To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. For those of us who have weathered many of life’s worst storms, these words are a lifeline onto which we cling with faith that the time for each storm will soon pass. Yet, in the midst of it all it’s easy to lose sight of the lifeline and feel like we’ll drown. It’s only after we reach the end of the storm and are standing in the warm sunshine of relief and hope that we can look back and see that the waves actually pushed us in the direction we never knew we always wanted to go...
Eighteen months after my rootin’ tootin’ marriage to R we realized that we were totally unsuited to be married to each other, so on July 4, 1978, I walked out of the house we’d built together and went home to Mama.
A few weeks later I met JW through a mutual friend at work. JW was tall, strong, cute, exciting, sexy, and 13 years my senior. We quickly became inseparable and by the end of August I’d moved into his apartment. We were married at the JP’s office sometime in September. It was my second marriage, and what I thought was his fourth with his first wife being numbers one and three. (Whoa buddy, is that a whole ‘nother story!) We could only get half the day off and the JP’s office was extremely crowded. Everyone was rushing around trying to get all the scheduled weddings done before 5 PM. It was Friday -- nobody wanted to stay late.
When it was our turn, the JP didn’t have the door closed behind us before asking if we wanted the long ceremony or the short one. Being both practical and horny, JW and I agreed on the short version. The JP took a deep breath, and with hardly a glance upward as he began signing the marriage certificate, said, “OK. By the powers vested in my by the State of Texas, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Bye.” Before we could blink he had the door open and us pushed half way out. In no little bit of shock, I turned to JW as we walked through the crowded waiting area and said, “Well that was fast. OK, now, I where’s my ring.” The whole room burst into laughter.
In October we moved out of the apartment into a townhouse. In all the excitement of the move I missed a birth control pill. By my birthday in November, I was pregnant. (Yes, people – you CAN miss just one at the wrong time of the month and get pregnant.) Mother and I were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. JW’s first response was, “What are you gonna do about it?” I was floored. And angry and hurt and confused. We had never discussed having children (yes, I was rather stupid at 22), but I didn’t ever even consider that he wouldn’t want another child. I’d accepted his 13-year-old daughter without hesitation. How could he not accept the child we'd made together? What I hadn’t considered was that the loss of another child a few years before had permanently wrecked any desire he had for more children. I was convinced that I could change his mind about wanting the baby; however, he refused to have anything to do with the topic or me. I was so miserable that in January of 1979 I once again went home to Mama.
The next 6 months went by crazy fast. Mom and I set about turning the middle bedroom of the house I grew up in into a nursery. Since we had no way of knowing whether I was carrying a boy or a girl, we opted for yellow. Bright, cheery, sunshine yellow – the very same color that is still Bug’s favorite. We bought an older crib and refinished it in white. Mom, being the sewing genius she was, made sheets, curtains and a dressing table skirt to match. During all the preparations I kept praying, begging God to PLEEEEEEASE give us a girl. There were a couple of reasons for that. 1) Since I was adopted at 10, Mother had missed out on my baby days and we thought it would be fun to have a little girl to make up for that gap in her experience; and 2) I was going to have to raise this child alone and I had this irrational fear: How was I supposed to teach a boy how to stand up to pee? Ok, quit shaking your head, I said it was irrational!
One day I was at Sears shopping for more baby stuff and noticed a really cute little boy about 3 years old, all by himself, looking at the toys. Now don’t freak out – this was back in the days when you could actually let your kid look at stuff on one aisle while you went a couple of aisles away knowing that he’d be just fine. It used to be a good thing to have other people around to help watch over your kids unlike today where if you even look at someone else’s kid... Oops, sorry – hold on a minute while I put the soapbox back in the closet. Anyway, I rounded the corner to the next aisle and there stood the adult, female version of the little guy. They had identical carrot tops, a sprinkling of freckles and almost pixie-looking brown eyes. I knew instantly that she was his mother. Right then and there I changed my prayer to OK, God, if I HAVE to have a boy, please at least make him look as much like me as this little guy looks like his mother. God said yes.
R and I resumed our prenuptial friendship, and he and Mother became the best Lamaze coaches in history. (In fact, I still use the pain blocking techniques I learned.) Sadly, though, when it came time for the big event I didn’t get to do the “OMG! IT’S TIME!” routine. Instead, because my doctor was planning a month long trip to Paris (must be nice!) and there was no WAY I was going to let anybody else play catcher when I was so close to pitching the biggest game of my life, bright and early on the morning of July 11, 1979, I reported for induction. Six hours later I got my first taste of the stubbornness that is my first-born child. He’d already spent nine months doing extreme frog yoga in my belly. Really. No kidding. I swear that kid would literally stretch out to all four corners pushing as hard as he could. My poor ribs were so sore I could hardly breathe! Now here we were, waaaay past the point of it being fun anymore, and the kid refused... r.e.f.u.s.e.d to come out!
Back in those days you labored in a labor room and then were transferred on a stretcher to the delivery room. It was not as easy as it sounds. Try climbing from one bed to another holding a bucket full of water between your legs. Without spilling the water. Add having your mother freaking out about the fact that your ‘privates are hangin’ out here in front of God and everbody!’ as she repeatedly tries valiantly to pull your gown down to cover your huge belly and the blanket up over the bucket you are trying to keep from dropping. Throw in another patient sobbing uncontrollably while screaming, “IT HURRRRRTS!!! GET IT OUT OF MEEEEEEEEEEE” over and over in the next bed. Now add three nurses scurrying around like the three blind mice trying to find their cut off tails taking turns squealing “don’t push! don’t push!” and one stomping, huffing, harrumphing mad doctor who cannot understand why the woman in the next bed is screaming bloody murder or why you aren’t in the delivery room yet and you’ll have a picture of just a wee bit of the chaos.
On this particular day there was an unusually large number of women dominoing and the one in the delivery room ahead of me was taking her sweet time getting the job done. All the while, I was waiting. On the stretcher. In the hall outside the delivery room door. It was hot and I HAD to get cool so I kept pulling my gown up and kicking the blanket off. Mother was quite literally having a conniption fit over my lack of modesty. I quite frankly didn’t give a rip! About the time I was ready to start screaming, too, the doors swung open and I was rolling into the blissfully cold delivery room. The joy of the ride ended abruptly, however, when they told me that now I had to heft myself off of the stretcher onto the delivery table. “DON’T PUSH!! DON’T PUSH!” the three blind micettes kept squealing. “Cover up! Cover up!” the freaking out mother kept squawking. “Hurry the hell up, dammit!” the stomping mad doc kept harrumphing. It seemed that time had gone into some weird out of control warp mode that both slowed things down and sped them up at the same time, but finally I was on the table, strapped down, legs raised and hands firmly tethered to the pistol grips. And one of the micettes squealed, “OK, you can push now.”
And PUSH I DID! With every contraction I puuuushed. And the little head crowned. And then promptly disappeared. And I would puuuuush. And the head would crown... and disappear. I swear the kid was literally crawling backward in a stubborn effort to stay inside! This went on for an hour. AN HOUR! Literally. I was watching the clock! During all this pushing and crowning and back-peddling, Doc had decided to go take a coffee break probably figuring that by the time he got back all he’d have to do was don his catcher’s gear, get in position and snag the squirming bundle of goo before it hit the floor. WROOOONG!! (Actually he had to go check on another patient, but I had too much fun teasing him about going for coffee to admit I knew that.)
Bug sent me this cartoon a couple of weeks ago in honor of his upcoming birthday. Crazy kid actually finds some sort of sadistic humor in reminding me of his ...ummmm... adventure.
After 5 more pushes, Doc decided it was time to do a little pulling and reached for the tray that held the forceps. In the split second that he wasn’t looking, Bug decided to finally let go and out popped his head. Doc was so surprised that he almost missed catching the rest of the baby as he smoothly and now very quickly exited my poor, sore, abused body. The nurse took him and placed him on my stomach while Doc cut the cord and sewed up the episiotomy. In that moment there was not another being in the universe that had ever fallen more deeply in love – even if the object of my affection did have too many moveable external components. He was mine. All mine. I wanted to grab onto him and hold him forever. However, since my hands were still tied to the grips, I couldn’t touch him which broke my heart for just an instant until I looked at my mother - the woman who had given me a home and unconditional love and support in spite of all of the hell I put her through – and suddenly realized the full extent of her strength and her love for me. She had done it all by choice – not by chance. Without having gone through the pains of labor and birth she had made the decision to make me her own. She may not have given me life, but she gave me A life. She had earned the right to be the first to hold this child that we had both worked so hard to bring into the world.
To everything there is a season... a time to weep, and a time to laugh. And in that moment, together we did both.
Happy Birthday, Bug. Grandmom would be so very proud of the man you have become. And so am I.