March 10, 31 years ago, was my daughter Carlene’s due date, but she wasn’t interested in coming out. According to his measuring tape and his best guess, my doctor said Carlene was in excess of 8 pounds and she wouldn’t be born for another few weeks if she had her way.
“Your blood pressure’s high, the baby is big enough,” he said, taking off his gloves. “We need to get the baby out.”
“Ok,” was all I said, like I knew what he meant. Only I didn’t.
He left, I got dressed, and a nurse came in with some papers. Told me to check into the hospital.
“Ok,” I said again, and again, I asked no questions because I was 19 years old and I was stuck between the fear of the unknown and the mandate by which I was raised: never question authority. I walked numbly to the waiting area. My husband, Bruce, met me near the coat rack.
“So, what did he say?” he asked cheerfully, helping me into my coat. Bruce was terribly excited to meet the baby. Every night, he rubbed my belly like it was Aladdin’s lamp. “Come out and play!” he’d say.
“I have to go to the hospital,” I said quietly, trying not to cry. “He said the baby has to be born soon.”
He took my hand and I clutched the papers with the other. We walked outside. Bruce helped me into the car. Nothing was easy anymore.
Bruce slid into the driver’s seat. I looked over the papers the nurse had given me and could feel my heart beating in my temples.
“I don’t know what any of this means!” I slapped the papers. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. Am I having a C-section? Is the baby OK?”
Bruce took a deep breath. “Let’s just sit here for a minute,” he said.
“But they’re expecting us at the hospital! We have to go!” I protested. God knows we had to do exactly what we were told.
“They’ll be there when we get there,” he said. He reached over and stroked my hair. “We need some time to think.”
So we paused. I took a deep breath and loosened my death-grip on the papers. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember not feeling alone. I was afraid and so was he, but we were afraid together. When we felt ready to go, as was always Bruce’s positive approach to life, he said, “We’re having a baby!” Which we did, the next day, at 7:27 in the evening after more than 13 hours of labor. No C-section.
Carlene Rae came out looking just like her father, and as she grew, she took on his nature, even though they only knew each other for 11 days. Like her father, Carlene prefers to take her time, and she chafes against the hectic world and deadlines. She’s the person you want holding your hand when you shake, and she will remind you – with a joyful heart – about the good stuff yet to come.
|Carlene was the joy of his life, if only for 11 days|
|Our wedding day; Carlene today|