Putting one hand on the sofa behind her, and carefully maneuvering her awkward body, she managed to rise to a standing position. She was so tired of being pregnant. The hot Pensacola sun was heating up nicely, and the humidity, as always, was close to 100%. Why do people want to live in Florida? she wondered, not for the first time. Without warning her dark-eyed 10-month old son came running across the room, and climbed into her lap. She hugged him tightly and wanted to cry.
There's no way in the world he's going to understand who this baby is, she thought. He doesn't even understand the word brother. He'll hate me! I know he will. Shit. We'll will work it out, won't we EJ? Won't we? Hey...
The little diaper-clad boy scrambled from her lap, off to find something new to discover. God, how she loved that boy. The love was so strong it hurt. Absently she rubbed her stomach, feeling movement, not as intense as it once was, but still movement. She recalled the night she sat up for hours waiting for movement, terrified the baby within had stopped moving. Finally, a little kick, and she was relieved. She was in her 42 week of pregnancy and vowed to herself she was having this baby today.
He sister-in-law, who had come up from Georgia to help her out, had already left to go home. She could have at least stayed for the big event, dammit. Ok, don't be mean. At least she was here. It saved her having to talk to her husband and her dumb ass brother-in-law.
Time was wasting and she had diapers to wash, and supper to cook, so she got busy. With the sun this hot, it wouldn't take long for the diapers to dry.
As the evening settled in, the supper dishes done, she grabbed the stroller. Ej, come on, babe, she called. Let's go for a walk. He climbed in and she sat off walking, or wobbling, down the street. She was soon joined by a neighbor girl who had a crush on her brother-in-law Ricky. How any girl in her right mind could have a crush on Ricky was beyond her understanding, but she only half-listened to her prattle. She thought about what it would be like when she brought the new baby home. Would she be able to cope? Would she be able to do all the things her husband wanted her to do and the babies would need her to do? Did she want a boy or a girl? Oh, please, she thought, as long as it comes out looking like a baby I'll be happy.
They completed one square block, and she said, come on, we're going again. I'm having this baby. Its time. So, with her little neighbor, and now a few others, she continued walking. One of the neighbors was a warm-hearted lady who extolled the many uses of the vegetable zucchini. Zucchini casserole, Zucchini bread, zucchini this, and zucchini that, which could be irritating, but she was on a mission, and nothing would deter her.
She had heard the words "induce labor", and other medical terms, and didn't like the sound of any of them. I know how to induce labor, and its called walking.
About 5:00 am the next morning, a Friday, she felt her water break, and the first pains began. Calmly she woke her husband, and told him, its time. He and Ricky, the brother-in-law, decided that EJ would stay with Ricky while he drove her to the hospital. He stayed long enough to get her checked in and then went back home to sleep.
While they hooked her up to everything they could think of, they had trouble hooking up the fetal heart monitor to the baby's head. This one tried, and that one tried, and everyone tried, until she said, "I know, why don't we have a contest, and whoever gets it right gets to keep the baby," and burst into tears.
Her doctor said, "We'll let you rest for a while now, and try again in a few minutes." The nurse said, "It must be boy, only a boy would give you this must trouble." When she had her first child he was premature, and she was alone during most of her labor. Now she felt she was in the middle of a convention. She found she had an unreasonable hatred for her doctor. And her husband. Where was his dumb-ass? Alone with EJ! Were they watching him? God, watch over my little boy please, because those two dumb-asses are too stupid to.
After about four hours her pains began coming faster and faster, until they seemed to be one huge unending pain. Suddenly she felt the need to push. "I'm gonna push,"she said. "Don't push!" they said. "I have to push!" she said, as they wheeled her to the delivery room. "Don't push!" they said.
They transferred her to the delivery table, positioning her as God never intended, and the Doctor crouched between her legs, waiting. Where's his catcher's mitt? she wondered. "Ok, now you can push." And push she did! On the second push, the baby's head emerged. "Ok, just a small push, now." She obliged.
In a few moments she heard a baby's cry, and said, "Oh, my God, its a baby!" Well, duh. After a brief glimpse, the baby was whisked away, and she learned she had a new son, and, yes he had everything he should have had, and she would see him in just a few.
When she finally got to her room, they brought her new son to her. Eight pounds and five ounces worth of baby. A very good weight. She had prepared to breast feed him, and, when they put him in her arms, she positioned him to do just that. The nurse stopped her, and said, "No, hold him like this. You'll never get him to eat holding him like that. But you're milk hasn't come in yet, so you're really wasting your time." The nurse held out a bottle of formula to use until her milk came in.
It was important for her to breastfeed. Now it became vitally important that she breastfeed. She had tried so hard to breastfeed her first son, and just now had learned why she had failed. She hadn't held him right. No one had showed her how. And now this old nurse is going to tell me what I can and can't do. Yeah, right.
She squeezed her nipple and a stream of milk shot across the bed. She cast a wicked grin in the nurses direction, and the nurse merely said, "Well, every mother's different."
As she put her baby to her breast, felt him suckle, gag, suckle, choke, suckle, and finally developed a rhythm, she smiled down at him, stroking his tiny little hand.
Travis, she whispered. Travis, my baby, welcome to the world.
Travis would be 28 today. He was a joy to watch and care for as a baby. He was joy as a toddler and as a young boy, and a challenge as a teenager. He always made me laugh. During some of the darkest times in my life he was there, at 14, keeping me company, making me laugh, playing his music for me, teaching me to find humor and joy in the simplest things in life. We never actually talked about my cancer, but we both acknowledged it and we both knew it could go either way. How many times I have wished that God had taken me instead of this wonderfully gifted young man. I can still see his second grade teacher running down the hall of the elementary school, so excited about about the test scores Travis had made that were off the charts. The gifted program. The punk rock years. The absolute uniqueness that was Travis. The absolute love he had for his son, and the growing pride he had in his unborn daughter. The love he bore for his wife. The life left unfinished. The huge gaping hole in the universe that was Travis, and now we fill with memories. Yes, I believe he lives on, in another place, in another life, but I so want to see him, and touch him, and hold him again. I want to see him grow old with his family, I want to see him become a grandfather. I guess its true. What they say. Only the good die young. I miss you Travis, so much, so very much; more and more, as each day passes, more and more as I come to painfully realize and accept that there was no mistake, there was no mix up, there will be no call telling me it didn't really happen. But, one thing I can't do Travis, I can't say Goodbye. Not yet, babe...Seems just yesterday I said hello.
In loving memory
Travis Levy Youngblood
June 5 1979-July 21, 2005