My Dad wrote this story a bit ago for a Peace Corps Publication...they couldn't publish the whole thing, but since this is my blog and my birthday, I have free rein!
The Birth of a Daughter
by Bruce H. Mero
Gretchen knew she was pregnant in April, she just knew it. Upon a visit to our physician friend, Dr. Davodi in early May, it was confirmed.
We had been Peace Corps Volunteers in Kerman for a little over eight months. We liked our jobs. Our co-workers had adjusted to our presence in the office and tolerated our broken Farsi. We'd made friends in Kerman, had moved into a great house and were comfortable . Both of us now feared that Peace Corps would ask us to leave because of the pregnancy.
We made the 24-hour bus trip to Tehran in June, detouring for two nights in Yazd. Gretchen met with a doctor at Armish-Mag Hospital, who reconfirmed that she was going to have a baby. He estimated that she was between eight and ten weeks pregnant, calculating that the baby would arrive in mid to late-December. We were giddy with the news, but apprehensive that we might be leaving Iran because of it. After lunch, where we discussed our possible options, we walked to the Peace Corps office to pass along the news to Warren Sawyer, our Director.
We were prepared for the worse, but Warren was delighted. He gave Gretchen a bear hug, then shook my hand and slapped me on the back. He couldn't be happier for us, he said and couldn't wait to tell his wife, Joan.
By the end of the afternoon, everyone in the office had heard the news and seemed to share the excitement. Also, arrangements had been made for us to fly from Kerman to Tehran and back for periodic check-ups at Armish-Mag, meaning no more torturous bus rides for the duration of Gretchen's pregnancy. Warren insisted that we stay with he and Joan each time we came to Tehran for the check-ups.
A couple of days later we arrived back in Kerman. It was the one-year anniversary of our wedding.
The journal Gretchen kept at the time documented a fairly normal pregnancy. Morning sickness, mood shifts and the desire for odd foods. We had pregnancy and parenting advice from our friends in Kerman, but found our best council to be an English lady who lived there, Kaye Morehead. Over multiple teas and biscuits, Kaye related her experience with her kids. Kaye helped us to feel totally comfortable with the things that we would experience. She gave us a copy of a book about baby and child care by Dr. Benjamin Spock, which we each read cover to cover multiple times. By the time Gretchen delivered, that little book was dog-eared and the front cover was missing. Someone gave us a new copy after we returned to the States.
We flew to Tehran every six weeks or so for Gretchen's check-ups. We stayed with the Sawyers on a couple of these occasions. It was near the Sawyer's house that we discovered a sweet's shop, where Gretchen was introduced to and subsequently developed a pregnancy- induced craving for Marzipan. She still loves the stuff.
Returning to Kerman by Iran Air one time, a dust storm was sweeping over the town and obliterating the Kerman Airport. For some reason the cockpit microphone had been left on. We heard a pilot's voice, in a deep, Texas-drawl uttering profanities about not seeing the danged runway. His verbal consternation was followed by a sharp bank of the airplane and powered decent to the runway as the dust cloud opened; the tarmac had been spotted briefly and the pilot made a dive for it.
By mid-pregnancy we had made friends with the American editor for the English language version of the Tehran Kahan newspaper, Steve Crawford. Steve offered us a room in his house to use whenever we were in town. He lived in a spacious, second floor apartment over what was, we eventually determined, a brothel. The landlady was nice and the house was convenient to a main street and dozens of carpet shops. We really liked the place, in spite of the seedy occupations of the ladies who lived in the apartment below.
It was during one of her prenatal exams that her obstetrician, Dr. Kazami recommended that we have the baby in Tehran and not Kerman, and that Gretchen not travel within six weeks of her due date. We related this to Warren and it was arranged that we move to Tehran for a couple of months. I would temporarily fill an engineering position at The State of Tehran Engineering Office, Gretchen would work there when she was able. It was also the recommendation of Dr. Kazami that he deliver the baby at Tehran General Hospital, since staffing at Armish-Mag for childbirth was limited. Peace Corps agreed.
We moved to Tehran and into Steve's above-the-brothel apartment in mid-November. A week or so later we were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Richard Helms.
Early in the prenatal visit cycle, we told Dr. Kazami that we were inclined toward a natural childbirth. He enthusiastically endorsed this idea and set us up with classes taught by his American wife at Armish-Mag to prepare us for the birth. The closer we got to Gretchen's due date, the more Dr. Kazami became concerned that the birth might interrupt his plans for a New Year's party. About a week before delivery, Dr. Kazami informed us that the baby had dropped and could come any day. He told Gretchen to drink a glass of Cod Liver Oil and then take a warm bath. He was hoping to bring the birth along faster. Rather than that, the baby floated higher in her belly during the bath and stayed there. Gretchen subsequently belched Cod-fishy burps for three days. Failing the lubrication ploy, Dr. Kazami now recommended that the baby be induced prior to New Year's Eve.
We arrived at Tehran General Hospital at 0800 hours on the 30th of December. Gretchen was given an IV of Pitocin and contractions began shortly thereafter. The Doctor came in every hour or so to check on her and to gauge how much she was dilated. Gretchen was as calm as I'd ever seen her. At the onset of each contraction she repeated the breathing exercises taught to us by Mrs. Kazami.
I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was heightened each time a second doctor came into the room to examine the girl in the bed next to Gretchen's who was also having a baby. The girl wailed and screamed with each pelvic exam by the physician. We were later told that this caterwauling was to demonstrate to the watching mother-in-law how much discomfort her son had caused the girl by getting her pregnant.
By mid-afternoon, Gretchen's contractions were sufficiently close that Dr. Kazami had her taken to the delivery room. Since I was to accompany her, a nurse brought in a pair of green scrubs for me to wear. I found, however, the waist band on the pants so large that I needed to hold them up with one hand, lest they drop to the floor, which they did whenever I lost hold of the waistband.
I learned only moments before Gretchen that our baby was a little girl. I'd watched her birth. We'd decided her name would be Mitra, after a friend from Kerman. She weighed 3 kilograms, 300 grams and was 50 Centimeters in length. The nurse laid the baby on Gretchen's chest for a few minutes before taking her to the nursery. Gretchen was wheeled to her room. Mom and baby were reunited less than an hour later. Gretchen had given the nurses a package of
American-style cloth diapers and pins that my mother and sister had
mailed to us earlier, to put on our new daughter. No one there knew just how
they were supposed to work. A nurse asked that one of us go down to the nursery
and put them on the baby ourselves. Gretchen followed her to the nursery,
anxious to touch her daughter again and to put on the first diaper. She spent as many minutes there as the
attendants would allow. I stayed behind in the room and listened to the girl in
the next bed demonstrate her continued agony for her husband's mother.
Gretchen and Mitra were three days in Tehran General Hospital. When she was a week old, we took her to Armish-Mag for a well-baby examination and she was declared 100% healthy. Gretchen's journal notes that Mitra crapped all over the examination table just before the physician arrived and needed a diaper change before the doctor would see her.
We flew back to Kerman on the 8th of January. We had non-stop visitors at our house on Zariff Street for the first few weeks. Friends and even curious strangers rang our doorbell, hoping to see our new baby. We were quite the novelty. The tea kettle never cooled. Journal entries document only one day in the next fourteen without visitors. Everyone arriving at our door brought gifts: flowers, fruit, sweets, baby clothes and blankets, gold coins and earrings for the baby. More American-styled diapers arrived. Steve from Tehran somehow sent us a baby crib. More flowers from Warren and Joan. Astonishingly, our friend Mitra (our daughter's namesake) and her husband offered to give us a house. It was nearly overwhelming.
Eventually things settled down and we were able to establish a routine. I was busy at work. Gretchen got to the office when we were able to find someone to watch the baby. Since she was the Ostandar's favorite, staying at home with Mitra was not always an option. One didn't say no when the Ostandar wanted one present.
In early February, flew to Tehran for a well-baby checkup at Armish-Mag. We stayed with Warren and Joan for four days and really got to relax. Gretchen and Joan talked about kids for much of the time.
On our return to Kerman we were dinner guests of a western-educated veterinarian . After dinner, totally out-of-the-blue, our friend proposed a marriage contract between his infant son and Mitra. He offered huge financial incentives, a European education and free university if Mitra would return to Iran after college and marry his son. Somehow we gracefully wiggled out of that conundrum and still remained close with our friend.
When Mitra was five months old, we flew to Tehran and took a train to Mashhad. We stayed there with a Peace Corps couple for a few days, then by bus, went to Afghanistan. We'd planned to be there for several weeks, but the baby got sick, so returned to Iran after a week.
We terminated Peace Corps Iran in August. Mitra was eight months old. After a quick visit back to the States, we went to Managua, Nicaragua and settled into our next Peace Corps adventure.