I think back about my life sometimes too much… and realize that the years have been going faster than I wanted them to.
I had been married almost two years, with a young son just under a year old. My husband worked as a pile driver in theWashington,D.C.area and I was a data entry operator inLanham,Maryland. We had lived in the Kent Village Apartments for over a year and were now looking for a new home.
I was driving around in an area I liked that was not too far from the apartments when I spotted a two bedroom home under construction. There were six of them altogether and they all had nice front yards and full back yards which would be ideal for kids. The front of the house was a half brick look which I really liked because it was a little different. I wrote down the phone number so I could call and ask more about it.
My husband and I talked with the builder and we ultimately decided to try and buy it. We had most of the down payment but had to ask for help from my Aunt Rita to make up the rest. To my surprise, she agreed to lend us thirteen hundred dollars which I promised to pay back in six months’ time. That was a lot of money back then, but one thing was certain; Rita knew I would pay it back.
We settled in to our new home and neighborhood and life continued on as my husband and I worked hard to have a family life. We had friends that we bowled with in a Friday night league and that was always fun. Our babysitter lived close by in our neighborhood, which was helpful, because we always ended up having something to drink while we were out. I couldn’t drink as much since I’d be looking after my son the next day. My husband, of course, slept half the morning because it was Saturday and nothing was a priority to him.
This one morning when I woke up, I rushed to the bathroom. I was sick to my stomach and I thought it must have been from drinking too much the night before. I didn’t think about it again until the following month when I didn’t have my regular period. Could I be pregnant?
My doctor had discussed birth control pills with me after my first son was born, but my husband was against it. He didn’t believe in “the pill” and did not want me on them. He said that “we” would take our own precautions. Well, it looked like one of us had not taken the proper precautions.
When I knew for a fact that I was pregnant, I sat down with my husband to give him the good news. All I can say is, it’s a good thing the roof was attached to the house because he surely hit it. One thing was quite evident. He did not want another child and throughout the conversation he made it abundantly clear that I was the one to blame for this unexpected situation.
Our life continued and it was not always easy. One night he came home and asked me if I would like to go to the movies. I said that would be lovely. The movie we saw was Cyrano de Bergerac which had been a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rotund. Mel Ferrer played Cyrano in the movie version and had won an Academy Award for best actor. I was every bit of twenty-one and I was in such awe of this movie. The one thing I remember more than anything was Cyrano’s best friend Christian.
Christian was in love with Roxanne but became tongue-tied when trying to speak to her. Cyrano would hide behind a bush and speak the words on behalf of Christian to Roxanne who was on her balcony. Cyrano was always very eloquent in his speech. Every time he spoke Christian’s name, it sounded to me like he was saying “Chris John” instead of Christian. I liked the movie but, more than anything, I really loved the name Chris John.
Being pregnant this time was not easy. I gained twenty-five pounds, the same amount I did with my first son. I was all “front belly” and my grandmother said I looked like a football and then she would smile. This baby did not move much and it concerned me. I used to lie down to make it move.
With son number one, I got used to the idea of constant motion in the womb but with this one, not much movement at all. The relationship with my husband was not the best so I didn’t say much about my concerns. He spoke very little to me the whole eight months of pregnancy. I knew he was upset but the barrier he put between us was more than I could handle. I cried many times but it was all to no avail.
On a hot July morning, I called Hank to come get me because I knew something was wrong. I had so much pressure in my abdomen, I could hardly walk. My next-door neighbor, Ruth, was a nurse and she suggested that I ask the doctor to have a look at me. My doctor was on vacation so I spoke to his replacement. He told me to come in to the hospital and he would meet me there.
SibleyHospitalwas quite a distance so at some point Hank was speeding. Next thing we saw were red lights. When Hank stopped, he told the policeman I was in labor and I don’t have to tell you the policeman put his lights and sirens back on and escorted us all the way to the emergency room. By the time I got inside, the pressure was so bad my voice was rising quite a bit. I remember yelling at the doctor to please do something quick and his kind remark to me was, “if you would keep still, I could.”
When I woke up I was in a hospital bed. The phone on the end table in my room was screaming at me. Getting my senses together, I leaned over and answered it. The caller was Carole, one of my friends. She questioned me quite extensively, wanting to know if everything was all right and did I need anything. I asked her why it wouldn’t be all right. Then she proceeded to tell me my son was born choking with the cord wrapped around his neck and that he had been turning blue. They said I got to the hospital just in time.
Well, I had known nothing about this and felt an urgent need to find out what was going on. Just as I tried to get up, the nurse walked into the room. I panicked and asked her where my son was. And was he okay? I wanted so badly to see him. She calmed me down and let me know he was fine but in an incubator and would need to be there for a few days. I could see him shortly, she assured me.
I stayed in the hospital for five days and Hank came to see me only once. It did not seem to faze him one bit that all this was happening – and that depressed me. To make matters worse, when I got discharged, my father-in-law came to take me home, not my husband. That was just one bridge too far. I was told you can get depressed after having a baby. We called it “baby blues” and mine stayed with me for quite a while.
It still amazes me how strong you can become from living the life you’re in, even at such a young age. Perhaps it is called growing up. I was almost twenty-two years old and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
My blessings were my two sons Richard and now Christopher John – “Chris John” like in the movie. I would have named him Christian but the name Christopher John sounded stronger, bolder. I thank God every day for having my son born healthy after so many complications. He was such a beautiful baby with thick black hair and big brown eyes. This child was born with a lot of my features and that made me happy.
As for my marriage, I didn’t have a crystal ball to see where that was heading. All I knew for certain was that I would be the best mother I could for my two boys. Their health and well-being were all that mattered and caring for them was the most important thing going on in my life then.
And to be honest, forty-something years later… it still is.