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.

Mexican American Girl Goes East Part 2

Last week we travelled back East to my first visit into Ben’s world and quietly made it through Connecticut. Although it was culturally shocking to all my senses, I was glad that my husband was so eager to share his life with me. 

Gracias a Dios que I spent my introduction to the Greene family with just my mother in law and Ben at first. The rest of the cousins I’d meet at the Manse. Another tweak,  Ben called everyone except his brothers, cousins. Asi es, either first cousin Will or second cousin Bankcroft and so on. Muy diferente than our classifications of familia. In large Mexican families it can get complicated. You’ve got tios y tias, then come the cousins. So my brothers and sisters are my kids’ uncles and aunts and my first cousins are also their tios y tias, get it?. Maybe I shouldn’t stir that pot huh?

The Mysterious New Englanders

With so many new waters to tread, I wasn’t sure how well I handled it all, and my suegra? Well she was just like a New Englander, cool, calm and collected no matter what she thought of this spicy or feisty latina! Aqui, right here, in the beginning of this post, I’ll confess that even after almost 33 years of communion with my Benjamin, New Englanders remain a mystery to me. 

Mi Suegra

Maybe Nancy, y no me juzguen, it’s actually very appropriate to use her first name, she encouraged it, no disrespect intended. In spanish I would probably have called her Doña Nancy.

Anyway, maybe she just put herself in my shoes. A young pregnant wife, away from her comfort zone. I’m very much like my ama, if I feel it I show it, if I’m not feeling it, I show it more. Then drench my culture shock with pregnancy hormones, hijole!  I felt like Ben needed to school me or warn me about the “New Englander ways,” but he didn’t. Nancy was gracious and patient as I discovered this new world.

In the fews months of marriage I knew from pictures and Bens descriptions that he came from an “upper middle class”. Imaginate! I didn’t even know there was an upper and lower deck to the middle class, and to be fair to Ben, he never really thought of it or considered what “class” he was in. I mean the family pictures on the boat in the ocean was a natural occurrence to him.

Through the house in Connecticut, I saw that Ben’s family was comfortable with money, but it wasn’t like I imagined or saw in movies. Their money comforts were not necessarily in rich clothes or new cars or showy things. My suegra drove a small white honda accord, Nancy was no showy lady. 

The Greenes appreciated history, personal history. “Rich” things were items passed down through the generations. They were “rich” in talent and displayed it and yes, they were quite comfortable in their material possessions but they didn’t make a grand affair of their stuff. This helped me to relax…poquito.

Bens Parents & his brother Jeremy

New Hampshire

After a few days in quiet Connecticut I was glad to be on our way to New Hampshire, I needed some distraction and activity, nature was too noisy for me.  It was another beautiful drive of winding back roads lined with huge trees. Everytime Ben turned around to point out a childhood memory, he’d have to wake me up. I was ripping him off of his reminiscing delights with my first trimester, I was nodding off with every curve we took.

It was almost time to meet some more Greenes at the family meeting.  They came from everywhere to gather time every summer. We pulled up into a long driveway in front of the huge house. I had already been seeing the white wood siding and green shutter trimmed houses with lots and lots of windows along the way, but this one was different. The Manse was personal, it’s where the Greenes reconnect. Que suerte, the house was empty. Well maybe not luck, but God’s grace, as I needed time to absorb it all. 

History

Acuerdense, los Greenes, they go all the way back to England, before the New World. Pero, no se asusten, I’ll only go back a couple hundred years 😉.

In the late 1700s Laban Ainsworth, the family patriarch, travelled with his wife, on horseback from Woodstock, Ct. to Jaffrey, NH. There he established his ministry and parsonage as the new appointed minister of the small town. Sounds pretty straight forward verdad que si? According to history and family stories it was a very hard time, but when I’ve heard the accounts from any “even keel” Greene, it seemed like no kind of trial ruffled them. I’m trying to tell it just as a Greene, without drama. Pero, surviving scarlet fever, enduring the American Revolution and escaping your house burning down es bien dramatico!

Heritage

The Ainsworth Manse has remained in the family for 7 generations. The Greene name, that’s Green, with an “e” at the end, linked in when Ben’s great great grandfather, Admiral Theodore Phinney Greene married Señor Laban Ainsworths granddaughter. Mary Minot Ainsworth. From this point the lineage is easier to follow, mas o menos. Their son, Frederick William Greene inherited the Manse. In his lifetime, the early 1900s, he made additions and “modern day” changes as needed. Fijense, check this out, the family has worked hard to preserve the F.W. Greene estate and many of the items within. Remember I told you that antiques are a serious thing in New England? I need to plug in that the other family name is Torrey, which came in when the Torrey brothers married the Greene sisters. These were Ben’s grandparents. 

The Greenes/Torreys have managed to enjoy and maintain the Manse in the 21 century, while hanging on to its 19th and 20th century heritage. 

Walking Through the Manse

The Foyer

 Pasenle, welcome to the Manse. The original house has a large dining room with a fireplace, where the cooking was done, a cooking pot hung in there. Hijole, I am glad the family didn’t insist on that much antiquity. The music room, off to the side, opens to a long patio. A long picnic table is there for dining during the nice summer evenings. It’s encased with a window mesh screen to keep the mosquitos out, but they come anyway! The foyer, a long wide hall where the staircase and front door are, separates the parlor and library. I imagine visitors waited to be escorted to the parlor, or perhaps the library? I’ve read about these scenes in books by Grace Livingston Hill. In my world, visitors called out their greetings from the yard, “Buenos dias Doña Chuy!” Sometimes, the whole visit took place right outside in the yard.

Laban Ainsworth and his wife Mary in the Parlor

At the Manse, maybe a person was admitted into the foyer hung their heavy coat on the coat rack and waited on the settee. Asi es, pero I had only read about coat racks and settees. Upstairs, each of the 4 bedrooms all had a fireplace for those cold fall and winter nights. In New England people know what four seasons are. The Large bathroom had a deep clawfoot tub. Gracias a Dios, that Ben wouldn’t have to lug water to fill it. The window was small enough, and I wouldn’t have to steam up the bathrooms for privacy.

The Prophets chamber/ modern day middle children quarters 😉

Then Ben showed me the “L” part of the house, this held the additions and improvements of the early 1900s.  The L consisted of a kitchen, a bathroom, backstairs and a storage room. These are all part of a long and dark wide hallway. At the end of the hallway, there is the barn and a privy; an “indoor” outhouse, which I always avoid. 

Back hall of the L/modern day hide and seek arena

Upstairs, over the L are 5 more bedrooms, and a  bathroom and way at end of that upstairs hallway is another privy, this one was a 3-holer, Wacala! 

Did I mention that some of the rooms had names because of the people who originally used them or some other notable trait? The Cannon Ball room, The Nursery, The Prophets Chamber, The Boys room, The Canopy Room, Uncle Freddys Room (not at all scary for a California girl 😬). I used to wonder about that tradition, but now I find myself having names for the rooms in our home: Emerys Room, Citas Room, Tatas Room, The Office, the backroom…

The Nursery

The house scared me a little, ok, it scared me alot! It is creaky and dark and it has a deep earthy smell. The ancestors portraits hang on the wall and their eyes follow you when you pass by. Old pictures dan miedo! That first visit, I never went downstairs alone, I’ve grown accustomed to the old house now, but I do avoid those eyes still!

The Manse, in Jaffrey NH is our summer home. Bien huyuyui! We share it with the other branches of the family, dividing up the weeks of summer so that we can enjoy it personally. Every generation has added their modern day comforts, which for the next generation are considered “old fashion” as the years have passed. Horsehair mattresses, yup. Pot Belly stove, utensils and cooking ware from each century, of course the older the more valuable. The Greenes/Torreys believe in hands-on experiences so nothing is too valuable to deprive a family member from using it, eso si, con cuidado por favor.  After all these years, I must admit that I’ve still got so much to learn about Ben and our kids’ rich History. Getting to family meetings in the summer has definitely helped my Greene growth and appreciation. 

Little Ben holding a family tree, Ancestry.com has nothing on the Greene’s!

Its such a rare treasure to be able to pass on so much history to our kids. This perhaps planted the seed to research my own history. Years ago Dad and I were stuck in the hospital for days. Talking kept him calm, and the conversation turned to memories. I started writing down his stories. While it may not be as well documented and preserved, I’ve spent years picking my dads brain, documenting those memories and researching all I can. I now have my own treasure trove of history.

Next week I’ll tell you about the cousins and the family meeting.

Mexican-American Girl Goes East

I’m going to tell you about my New England connection, si pues, this Mexican-American has a few stories and an array of emotions as I discovered Bens gringo world. Nowadays it’s nothing new to find one of mi gente on the East Coast, but back in the mid 80s when I started the brown Mrs. Greene journey I really felt all alone. 

Mixing cultures and social economic lives did add to my conundrum. Hay si, muy gringa, with my big english words verdad?

So I’ll have to go back to the time before the fireworks display of our engagement. 

Having been in San Diego Ca. only a year and a half, the melting pot of cultures intimidated me. My upbringing, with the unspoken but obvious boundaries made me shun gringos. White guys didn’t notice me, I certainly wasn’t going to notice them. Period. 

An Interracial Relationship

You can imagine the incredible turmoil and betrayal I experienced when I noticed my Benjamin! A White guy from New England!? Not even a tanned Californian! Of course I rejected the idea for a season and moved on… and went back…and moved on…but eventually the fireworks burst out the wonderful colorful display of our young love and promise. A hopeful new beginning like God’s promise through the rainbow, a much needed display that sealed the deal.

Jesus People Wedding

Benjamin Walter Greene and I were married in a “Jesus People wedding”. I looked around for a definition of our kind of ceremony and couldn’t find one, so instead of google defining or describing our wedding I will. Our wedding ceremony centered around Jesus instead of the bride. Right in the middle of our Sunday morning worship service the bride comes in. No grand procession of walking the aisle. Doesn’t that sound just right for me? If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll note that I’m a simple girl. A simple wedding was just my stilo but for some brides, or mother of the brides, it’s a huge deal! Hijole

We heard the good news of the Gospel, pledged our hearts and lives to our marriage covenant with a resounding I do. We broke bread with our families, sweet and simple, the honeymoon awaited us. Then, we stepped into the twilight zone of our mixed marriage, well mostly I travelled by myself because for some reason Ben was not tripping! 

Our First Year of Marriage

It was a first year full of fireworks, mourning and hormones, asi es, explosive! My ama had just passed in May, I learned I was pregnant in June and we were scheduled to fly out to the East Coast in July. My life was already upside down and I was going clear across the country to the other coast, Pacific to Atlantic! A whole new world. 

Ben was excited! He couldn’t wait to show me his childhood home and life. As the weeks drew closer he showed me again pictures of his family home in Connecticut, a house his architect father had designed. However, for the Greene/Torrey Family, the real treasure is the family estate home, which is called the Manse. Yes, the houses have names! Manse means the residence of a minister. 

Ben told this little desert girl with barely any roots in America that his family traced back ancestors to England and the Mayflower! Que hiba pensar? So many levels of OMGs!

I accused Ben calling him an Aristocrat! A cold blooded Englishman! My son Emery would say white privilege! Rico! Y yo? No wonder mi apa was very nervous about us marrying. Of course, this is what was causing my nausea. Ben needed to go alone on his voyage to see his family.

Facing My Fears

Everything I had feared was gonna happen to me now! How could Ben make me go? How could Ben leave me all alone? How could Ben even think of going at all? Wasn’t he supposed to leave his family and cleave to me, his wife? I didn’t think I could survive being surrounded by only English speaking people, who would I turn to? 

The East Coast

July came and we boarded our flight to New York City. If I was gonna go so far away I had to have someone familiar so we visited friends in NYC. I thought the Big Apple was for the rich and famous or for the peliculas, no movie, it was the real deal. This Mexican American played tourist in the big city, even if it was only a few days. We visited the Statue of Liberty, The Twin Towers and experienced New York pizza. We wanted to walk the streets of Spanish Harlem but didn’t feel confident enough, I guess my small town barrio experience wasn’t gonna cut it. The New York Ricans were the spanish speakers, sort of. I barely understood them and they said I spoke spanish like I was singing! Three days passed like the whirlwind and before we knew it  we were on a train for  Connecticut. Que aventura verdad? I didn’t realize that the adventure was going to slow down to a complete stop. Life in my husbands world was calm, very calm. It made my heart race, crazy huh?

Staten Island Ferry

A Quiet Vacation

Just getting out of the city quieted everything down, except for my thoughts. Bens mom met us at the train station, a quiet reunion and ride home. I was the only one who felt awkward, I’m glad I was in the backseat because I would have been awkwardly fishing for conversation topics. Right here is a good place to tell you that apart from coming from different worlds, Ben and I are complete opposites. I’m a talker, I’m noisy, I’m busy, I’m loud…he’s not. Wow! It was going to be a silent two weeks.

New England is beautiful. Man! I’m terrible about these types of details, I hope I can hang on to your attention here. Greenery, tall trees, lakes. Aver, see if this helps you see how I saw things. We drove down the narrow roads with tall trees on each side and looking far into the distance you almost felt like the trees were going to close you into a tunnel. Bien bonito, like in the movies. compare that to the dry desert view of the Imperial Valley 

Mosquitos

In the big city, with all the pollution and noise the mosquitoes didn’t bother me, but as soon as I stepped out of Nancys car, they welcomed my fresh blood. Ben says it’s that spicy latina blood that I bring from the West. 

The Architect and the Artist

Ben’s dad had designed the house in an H shape. Muy interesante. The tall pillars of the H were the main rooms and bedrooms. The horizontal pillar of the H had the bathrooms and laundry room. I haven’t lost you have I? One of the openings of the H was where the front door was, while the back deck covered the other opening of the H. The deck had been built with a tree planted in center for shade, eventually. It was quite serene, until my eye caught a little gargoyle propped over the roof’s edge. Although it was an artistic touch, it bothered me. Maybe el cucuy was supposed to keep Ben and his brothers in check?

Ben on the left and his brother Sam when the tree shade was barely growing

Right in the front yard was an old rusty tractor as decor. Where I’m from esos tractores were child’s play for us. Pero, on the East Coast antiques are a big deal. The house stood tall and serene in its natural wood. The living room and dining room had large wall size windows that overlooked a large field and pond.  It was truly a Good Housekeeping magazine scene. My mother in law was a multi talented artist and her home displayed her artistic hand.

Bens Childhood Home in Connecticut

This was all so new to me, I felt like I was in a museum and Ben was enjoying giving me a tour of his house. Things that were commonplace to him, were amazing to me. Like a windy staircase, como los ricos, that went down to the basement. Basement? Only in some of the books I read.

More large windows. Imaginate, in the bathroom! They could easily be peeked into from the dining room with it’s wall size windows. How in the world was I going to shower? Thankfully, my husband shared the secret for a comfortable shower time. Run your hot water, steam the windows then you could relax. I’m a bit indecisive on where I should include the fact that the bathroom door slid into the wall, they didn’t really secure shut. Pero Pues, I got through my first few days in New England without too much verguenza, thankfully, everytime I showered the windows stayed completely steamed and covered.

I’ll have to do a part two post on my first New England experience since I haven’t even described my Manse experience, you know the Greene/Torrey Estate house in New Hampshire? Es que, there’s so much reaction in this first visit. So many things we take for granted, like chile!  A meal without chile, Asi es! No chile whatsoever, not even tabasco sauce. Hijole! All you salsa and chile addicts are feeling me right now huh? This was only the beginning to my cultural shocks in the kitchen that I would experience.

My experiences would be considered “A first world problem” but as silly as it was, I had a lot of adjusting to do, I think it might be called assimilating? Chale! Nope, I would have to make some Mexican American contributions to my new family.

Next time I’ll take you to the Manse in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

The Manse in Jaffrey NH

I would love to hear about your culture shocks or adjustments as you encountered other countries or cultures, even here in America.

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.  

Wedding Bells and the Introduction to the Hall of In-Laws

I was a very little girl when I first heard the term sister in-law. I wasn’t sure what exactly that meant. Somehow when my brother got a wife, I would get another sister, and the law was going to be involved.

I wondered if she was going to give me the same bossy big sister  attitude that my other three sisters already enforced? “Rosie, bring me some water.” “Rosie, subele al la tele. I can’t hear it” Rosie this, Rosie do that. (How many big sisters could a 8 year old handle anyway?)

Just as I was wrapping my head around the idea, I was informed that I was to be a flower girl in the wedding. Ugh! A flower girl! What was that? It didn’t sound good, sounded like a sissy-lala girly mess and I wasn’t going to have a choice in the matter! Yikes! This in-law thing was heavy.

Bridezilla

My soon to be sister…inlaw….was uptight, I wondered what life was going to be like with her in the family. Of course I didn’t know then, what I know now and that is, almost every soon to be wife goes through with another ceremony known as the Bridezilla metamorphosis. I did, my bestie/maid of honour will confirm it without hesitation. My own sweet sweet daughter scared me at one point, but I’d never admit that. (She was a beautiful Bride but ‘Zilla’ affected her quiet nature.)

Pretty can be painful

The day before the wedding, all the girls in the wedding party were giddy with excitement as they were primped and prettied. I was miserable and uncooperative. Cual fue mi pecado, that I should have to endure such silliness? Then it was my turn, everyone was excited to see how the hairdresser would transform my thick wiry long hair (BTW, long hair was my moms rule) into a beautiful hairdo.

I was mad, my lips stuck out, my eyebrows knitted together and I squirmed with every pull of my hair.  She gave me gum, which helped distract me as she pulled and separated strands of my hair and rolled them in the curlers. If my chewing annoyed her, she didn’t show it, but of course my big sisters warned me when I would pull the gum out and stretch it as thin as I could, then pop it back into my mouth. I chewed that piece of gum all day long, took it out to eat then back again.  At one point in the busy day my almost sister in-law warned me about not going to bed with the gum in my mouth. I kept getting in trouble every time I itched my head because of the curlers in my hair.

Everyone was busy, I was tired, so I was sent to bed to get me out of their hair. The gum was forgotten as I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up with gum stuck on the curlers through my hair! Everyone panicked and I was rushed to the hairdresser. (I can almost hear the siren of their distress). They all watched in suspense as she carefully clipped the gum out of my hair and released my hair from the curlers and pronounced in victory, I would still be a pretty little  flower girl. ARGH! I felt like I needed another gum.

Walking down the aisle

I walked down the aisle, in my white poofy dress and big hairdo, tossing flower petals to the ground. I heard a lady say, “Que bonita esta!” (I was very self controlled with a pasted smile and no rolling of the eyes- I mean, how could I not be with my big sisters watching me) the bride was behind me, stepping on my petals, radiant and beautiful. As I tossed rose petals to the ground I walked into in-law-ness and it seemed kind of bleak to me. 

Sister in-law

What else would this sister-in-law make me do? Relatives by marriage were to be handled with special care and somehow I already knew it. So I practiced the new role to a fault, saying the wrong things, not understanding the family connection and pretty much dismissing it, I had too many people bossing me around already and I only had one little brother to boss and he wasn’t letting me.

Becoming the In-law

Then at 22 it was my turn to become an outlaw. That’s what my husband’s family call the relatives who connect through marriage. I felt especially outlawed since I thought, that they thought, I was way out there from different land.  A Mexican-American from the West Coast who met their son in his Pentecostal church! (How much more convoluted could this get?)

In-law, Outlaw, Gringo-law?

I was kind of used to in-law-ness from a little sister perspective, now I was facing brother-in-laws who were gringos and I was the first brown Greene. They were nice, polite and quiet. (hmmm why was that?) My bottom line, they were sangrones. Stuck up, keeping me at arms length was their way of letting me know my place.

I can see my bestie, throwing her hands up in frustration at my interpretations and all I can say today is that, that I was wr…wrong.. But those kind of thoughts are real, they will can take you for a roller coaster ride if you let them, unfortunately, I did go on that ride a few times and after 32 years of being Mrs. Greene I still get that invitation for that nasty ride sometimes. 

Could our worlds come together?

The daughter in-law role was especially scary for me. Just thinking of it made me awkward and nervous. Of course I was on a one track mind, she knows I’m Mexican! (You can take this Mexican out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of this Mexican)

Soon after we got engaged my mother in-law introduced herself in a letter, since I wouldn’t meet her until the day before the wedding. Through her letter she welcomed me into her family. I’m sure she did this to put me at ease, to break the ice maybe, but instead it added to my anxieties about having a mother in-law that was another color, another economic status and she was so cool and calm. Scary.

In her letter she said she looked forward to meeting and knowing me; I was to be her first daughter! What?! I couldn’t be another mothers daughter!  

What’s in a name?

How was I supposed to address her? She wasn’t my mother, or my peer, and she certainly was not my friend. (Was that even allowed anyway?)

In my world, my sister-in-law simply called my Mom, Suegra, or by her nickname Dona Chuy, short for Maria de Jesus. Can you picture me calling my quiet poised white mother in-law suegra? Or worse, greeting her with, “Hello mother-in-law.” After we were married I avoided calling her anything, in fact I just avoided her! I was super thankful that she lived clear across the country. I did ask my husband what he thought I should call her and he suggested I ask her, as if it was easy (he didn’t know I was practicing social distancing). She graciously said to me “You can call me mom, or Nancy, whatever you’re most comfortable with.”

Well, I was most comfortable with not addressing her at all! 

She is clothed in strength and dignity

She was quiet, and serious looking. Quiet people tend to make me a bit nervous and I end up talking too much. (Which is crazy or providential because my husband, my daughter, my daughter inlaw and my bestie are quiet, calm people. Thankfully, God arranged enough crazy and loud friends in my life to keep me in reality.) Of course I analyzed her quiet nature through my brown shades and also judged her as sangrona, imagining her to be stern and not wanting anything to do with the likes of me. My mother in-law was gracious and kind to me. She had once been a new daughter in-law and was now navigating through her own new mother in-law role.

I was the new Mrs.Greene who was too careful and worked too hard at being a mature wife.  I was hoping that I looked pretty and poised next to her son. I practiced what my Ama had taught me, and took care of my husband, serving him first. Inside I felt like a lost little Mexican girl amongst all the white folks, all 4 of them. My mother in-law graciously let me find my place in my new family.

Nancy, is what I settled with. I wasn’t comfortable, but it felt better than anything else. I eventually learned that my mother in-laws’ mannerisms were, just that, her mannerisms, and not a judgment against me or about me, (as my dear friend would say, “it’s not always about you Esa!”) What she gave her son, she gave also to me.  At Christmas she gave me gifts just as thoughtfully as she gave to her son. Then soon after, she thoughtfully gave to our kids, her grandkids and reward.

In the few short years of our relationship  she wrote me letters and sent birthday cards. In her non-intrusive way she demonstrated her care and her confidence in us. My mother taught me how to make tortillas and my mother in-law taught me how to bake bread. 

Nancy was a Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart, very creative and artistic. I’m grateful that our children got those genes. I still have the lovely painting she made just for me when I was just a wee little bride; Posies for Rosie.

Posies for Rosie by Nancy Greene 1988

Crowned a Mother in-law

Now I am a mother-in-law. I can almost walk back into my mother-in-law’s shoes and clearly read the caution signs she must have seen. What a minefield this relationship can be and seeing all the explosives doesn’t make it easier. Once I had questioned every move or look from my mother-in-law and now, I’m aware of every tone I use and every look I give.

My personality is outspoken, when needed, I can be aggressive, and a momma bear. My daughter in-law is quiet, sometimes timid and soft spoken, she has an air of sweetness about her that adds to her natural beauty. I look past her timidity and see how graceful she can be and am not at all surprised at how very much my son loves her. 

I wanted to embrace my daughter in-law and welcome the newest Mrs. Greene into the family but I truly felt that I would suffocate her, (hugging is something I already do very awkwardly). I didn’t want to scare her, anymore than she already was. I had been in her shoes, so I didn’t do much at all, except smile in my gruff Zepeda way, because I needed her to know I wasn’t angry, I just looked it sometimes.

God seems to always connect me with opposites. My daughter in-law and I have come a long way, as we’ve worked out our relationship, we’ve discovered that our vastly different personalities and generation gap can still manage to produce good family ties and wonderful friendship. 

I thank God always for these incredible opportunities and connections in the in-law world.

Flash Back to New Years Eve 33 Years Ago

December 31, 1987

 Ride the Inspiration Wave

I have this nagging feeling as I write these posts. Why? Because my daughter Daniella (also known as my Techy girl) said that I just need to write as I am inspired! Well, that has thrown me off my track! I wanted to set this whole thing up in a chronological order and that was supposed to show you how my life evolved into a Greene lifestyle.

Guess what? Today’s date: New Year’s Eve has inspired me, which means, I’m fast forwarding and skipping for now, all those important chapters. (Who knows, I might get inspired to tell you all about my move to San Diego 36 years ago, when I discovered there were other brown people, and they were not called Mexicans!) But, for now I am stirred to tell you about the day I said yes to my gringo 😊.

Dating

He was a sailor and out to sea often, and I was working 2 jobs. We struggled, shuffling our schedule around to make dates and spend time together. One New Year’s Eve, after dating my Benjamin for about 6 months, (I cannot leave out the detail that we had known each other for 2 years and had already dated, broken up and gotten back together. His gringo-ness scared me, but this time I dated him already knowing I was ready for more.)

On New Years Eve, 1987, I was looking forward to a nice dinner and just some quality time with him. He was taking me to a fancy restaurant (another detail: when we dated the first time around, he had to teach me all about utensil etiquette, I mean, why would I need two different kinds of forks? And why did he put his cloth napkin on his lap, what was it for anyway?).

I wanted to look pretty, beautiful was too high a target for my simple self, but my roomie helped me put together a classy look. I wanted him to see me shine! I wanted him to know I loved him; I was just too scared to admit it.

He picked me up in his 1963 Econoline van and we went to Sea Port Village. It was a beautiful night. He took me to an expensive Seafood restaurant were I ordered chicken. I followed his lead to make sure I did not make any etiquette bloopers in that fancy restaurant.

Benjamin is a quiet guy. I am not quiet, and I certainly wasn’t that night. I was chatting away, catching him up on all of the news he had missed while he was out to sea, (the important stuff, you know, like who was dating who). He seemed so nervous. I picked up on it and then I felt awkward. All of a sudden, he said, “Let’s go walk” I was thrown off, but agreed.

He was jittery and I was getting sullen, wondering why he was behaving weird. The night was failing. As we walked along the boardwalk the fireworks started and I allowed myself to enjoy them. I was hoping that maybe we would have a romantic moment. I turned to smile at Ben, and he wasn’t next to me, so I had to turn completely around, looking for him.

Right there, so public an act, my quiet Benjamin was on one knee with a ring box in his hand. My hands went to my face in shock as he said, “Rosie, will you marry me?”

No wonder those fireworks were so beautiful that night. The night another wonderful chapter in my life opened. 

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