Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Memory of Mercy

Way back in the summer of 1973 I was pregnant with our first son, Walker, and Winston was living several miles apart from me, at what they called "The Schools' Command" in a barracks on Pensacola Naval Air Station.

I wasn't yet 23 and trying to manage living alone for the first time in my life - in a new town in a different state from our home in Texas. Looking back, I was unsure of myself and timid and quite intimidated by those in the medical profession. I didn't have a lot of initiative or confidence and the entire having a baby prospect was exciting but also daunting. I certainly took it seriously.

I was of course scheduled to deliver in the hospital building on the navy base.

At my first OB appointment in Pensacola I was over 6 months along. Much to my dismay, instead of seeing a doctor I was seen instead by a rather brusque woman who was identified as a "nurse midwife". I had never heard of such a title and found her manner to be unsettling. When I asked her who would actually be delivering my baby, she said emphatically, "I will".

Now here I must explain that I had a feeling of foreboding.

I was absolutely and beyond any doubt certain that this woman should not preside over the birth of my child. I did not feel that she was competent!

I don't know why but I was suddenly convinced that I should just go to a civilian hospital when my time came.

I had no idea, however, that that would not be an option for me in Pensacola. Soon I learned that I would have no medical coverage unless I delivered at least (I think it was ) 30 miles away from a military base.

It was then that I decided to go home to Houston where I could have the OB who had seen me before the move to Pensacola. This meant that Winston would not be with me. This was a wrenching sacrifice for me.

It meant staying with my parents, which was unfortunately not going to be an ideal situation. But I was sure that I could not remain in Florida and let this woman deliver my baby.

As it turned out, Walker was 9 lbs. 13 oz. and had to be delivered by forceps. But he was absolutely unharmed and a very healthy, bright child.

Four years passed and we moved back to Pensacola after a tour of duty in Hawaii. One morning I looked at the newspaper and read an article entitled, "Navy Hospital Named in Lawsuit".

A month following my son's birth another little boy was born at the navy hospital and a lawsuit had apparently recently been filed by his mother.

To quote,

"She charged that officials negligently entrusted the care of herself to an uncertified and inadequately trained obstetrical nurse practitioner (midwife) for delivery of her child.

As a result, she said that her son suffered brain damage during the course of labor resulting in cerebral palsy and great disability of his mind, including but not limited to, paralysis or loss of use of both of his lower extremities and his upper extremities, muscle contractures and skeletal distortion requiring surgical correction, casting and cutting of nerves."

I have kept this article all these years as a reminder of how close I likely came to a true tragedy.

I have always felt that the unusual unrelenting boldness that came over me to take charge and change my situation was a blessing from God.

I am forever grateful for that strong Heavenly "nudge"!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Having a baby 1973 style

Winston was in Pensacola, Florida in Naval Aviation Officers' Candidate School. I was in Houston, staying with my parents for the event of my first child's birth. I made that choice almost by instinct and will post later about how it is that I learned (4 years later) that I had made a very, very wise decison. Praise God.

My parents were both alive and I was just newly 23. I washed my hair and it was about to my elbows and they didn't have a dryer so I stood in their backyard "swishing" my hair to get it to dry. I was cramping and feeling pretty anxious but you couldn't just go downtown with wet hair. Mother painted my toenails for me because I couldn't "reach". I packed two new Alfred Hitchcock short story paperbacks because I was under the impression that I would get bored all those hours waiting for the baby to be born.

My father was pacing around and finally, toes painted and hair dry, they drove me to the Medical Center in the same old green Pinto they had driven me in to my wedding two years earlier.

Daddy let Mother and me off at the ramp in front of Methodist Hospital and when I entered the elevator I looked so huge and miserable that two or three people got out to make it less crowded for me.

I never cracked the back of those paperbacks! It was like all aboard the pain train! from the minute those nurses got a hold of me.

Winston was called in Pensacola at the training command and he was pulled out of class so that he could go home and wait by the phone. After they had given me Demerol and I was loopy they wheeled my gurney out to the nurses' station so that I could take his call. (Boy, did we need cell phones back then! They weren't even portable.) I told him that I felt "like I've had 7 beers." I'd never had 7 beers in my life but that seemed like a good analogy.

I kept hearing other women in Labor and Delivery screaming and I imagined that the nurses and doctors were doing something to them and working their way down the hallway to do the same thing to me! Later after Walker was born and I had done my share of moaning I wondered what those women were SCREAMING about because I didn't think it was leg-sliced-off sort of pain at all. Hmmmm...

Meanwhile an hour or two had passed and my father had never showed up at the Methodist Hospital "Dad's Club" waiting area.

My mother (unbeknownst to me!) was trying to trick the staff into assuming she was my private duty nurse because she was wearing her nurse's uniform and hovering over me. It went fine until I said, "Mama..."

They kicked her out.

Now she realized that my father was not there in the waiting room and she thought he'd had a heart attack or something. She ran down to the ER to see if he was in there collapsed or worse. She didn't want to leave the floor I was on but she was worried about him, too.

Finally he sauntered in looking sheepish. He had driven around the massive Medical Center and parked and entered St. Luke's Hospital and spent a couple of hours in their "Stork Room" wondering where my mother was!

At 7:41 PM I became a mother.


Dr. Brown asks, "Penny, did you hear that?"

Still astoundingly clueless, I thought it was the squeaky hinge of some sort of a medical implement!

"Penny, that's your baby! It's a boy!"

Welcome to the world, my son Walker!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paperweight Babies

One of the cutest stages in babyhood is the "paperweight era". They are pretty, plump and not yet mobile. They are very smiley and drippy about the chin with teething juice. You carry them in and set them down and they sit there and stay put. Generally after a short while they wave their arms as if trying to take off in flight or they might eventually just topple over. No embarrassment or outrage. They act as if they meant to topple over all along.

As if to save face they automatically begin very ernestly to study their fingers, or more likely taste them to see if the flavor might have changed since the morning nap finger-savoring routine.

Nope. Still the same. Pretty good, actually.

How precious are our paperweight babies!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sausage Casing Pajamas

You know what I mean. Those p.j.'s with footies for babies that say they are precisely the right size for a year old child. I don't think so....must be they are manufactured in an island culture where babies remain very slender and tiny instead of getting to look like dimpled dumplings as our USA-bred and fed babies quickly do!

I was trying to dress our grandson for bed, attempting to pull the sleeves over his pudgy wrists without causing him some sort of joint injury. Winston, looking on, remarked, "Isn't that too snug for him?"

"Too snug! You've got to be kidding! Too TIGHT maybe - we are well past the 'snug' stage now!"

Eventually, after much tugging and straining on Mimi's part, said baby boy was all zipped up in what can only be likened to a sausage casing. The back of the neckline was dipping down toward his shoulder blades, his feet had to have been curled up like fist-feet because there was certainly no room for appendages like toes. I looked at the tag. Yep. Size 18 months. He was just over 12 months. Should be roomy, right?

Ah, but what a cute little sausage he was!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Young Now

Written Mothers' Day, 1990

Walker, look at me!
I'm young now!
"How could such a little girl have such a fine, big boy?" people ask.
I'm young now!
I carry your diaper bag loaded with toys to amuse you, and I don't care how heavy it is,
I can run half the length of the block behind your stroller just to hear your laughter,
I can watch you crush your crackers into crumbs and run for the camera because your messes are so cute and I'm not tired.
I'm young now!

Laurel, listen to me!
I'm still young.
I hunt for old pictures of me and the school dresses my mother kept, and I put them on you and brush your hair into a ponytail (too tight) like mine,
just to see you look the same.
But you are so much prettier!
I marvel at your femaleness and feel, shushed with awe, that I have recreated myself!
I listen to you all day long, because you love to talk, too!
And it's so much fun!
I'm still young!

Sean, this is me.
I'm not young.
I look into your eyes, like mine (without the crinkles) and see how deep and wise they are.
I take the time to sit with you and look at books on dinosaurs because you weren't sure how to pronounce "carnivore" , and you wanted me there - even if the floor needs sweeping.
I know how to listen to a teacher tell me you're clever and how to be wise enough not to deny it for politeness' sake, because I know it's true.
I corral you in my arms for kisses even when you're outside-sweaty,
and when you try to escape, I'm still young enough to win!

Even though,
I'm not young now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dear Me, from Me

Today my daughter-in-law, Missy, asked me to write a letter to myself - the self I was when I was raising small children. Here goes;

Dear Frazzled Me, (1982)

I realize that you haven't been out of the house (and that you HATE this house...three bitty bedrooms, one bath for a family of five, teensy narrow galley kitchen, single living area swallowed up by the sofa, no garage...creepy chilly dungeon basement) 10 days.

The snow is up to the hubcaps on the one car you share with Winston, the absentee car which is with him at work, as always. Walker is 9 and at school which is directly behind this shrinky dink house. Laurel is 4 and an incessant talker with a lot of whine thrown in, Sean is 2 and has developed a compulsion for swallowing coins, and neither of them is fond of outings in the snow. Laurel doesn't like to have a cold face and Sean looks like the Michelin Tire Man in his gray snowsuit and cannot walk in his boots, so he stands with snow up to his thighs, rooted in place and screaming, "Mamma!" Snot looks pretty strange when it freezes.

I don't like my one available friend very much so I would rather not invite her and her children over or even walk to their house for a change of place.

We have the tiniest, crummiest house of anyone I have met here and with three rambunctious kids we are cramped beyond tolerance. There is not a spot in the entire house in which we don't have to walk single file. The previous owners glued red flannel to the wood floor in the hallway for some reason. I have been chipping away at the flannel all week.

I have the awful idea that we are sinking lower year by year rather than progressing UPward. Our first home purchased 5 years ago was a delightful Florida ranch - brand new! I'd give anything to roll back the clock as far as that goes...I don't look forward to anything now, so I do a lot of reminiscing.

We've left the most exciting and marvelous experience of our lives - two years in Japan! -and I deeply miss the exhilaration of life in a foreign country, the Japanese housemaid, the amusing next door neighbor I loved so much. I miss...I miss...I miss...

WAIT. Who did I say was a whiner?

Penny, wake up! You are a blessed woman! You have a great husband (as husbands go...ha!), terrific children (as children go...) and yet you are unwilling to do anything but sulk. You think that you are in a rut, that nothing is ever going to change.

Haven't you observed by now, at the age of 32, that life evolves?

Sure, Florida was a sunny time when 4 previous lost pregnancies was wonderfully resolved with the birth of a daughter and a new baby due as we embarked for a tour in Japan. Japan was delightful, as you welcomed the arrival of a second son and enjoyed the novelty of so many unique and fascinating experiences. All that was wonderful. Granted.

Now it's bleak times in "Bleak House". Life has gone sour and you wanted a picnic year-round. Didn't you?

Well, guess what? Right this minute as I write to you from age 58, I would gladly spend 10 days cooped up with those precious children again. You'll miss being able to walk with them and look down on the tops of all their blond heads. You'll miss bathing them and touching those pudgy baby limbs. You'll miss being Mommy Everything to them, before they have friends they enjoy better, spouses they love more and pudgy little children of their own.

Nothing lasts forever.

If I could, I would read to my little children. A lot. Instead of scrapping red flannel off the hallway floor.

I would pay more attention to teaching them table manners (I found out it's hard to catch up on that when they are twelve).

I would concentrate more on making the best of a bad situation than brooding about it. I would want them to learn something about the benefits of good cheer when times are tough. They, too, will have tough times. Alas.

I would have hidden the scissors so Laurel couldn't have cut her bangs.

I would have made the most of the time with my father I had left. I would have engaged him in conversations with me alone and asked him about his childhood, his heritage, so that at 58 I wouldn't be digging for names and dates on filling the gaps I helped create. I would have thanked him for having been such a steadfast, dependable father to me.

I would have greeted Winston when he came home with funny kiddo stories rather than gripe about how much I hated that house.

I wouldn't have made such a big deal about the wheat bread in the toilet...Sean...was it you? Laurel...fess up?

Maybe I would have trusted God more, knowing that I was not exempt from the frustrating episodes in life - I wasn't God's special "pet". I would have exhibited a lot more grace in times of stress and I think I would have baked cookies more often.

And let me tell you one thing, are going to LOVE being a grandmother! Trust me - the best is yet to come!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dancing Bladder Balloons

Now that I am 58, some of the uh-hem, changes in my overall self are becoming slightly problematic. Recently I suffered what is known in layman's terms as a "frozen shoulder". Guess what? You need to be able to move your shoulder in all sorts of directions without pain to find everyday activities (like combing your hair) comfortable. Well, at the physical therapy location (they call it "Sports Medicine" which had me completely baffled because I thought that was a service for people who DO SPORTS. But never mind.) Anyway after about 20 torture sessions instigated by very peppy young gals whose shoulders did not hurt them day and night, I came to recognize my fellow agonized shoulder sufferers. Two men about my age were groaning in unison and I laughed - haha- wasn't it great to be middle aged? Hoho. I remarked cheerily that I just couldn't wait to see what part of my anatomy would fall apart next.

That evening at home hubby and I were enjoying salmon for dinner when I discovered something like a chunk of bone in my mouth. Hmmm. Fish don't have bones like that. Hmm. Oh! Well, well. A tooth had just broken right in two. How interesting. A mere $733 later and a brand new crown. Good as new!

Then the other day I was watching a commercial and it featured dancing balloons representing full bladders. Kind of cute. Until the pharmaceutical's ad agency crossed the line and depicted a banner welcoming "The Class of 68". That's my class, thank you very much. So folks my age need to worry about bladder control on top of everything else? Super!

I don't think I'm going to crack anymore jokes at "Sports Medicine".