Tuesday, February 1, 2022

December 1945: Arthur's second daughter is born (chapter draft)

    This is the story of my mom's birth.  For those of you who know her, she goes by Jackie, a diminutive of her middle name.  For the first few years of her life, she went by her first name Sylvie. But when she was learning to speak, she evidently couldn't say Sylvie, and said "vee-vee" instead, so they took to calling her Vivi, and then people assumed her name was Vivian. Grandma got tired of that and told people to use Mom's middle name Jacqueline instead, which is how she came to be called Jackie.


Arthur's Second Daughter is Born

That summer I was informed that our home would soon be graced with a blessed event. I was at once possessed with a violent case of jealousy which, to this very day still lingers. I anticipated with sorrow the many privileges which I would have to surrender to this new baby. -- Lillian Lubinski, March 1955. 

The hospital was not heated, by lack of fuel. It was freezing in every room. The only heating was in surgeries and delivery rooms. Otherwise it was not. . . .brrrr. . . . shiver.  Well, the doctor asked me to step out. Today, there is a fashion that the father should be there, to see what happens for, I don’t know, psychological reasons. But anyhow, at that time they didn’t let me stay. I was out. And I was cold. I claimed I suffered more than Roma. Roma is laughing at that, but she was not cold, and I was. The baby came, it was a daughter, my second daughter and very lovely. What else you want to know?  --Arthur Lubinski describing the birth of her mother to his granddaughter, May 1988.


 The next day was Sunday, so Arthur didn’t go to work. He used the car he'd been given for the reconstruction work, and drove Paul around the area, to show him where he’d been, and Roma and Liliane went along for the ride. 

The farmhouse in Beaumont-lès-Valence was still empty -- the Auvergne family hadn't found tenants yet -- and the Ourches HQ was also empty. Paul and Liliane both were most impressed with the Château of Châteaudouble.  

“You stayed there?  What’s it like?” 

“Beautiful. Rich. On the far side is a ballroom that overlooks the fields as they descend toward the Rhône. I set up the radio there in a picture window, among marble columns and statues.”

“How’d your commanding officer get permission to use it?” 

“He didn’t ask permission. The collaborator who owns it knew Vichy was coming to an end, and didn’t argue when Dr. Planas told him we wanted to use it as our HQ. I think he hopes to use our presence there to demonstrate his patriotism.”

Paul laughed.   

“Can we go inside, Daddy?” Liliane asked.

“No, darling. It’s someone’s home now, and not our headquarters any longer.”

That evening, Roma went into labor.  Arthur was grateful that his brother was still visiting, because Paul could stay with Liliane, and that would simplify things a great deal. 

He kept the car about almost a kilometer away from the apartment, under a covered carport. His neighbor hadn’t had a car in years, and had given him permission to use the carport.  But the vehicle was very difficult to start in cold weather, and he didn’t want to risk it not starting when it was time to go to the hospital.  And it was very cold that night, -10 Celsius.

So every two hours, he walked the kilometer to the carport, started the car, giving it gas until the sluggish engine turned over, and then after it had warmed up sufficiently, he shut off the engine off again. Then he walked home, hands in  his pockets, his coat collar turned up against the wind, and went back inside the apartment to keep Roma company, sometimes dozing a little.  

When it became apparent that it was time to go to the hospital, he helped Roma into her coat, then had her wait at the curb while he got the car and drove it back to the apartment. Paul was waiting outside with Roma, and he helped his sister-in-law into the car.  Then Paul went back into the apartment, and presumably went to sleep. It had been a long night.

Arthur drove Roma to the hospital, and dropped her off by the doors, then went to park the car. She waited for him to join her again, and he took her arm and lead her into the hospital.  A doctor took her into an exam room, and Arthur started to take off his coat, then realized the room was very cold, that he could still see his breath.  

The doctor brought Roma back out.  “She’s not quite ready, perhaps another hour or two.  There’s no one else in the delivery room tonight, so you may wait with her there, until it’s time.”  Arthur nodded, so the doctor lead them to the delivery room. “We lack fuel to heat the entire hospital, so the only heated rooms are the ORs and the delivery rooms.”  That explained why the lobby was so cold.  

Arthur pulled a book out of his pocket. It was a new copy Madam Curie by Éve Curie. They’d left their first copy behind in Brussels. “Shall I read to you? It might help pass the time.”  

Roma smiled — she was between contractions — and said, “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

So he read to her, for hours, pausing when the contractions came, or when a doctor or nurse came in to check on her. 

After one such pause, he asked her, “So what are the names we picked out again?” 

“Jean after your commanding office, Jean Georges or Sylvie Jacqueline,” she reminded him instantly.

 When Liliane was born, they’d chosen a name with a common English cognate, and they’d done the same thing this time, still planning and hoping to go to America someday.  And while they weren't religious, and didn't especially care about the Jewish prohibition against naming a child against a living relative, it still informed their decisions. To name the child after Isaac, or Teofila or Lola meant that they had lost that tiny bit of hope that Roma’s family had survived. 

Finally, something seemed to change in Roma, and she said, “Arthur, I think it’s time.”  

He opened the door, and went to find the doctor, but the man was already on his way in to check on her.


Arthur remained in the hallway outside, his hands in his pockets, and he paced to keep warm.  

The doctor came out, and said, “the baby is coming soon; please wait in the seating area.”

“May I retrieve my coat?” Arthur asked, rubbing his cold hands together.

“Yes, of course.” 

Arthur collected his coat, hat, and gloves, then left the room, pulling them on as he left. Two nurses came in, and the doctor closed the door behind them.

The waiting area was very cold, and Arthur was freezing. If he sat down, he got too cold, and soon began shivering.  So then he’d get up, blow into his hands to warm them, and bounce and pace and run in place to warm up again. But then he got tired, and sat back down, only to start the freeze-thaw cycle again.  He was terribly uncomfortable, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask for a blanket. The patients needed the blankets far more than he did. His nose was cold and his toes were numb.

After two hours, the smiling doctor came to find him. “Mr. Lubinski, you have a lovely, healthy daughter, and your wife is just fine.”  

“May I see her?” Arthur was shivering, and his teeth chattered as he spoke.  He had been planning to get up and begin his warm up routine, but stepping into the heated delivery room sounded much better.  

“Yes. Come in where it’s warm.”  

He found a very tired Roma, cradling a wrapped bundle.  He leaned down and kissed her, then lifted the fold of blanket covering his new daughter’s face.  “Hello, darling Sylvie,” he said.  Unlike with Liliane’s birth, when he’d had to get used to loving his daughter, this time he felt it immediately.  It wasn’t as if a stranger had entered their family.  

“Why don’t you take off your coat?” Roma asked him.

“Because I’m still cold. This is one of the only heated rooms. My toes are blocks of ice.” He grabbed one of her hands, and let her feel how cold his hands were.  “I think I suffered more than you did.”

Roma laughed at him. “I don’t think so.”

“You weren’t cold all this time.”  But he smiled to show her he was joking. . . . Sort of.  

“Well, go home and get some sleep. They are going to let me stay here unless the room is needed.”

On his way home, he went to city hall, and filled out the paperwork for Sylvie’s birth certificate.  He was feeling so good, joy with his new daughter and wife who had both come through the birth safely,  happy the war was finally over and overjoyed the Allies had been victorious, that he gave his baby an extra name on a whim. Sylvie Jacqueline Victoire Lubinski. Victory.  He then promptly forgot about the extra name, drove home and went to sleep wrapped in a mountain of blankets, while Paul was out spoiling Liliane with sweets.