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Special Valentine’s Story, Though Not a Romantic One

valentine's day, groundhog's day

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harriet grossby Harriet Gross

Do you have special feelings about Valentine’s Day?  Maybe a romantic story?  Well, I have special feelings and a story that I think is special, too, though it’s certainly not romantic.  Read on, and see what you think!

Our son was three months shy of three years old when my husband and I thought it was  time to plan for another. His birthday was in early August, and I became pregnant quickly, as we’d hoped.  My doctor estimated a mid-February due date, and I immediately knew that I’d have a girl, and she would be born on Valentine’s Day.  He opined that this was a good possibility, but of course made no promises; any doctor worth his diploma wouldn’t offer advance predictions – certainly not in the mid-late 1950s: all this happened, way-back-when, a time of no ultrasounds or photographs or anything to make a mother sure of pre-birth sex.  And excepting induction, nobody knows for sure even today when labor will begin.

My first pregnancy had gone along just fine until something went wrong with my blood.

No doctors could understand why: a healthy young woman carrying her first child?  What could be the problem?  Well, as we learned after his birth, my son’s blood type is positive, and mine is negative — identifications that were in infancy themselves back then — and the decision was early induction.  Fine with me.  But then, no one knew that my problem was a result of my childhood scarlet fever (something nobody has to endure any more, thank the Good Lord!).

So I was carted off to a labor room.  Remember:  those were the days when a husband sat nervously in what was most appropriately called a waiting room, nervously waiting until his wife’s doctor came in to congratulate him on the successful arrival of son or daughter.  While there I was, given a shot of something to induce labor, and left all alone.  And did it work!  Right after both doctor and nurse walked out, I didn’t go into labor — I gave birth to my baby! All by myself, yelling for somebody to come back, quickly!

My only concern with my second pregnancy was that I would have the same frightening experience again.  No problem, said the doctor.  We’ll be watching you like hawks, he promised me.  And they did – all the doctors and nurses, because it was February, the dead of winter in Chicago, and I was the only one on the delivery floor.  But I didn’t go into labor when I was supposed to.  So after a long wait – guess what? Induction again!  This time I asked not to be left alone, so someone was there after I got the shot – and immediately delivered my daughter with no labor at all!  The medical verdict afterward:  Thanks to the scarlet fever, I lacked the hormone needed to start labor.  But as soon as I received it, labor wasn’t necessary!

My doctor offered an immediate apology for promising me a baby on Valentine’s Day, and although I did have the little girl I anticipated, he tried to soothe the date disappointment: “It’s still a holiday,” he said.  “February 2nd.  Groundhog Day!”

And so my daughter, is having her 59th birthday this year, remains officially a groundhog.  There’s actually a club for those who share that birthday; showing proper credentials, they receive very humorous birth certificates and many other silly things.  With her, we all learned much more than most know about Phil, who does or doesn’t see his shadow to forcast the coming of spring, every year on her birthday.  And we all learned how to spell Punxsutawny – the little town in Pennsylvania where that legendary groundhog makes his annual weather prediction.  And so, for our family, February 2 has always been Valentine’s Day!



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