Saturday, August 5, 2017

And Baby Makes Three

Gary, me and Chris at his baptism
Our folks had long since given up any hope of grandchildren from us. But now, I was thirty-four and Gary thirty-six years old and we were expecting!

My first doctor at the HMO, a young intern, went berzerk. "Do you know what this means?" he asked. "I'm having a baby," I responded. He went on to tell me all the horrible things that happen to older women, suggesting I needed testing to be sure the baby did not have a birth defect. I said no, I would mother the baby God had given me. I then asked for a new doctor. Our new physician, Anita Darpino, was wonderful.

I, of course, bought or borrowed twenty books on child raising in preparation. We signed up for an expectant parent class and were the oldest people in the room!

We decided to name our baby Christopher if a boy or Elizabeth if a girl. This way our baby could have a nickname, Chris or Beth.

As my pregnancy advanced I made a dress like a tent with a big bow. I discovered some people at work who didn't know me well thought I was just gaining weight.

My work friends held a baby shower for me.
At the baby shower wearing the pregnancy dress I made

Mom held a baby shower for me at her house and then my folks drove the unwrapped gifts to us and gave me a baby shower.
Mom's baby  shower held at my home.
I made the dress. My brother made the toy box.
On July 6 we went to the doctor after work. She said I had another two weeks. I was exhausted. At 10 pm I was in bed and turning off the light when my water broke. I got up and dressed and we went back to the hospital-- where we had just been as my doctor's office was there-- and I was admitted.

Gary had prepared mixed tapes for me to listen to, Gordon Bok and other folk singers we enjoyed. I had a fetal monitor on and every time I rolled on my side to sleep, a nurse woke me up and told me to get on my back. I can't sleep on my back!

The next morning they induced labor. That afternoon Gary told the nurses it was time but they did not believe us because of the monitor readings. Finally, Dr. Darpino arrived and said yep, it was time. Too late for the epidural dose! I was told to wait until the OBGYN arrived. Right.

Around two in the afternoon we had a son. The doctor remarked on two things: I never screamed and our son was born with his eyes open.
Chris one day old
When they placed Chris on my tummy we looked into each other's eyes, too exhausted to move. I fell in love.
Me and Chris
Gary had to return home to take care of P.J. and call our parents. The baby was taken away and the nurses disappeared. During the birth, there must have been a dozen people in the room. Suddenly I was alone. And helpless.

The television above the bed had been turned on and was airing a daytime talk show. It was driving me crazy. It felt like forever before I could get the energy to push the buzzer to call the nurse."Turn that TV off," I demanded, "and turn the air conditioner down--I'm freezing." I was covered with a blanket, the room was now dark and quiet, and I finally got some sleep.

The next day I was sent home although Chris had a high bilirubin count. I had three months pregnancy leave and Gary had a month. Gary waited on me hand and foot. A nurse came to the house and we took Chris to the clinic. Chris was losing weight and I had to give up trying to nurse and use a bottle. We gave him light therapy for jaundice. Soon he improved and rallied, putting on weight until he was in the 98%.

It was hot that July with two weeks straight with heat in the high 90s. I didn't leave the house except to take Chris to the clinic.

Gary took the 11 pm and 2 am feedings and I took the 6 am. By the time Gary returned to work, Chris was sleeping through the night, midnight to 6 am!

Friends from work came to visit me on for 35th birthday.
the girls from the office brought me a birthday party
We researched daycare options for Chris. The affordable ones were horrible, ten babies to one caregiver, and open windows with bees flying in. We found one that had only five babies to a caregiver, but it cost $100 a week.
Gary and Chris. We bought our first computer during my last months of work.
My folks came to visit. Mom planned to stay for two weeks to take care of Chris when I returned to work.  I cried all day my first day back. I missed my baby. I wanted to raise him myself and not miss a second. $79 a week was not a worthwhile tradeoff. I turned in my notice.

My going away card from Vic.
Larry, who is a marvelous cook as well as a talented musician, gave me a going away dinner. I kept in touch with my BOP friends, Chris and I joining my old friends for lunch at the cafeteria.

Gary and I had left FUMCOG and joined the smaller Chestnut Hill UMC where our clergy friend John from MFSA was a pastor. John always gave a sermon to the baby being baptized. It was very memorable and when he returned to parish ministry Gary adopted the tradition. There were a number of young families with preschool children.

Larry called me the 'only married single mother' he knew. Gary was gone so much, and Chris and I were home alone.

I had to walk P.J. with Chris in the stroller. It was time-consuming, taking the stroller down the front steps, then Chris, then returning for the dog. And the door always had to be locked.

Chris was only a few months old when I noted he was imitating language. I always said, "Hi, baby" when I came into his room in the morning. He was saying "I" back at me! And then he was chanting, "E-A" when ever he saw the dog, trying to say P.J.

Pay attention to me! P.J. demanding equal time.

Chris loved that dog but the dog was miffed to have his place as 'baby' usurped. We took P.J. to training and worked to make sure he knew his place in the pecking order.

Chris was very determined. I would check on him at night and see him laying on his back, struggling to sit up, his face red and angry. When he finally could sit up he started crawling soon after. Soon he was going after P.J.'s ball to throw it. He had been watching us play fetch, and he wanted to play with the dog too. Well, when the dog realized that Chris had a purpose, everything was great between them. Chris loved to feed P.J., too.
P.J. intently waiting for Chris to throw the ball
Chris was supposed to be still on the bottle when he started reaching for food I was eating. He first was determined to eat a banana. I bought a mini-blender to make baby food, but what he really loved was rice cereal with babyfood peaches.

Going for groceries was complicated since the local Pathmark didn't allow carts to be taken to the car. I had to leave my groceries in the cart, get Chris into the car, drive the car to the front of the store, park near my cart, and get the groceries into the car. At home, I had to get Chris into a playpen and bring in the groceries.

At nine months Chris was walking, or rather running. And was climbing out of the playpen and the crib. We had to put him in a bed after he climbed out of the crib and became stuck between the crib and the wall!

After grocery shopping one day, I took Chris into the house and returned with the bags. He was running around and fell and hit his head against the edge of the dishwasher. I took him to the doctor's office. Because it was after 5 pm my doctor and usual staff were not there. Chris needed stitches. I was grilled about child safety, and told his shots were not up to date. I panicked thinking I was to be reported to child services for neglect. The next day I called the office and they said that they were catching up on the record keeping and not to worry.

I joined an exercise class at the YMCA, the oldest gal in the class. Chris loved the baby center, especially the metal bus. On our way to the Y, as I strapped Chris into the baby seat, he would make this strange noise. One day we were stopped at a red light I noticed the sound of the motor of the SEPTA bus next to us. Chris was imitating the sound! No wonder he loved that toy bus. Those buses were big, noisy, and exciting. They were like gods to him.

My folks were crazy about their first grandchild, especially Mom. Gary's folks had four grandchildren, all girls, which made my mother-in-law happy since she had all boys. But Chris was the only one to carry on the family name.
Mom and Dad with Chris in the alley behind our house
From the beginning, Chris was around books. I read out loud when he was in the womb, and I had a small library waiting for him. He loved the poetry I read, and the songs I sang with my guitar. "Dig dig krucks" were his love. We read him books about trucks and he would point to a truck and we were to say the name. He was memorizing them. At the local CVS, passing the toy area, he would reach for the plastic model trucks.
Mom reading to Chris
Chris never wanted to go to bed at night, staying up until midnight.As an infant, he would fall asleep in the swing but woke when it stopped. I would put him to bed and sing him to sleep but he would wake up again. I finally stopped putting him down for naps and he was able to get to sleep around 8:30 pm.

I was always singing, making up songs, and making up stories. Chris would tell me what he wanted to hear about. He loved a story about Dan, Dan the Purple Van and stories about P.J.'s adventures.

Pastor John and his wife had a son a few months after Chris was born. John suggested a plan: we would take turns babysitting the other's child once a week. That way we had some free time.

I walked Chris in the stroller to CVS and to the library in downtown Olney. We brought home 15 books a week. We passed a park but the ground was littered with broken glass and I couldn't let him play there.  A homeless lady had a grocery cart and hung around the main street. One day she threw glass soda bottles at us. 

The little girls on our street all came to see Chris. The little boys had flattened cardboard where they practiced break dancing and Chris liked to watch them.

When I walked the dog and Chris, strangers passing by gave us a wide berth, eyeing P.J. warily. Yes, I always agreed, he was a miniature Doberman. P. J. made us feel safe.

Chris loved to eat at Roy Roger's restaurant. They had the best kids meal toys.

Larry was our first baby-sitter. In exchange, I came in as a 'ringer' in his church choir for their annual concert. I also met a teenage girl fundraising for the school orchestra. She lived in a nearby apartment building, living with several generations of her of Korean immigrant family. I hired her to babysit now and then.

Gary only saw Chris for an hour at the end of the day and weekends when he was not traveling. Chris loved him, but thought all bearded men were 'Daddy'. So there was Daddy (Gary), and Daddy John (the church pastor) and Daddy Raffi (the singer of children's songs; Chris loved his video).

Gary knew he needed to be more active in Chris's life. He talked about returning to the parish ministry and I supported him. He contacted the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and said he was open for appointment.

His boss at UMCOR tried to talk him out of it, suggesting she could find me a job at the Board of Global Ministries, and we could enroll Chris in the child care center at Riverside Church, and buy a home in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. I knew that would never work. Chris was often ill with sinus infections and ear infections, sometimes being ill two weeks out of four. Plus, I knew we could not deal with a baby on a tight schedule that required driving in NYC traffic.

A friend from the conference told Gary he wanted him in his district. One option was discussed in Bucks County but the Cabinet appointed another man. In the meantime, we explored returning to Michigan to be near family. My mom was flying to visit us, or paying for Chris and me to fly to Michigan, every few months. I knew how much it would mean to our folks, and to Chris, for them to be closer.

Dad with Chris on a visit to Michigan.
Gary opted to request a transfer to the West Michigan Conference, the largest supporter of UMCOR. He was invited to meet a church in Hillsdale, MI. The pastor had left the ministry and they had been without a pastor for several months.

We flew out to Michigan, left Chris with my parents, and drove to meet the church. There were some red flags which we should have noted, but we were just so glad to be able to return to Michigan that we did not consider the implications. The idea of bringing Chris up in a small town, in a ranch house with a huge yard, seemed like a dream come true. And our folks were a few hours drive away.

We were found buyers for our house. Gary gave notice and I started packing up. We sold a good chunk of our library to the Princeton used book store for $500. Larry hosted a good-bye party at his house with my BOP friends.

In May 1989 we moved. We had been in our house for seven years. Chris was 22 months old.