A Gift on Fathers Day

Fathers Day is tomorrow, it has been creeping up and almost catching me unawares.

As I’m sitting here pondering my dad and the dads I know, I’m leaning toward writing about a dad and his girl/s. I wish you could see my son with his 3 girly girls. He’s a tough daddy, a busy guy, but not too busy to take his little ladies on a date. I’ve got a kind hearted nephew who patiently chases after his tough tiny little dynamite Rosalie with her little sister in his arms. I’m not sure what amazes me more, his consistent patience or her endless energy.

Watching my Benjamin and the one little princess who quietly tamed the males in her home and her hardnose mama has been intriguing and sometimes frustrating, afterall I’m the queen of my home…Verdad que si? 

Hats off to Dads

 I’m so grateful for fathers who put their hands to the plow. Providing, praying, playing, platicando and just plain participating in the lives of their children 

From what I can tell, dads have an interesting dilemma in their hands. They’ve got to be generous, gentle, protective and  they’ve got to be tougher, smarter and faster than anyone else’s dad, hands down! For the record, my apa was.

The “solito” is a Zepeda family tradition

The Value of Words

My dad wasn’t a man of too many words. He said what he needed to say and rarely did he repeat himself. He didn’t pull out useless degrading words to accuse us with, but on the other hand, words of endearment for us were not heard from him. That was my norm, it was ok, until I became my Benjamins. I didn’t realize how much I truly did yearn for words of endearment and words of approval, quizás un poco exagerada with my need for them. 

As an adult, words are my commodity. Bad words and name calling are worthless, so I don’t carry them in my vault, except maybe to call myself a mensa, not good, I’m sure God doesn’t want to hear me calling myself a dummy. Good words of appreciation are valuable to me and I make sure I use them generously as needed. Now, words of endearment are like costly jewels, I do have a wealth of them in my heart and my mind, but it costs me a lot to hand them out. Esperate, it’s not because I don’t want to, I’m just afraid they’ll get thrown or lost in a bin of multitudes of words.  I didn’t realize how much I truly did yearn for words of endearment and words of approval, yet it’s when I don’t get them from my loves that I realize I need them, me entiendes? My Benjamin shows me everyday that he loves me by his actions. His willingness to care for me and our kids, his patience to help, ves? But when he looks at me and tells me, “I love you Rosie” Hijole! That cold blooded Englishman steals my heart again and again.

Learning to Appreciate

 I’m very thankful for my apa. In his old age and in my “mature” years, I’ve been able to look past the days of trouble and appreciate the earthly father God gave me.

For too long I saw his terrible shortcomings and focused on things that I didn’t get from my apa. Now that my apa is gone, now that I’m not too busy taking care of him, I can look back and see what he did give me and I appreciate him.

 I know now that I would have loved to hear these words from my apa “Si hija, te aprecio mucho” It was a bit awkward to even write it. Pero, I’ve also learned that his part in my life demonstrated his love and care and I’ve chosen to embrace the love he offered and put it on like a comfortable mantle.

Now I can look back into my experiences with him and see his love for me. Mira, I’ll show you 🙂

Middle School rite of passage

Middle school was a hard season, hay si! Picture every middle schooler in America feeling my extreme pain right now. Let me fill you in,  I was desperately and hopelessly in love with a boy who didn’t even know I existed since 5th grade. 3 años! Then, ALL my friends we’re all grown up, they were real teens, I hated when one of my friends said “Oh my god! I’m gonna die, I started my period today” and another said, “Oh I know, I was so bloated last week, all I wanted to eat was limon and chile” I would roll my eyes, so jealous for those terrible pains. Ya se, ya se, there had to be something wrong with me. I was probably the only 13 year old and eighth grade girl in the whole world that didn’t have a period. It was so humiliating when the girls would look at me and ask me with their eyes if it had come and immediately their eyes would pity me. Sometimes we would discuss the whole matter, describing their first cycle, telling me what to expect and what to do. I didn’t want to hear it. 

And so it was that I suffered like this well into the school year. Now that I think of it, my poor ama! 4 feisty lil latinas to raise. Patty & I gave up watching for the possible symptoms. 

One morning as I dressed for school I fed my moodiness thoughts about how terrible life was treating me. My red polyester dress pants matched my red angry mood. Argh! And that day, the pants were quite apretaditos. I wanted a reason to skip school, but no, what if today would be the day the love of my life noticed me? I walked to school lost in my touchy thoughts. It turned out to be another long hot unnoticed day. 

After lunch, we were back in our homeroom classroom. I could hear my dad saying “Para acabarla de amolar”! And to make matters worse, we were having a test. Hot sweaty, sticky, pero I finished my test and got up to turn it in. When I walked back, my friend whispered that I had sat in something, my pants were wet. I turned around and rushed to the teacher for permission to go to the bathroom. I was ready to die! Why in the world hadn’t I noticed? What did I sit in? Ya saben right? My long awaited visitor showed up. Wow! How could I even welcome her with this mess in my hands? I couldn’t go back to the class, I needed to get home? But how? Everyone would know.

 I rushed to the nurses office and told her my terrible dilemma. No catching her breath in an “Oh my” She asked how I felt and started trying to figure out how to get a hold of my apa. Que?! Oh no. He worked for the city, he was busy. They just needed to find my big sis Marina. She would take care of this. Worst case scenario was that since I was feeling fine I could walk home alone, she could lend me a sweater from the lost and found to wrap around my waist. I sat there feeling quite miserable, knowing dad wasn’t gonna come, then he walked in. My apa looked at the nurse and thanked her and didn’t ask her any questions. He looked angry, but then again we Zepedas always look angry. I tried not to look at him, I just got up and walked out with him and hopped into his truck. I was worried he would see my stained pants. We had a 5 minute drive to the house, the longest drive de mi vida! He finally asked “Que paso?” and looked over at me. This very brown girl turned dark pink with humiliation! I didn’t know how to tell him, by this point in my life I was a liar and never had any problem making things up. But the dark pink face told another story. “Se mojo el pantalon” Like my pants walked over to a puddle and got wet all on their own. He knew, and he didn’t look angry anymore. That was it. He dropped me off at home and had to get back to work, his break was short.  I was relieved, he knew and accepted my story. I was happy, I was an official girl teen, pimples and feminine napkins and everything else! 

My ama was surprised, then worried to see me. The “not talking about your period or any femine issues” taboo talk is probably for another conversation, even now I can hear her say “de esas cosas no se hablan”. Somehow like we “women” do, we communicated with our eyes and she provided what I needed for this very important passage. 

I never forgot this moment with my apa, but only these days have I been able to grasp the covering of love my apa gave me that school day, in this small detail, which was HUMUNGOUS for me, with very few words he participated in this growing up passage of my life. 

The Gift of Healing

Sabes, he has given me, given us, my siblings too, some more invaluable words and a view of what his heart was experiencing as he transitioned into the very difficult  tercera edad. 

Very slowly I’ve been gleaning still through his belongings and his paperwork and to my delight I discovered some of his journal pages. Refreshing, like our San Diego breeze. 

His life turned upside down at 80, otra vez, I’ll have to tell you in a different conversation about his 80th year. It seems that he tried to cope with the difficulties through journaling. He wrote on his 81 birthday “This year was very hard for me because of the things that happened to my body…Thank God that he helped me so much. Also, I’m very grateful with all my children who all gave me their support and help” 

Can you feel what this dramatic latina felt when she read those words of approval and appreciation she longed for? I am shouting on the mountain tops, telling the whole world, my apa wrote, bien clarito, about his appreciation for us.

My apa has given me a valuable gift of words this fathers day, written in his own script. 

Feliz Dia de los Padres!!

Happy fathers day to all fathers and men who step in the gap to fill those fatherly needs. A personal hats off to daddys who give a part of themselves to their little girls, press on, don’t let their dramatics intimidate you, hopefully and thankfully we grow up to appreciate our apas.

My Last Pregnancy

The Children God Gave Us

My last baby is 19 this week. I suppose he’s not a baby anymore. My thoughts about him have provoked me to write this post. Does this mean that I must turn in my mothering card? Officially, he’s been an adult for already a year. Who decides such official classifications anyway? And what different children God gives us, verdad? Our kids have definite traces of their parents and sometimes that pleases me, and other times I cringe! I definitely play favorites with my children. My favorite firstborn, my favorite daughter, my favorite middle child and my favorite last baby. They truly are my favorites. 

When my babies, were not so baby anymore…

Wait on God

I’ve written about my pregnancies and about being muy vieja to have another baby. Pregnant at 36! Hijole! After Thomas I would never experience pregnancy again. I ached at the closing of that chapter of our lives. When I experienced baby fever, no amount of Tylenol could remedy that ill. When I felt the phantom baby kicks, regret would flood my spirit, I yearned to be pregnant again. It is one of those decisions, that if I could “do over” with Ben again, I would wait on God and his timing. When a young wife asks me about permanent birth control, she usually is tired and weary with little toddlers at her feet. I share my mourning time and encourage her to wait, time changes everything.

I do thank God often for the opportunity to carry my four children, and as for my last child, his arrival carried a lot of weight.

I was moving right along with living. More than 13 years of friendship with Jesus, 10 years of marriage, 3 kids, not just ordinary kids, mis hijos. Life was good and I said something along those lines to Ben as we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I remember feeling or noticing something sinister as those joyful words came out, ya se, dramatica! Pero, It’s true, something didn’t sit right as we entered our 2nd decade of life together.

Storms of Life

One day, as I was cleaning my house, I was hit with one of those trials in life that can rock your world. A time of tribulation and testing we’re coming my way. I was dumbfounded. Impossible, I thought, I’m a child of God. Deep pain couldn’t reach me, right? For this Southern California girl it was like a long, cold and harsh winter season, I declare in a muy exagerada fashion that I did not think I would survive the trials and tests of my life. Right here I’m feeling the chuckle of my dear friends who experienced life with me during these years. They knew God was right there with me. 

It took some time, but after many days, when the sun began to shine again, our hearts began healing. Oh what glorious moments I felt as the sun melted off the ice cold days.

Our small family of 5 was settling down. I was getting into my routine. My first last baby was gonna go to school in just another year, and I hung on to this last baby for as long as I could. Then, as I saw the end of busy toddler days I considered planning some projects in the house. I was busy with three young kids; 1 toddler,  2 school age. Lunches, school work, volunteering, housework, ministry, ocupadisma! 

Sorpresa

When I began to slow down and had to sleep in the middle of my day I chalked it up to my age. Then it was the changes in the weather.  Maybe a summer cold? Hormonas? By the time I faced reality, it was unreal! Pregnant at 36! A terrific time I had on that roller coaster of shock! Denial! No puede ser! I was so consumed by negative thoughts that I let them rob me of the wonder a momma feels when she knows a little life is growing in her womb. 

I was afraid. Afraid to be criticized for having too many kids. Quizas mi ama had felt that way? I was her eight baby. I was afraid that I was too old, should a woman my age be having a baby? I wonder if anyone told my ama that she was too old to be having a baby at 40, then another at 41? I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to get the weight off. I already had 3 pregnancies and gained 50 lbs each time, hijole! 

Getting weight off me has never been easy and I dreaded it. Somewhere out there I had heard that when women passed 35, losing weight was a losing battle! Now I’m hearing that same line for when we turn 50. Mentiras!

Worst of all, was the miedo I felt, an inexplicable dread that this 4th child at this stage of life would snatch away the peace that had just come to us. That was it! Nunca mas! No more babies, no more pregnancies. Although it wasn’t my decision alone, Ben was kind of in that same mindset; we were done.

Another Baby

There I was carrying our 4th baby and as the “woes” of 1st trimester dissipated, thankfully, so did the blues and by the time I entered the 2nd trimester, I was ready to share the news with our kids, then the rest of our world. We did get interesting and unexpected reactions. The kids were surprised, but it wasn’t a big deal to them. Someone said “What? Another baby? Si! Y gracias a Dios! It felt good to honestly be able to thank God for my baby. Someone else asked “How old are you?” Young enough to have a baby.

Every once in a while, the question was “is this your last baby?” The more we answered that question, the more we convinced ourselves that this was our last baby, but we dreaded the idea that we had to do something extra, something permanent to stop a pregnancy from ever happening for us again.  

Most people around us congratulated us. Asi es, felicidades! Our small family was growing.

Making final decisions

As our baby grew, I think we both enjoyed this gestation period. I was watchful of my eating and exercise and he made sure to move about in his cozy womb. Everything was on schedule, he was a good size. I was winding down, and the only thing left was names and a final decision on permanent birth control. 

We couldn’t agree on a girl’s name. I was leaning toward Adriana, he wasn’t leaning that way at all. He wanted a family name, his family. Nancy? Jane? Claro que no! All his kids had his name already! Thank goodness we quickly agreed on a boy’s name. A family name. 

There was that question again, “Will you be having more children Mrs Greene?” Should we? Could we? Would we? No, we wouldn’t, we would not have any more children. The decision was made. After labor, delivery and recovery we would do something more.

Labor was something from a textbook or maybe a fairytale. The kind of labor I would have wanted 3 times prior! Contractions began and progressed. I went to the hospital as labor intensified. My water broke, I fully dilated as my little boy worked his way down that birthing slide. I pushed about 15 minutes and woosh! Bienvenido amorcito

Face to Face

Thomas Walter Greene born 6/9/02 Sunday evening. 8 1/2 lbs

Oh my beautiful baby! What an absolutely incredible experience it is to meet your baby face to face for the first time. I had been talking to him for 6 months already, he already knew my commanding voice, now I was hearing his demands. 

Even with my 4th experience it was new and unique and beautiful. I bet my ama cried every time her new baby was placed in her arms, even the 8th and 9th ones.

Had I truly once regretted this baby? No! Oh God forgive me, thank you for giving me the privilege of carrying my baby, Gracias Señor por mi hijo! Our 4th baby’s arrival marked the restoration and blessing that flowed.

Thomas Walter Greene

His name is Thomas Walter. It represents family legacy. My primo Tomas, was my amas own beloved nephew, who himself was generous and kind. I loved the idea of this family name. On Bens side, his ancestor Thomas Rogers had been on the Mayflower ship to the New World and my flaco appreciated what that meant for him. Walter is my Benjamin’s middle name, which was his fathers name and his grandfathers. It means army ruler. Perfecto! Our son can be described as a gentle giant and a go-getter.

Thomas Walter Greene

Nineteen years later, Thomas Walter, our friendly, people person son has demonstrated what a grateful heart looks like.  With this child of mine, saying his complete name doesn’t mean he’s in trouble, it just has a warm ring to it. 

Thomas is always quick with a kind greeting and never stingy with his hugs. He truly is genuinely happy to see you, everyone else in our family needs a minute or a cup of coffee before we can be so friendly. 

When he knows there’s pain in your life, he wants to offer comfort. If there’s celebrating to do in your name, he’s ready to honor you. When he’s being celebrated, he absolutely loves it and knows how to appreciate it, graciously and joyfully. 

Our youngest child grew up trusting his siblings and loving them, he is a loyal little brother and works hard at winning over his nephews and nieces. I could go on for days but suffice to say, that from our last baby we all have gleaned so much.

The Promises of God

Looking back to those days of restoration I see the fingerprints of God as we stayed on course and trusted him. He sheltered us when the storms came, and he strengthened us as our family grew. 

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…” Joel 2:25   

This was the promise from scripture that my pastor reminded me of one day at the altar as I prayed.

Remembering Mi Ama

Today marks 32 years that me and my siblings have walked this earth without our ama. Que dramatica! Everytime a memorial day comes out of the closet I think I must be sad and well, and I am. That’s when I have to choose not to be a chillona and I must make a conscious choice to turn my sadness into something better. I’m gonna text my sis in a while and remember with her our ama.

Mothering Techniques

I miss her, she is a feisty latina woman! She had to be, with 4 strapping boys that had plans of their own and 4 feisty latina daughters! If her command and tone didn’t get the job done, she pulled out her secret weapon: “Vas a ver! Cuando venga tu Padre” Yikes! We never wanted my apa to get involved. Just writing this makes me sit up straight. 

In her house the rule was “Aqui van hablar espanol” and we did… our version, el Spanglish.

She wanted us well versed in spanish for when we went to visit la familia en Guadalajara. Ama wanted to prove that we were indeed Mexicanos to the bone. In our opinion, we were the best spanish speakers in the barrio, but when we were in the colonias of Guadalajara…and the primos laughed at our spanish, we showed them. We loosened our tongue into english mode, accent and all, they didn’t know any better. Hay si, muy muy is what they judged us with. We weren’t trying to seem songrones, stuck up, acting like we were better. But hey! Who wants to be laughed at? For our ama we stayed in spanish mode as needed and I’m glad I did, because today I’m muy bilingue, by my own assessment of course.

Mexican American

My ama worried that we’d lose our spanish and Mexican but because of her we didn’t even here in America. She was happy to know that even with my gringo I wouldn’t take off my Mexican. 

Hijole! I do regret not appreciating her enough. But, I am comforted to know that as long as I “stay saved” Christianese for stay connected to Jesus, allowing him to cover me over my Mexican American Heritage I’ll see her again and I’ll talk to her in spanish and maybe in Gods heavenly language.

I love you mi Ama!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Advice from Dear Ama

Feliz Dia de las Madres! I hope all you moms enjoy a beautiful day, or two. And for all you children, hear some nagging unsolicited advice from an ama of 31 years. If you’re able, give your momma that special attention, you’ll make her day grand. I tell you, life is but a vapor, appears for a little time. For you young amas, watch out for those stinking attitudes.

Don’t Be Too Busy

I was a busy daughter, probably since the moment I started walking and because of that my “me and mi ama” moments were few and short. I’m glad I have them though. I’m sitting here wondering, should I tell them about  her ways with us? Or should I share with them the quick episodes? Maybe I’ll do both.

My Ama Celebrated Us

With 8 kids to raise, a house to keep up, mom didn’t have time for all those other things, like birthday parties or honor roll or sports banquets.  Besides that, she didn’t speak English or Spanglish and she didn’t drive.

For our birthdays ama would cook our favorite dish and make sure we got our birthday wishes. 

When I got to the rough rocky stage of adolescence, I wore that stinky face attitude that could appreciate nothing! And I was always right.

When I was turning thirteen, I got it in my head that I should have a birthday party because that’s what was supposed to happen for a birthday to be legit. Honestly, I’m sure I didn’t necessarily ask for a party, the plan just started coming together. How hard could it be? I explained to my ama that it was just for people my age, you know los jovenes. Que vergüenza! If my parents were home! More embarrassing were her serious hospitable ways of cooking for the whole barrio! Besides, pozole wasn’t a very cool meal for a soon to be thirteen year old. Somehow I managed to provide potato chips, not tortilla chips and salsa, no it had to be papitas in barbecue flavor. Teenagers didn’t eat much anyway right? LOL! 

How do adolescents do that? How do they manage to make a parent feel stupid for doing the right thing? But they do. I’ve been on both sides of the situation. 

Interpreting the facial expressions of teens

There should be a translation card for the facial language that has been used by 12 year olds and teens throughout the ages. 

The rolling of the eyes: when you tell your teen to do something like be polite and greet ALL your tios and tias and be nice when they squeeze you in a hug and kiss. The indignant belittling stare: when your Ama says “Rosalba limpiaste tu cuarto?” What? Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to clean my room? The angry glare: when you hear “No puedes ir” the eyebrows knit together and you argue that you MUST go! I was one of those nasty lil 12 year olds that mastered that angry look (now i’m wishing I could tell my ama how sorry I am). There was also that blank or confused look: when pretending I didn’t hear the direct command. “Es que no oí” Lies! I’ve told you that  my ama could easily be heard 😁. And finally the “I’m about to cry look”: when I was busted “Ama es que no sabia que se hico tarde!” The rule was you get home before it’s dark outside, Before I snuck the tears were piling up outside in the dark, “Pero ama, I was too busy playing, I didn’t know it was night time!”

There’s more but you get the picture, Rosalba was always innocent, a victim of circumstance. Let’s get back to my almost thirteen year old party planning shenanigans. Mira,  I knew what my party needed, my ama and my big sisters would have to step aside.

The Birthday Party

I got the word out for my birthday party. I knew nothing about music but my older brothers did, so I had the record player ready. (Or maybe it was the 8-track player?) The chips y el Kool-aid were on the table, let the dancing begin. Although I was still very much a tomboy and a little kid at heart and mind, there was that awful adolescent voice stealing my kid fun with such ideas like “you’re not a little kid anymore, stop behaving like one” Hijole! I hated it, but I thought I had no choice but to get serious and practice what the older kids did, like dancing.

All of us wishing for the simple days of cake piñatas and candy. “Dale dale dale…” Shake out those dumb thoughts, what tragedy! Too old for pinatas and the wonderful dulces that gushed out when it was cracked open. No more freeze tag or escondidas, unheard of to have a thirteen year old playing hide and seek! I can only lift my hands and thank God that the adolescent rules allowed for sports organized or in the barrio

So the big day came for my birthday party. Were there decorations? Yup, just the essential streamer. To this day I have to be schooled on the importance of presentation 😁 but like my ama I can serve you a delicious feast.

The details are fuzzy now. De veras, I’m not omitting juicy party “tea”. The boys from the barrio came, and some boys from my class room. Obnoxious boys, but the one boy I hoped would come, didn’t. I never did directly invite him, I figured he would get the word of mouth invite. I was not gonna go chasing after a dumb boy, that’s not the way my big sister Lupe rolled.

There we sat, boys munching on chips, their only available food, helping them ignore the big step of asking a girl to dance. Meanwhile we girls sat on the couch scared to death that we wouldn’t get invited to dance or worse! That one of us would be the last girl to be asked. 

 For a while, my ama and apa were not seen. A strange thing because my parents were strict about us staying away from boys. Pero, now I know that while things were “safe” they made themselves scarce. When I was slow dancing with a boy shorter than me, imagínate! My other nickname was Shorty! I was kinda hovering over this boy, leaning heavily on him. It probably took every ounce of strength out of him to keep himself from being crushed! Hay si, “slow dancing, swaying to the music”. All of a sudden! There was my ama in the kitchen and my apa sitting at the dining room table! Que verguenza! sheesh, all my friends saw my parents watching us, pero tambien, what relief. We didn’t have to dance anymore and, more importantly,

She brought a birthday cake. Oh what a rest it is to have an ama who thinks of her children, even when they’re thoughtless! 

I do thank God so much that she never let my foolish adolescent attitudes affect her love or care of me or any of her kids. She was too busy to plan a “socially  acceptable” birthday party for 8 kids and a husband every year, but she always managed to fill in the details of our life with her love and ways.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who are in the thick of the battle from changing diapers to fighting with teens, and to all the mothers whose babies have grown up and moved away, that’s where I’m at. To all the mothers whose babies are in heaven, and to all the mothers struggling with fertility. And to the mothers who have fulfilled that role for another mothers children. Feliz Dia De Las Madres, rejoice in the blessing of your inheritance momma.

Will you share with me a memory or your mother in the comments below? 

When my babies, were not so baby anymore…

Se Vende! Clinging to What’s Left Of The House I Grew Up In

The house on 511 E. Delta street is for sale. My house! (Or my apas house.)  It’s been empty for almost 2 years and looking very abandoned. When I moved my apa to our house here in San Diego, I had gotten wind of the house in Calipatria going up for sale but I was too busy taking care of him to go back and see for myself.

I thought I had disconnected from that old house when my apa remarried and the house itself was no longer mi amas house. But you know, we hang on tight to things, as if we’re gonna take them with us, into our future and or our eternity. I’ve struggled with the fact that it is no longer Don Manuels house and of course the memories came flooding in as I finally looked at the old worn house. Memories like a quilt, bits and pieces fastened together by the intricate stitches of life that is worn and faded with the passing years.

Not Your Typical Open House

I was very little when the house was built. We were living in the projects on Brown street on the East side of Calipatria when brand spanking new houses were erected on Delta street. They were different, bigger than the ones the other side of the street. Three new houses, with big backyards, well big according to my little perspective. 

My ama crossed the alley and went to see the houses. No open house event, she just walked right into the 4-bedroom, 2 bathroom house. The middle house was much larger than our project home. Imagine, one bathroom had a tub and one did not. Hijole! I could play longer in the bathtub and leave the other bathroom open for someone else. A win win situation. Meanwhile, my sis says that some of the kids played in our house like it was just an old abandoned ugly house, she didn’t like it.

Ama walked through the rooms, opening doors, looking over it all with a dislike. “No me gusta” she decided and walked home, in agreement with Marina. 

Our Large and Ever Growing Family

The small duplex we lived in the projects was pretty crowded, Apa, Ama, and 8 kids ranging from 6 to 20 years old. I shared a room with my sister Patty, I don’t know where everyone else was settled, but I didn’t feel tight at all. I imagine that my ama was squeezed for air. 

One day, my oldest brother left home to get married. It was a lone decision between the two young lovers, no elaborate wedding plans or guests to consider. They ventured to Northern Ca. to start their life together.

The new couple was not quite prepared to face life, as young lovers usually aren’t. The weight of life pressed down on them, my brothers wife; Mary was heavy with child. He figured it was best for them to be near family as she neared birthing. They settled into a house in the next town of Brawley, Ca. but when the baby was born they came back to our house. My ama was relieved to have her son home again.

The New Mother In Law

We were all in awe when the new baby came home, all kinds of feelings. My ama was just barely finished with diapers and toddlers and suddenly she was an abuela! Isn’t it amazing how God fills your reservoir as your family grows? We can love with an overwhelming love. This new baby had captured our hearts.

During the day we kids were at school and then in afternoons we were hard at play so ama was able to adjust to mother in law status. Now that I consider it, my mother with her first daughter in law reminds me of me and my daughter in law. Quiet, shy, soft spoken daughter in laws who would have to learn quickly the ways of a loud family.

La Cuarentena

Everyone settled in as well as possible and life went on as usual for all of us kids. My sister in law Mary was recovering from her delivery and under my mothers care she was going to experience the full cuarentena! 40 days to recover, to rest, to learn her baby, and learn the Zepedas!

My ama made her atoles to increase her breastmilk. A thick hot comfort drink, made  from masa flavored with canela and piloncillo. I can imagine that she was making sure Mary was eating properly, with calditos de pollo. Chicken soup was a remedy for most of the ailments we encountered. Of course it was very likely that mi ama was taking the baby every chance she got. I never practiced the cuarentena as a young mom, probably because I didn’t have my ama to watch over me and make sure I’d be still enough during those 40 days.

Ama would send us off to school and get busy taking care of Mary and the baby between housework and cooking and laundry.

(No se desesperen, I haven’t gotten distracted in my story telling, this is about how the house on Delta street became home to us.)

One day, once we were all sent off, Mary and baby were resting and ama was busy with everything, focusing on the pile of laundry. The laundry room was next to the kitchen. A small room with washer, sink and water heater. On laundry days, she would be in and out because she needed to hang the laundry out to dry. In her going in and out and leaning over the tub to do some extra washing her dress got wet. The laundry had her so busy that she didn’t pay much attention to the water heater’s struggles and noises! After checking on Mary and baby she went back to her laundry. The water heater had burst into a small fire and Ama was blocked from going through the house to get Mary and the baby. Ama used to tell us that her wet dress probably kept the flames off her! She cried out “se esta quemando la casa, llama a los bomberos” Mary had heard all commotion and went to call the fire dept. Then she turns to see her suegra walking out the back door! Imagine that sinking feeling. Mary had to remind her of the baby in the back room. Mi ama went around to the front door to get the baby out to safety. The fire spread very quickly but was contained to the front of the rooms. Thankfully nobody was hurt.

We had been delayed at school because of the news of the fire so when got home the excitement had died down, but not the curiosity. The vecinos were all around. Our home in the Projects burned along with most everything in it. Marina says the house had the strong stench of burn. It was exciting to me. This only happened in the movies and my 7 year old mind wanted to see and touch! I didn’t see anything burning, I wasn’t even near the fire. No se vale! Cheated out of a time of glorious danger and drama. So close but so far. Mary reminded me that our T.V. survived the ordeal! Partially melted but still working!

When the fire was put out, my parents didn’t know what they were going to do with us. Neighbors reached out to help and we all were distributed to different homes for the night or maybe a few nights, just until it was safe to breath in there again. I’m not sure who determined that it was safe to go back in, but my parents and older siblings did.

Three of us went with Mary, baby and my big brother Angel. Needless to point out that my sister in law didn’t get her 40 days of rest. In fact she had her newborn and 3 pesky little in laws to take care of. It was no small task because my lil brother Chicha was a travieso! There was nothing that he wouldn’t try even in their little one bedroom apartment. Having the newborn there definitely kept us fascinated. When he cried we would blow in his face and he would catch his breath. My little mind was amazed at how I was able to do that, how did I have so much power? Mary was feeling motherhood in full force! 

Me and my brothers playing in the driveway

Epilogue:

I don’t know how many days passed, but when we returned back to the barrio, we went right past the projects on Brown street and made a right turn on to Delta street. It was that house!

The community stepped in to help by donating household items, the football team bought us a brand new fridge! We were given clothing, like a mountain of donations! As we got back on our feet. my ama was so grateful I don’t remember her complaining about the house.

It is where they raised the rest of us kids until we were married or off to boot camp or school.

As the country song says, it is the house that built me.

40 years La Casa de la familia Zepeda

A Growing Family

This is the harrowing tale of growing a family with Ben and becoming a mother for the first time. Looking back with 20/20 vision, I can laugh and reminisce, but as any woman knows, the emotions are powerful when you’re going through them. 

Newlywed Life

My husband and I knew it was smart to wait to have children. The marriage counseling strongly encouraged it for us. We agreed and chose to wait, an unsigned agreement.

I truly was enjoying that newlywed life. I was enjoying the control I had of my kitchen. I could arrange things the way I wanted in my house, my way. Well, pretty much my way, Ben did have opinions and suggestions that were different from mine, but we were newlyweds and the honeymoon was glowing. I did stress about the cultural differences, Pues como no? Si es gringo. He had described his mothers homemade bread, are you kidding me?! Veggies from the garden?! I would have to expand my horizons, anything for my Benjamin Walter. I was getting to know my quiet Orejon and he was getting past the shock and learning his feisty Latina.

Baby Fever

As we were adjusting to the many changes that marriage and circumstances brought I got bit by the baby fever bug. It looked so beautiful and fun to be pregnant. I yearned to have a baby very early in our married life. I never considered that that meant becoming a mother. What happened to the agreement? My Cold Blooded Englishman was staying on course, no baby in his radar. He focused on adjusting to his new duty station which he hated! The drive home, crossing the Coronado bridge with it’s beautiful scenic view wasn’t so pleasant. Sailors were supposed to be out on the high seas not on shore duty.

Him having shore duty gave me peace. I wasn’t worried about him leaving for WestPac and six month separations, I just was not cut out for that kind of pressure. Ben missed the ship and going home to a new wife with baby fever confounded him. Every time the baby topic came up, he had a headache! Everything that was glorious and sweet in our new life was now splattered with moods of every type . Was the honeymoon over? Where had the simple joy of sharing our little home gone? 

I was tired and a big cry baby. I missed my cycle, had another negative pregnancy test and still, I went to the doctor. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, yet I wanted a doctor to look me in the eyes and take me out of my misery but confirming that deep dark fear. Maybe I would NEVER have a baby! He looked me in the eye and told me I wasn’t pregnant and sent me home. I cried. I wanted a baby, and Ben didn’t know what to do with me. 

Tested Positive

As sure as I was, that I was destined to never have a baby, my heart fluttered when I missed yet another cycle. One, two, then three days. No period. No pink spot. I went to the doctor, again. Another negative test! What excruciating disappointment. This time, the doctor said, “We’ll do a blood test.” 

I walked out of that office officially pregnant.

Do I Look Pregnant?

I rushed home elated. I went straight to the mirror. Did I look pregnant?  Maybe I could see my baby from a side view. I leaned back like I’d seen pregnant women do, yes, that was my baby. I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait to tell the world, but first I had to tell Ben 😀 He barely unlocked the front door and I was jumping all over him excited with my news. Guess how Ben reacted? Yup. Steady Eddy, He smiled, enjoying that I was all over him. He was quietly relieved, maybe this explained the out of control mood swings. “Do I look pregnant?” I arched my back a little. 

I completely enjoyed my pregnancy. I was outrageously huge but lovin it all, until I went into overtime. My first due date was Jan 29th, then the doctor told me that the measurements were indicating that the baby would come somewhere in early to mid February instead. 

 I waited and waited and waited. During a weekly visit the doctor announced, “this is going to be a big one.” Maybe that’s why everyone was telling me how big I was. “Big As A House” someone at church said to me. I cried, at this point, 2  weeks past that midway, I was leaving my smile at home. I just wanted my baby. Why would God put me through such long suffering?

Was my baby cute? I really hoped and prayed he looked like his daddy, because he was cute. Oh when would I sleep and breathe again? It really is that dramatic. I didn’t need a sonogram to know I was having a boy. I figured that’s the way it should be; a boy comes first.

Forty-Two Weeks Gestation +

On my last visit near the three week overdue mark he said “If it doesn’t come by the weekend, I’ll do a stress test on the baby and decide from there” No need to describe my disappointment. Then he said “Oh and if you drop the plug, don’t worry, just pick it up” Having never dropped a mucus plug I was confused but forced a smile.

To appease and distract me, Ben said we would go to the Navy Exchange to pick up my layaway. Getting my baby things did bring some sort of comfort. Ben parked and got the big stuff out of the trunk while I maneuvered my 50lbs of extra weight out of our little Volkswagen Fox. I was excited to finish setting up my baby’s room. 

I waddled heavily up to the gate, my hands were clutching my baby gear. I used my right foot to push the gate open. As it was coming toward me I tried to pull my foot out. It got stuck, I quickly tried again but it wouldn’t budge. All this happened in a matter of seconds but just imagine the slow motion button being pressed here. My foot was stuck in the gate and I lost my balance. I was falling but I didn’t want to drop my baby’s things. With one foot one the ground and one in the gate, not willing to let go and use my hands. I twisted around (even as I write this, I’m wondering how in the world did I end up bouncing on my butt and twisting my ankle?) sitting on my backside completely humiliated and baby items scattered on the grass with me. It all happened so fast that Ben could only watch me bounce. You would think that my labor would be provoked. Baby was quite content to stay put. After I caught my breath, I tried to get up but I couldn’t. Ben grabbed my hands to lift me and I yelped. I wish I could tell you that he scooped me up into his arms to carry me inside but it wasn’t pretty. We had to strategize a plan to get me in the house. We managed to stand me up, then as we faced each other and I wrapped my hands around his neck while he held up my hefty thigh. One dramatic hop after another we walked the endless walkway to our apartment. By this point my ankle was quite swollen and I was squirming in pain. After a call to my doctor, we had to hop back to the car to get to the hospital. Then we ping-ponged back and forth between hospitals because we were military with Champus insurance, meaning that the military hospital didn’t have my medical records. Finally it was settled, the military hospital would attend me, but they did not know what to do with me. 

At forty-two and a half weeks pregnant, they could not take x rays. The frustration and anxiety levels surpassed my pain. They couldn’t know if my foot was sprained or if it was a broken ankle. Would I need a cast or a surgery? Between the ER doctor and my doctor they decided to send me home with a temporary cast. The baby must be delivered on Monday before they could care for my leg and ankle. What did I hear? What important information did I walk away with? 

The baby is coming on Monday!! 

Labor and Delivery (and all with a broken leg)

Early Monday morning Ben managed to get me into the car with my new crutches, which wasn’t as difficult. It was the longest ride of my life, and the baby? He was comfy cozy in the womb. I quickly became a patient of interest in the labor and delivery ward. I mean, how many forty-three weeks pregnant ladies were going in with a broken leg? Too bad I couldn’t enjoy my moment of fame. My leg hurt. 

I was beginning to feel somewhat nervous. What if he just didn’t want to come? Then what? I was strapped to a monitor and we all watched the baby. It was pretty difficult to make him out since he took up most of the space in the womb. He was fine and didn’t seem at all anxious to meet me. 

Next, I would have to be induced. Yes! Yes! Induce me. Wait what exactly did that mean? The nurse explained the simple steps that would provoke my labor process. It didn’t sound painful. My body and my baby just were not excited about labor and delivery and I quickly discovered that maybe I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. After I was checked, (yeow!) my cervix was lined with gel medication to help with dilation. After quite some time, my body and baby were still not in sync. Time to strip the membranes. Ijole! 

By early afternoon the doctor said, “It’s going to be long.” I still hadn’t dilated. I was exhausted, contractions had no pattern. I wanted to move but I couldn’t. Why hadn’t someone explained contractions to me? Even if my mom would have been around, she wouldn’t have, those were things only adults talked about. Something had to be wrong, why was the pain so intense? Was this normal?  Yet it was just the beginning, my pain hadn’t even truly begun. 

Ben was right there by my side. Holding my hand. Not holding my hand. Praying, he was praying quietly. It didn’t take long for the doctor to suggest I take pain meds. Ben was just as desperate for me to take something. The doctor said “maybe you have extra pain because of your leg” I jumped at that reasoning! Ben was so relieved. By 5 pm I had dilated to 1 and now my baby was in distress. What did that mean? The doctor explained that his heart rate was dropping and rising with contractions. But what did that mean? It could be very dangerous and harmful if oxygen wasn’t getting to his brain. With this, the decision was made for a C-section

I was scared. What was going to happen? I was wheeled to the surgery room and prepped. Ben was prepped also. He walked into the surgery room wearing blue paper coveralls and shower cap, looking so serious that I thought he was another doctor. The doctor said to us as he measured me, “This isn’t a baby, it’s an elephant!” More morphin was administered and I was high. As I chatted away, my husband saw his first baby delivered in a bloody way! They cut me open, and the doctor reached in to get my insides out of the way to reach our fat baby. There on top of me laid my guts as they maneuvered the baby safely out. Thankfully I wasn’t too high, I saw my baby and was amazed. By the end of the night me and my baby boy were quite the celebrities. Everyone wanted to know how it was that I broke my leg and everyone in Sharp Hospital wanted to see the big 10lbs 11oz baby. 

I went home with a cast and a wheelchair for the next six weeks, but I had my baby…

I was a mother! His mother.