, stick a needle in your arm and you wake up afterwards....but Paul and Peter both encouraged me to scream, so I did. It was truly beautiful. I wasn't screaming from pain, xxxxxxxxxxx and I never did have to scream, could have controlled every contraction with breathing, but just screaming as a further expression of what was happening to my body, a total effort, using every muscel and every cell, so how could I keep my voice from participating too? Neighbors said it sounded great.... Today is an exciting day to be writing--I understand the Capitol is being sacked, nearly, and hope it's true---there's a city that needs razing, and by black hands, just as the beginning of a little bit of evening up. Many of our friends have been warned by colored friends of theirs to stay entirely out of San Francisco this summer, as skin color will be noticed before long hair, and being on the right side doesn't help if your skin is too pale. Glad we won't be there. We xxxx hear rumors of weapons and ammunition piling up in the Ghettoes, ought to be a really decisive thing happening soon--or maybe today is the beginning of it. Beginning to get drippy again so I assume Jed will be awake soon....... I hardly know how to thank you for the two checks---so many unexpected expenses--vaporizer, diapers, odds and ends, the glasses, ---so just know that we are deeply grateful. You saved xx us a lot of worry and struggle. Also thanks to the Saches. Will write and thank them as I get going on birth announcements, which ought to be tomorrow. All is well, hope your eye is a lot better, Dad--oh, the pictures were reallt fine---I'm proud of having such a distinguished looking father, and you all look great.....here goes a hunger cry from the child, take care, love from Peter and [handwritten: Marcia]
Postmark: Apr 8, 1968, Mendocino, CA. Handwritten: “Rec’d this 4/11/68” and “Ans. this 4/18-4/19/68.”