Monday, June 21, 2010

Grace Street - Born in Hannibal

I was about to have this baby any time. I had lost weight but my stomach swelled. It seemed this baby was a large one. I continued to see the doctor in Hannibal and planned to have this baby in the hospital where I worked.

I had so much anxiety. I had no idea what I would do. I remember thinking that at least I knew the “system.” I could go back on food stamps. The government was no longer giving away commodity foods except for the large blocks of cheese. Later we would qualify for this cheese and because of the size of our family get 45 pounds of cheese a month – that’s a LOT of cheese.

I was in labor all day. I waited until my husband came home from work. I headed to the hospital thinking it would be a quick and easy delivery. My last two had been very quick. This one was not. It wasn’t a long delivery, but it wasn’t short like the others. This baby was large. The large baby I had was only 7 pounds and she came quick and easily.

Delivery rooms were still mere operating rooms. It seemed especially cold and hostile. As I pushed this new life into the world, I had so many worries. Finally, the doctor said, It’s a boy.

A boy, finally! I thought that perhaps my worries would be over. My husband had wanted a son. Now he had one. Would that be enough to keep him with us? It didn’t seem so. The ticket was still ready to be used to fly back to his native country. The joy I expected at the news of a son was not experienced.

He was such a handsome little boy. He weighed in at 8 lbs 13 oz. He had unusual bluish eyes. I thought that odd but knew that often children are born with blue eyes regardless of the final color. Unlike our daughters, he light colored hair. 

I noticed from the beginning that he had an unusually sweet disposition. I would keep a journal about him – the journal is now lost with the many moves, house fire and such – but I remember writing that he was the best natured infant of all my children.

He was two weeks old and there had been no change in the status of my husband’s plans and ticket. The school year would be over soon and his obligations complete. There were probably a multitude of reasons that went into his decision to return “home.” Supposedly, love for me was not one of them. He professed his love all the while planning to leave.

In theory, I had the option to go with him. I don’t know if I had said I would go how he would have paid for it. However, I couldn’t face taking six children, including three fully American children to a foreign, underdeveloped country. I would cry at times. I would try to draw on the knowledge that God who had gotten me through abuse by Alvin, had given me strength to go to college, would see me through this as well.

I noticed something odd with my newborn son. His right eye would tear. Babies usually don’t cry tears. This was my sixth child. I had experience. This was odd. I called the doctor’s office. Medical staff often assumes you are stupid or over-reacting. Truth is I under react. The nurse brushed it off. I watched and waited for his six-week check up.

I remember clearly sitting at a small group church meeting with him cradled in my arms. His eyes were open with that look of worship that newborns have for their mothers. There was this odd small white dot on the iris of his bluish right eye. It seems no one else could see it. I could. Mother’s intuition told me something wasn’t right. When he would cry the area above and around that right eye would get a blotchy red. The rest of his face would be fine, but in this area blood vessels engorged with blood.

Finally, it came time for that six-week check-up. The same doctor who delivered him would be his pediatrician. I was a firm believer in family practice. I mentioned his eyes. He double checked and triple check the right eye in particular. He shone the tiny light into his eye. He looked at me and said, his eyes just don’t react right. I’m sending you to a ophthalmologists immediately.

I wrapped up my son in a blanket. My husband was waiting in the car with our two year old. Perhaps he was trying to have some last minute quality time with her as they played with the steering wheel. I said: take us downtown. In our brown escort station wagon, we drove in silence to a second floor medical office of the only ophthalmologist in town. I walked up the stairs alone still cradling my infant son. I wondered, what next?

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