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Why the edginess? This was Carrie’s sixth child, and it had been nearly a decade since her stillborn baby boy had briefly entered our lives. Between then and now, there had been four live births, perfect babies. Still, there it was, a feeling I couldn’t shake.

“The doctor’s probably going to do a C-section,” Carrie had said a few days earlier. I sensed the apprehension in her voice and assured her that I would be there, not just for the delivery but also to help out with the other children afterwards.

As my daughter Elizabeth and I sped down I-95 that July morning, it was already muggy outside. Another scorcher! Neither of us knew what to expect or even how to think about the upcoming birth, so we mostly rode in silence.

“Want to stop at Cracker Barrel?” I asked.

“Not really,” she said.

“Me either. Let’s just get there.

“K.”

Arriving in Savannah a couple of hours later, we squeezed into a skinny parking spot in the hospital’s parking garage, and darted over to the hospital. After getting our stickers allowing entrance to the maternity ward, we hustled down the hall looking for Carrie. But where was she? By now, she should be getting prepped for surgery, but where?

We soon found our way to her room, and there she sat looking a little anxious and preoccupied, almost fragile.

“Whew. Glad we got here before they took you to the OR. I’d have been upset if I’d missed you,” I said, giving her a fierce hug.

“No danger of that,” she replied with a wry smile.

“Why? Are they backed up in the operating room?”

“No, nothing like that. The doctor came in, and since he was able to turn the baby, he thinks I should try a vaginal birth.”

“So that’s good, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah…unless Seth decides to move again before we can get the ball rolling.”

“We’ll just have to trust the doctor, Sweetie.”

“I know, I know. I just wish someone would come and start the Pitocin.”

Carrie had barely spoken when someone came in and whisked her away to another room. Small, the room had a huge window on the far side and a bed square in the middle of the tiled floor. For hours, we took turns waltzing in and out of Carrie’s room, chatting and waiting, waiting, waiting.

Finally, the moment of birth approached, and the doctor shooed everyone out of the room except for Seth’s parents and a nurse.

“Gee, I hate to leave. I’ve never really seen a live birth,” I said for the third or fourth time that day.

No invitation was forthcoming so I joined Seth’s granddaddy and aunt right outside of the room. The granddaddy chuckled and said, “Did you really think that hint was going to help?”

“I was hoping,” I said.

Just then, the door cracked open and Rich said, “Hey Jayne, Want to come inside?”

“You mean it?”

“Sure. Come on in.”

The atmosphere in the room was electric, tense, serious. The nurse counted, and the doctor said, “Push.” Many times.

“I see the head! One more push ought to do it,” the doctor said.

I took a peek and nearly gasped. I could see Seth’s head, but something was wrong. His head was blue. His little blue, limp body followed moments later.

The doctor called for the NICU nurses, and within seconds there were two or three extra nurses in the room with us. Two or three? I truly can’t recall. The atmosphere was charged with tension as the capable nurses worked with the baby and the machines.

I leaned over the tiny, still body on the table and began whispering to him as one of the nurses worked with him.

In the most calm, gentle voice I could muster, I said something like, “Hello Sweet Boy. I’m so glad to see you. I already love you so much. We’ve been waiting for you a long time and came all the way down here this morning just to see you. Wake up, now. I want you to look at me when I tell you how precious you are, how lucky you are to be born to parents who love you so much.”

From the bed, “Mama, what’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” I said. “He’s just being a lazy little guy.”

“When can I see him?”

“In just a minute. I have to talk to him some more first.”

As I continued to speak to Seth in the soothing tones used by women in all corners of the world when comforting a child, his skin gradually became rosy. My throat tightened. I gulped before speaking again.

“Come on, Buddy. I want to see your pretty eyes.”

I was down on his level, inches from his small pink face.

Seth opened his eyes and stared straight into mine. We held the mutual gaze for several moments, and I heard the nurse tell the doctor that all was well. Amazingly, his APGAR score at birth had been 2 on a scale of 1-10.

I laughed and cried with joy. Seth was alive and well, and I was the first human he had seen on this earth.

When I told a friend of mine about the experience later, she looked into my eyes and said, “You communicated spirit to spirit. He knew who you were.”

That was three years ago. This amazing, precocious, adorable little boy doesn’t remember his grandmother coaxing him into life. But she does. It’s something she’ll never forget.

 

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I stepped off the elevator to the sound of screaming. Poor soul, I thought. What pain there is in bringing a new life into the world.

            Flowers in one hand and a Wal-Mart bag of goodies in the other, I headed towards my daughter’s room.  Knowing that my grandson was going to arrive sometime that afternoon, I had slipped away to buy a few treats for him and his sweet mama.

As I turned the corner and headed down the long hallway, my heart stopped. I gasped with the realization that the screams were coming from the throat of my daughter Carrie. I raced to her room, only to find the door shut. Scarcely able to breathe, I pushed it open and saw her husband Rich on one side of the bed and her father on the other. Both were speaking tenderly to her and caressing her gently.  I felt helpless. Having given birth three times, I knew there was nothing I could do to assuage her pain. Saying, “You’ll soon be fine and holding your baby in your arms” seemed lame. 

Dr. Nelson burst through the door, and Carrie’s father and I walked out, leaving Carrie, Rich, and the doctor in the room. We stood outside waiting, trying to be brave. A little over an hour earlier, the doctor had decided that labor was progressing a little more slowly than expected and had broken Carrie’s water and given her Pitocin.

            He then left to do a C-section, and we, following his lead, had split up for a few minutes. Rich went to the hospital cafeteria, her dad went to the lounge to catch a few zzz’s, and I left for the Wal-Mart excursion. None of us knew things would happen so quickly, including the doctor.

Almost immediately after everyone departed, hard labor began, and with the doctor and the hospital’s only anesthetist on duty both involved in the C-section, there was no chance for an epidural. My daughter’s one tough cookie. She once experienced a perforated eardrum with neither whine nor whimper, but even she began to crumble when a progress that normally takes several hours was compressed into such a short period of time.

An hour and a half later, we stood outside the door, me with my chin trembling and trying not to weep. Her father, on the surface, appeared calm, but I knew that he too was troubled. I spotted a woman, probably in her 30’s with brown hair and dark glasses, looking at us with concern. A stranger, she walked over, hugged me, and said some reassuring words. I later learned that she was a doctor. There’s a lot to be said for the kindness of strangers, and eight years later, I still think of her compassion.

Carrie’s father and I made small talk while we waited, me tearful and him stoic, a rock. Both of us were remembering the events of a year and a half earlier. It was a chilly afternoon early in December, and I was in high spirits.  Cruising down Highway 501 in Myrtle Beach, I was looking forward to the end of the fall semester and the upcoming Christmas holidays. That afternoon we were hosting a reception for adjunct faculty at the college, and I was on my way to pick up some fruit and vegetable trays. Life was good.

            My cell phone rang, and I was surprised to see Carrie’s name as the caller. We had just talked the night before. She was seven months pregnant, and as the time for delivery grew nearer, we talked even more often than usual.

“Hey Sweetie. What’s up?” I asked.

“Hey Mama. I just wanted to let you know that I decided to go see the doctor this morning.,” she said.

“I thought it was another couple of weeks before you were scheduled to go again,” I responded, becoming aware of an uneasy, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“Well, I just felt like something was wrong, so I came in, and when they checked the baby’s heartbeat, there wasn’t one.” She said

“What do you mean?” I asked incredulously.

“His little heart stopped beating,” she answered in an even- toned voice as if she were telling me that she was going to have lunch with friends or paint the nursery green.

Then I asked the ultimate in stupid, insensitive questions. “Did it start again?”

Quietly she said, “No Ma’am.”

I pulled into the Barnes and Noble parking lot and sat there, stunned and reeling with shock and pain. My child lived five hours away, and her husband, a Navy “nuke,” was in a submarine in an undisclosed location. I couldn’t think straight, but amazingly she could, Carrie told me that she had friends who would be with her 24/7 until I could arrive, and I promised to leave before dawn the next day.

Trancelike, I went through the motions of organizing things on the home and work fronts and pulled out of Myrtle Beach before sunrise the next morning. It was a tortured, angst-ridden drive. What would I say to her? How was she? Who was with her?

My husband had been in Allendale on a hunting trip, and I picked him up at a Burger King in Walterboro. He hugged me and remarked on my zebra striped socks before taking the wheel. It was easier to talk of socks and other mundane issues. Neither of us could say his name, Spencer, the baby who no longer lived, the baby who would be born the next day.  Born? Was that the correct term? Would “delivered” be a better one?

We finally arrived in St. Mary’s, GA and spent the rest of the day and evening preparing for the next day’s procedure. On the following day, an overcast Saturday morning, my husband and I took Carrie to the hospital where she was induced for delivery. A couple of hours later, her father, his mother, and his wife arrived, and about 3:00 p.m., Rick arrived after an anxiety-ridden van ride from Port Canaveral. Knowing that he was the only person who could truly ease her distress, I was thankful to see his slim form racing towards Carrie’s room.

Standing vigil all day and well into the evening, we laughed, we cried, we talked, and we walked that hallway back and forth, back and forth. That evening around 9:30, Spencer arrived, a perfectly formed, beautiful three pound baby boy. Carrie wanted to take pictures so we did. All of us looked at this tiny body and wondered WHY.

I held him close, marveling at his perfect little face, willing him to open his eyes, gasp for breath, and start crying. No matter how much we held him and caressed him, however, his little body remained lifeless. Our hearts were broken.

Fast forward a year and a half, and Carrie’s father and I are standing at the opposite end of the same hall at that same hospital. We’re waiting, and it seems like we’ve been waiting for a very long time.

“What’s taking so long?” I wailed.

“It hasn’t really been that long. Things are fine. Nothing to worry about,” he replied.

Whether he believed his own words, I don’t know. I just knew that Carrie had stopped screaming, and there were only muffled sounds coming from the room. Was everything okay? Why didn’t they tell us something? Was the baby here? Was Carrie alright?

Then I heard it, the cry of a newborn. At first weak, Braden’s cry became stronger and louder. It was the most wonderful sound I’d heard in years. Laughing and crying at the same time, I looked at his grandfather and read relief and joy in his eyes.

After what seemed like an eternity instead of 20 minutes, we were allowed to push the door open and enter the room. And there was my grandson cradled in the arms of my beautiful daughter. Weeping with happiness, I hugged her tightly and then put my hand on Braden’s tiny chest as it went up and down, up and down, breathing in life.

That was eight years ago, and I still marvel at the miracle of his birth. And I still think of his older brother. While I mourn the loss of this precious child, I’m confident that he’ll always be perceived as the older brother of Braden, Brooke, Emma, Colton, and Seth.


It’s been a busy, eventful, fun, exhausting couple of weeks. It’s funny how life goes along in a somewhat predictable way, and then BOOM, a whirlwind comes along and turns everything upside down. Knowing that not everyone in the world is interested in the goings-on in my family and yet wanting to share with those who care, I’m going to hit some high points.

First, there’s Jenny, a.k.a. Mrs. Kacey Carbery. She and Kacey tied the knot on the 15th of July after a busy few days of events. Actually, for Jenny, it had been a busy few months, but for the rest of us, many of the parties and celebrations occurred in July. They’re a much-loved couple, and their friends and family went all out to prove it. Because of their marriage, I met some truly interesting and delightful people, and I hope our paths cross again. In fact, we’ve been invited to spend a couple of days in Victoria, Canada next year on our way to Alaska.

Then one day last week, I started cleaning out my office. It’s too daunting a task to tackle in one day so I’ll be traveling to Sumter again soon to take the rest of the pictures off the walls and the books off the shelves. A friend asked me if it was hard, and I had to admit, “Not really.” My attitude is that I’ve had an office for a long, long time, and now it’s time to move on to whatever’s next. Luckily for me, we have a little room above the garage where I can read and write. It even has a skylight so that I can watch the changing sky.

Then my grandson Seth was born. What a precious baby! My former husband and Elizabeth and I spent last Wednesday in the hospital with Rich and Carrie, Seth’s parents, as we waited for his arrival. After the doctors determined that a C-section wouldn’t be necessary after all, we then had to bide our time until Mother Nature took her course. We walked, talked, snacked, dozed, read, and waited. And then we waited some more.

Finally, the moment arrived when it looked like the birth was imminent, and the doctor shooed us out of the room. A moment later, the door cracked open a little as Rich peeped out and asked if I’d like to come inside. I was so excited!!! I’d never witnessed a birth before and had been saying that all day in the hopes that the parents would take the hint. Having that experience was awesome and  unforgettable.            

As the nurses were cleaning the sweet newborn and putting silver nitrate in his eyes, I stood beside him and talked to him in my most soothing voice. Then the funniest and most marvelous thing happened. He opened first one eye and then the other and looked straight at me. I LOVE thinking that I’m the first person he saw and that perhaps the sound of my voice comforted him somewhat during his first scary moments of earth life. Soon Elizabeth and Frankie rejoined us in the room, and everyone got a turn holding the precious little fellow.

Elizabeth and I then went to Rincon, GA where my daughter Carrie lives and began caring for her other four children. They range in age from 2 to 8, and they kept their grandmother and their aunt busy and “engaged,” a word I’ve heard a lot over the last few days. I could go on and on and on about our special time together, but I’ll save that for another day. I just have to mention, however, that I love how Emma used a wet washcloth to subdue her blond curls so that she could make a good first impression on her new brother. She also took a pink purse to the hospital like a big girl.

That was last week. Now I’m back at home trying to finish the semester, and I’ll go back to Rincon later this week to help Carrie as her household adjusts to its newest member. Until then, end-of-the-term journals and assignments are calling my name. And then there’s the office thing. I wonder if Holly, the director of security, will make me turn in my key.

As Connie was leaving my house after book club last week, she spotted a picture of Paul and Olivia and paused to look at it. “Love it,” she said.  “Me too,” I replied. I then went on to say that every picture I’ve seen of him and his precious daughter shows him smiling. Plus, he’s usually cradling her lovingly in his arms or kissing her. Connie went on to say, “Well, you know there’s a special bond between a dad and his daughter. I still miss mine every day.”

Connie loved her father. I loved mine too. My daughters love and admire their dad, and my husband’s daughters think he’s the cat’s meow. He is. Why am I going on and on about filial love? Because children need fathers. They need mothers AND fathers providing support, love, guidance, and the sense of security that all children need.

Today 42 percent of children born in SC are born to single mothers, and I just can’t “get it.” I’m not blaming the moms. It takes two to tango, and sometime between conception and birth, the father often decides the prom is over. Or it could be that the mother doesn’t want him around in a steady, committed way. Maybe she thinks she can be both a mother and father, especially if the “baby daddy” helps her financially. This is crazy thinking.

I’ve recently read of unmarried women who want to have children but don’t want a relationship with a man. In fact, it’s fine with them if they never see him. A sperm donor is all that’s required.  On the surface, this sounds “okay,” and I can well understand the desire for fulfillment. Motherhood is not overrated. In fact, it’s downright awesome!

At the same time, I can’t understand why a woman would deliberately bring a child into the world with the knowledge that this precious being will never (in all likelihood) know his father.  To me, it’s a selfish act, especially when one considers all of the unwanted children who are hungry for love. Why not adopt one of them? Does a woman like this sincerely believe that her personality, resources, strength, and love are all that a child needs? She’s wrong. People have a desire to know who they are where they came from.

I have tons of research to back me up on the above…all of it disheartening.  Rather than drag out the statistics this afternoon, however, I’ll just mention an incident that my friend Tilara wrote about. She told a story of three young men who are currently in prison because of armed robbery. None really had paternal influence in their homes, and yet the 19-year-old’s father showed up in court to beg for mercy for his son. The son hadn’t seen his dad since he was 2, and now this young man has a 2-year-old child of his own.

Tilara’s post really touched my heart and spurred me to action. It’s one thing not to say anything for fear of offending someone. It’s another to stand quietly by and watch the missteps of what Tilara has accurately dubbed “the lost generation.” In her words: Tonight when I turn out my light to go to sleep, I am going to pray for these three boys, but I am also going to pray for all of the other boys that find themselves in this lost generation.  Most of all I am going to pray that as a nation, we (everyone) look in the mirror tomorrow morning, and ask ourselves “What role can I play, in making our world a little better for this lost generation.”

What’s happening to our young people? What are you doing to make the world a little better for this lost generation?

Lately I’ve been thinking more about how fortunate I am to have been born in America. It’s never too far from my consciousness, but lately I’ve seen a couple of movies that have reinforced my gratitude.

My grandson Colton loves to gnaw on bananas. So do his sisters and brother. I saw a movie last week, Babies, in which one of the tots gnawed on bones that she picked up from the ground. For entertainment in her country (Namibia), Ponijao knocks rocks together while here in the USA, Colton explores cabinets full of fascinating items like pots, pans, and Windex. One night last week I watched as he danced with his sister Brooke, both of whom had Wii remotes strapped on their wrists. After the dancing, his mother changed his diaper and put him in a nice comfy bed in a temperature controlled house.  Ponijao was naked as a jaybird through much of the movie, and her mother cleaned her little bottom with a corn cob. Where she slept, I don’t know. I do know that it wasn’t in a “bedroom” in the American sense of the word.

My husband rented The Stoning of Soraya M. from Netflix, and we watched it one evening last week. I’m still having nightmares about it…all through the day. Her husband became interested in a 14-year-old girl but couldn’t marry the teenager without a divorce from Soraya. When she refused to grant him a divorce, her husband Ali hatched an evil plot to have her accused of adultery. Though the charge was completely untrue, Soraya was found guilty and was promptly stoned to death by the men in the village, including her husband, father, and two sons. The stoning was too painful to watch. Sure it was “just a movie,” but it was a movie based on a real story.  It happened, and four children were left motherless. I wonder what Ali is doing today and if his sons ever think of the beautiful, loving, and innocent mother they helped to kill.

The purpose of this post isn’t to berate other lifestyles. It’s to say that despite our myriad challenges and problems, America is still the best country in the world. It’s mind boggling to think that many of the world’s children never learn to read and write, much less eat a Happy Meal or play a computer game. It’s almost too much to absorb that some women can be stoned to death on trumped up charges while here in America, women (and men) often have several intimate partners, sometimes even AFTER they’re married. There is often a “punishment” involved, and at times divorce might ensue, but I don’t know of any stonings that have occurred.

The very fact that I’m free to see movies that enlighten me about different cultures of the world would be incomprehensible to many of the people I saw in these two movies last week.  In America, every child (even a girl) has the right to an education, and women can become doctors, lawyers, and golf course superintendents without fear of censure. They can own property, vote, choose whether or not to marry…and to whom. They can even file for divorce and be granted child support. I’m not advocating that more women do that; I’m just saying that being a woman in America has its pluses.

Enough said for tonight. I think I might Skype Colton and his family before he has his warm bath in preparation for bedtime. Hmmm. Wonder how little Ponijaro is faring in Namibia tonight. Bet she hasn’t watched adorable little Dora on television today.

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