A Love Story

All this wedding activity stirred me up for a love story. I went back and pulled up a story I pieced together a few years ago from the fragment pieces of information that my apa and ama had shared through the years. One day as I was feeling muy romantica I asked my father “How did you meet my Ama?” He dropped this into my brain and heart:

En la Fiesta del Señor, le ofrecí una flor ye ella la acepto, y alli empezo” I melted with anxious desire to know more. When you offered that flower, who was she with? What’s La Fiesta Del Señor? What was she wearing? Y muchas mas preguntas, details that a girl needs to have. This story is grounded in facts but does have plenty of embellishments to tie it all in.  I can only imagine the hardship they experienced trying to make ends meet and the pain my ama suffered when dad came to America leaving her and the baby. I filled in the gaps to write their story.

Promesas

Maria ran inside breathless and Angel came zooming in behind her, bending down she lifted him up, Ugh! He was getting so big, nuzzling him, while she looked over at her husband’s picture on the small table she whispered “He’s coming home baby, Apa viene a casa.” She missed him so much, but Angel wasn’t affected by her news, he didn’t know the man in the picture. It was another reality that pointed to their “separate lives” marriage. She studied his handsome face and lean body, standing tall in his Levi Strauss  jeans and cowboy hat, looking tan Americano. It seemed like an eternity since he had left, worrying that he wouldn’t come back. She had spent too many days angry with her husband for leaving, but today, despite her fears, and his obvious change, she embraced the yearning she felt for him and allowed herself to remember how wonderful his full lips felt on her. She hugged her toddler tight, and whispered “you’re going to love your Apa” trying to stop the memory of the day he had left. 

***

“No llores”. He hated her tears.

 “Chuy, We talked about this. I need to feed my family and I need money to do that. I must go. En el otro lado, I’ll make lots of money and then come home quickly, before you know it!” 

 “Por favor no te vayas. Think of your hijo” Maria clung to him, hoping that duty to his son would keep him home with her.

“I’m not leaving you like that! Comprendeme, I need to go? My mother will help you with the baby” He pulled her close.

“You don’t have to leave Manuel, I will work”

 He stiffened at her words and pulled her away from him.

 “You work too hard, too long, too much. Look at you, you’re pale, you’re too thin, and the dark circles under your eyes accuse me. What kind of a man am I to allow this?

“Oh, I see.” She hugged herself trying to hide her unattractiveness from him.

“I should have left a long time ago, then I would already be back with plenty of dólares to sustain us. I’ll send money, I promise you will not have to work so hard.” 

“No Manuel, don’t leave. I promise to take better care of myself. You’ll have better eyes for me, please don’t leave. I don’t care if everyone else is living like this. I hate seeing families separate! Wives are forgotten while husbands go off to chase dolares  and who knows what else!”

“I’ll return quickly, te lo prometo” He reached for her but she turned and ran to the bathroom. His promise of a quick return pierced her while she vomited her breakfast and crumbled to the floor, holding her abdomen. Their family was growing and he was leaving. Receiving a letter meant his prolonged stay, yet not receiving a letter provoked such worry in her. What if he got ill? What if he decided not to come home?

***

Querida Chuy,

I hope you and Angel are well. I am now situated in a small room in Mexicali, Baja California, tomorrow I will look for more work on the other side, the gringos are always looking for strong help so it has been easy to get work and make money. There is plenty of work, I’ll be able to make a lot of money. Hace mucho calor! The heat is almost unbearable, pero me aguanto!  knowing that you and Angel need me I will endure this inferno. The money I’ve sent should cover all the household expenses for a while.  Como esta mi hijo? Tell him that I love him, saludos a tu familia. 

Que Dios te bendiga, te lo desea

Manuel

***

At first she had been too angry to tell him about the pregnancy. After the morning sickness had passed, she was well and so was their son. Life didn’t change much for Angel, he had quickly adopted her oldest brother; Chino as his dad and life was peachy for him. Gracias a Dios that she had him to fill her days. The baby safely grew in her womb and she yearned for her husband. She reminded herself often “He said he would come back” Maybe, telling him about the second baby would prompt him to return quickly and be with her when her time came. She wrote him a letter hoping it would arrive quickly, there wasn’t much time. 

 Her  heart was broken when she went into labor, she received a letter and more money to sustain them comfortably, but no mention of the baby. Alone she welcomed their second son and called him Arturo.

***

Eventually a letter did reach him in the Sierra Nevada mountains. His patron needed a sheep herder and he needed to keep working. A numbingly cold and lonely job, just him, the horse, Kazam the dog and the sheep in the cold outdoors. The patron had brought supplies and mail, he was ready for news from home. A letter from his wife and mother, good news he hoped. Que?! “Manuel estoy embarazada” Maria wrote that she was pregnant, But his mother had said in her letter “El niño y Chuy are just fine but come as soon as you’re able” Un hijo?! 

***

 “Apa, Apa” Angel clapped his chubby hands “Tío, mi apa!” Angels enthusiasm brought her back, “No, baby, your uncle is not your daddy. Your daddy is coming back from El Norte very soon, maybe today you’ll meet him again” she pressed on her breast as they filled with milk, “He’s coming back! And you and your baby brother will have apa home!” Angel laughed as she twirled him around, “Our family will be together again, everyone will see that we were not abandoned. She stopped abruptly in front of her broken mirror “Wow! I’ve changed so much too”  

She put her son down and touched her head, so much of her hair had fallen out during her pregnancy. Her body was still flabby from her labor and delivery. her skin pale from lack of sleep, she wondered what Manuel would think of her now. She pulled on her face, peering into the mirror piece “ aayy! que fea estoy. Ugly!” She accused the image just as Arturo wailed for his lunch, her hands flew to her breast, she winced at how hard they got if she waited too long to nurse the baby. She hesitated, looking again into her broken mirror, if Manuel walked in right now, he would notice her full rounded breast, maybe that wasn’t so bad. Beauty would have to wait again, her boys were hungry. The baby wailed demanding to be nursed and Angel pulled on her skirt, asking for a taco, he too was hungry. Manuel was coming soon and she had to do something about herself, she said to the mirror piece ”I’ll be back and maybe you’ll help me see the areas I can work on.” She ran to get a tortilla for Angel and then picked up her screaming baby. While the baby gurgled at her breast she sighed ready to end this separation and the anxiety it produced. 

She remembered her mother in-laws inability to understand her. It didn’t matter that young wives and their babies were being abandoned at epidemic proportions, while young husbands imagined streets paved with dolares. Did Manuels mother think her anxieties were unfounded? Dona Rosario was confident that her son would be loyal to his family and return as soon as he was able.  It was Marias job to care for the boys and make a nice home for them with his money. She hated when Maria wasted money, and the mirror had been a waste. 

 “Why do you need a mirror Maria? You need to be wise with the money my son sends you.” “Pero, Doña Rosario, how am I supposed to keep myself beautiful for your son if I can’t see what I look like? “No buts Maria, don’t waste money, you need to worry more about Angel and the baby that will be here soon” “No señora I need it so that if Manuel returns I will have maintained myself” She was careful all the way home, then Angel raced out to meet her and when the mirror slipped to the ground it broke in two pieces, with no time to regret it, she swooped her toddler up and took him inside so she could pick up her mirrors.

She looked into the mirror as she burped her baby, “Doña Rosario was right, Manuel is coming home and you, Mirror Mirror you really didn’t help, but you certainly taunted me every time you pointed out how unraveled I’ve been. She adjusted her dress and planted a kiss on Arturo’s cheek. 

She got busy with the meager meal, glad that soon they would eat more than frijoles,  she was tired of beans. She poured the last of the lard into the hot pan and waited for it to get hot then poured the beans into it. They sizzled then splattered, spitting on to her cheek, “Owww!” she hissed and turned to her mirror piece and it seemed to laugh at her with her red blotchy cheek.  She sighed and was glad when her toddler  took the plate of beans with such gusto, as if she had served him a steaming hot bowl of pozole, the hominy chicken soup was his favorite. She smiled and hoped that there would be enough tortillas to satisfy her growing boy. She knew Manuel had not left her to chase a dream, but to take care of them. When Manuel came they had too much business to attend to, her appearance shouldn’t matter now, but again she glanced in the mirror piece “Oh no! Now I’ll have a scar! She should get rid of that accusing glass! Tears of anxiety squeezed from her eyes as much as she was determined not to cry over such vanities. Worry marked her face as Angel ran to her and asked “Mama? Coco?” And reached up for her. “Si, Angel, just a little owie” she hugged him as a tear rolled down her face, Manuel was coming home, he promised.

Manuel walked in, quietly watching his wife and son. Angel looked up and snapped “NO! Swinging at the stranger as he clung to his mother. “Amor, que te pasa?” Maria looked up wondering what was wrong as her son’s anxiety accelerated “No, no!” Maria swung around and there stood her beautiful husband, he looked like a dark American under his cowboy hat, his blue jeans and boots.  She shrunk back anxious, noticing the American in him and his presence reminded her that she was quite undone. While Angel swung to protect his mother from the stranger she slowly took in how good he looked.  Manuel reached for the screaming toddler, murmuring his name. “Angel, Mi hijo” Angel screamed in terror “Amaaa!” Maria smiled, “Ya mi amor, ya. There There She said between tears, “Es tu papa” Manuel quickly closed the gap and embraced them both. There in his arms Maria let the tears of relief roll down her cheeks, slumping her shoulders, she allowed Manuel to take care of his family. 

Ama Heard Me Crying

I was having a quiet moment with my daughter, por supuesto que we were talking about very important matters, when her ears perked up, I could see in her face that she was making a calculation about something in her head. Then as I heard my grandbaby crying, her youngest son who’s not so baby, she put her attention back to our conversation. I had already put on my “Ama al rescate” cape. I was ready to rescue him. I said “Don’t you hear?” She calmly responded “yes, but I can tell he’s not hurt, they’ll work it out” A pos si! I’d forgotten that a mother can recognize and distinguish the different alarms her child sounds. And usually she knows when to run to him, or when he’s safe and he must figure it out. Hijole! I was all tangled up in my “rescue cape” Don’t get me wrong, I know moms (me) who have missed the cry for help or were too slow, but God helped us. Thankfully, in todays story, my Ama arrived to pull Fernando out of his mess!

The American Dream

Para mi familia, coming to “El Norte” was a slow process that began in Mexicali Baja California, a border city. This is where many other  immigrants began their pursuit of the “American Dream. My apa worked across the border and my ama probably worked harder at taking care of their growing family. They went to live in a colonia where housing and plumbing wasn’t very personal and definitely not cozy. The need for housing intensified as people were arriving. One “solution” to the growing population and daily needs was to build shared outhouses in the colonia. Everything in my sheltered inexperienced mind is grappling with the idea of leaving my house to use the bathroom. Pero pues, I’m trying to understand the logic behind this solucion. Gracias a Dios, that children are different. They’re resilient, they see most things as adventures.

Un dia, while my ama was busy, the kids were out playing. Fernando was out in the colonia playing ball with his friends, he doesn’t remember if he was playing soccer, but he was hard at play. Y de repente! That’s how it is with latinos, every story has an “all of a sudden!” element. They all noticed the BIG hole in the ground and curiosity got a hold of them. After having raised three boys myself, I can attest to the fact that boys like to take curiosity to another level! After some speculation they concluded that the ollo was for the new outhouse that was coming soon. They peered into it, they sized it up and one another and put out the challenge. “Who can get out of the ollo?” They all decided they could easily, no problem. Right here, I’ll embellish Fernandos story, because he doesn’t remember, and I have faced 3 little boys who ALWAYS did everything better and faster. Is it possible that Chapparro was too eager to top all the other boys? Por supuesto que si! And before he knew it, they were all daring him to prove it. He faced that hole and the dare, I can only imagine how much time he took ruminating about the act of the big jump. For sure the voices of his friends echoed in his mind. “You can’t do it” “Tienes miedo” and then, he was in the hole. When he looked up, his friends were gone and he was stuck. A hole that was all of a sudden an insurmountable height, maybe five feet high, he was about 3 ft high himself. Panic struck him as he realized that he couldn’t get out, forever trapped in the newly dug outhouse hole. It took him no time at all to sound his alarm. “Ama! Ama!” No response. Panic gripped him and his voice went up a notch “Ama! Ama!” and the tears gushed as he cried “Amaaa! Amaaa!” The ollo was closing in on him as he screamed for ama. And then she was there, relief flooded him. 

The Board of Education

When he was out of the hole, his relief lasted a moment because he had to face ama and answer the questions. “Porque hiciste eso?” She would never understand his need to prove himself, but he would have to learn quickly that he must stay away from dangerous scenarios. And for that short quick lesson the ‘board of education’ was needed. Fernando says that one of his grade school teachers referred to the paddle for disciplining like this. Ya se, this is a sensitive topic, so I’m just sharing facts, ama spanked him as needed, y pues all of her children felt the “board of education” as needed. She didn’t beat or abuse him, she loved him. The lesson of not following the crowd, or listening to the voices of foolishness would be ongoing lessons that everyone faces.

Gracias a Dios that my ama learned how to discern those different cries we let out as we experienced life and came to our rescue, aid or encouragement as needed. It’s pretty special to watch a mom in action when her child cries out. I have a beautiful friend who sometimes will hear her kids cry and doesn’t follow the crowd of moms who sometimes apapachan, you know hover and immediately pull their child out of their distress, without giving him/her a chance to work things out and learn their own boundaries and establish them. This fiesty latina, will hear and recognize their need and choose not to be anxious for them. 

Whether or not a mother hovers about and runs to every cry, or picks and chooses which cry is a genuine emergency, the main thing is that a mother hears her child’s cries. 

A Time To Mourn

It turns out it’s true that mourning is a winding path and not a straight line. We experienced a busy April and May, up and down and all around! Then things quieted down, ya saben, a calm before the storm of wedding planning pelts us. A quiet house is rare for the Greene home, but we’ve had a couple of days of it, bien nice! Pero, every time I slow down, even just a little bit, I start looking back, wrapping up all the events in sweet memories, but somewhere along that wrapping I feel the absence of my loved ones. I get emotional and the void in my life accuses me. If Patty were here, she’d approve of Emery’s choice. My apa wouldn’t be able to make the long trip for the wedding. Y mi ama? What would she say about my hijos? Lupe, my big sister, she’d scare Emery’s girl with her piercing Zepeda gaze. 

It all started on Memorial Day when I counted my amas, 33rd year gone to her rest. Then, that night I read a blog about caregiving, y ahora I was looking for a picture and I got caught up rereading a string of family emails about my apas care.  Tengan paciencia,  I need to go through this process, my therapy, I went back to a time when my apa was a young man of 90.

Following In His Grandfather’s Steps

(This was when my apa was still able to live in his own home with caregivers)

It was my turn to take Dad to the doctor for his neurology visit. I drove into town early and thought that I would pull him out of his adult care program early and go have a treat. I had to wait until his full four hours were complete, the program was not going to bend the rules for Don Manuel! Maybe their funding was on the line?  No choice but to wait. When my apa saw me, he knew the day was over. The ‘junta’ was over and his work was done, ‘la mesa directiva’ had made no decisions in that meeting. Many times he was frustrated with that “board of directors” for wasting his time in these meetings. You see, every weekday when my apa was picked up for his adult care program, he believed that he was going to work. A day full of meetings, like when he was a young man in 1970 working for a program called Campesinos Unidos. Asi es, for a short time my apa didn’t work out in the fields.

He was ready to leave, but we had to wait, so we made small talk. I had to keep redirecting him. He asked about my family, and his usual focus was, “Y tu hija? Valentina, ¿Ya se caso?” For some time dad had been calling my daughter Daniella, Valentina. She must have looked like a Valentina to him, so I quit correcting him. Back to Daniella’s marital status. “Si Apa ya va a cumplir 3 años de casada.”  “Como? Cuando?” He was as always very shocked to hear the news that she had already been married for a short while. I asked about his day and the response was usually, “The director stood up there and talked and talked, but I didn’t know what he was getting at” Then,  “Y tu hija, como esta? Ya se caso?” This time, although he was shocked at my answer,  he remembered, and reminded me very apologetically that he wasn’t remembering things very well anymore.  That’s when he asked again why he was going to the doctor. I explained his dementia issue. He was diagnosed with short term memory loss, the new memories were lost immediately. However, my sister and I suspected that his memory loss was very selective. I explained that his struggle with memory loss  might be helped with medication.  Suddenly he remembered his grand- father who lived to be 101 and also suffered from dementia.  

Don Manuel waiting to see the neurologist

Young Manuel with His Abuelo

His grand-father was old and frail, housebound, confused about his past and present. He lived in the past. One day as his abuelo looked out the window he saw the sky heavy with rain clouds. Manuel knew that it was a beautiful clear day, blue skies and sunshine. He listened as his grand-father worried out loud about the dark heavy rain clouds.  He turned to him and said “those clouds are heavy with rain, it looks like an ugly storm coming in.”  Manuel knew his grand-father was confused and said nothing, it happened often. Gone was his strong grandfather who had sat erect on his horse and gave orders. 

My Apa

Then Dad paused and looked at me, “It looks like I might be taking after him.” I said, “Quizas, since you’ve only got 11 years before you’re 101!” Again, shock registered in his voice, “Que tan Viejo estoy?! He didn’t remember that he was 90, he was sticking to 80. Interestingly enough, it was that year that he officially entered the ‘needing care and supervision” stage of his life.  All I could do was ask God to hold back that dementia as much as possible.   As I situated him into the car to go to the doctor, he casually asked “Y tu hija, Valentina? Como esta?”

Daniella aka Valentina 🥰

At The Appointment:

Sitting at the doctor’s office was a sad unveiling. It was crowded. Chairs too close to each other, before covid of course, when all the world stood paralyzed. Men, women, young and old people all with some kind of nerve damage or muscle injuries, looking pained, angry and entirely restless. Hijole! I cringed at what I saw, heard and imagined. Most of them were there just for refills, they needed the temporary relief from the pain. Dad wasn’t in pain, why was I there anyway? And as if dad heard my thoughts he asked “Porque estamos aqui?” 

The appointment was to see the much demanded neurologist in Imperial Valley, in which I hoped the evaluation would determine a solution, a goal… something. After an hour of waiting, dad was called.  We walked slowly to an examining room, when we sat down, my apa was suddenly clear minded and present. As we waited for the doctor to enter, he asked if he was sick? He wanted to know why we were with “this” type of doctor. He looked at me knowingly, “estoy loco.” That’s when the nurse practitioner stepped in, the doctor wasn’t available. He  greeted us, shaking dad’s hand, and both men stared at each other. 

Nurse: ¿Cómo está señor Zepeda?

Apa: Bien, con un poco de dolor en la nuca.

 He was always fine except for the pain in the back of the neck which was his usual complaint. The nurse looked at the back of his neck, determined that it was probably arthritis.

Nurse: What is your name and birthdate? 

I guess if he knew those answers he must be fine verdad? Really, a long term memory, ingrained into him after 90 years.

 Apa: Manuel Zepeda Solano, 12-15-24. 

He stared at the doctor, dismissing him with his eyes. The nurse looked at me.

Nurse: Ok, I’ll  write his prescription for a refill, doesn’t seem like there’s any changes.  Que?! Por supuesto que things were changing! Why were we there? Was the medication helping? How could we help him? And us. When we got in the car dad pulled out the $5 that was always in his wallet and said “Vamos a una nieve.” So we went for an ice cream and I enjoyed hearing more about my strong bis abuelo, Solano.

En Conclusion:

Hijole! I do miss my sisters and my parents, I don’t know when I’ll see them again. It is my prayer and hope for that reunion. Pero mientras, it helps to pull out the memories and enjoy la familia I have here on earth. 

The Mother-Daughter In-Law Dance

I’m a mother in-law “in waiting”. And as much as I don’t want it to be an anxious feeling, it is. Mi hijo, found the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Heavy sigh, cómo van a cambiar las cosas. Change is good Rosie. Sabes? They’re a good looking couple. She captured his heart and they are now an engaged couple

.…Y ahora que? Well, I’ve got my ticket to board that wedding planning roller coaster ride, suddenly, time is upon us. When they give the green light for all of us to jump in and help plan, we will. Apurate hijo! Ben said, “Wow! It’s been 10 years since our last weddings” Hijole

When You Know That You Know

Once a couple” knows,” you would think that everyone would just smoothly adjust to their sweet love and choices. Usually a couple gets giddy with fairy tales happily ever after dreams and they walk into their “revelation” expecting everyone to come for the ride. Pero pues, it’s a mixture of emotions for anyone securely connected. Emotions need to be worked out and checked as the couple prepares for their destiny.

While I’m waiting for my wedding planning assignements, come with me as I walk through some days of my early engagement days, before the wedding planning: 

Comprometida! 

Ben and I got engaged and went to share the wonderful news with my parents. No wedding plans in mind, just the realization that we would always be one. “Hijole!” My apa said to my gringo fiancee, as he put our arms next to each other “ Do you see what color she is?” I had already crossed that hurdle. It was a pretty hard hurdle to jump, es que, I was nervous. I was scared to death about marrying outside of mi gente, but after 2 years of praying and my Benjamin waiting somewhat patiently, I knew that I knew that God was for a Greene/Zepeda union so I said yes, yes, yes to his proposal. My apa’s question made me nervous but Ben, the man of few words, said “Yes, I do and I like it.” My apa watched us through the years and saw the steady man his son in-law was and he was relieved that our skin color truly didn’t matter to either of us. 

In that same visit, I look back and thank God for mi ama, who didn’t ask what the plan was, who didn’t fret just then about my wedding day. Primero, she needed to see how this young man would handle a strong Latina woman. She did as was her custom, and invited him to the table for a meal and when Ben sat down to eat she served him. He enjoyed his food, and she watched as she heated las tortillas. Maybe he was alright, at least he knew not to reject her. She offered seconds, and my flaco hungrily said yes! And that was enough, my ama liked my gringo.

For most of our engagement I was alone. Esperate! Ben didn’t ask me to marry him and ignore me. Es que, he was also committed to the U.S. Navy, so my sailor went out to sea. As a newly engaged girl I was a mess! Lonely for my Benjamin and not sure what direction to go as far as getting ready for my wedding day. My maid of honor set me straight when she could no longer watch me go in circles. Thank God for maid of honors, they are your confidants, your helpers, your doers in that busy season.

Ben had already told his mother about his Mexican-American girlfriend, so very soon after we were engaged and I was sad about Ben being away, I received a letter from my future suegra. My husband takes after her, he displays little, muy poquita emoción!  Her letter calmly welcomed me into her family and she said she looked forward to meeting me! Hijole! How do you respond to that? All kinds of questions came up in my head. What would she think? Did she know, like really know that I was brown? Ben had asked me if I would write a letter to her and he also asked if I would send a picture of myself! But I hadn’t, I just couldn’t, then I got her letter. Now I had to respond. I needed to rush and get a picture taken. In those days, we had to go to the photo studio, so Colleen, my bestie, my maid of honor suggested that I wear a nice bright shirt, a pink one! She assured me that it complimented my nice coloring. Que?! Sheesh, I had it all wrong then.

I got through the very difficult first letter just in time to start my wedding planning and started a nice letter writing friendship with my suegra to be. 

En Conclusion:
As I’m remembering these days of my engagement, I think of Emerys sweet girl and pray that God will help me to be a blessing to her now, before the wedding day. Y que Dios me los bendiga as they plan, on that day and all the days of their marriage journey.

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.

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.