A Strong Suit: Heal Thyself

Another personal entry.  Why not.  I was thinking about it so….

I almost killed my mother when I was born.  It was a very tough delivery I’m told.  Last year at one of our collective family birthday celebrations my grandmother and mother were telling us about it.  The way I remember hearing it, my grandmother was there and Uncle Jay (an uncle via marriage).  I don’t think my father was there.  But as usual our family filled in the gaps.  I don’t remember if I was a breech baby or not but it was bad.  They didn’t think I was going to make it.  There was a good chance that my mother wasn’t going to make it either.  It was a long, painful, intense, fearful birthing.  My grandmother said that even the nurses were crying.

I don’t know what they did.  My mother kept pushing.  I don’t know how she did it.  I don’t know how women in general do it.  How any society can witness a woman giving birth and not revere them — and go to the lengths of subjugating them — is beyond me.

I sincerely believe that life is a miracle.  We’re all walking miracles — even the people I don’t like.  An average of 300 million sperm are released during an ejaculation.  Every person you have ever seen is a 1 in 300 million jackpot.  The odds of winning the Megamillion grand prize are 1 in 135,145,920.  That’s one in 135 million.

I saw a baby born.  It didn’t seem like a miracle at the time.  You know how some guys want to save women?  I heard a woman say that recently.  Guys always want to “saaave” us.  And the other women nodded and vocalized their agreement almost like it’s a bad thing or annoying thing at the very least.  I don’t want to save a woman.  I don’t want to save anybody.  I want to save the world.  Somewhere along the way I decided that knowing it all and being in control was the key.

I was 10 or 11 at the time.  I was at my cousin’s house for the day and we were sitting on the back porch of the house trying to figure out what to do to keep from being bored.  It was either a weekend or some time in the summer.  His sister was pregnant and was in the basement of the house.  She was the only one home at the time besides us.  We heard her call him, yelling, the sound coming up the steps from the basement and through the screen door.  Kids being kids, we thought she wanted us to run an errand or something to that effect, putting us to work on our day off.  Then she called again and something just didn’t sound right.  He got up and ran downstairs with me trailing right behind him.  She was in the bathroom when we got there sitting on the toilet.  She said, “I’m having the baby!”


I wish I could say that I sprung into action.  As my cousin ran upstairs, his sister was crying and told me to go get her some towels.  I ran upstairs to the second floor but I couldn’t find any towels.  I looked in the bathroom, I looked in the rooms, but I didn’t find the towels.  I couldn’t think.  They had to be somewhere obvious but I just couldn’t think.  I ran to find my cousin and he told me to go get the towels.  We phoned my grandmother and she called my aunt at work (so it must have been a weekday in the summer since she worked for the government and had gov. employee hours).  We had no idea what to do.  My cousin ran out of the house to find a neighbor and I stayed on the phone with my grandmother and then ran down to the basement to see how my cousin’s sister was doing.

When I got to the bathroom door I looked at her.  She was having the baby and it was half way out.  She was holding the baby with both hands, one supporting its head and neck.  I could not move.  She was in pain and she cried to me, “Where are the towels?!”

I ran back upstairs to the second floor and all around but I still couldn’t find any.  My cousin came back and I told him we needed to find towels.  He grabbed some from an upstairs closet and we ran back downstairs.  A neighbor came in the house.  She happened to be a nurse.  My grandmother had called 911 and an ambulance arrived soon afterwards.  I have never been so relieved before or since.

My cousin’s sister gave birth to a boy.  And a girl.  She had twins, Shaun and Kelly.  My littlest cousins.

Shaun died during the ambulance ride or at the hospital, I think.  I don’t know the details.  Kelly was a bundle of joy and she died from sudden infant death syndrome months later.

I thought to myself, “What if I had found the towels.  What if… what if I had known what to do.  What if we had been faster.  What if we had answered her the first time she called.”

Oh, the what ifs.  Now, I think it’s fair to say that that’s one of those life changing experiences.  I think I’ve been in control or attempting to be in control ever since.  And ain’t that a losing battle.  Sho’ you right.  Imagine what it would be like to not need to be in control.  To go with the flow.  To be intrepid and vulnerable enough to live without the reserve it takes to be stoic.  Wow.

Life is a miracle.  It really is.  A life is a miracle.  And it’s worth wanting to save, y’know.  But as it goes, physician heal thyself.

(2 hours later)

I came back here to add some photos of me as a baby and as a kid.  Sometimes when I’m feeling too unmotivated to take things on I look at my baby pictures.  I look at that little guy and I realize that he deserves to have an amazing life.  Not sheltered or isolated or lonely or bored or even mediocre.  If I saw that baby in a stroller while I was walking down the street and you asked me, “What kind of life do you want that baby to have when he grows up?”, I would spout off all kinds of touching adjectives, most of them preceded by inspiring adverbs.

Oh, you want to hear something funny?  I didn’t start to walk and talk until way late for an infant.  My family thought that I might have been mentally retarded.  Given the things I’ve been writing about recently they weren’t entirely off.  I’ll admit it.  🙂  But look at all that cool hair I had.  I think I was using up the reserves early on.

I guess I’ve got me some work to do.

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