A Teacher's Journal

Personal observations about life in general and teaching in particular.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some days

I have days and days to go before I sleep.
I don’t know why today was so difficult; I don’t know why it was so hard to rest last night. Some days are like that, I guess. What is it about a simple comment, said in jest, that just hits your heart? Thankfully it doesn’t happen as often now as it did back then, but today was spent dwelling in the past…so I have to get it out somehow and this is my method.

“Why don’t you take that boy home and teach him some manners?”
“You need a son. Chet needs a boy.”
“Are you going to try again? You should try for a boy this time.”
“Wow, how did you stop with all girls, you should keep trying for a boy.”

Most days, I can let it go. Just let those words waft over my head and smile good naturedly while they all guffaw at the jest. But some days, once in a while, the words take root and fester. Today was one of those days.

So for my family and friends that maybe don't know and for those that do know but may have forgotten, this is why those days are so very difficult for me (for us).

(Feb 23, 1983) I remember walking into the hospital, seven months pregnant, Chet pacing at my side. The perky little nurse came running up to us and called out to the entire waiting area. “Are we going to have a baby today?” Feeling dead inside myself, I felt Chet tense beside me. I abruptly told her “No,” and continued to walk on, struggling to maintain my emotions. I am not a “public person,” my emotions and tears are not something that I am comfortable sharing with just anyone. So now we were a parade, the perky little nurse, now a bit taken aback trailing behind us, and I felt as if all eyes were on me. What a weight that was…but it was only beginning.

We were escorted to the birthing room where, thankfully, we were the only ones in attendance. The doctor came into the room and described how things would proceed. He offered the services of the chaplain, but this wasn’t something we were ready to deal with. For several hours, I lay writhing in pain waiting for the inevitable. Praying that we would be left alone in that room but the whole time the other bed was mocking me. Apparently God wasn’t done with us yet.

Soon we were joined by a happy couple expecting their third child. Curtains were pulled but we were forced to endure the happy sounds coming from across the room. I lay there weeping quietly while I listened to the other mother bring her little girl into the world. No body came to check on us, the nurses all stayed and cooed over the new mama and baby. Finally, when we could stand it no more, Chet told them that I needed to be moved. They all acted surprised, as if it was a shock that I might be suffering in the wake of such joy. How could I not rejoice? How could I?

The evening passed in a blur. Soon they were telling me that I would have to go home and return in the morning because things were not progressing. I don’t remember going home; I barely remember returning to the hospital. I was in a daze, wrapped in my own thoughts. Questions, so many questions, revolving around in my mind, I could see the words in my head…but they had no answers. No one had any answers. Perhaps that is the most difficult part of all.
Finally, we had him. I cradled little Clarence Joseph in my arms for the first and last time. He was so small, and yet he looked so perfect…it was so hard to realize that he would never draw a breath, never catch a ball, never try my patience, never….

I was so sick the first few days home from the hospital that I don’t remember very much. I remember insisting that my mom bring our daughter, Leigh-Ann, home. I was distraught without her there but Chet was loathe to leave us home alone. I know that he was worried, for a while she was my only reason for getting up in the morning, but somehow we muddled through.

I’m sure that we were a huge burden on Chet for the first little while, I was barely functioning and my world revolved around Leigh-Ann and Chet. Finally the day came; I remember standing in the shower and watching my milk leak down the drain as I cried uncontrollably. It suddenly dawned on me that Leigh-Ann was sitting on the floor crying outside the shower. I was doing this, dragging her down into this pit with me. I could continue the way I was going and destroy her happy world or I could figure out how to get up and move on.

It didn’t happen overnight, I don’t even know how it happened. One day we were grieving and one day I woke up and saw spring outside, so I took Leigh-Ann outside and we played. The next day came and we went outside again, finally, finally, we were playing outside. Soon it was as normal as anything else to hear Leigh-Ann talking to her dolls about her little brother in heaven.


Then, months later we decided, or rather I begged and pleaded, to try again. I had read an article about the best “positions” to ensure a male child. I thought “What do we have to lose? We’ll get pregnant and this might give us a better chance at having a little boy.” Little did we know that we were setting ourselves up to relive the pain, I guess we were just chasing butterflies and rainbows.

This time about 6 months into the pregnancy I began to experience some strange feelings. I was closely monitoring movements, and constantly comparing my symptoms to my sister-in-laws’ complaints, all seemingly typical concerns but subconsciously I think I knew that something was wrong.

Just before the 7th month of my pregnancy Chet went out hunting, it was deer season, his mother's birthday and Thanksgiving dinner, surely no reason to stop him from following an age-old tradition with his father and brother. However, when I got up that morning and started gathering up our things to go out to his mom’s I noticed that the baby hadn’t been moving much. I counted movements, “OK,” I thought “7 in an hour is low but acceptable.” The day continued on and I got busy, so many family members to visit with, many hadn’t seen Leigh-Ann in over a year. She would soon be turning 3 and she had grown so much, we were happy to show her off.

The day continued on and just before dinner I realized that I hadn’t felt movement for a while, so I went in and lay down. I carefully counted movements, one, two…..nothing. I calmly got up and picked up the phone, carried it down the hall for a little privacy. Back then telephones were tethered to the wall and often there was only one phone in the house because the phone company charged you per connection (even though they all used the same line.) I called the doctor’s after hours line, explained the situation and she insisted that I come right in (an hour and a half drive to the hospital in normal weather.) I pulled Chet aside as he came through the door, explained what was going on and watched as he made things happen.

In short order, Leigh-Ann was sitting happily in her grandmother’s lap and we were driving into another horror story in our short married lives. It was snowing when we left the house. I sat close to Chet in the car, even though the heater was working well, I was cold, so very cold and scared to death. We had been married a bare 3 years at this point and yet we would soon be saying goodbye to our second son.

This time I was insistent that I would NOT leave the hospital that night, I planned to stay there until they had delivered my son. At this point I was positive that it was a boy, even though they refused to do an ultrasound to tell us the child’s sex, we knew. We knew.

They sent me upstairs after the ultrasound determined that our son was not moving, his heart was no longer pumping. Like soldiers marching to a death camp, Chet and I held hands and trudged upstairs to await the next ordeal. The nurses in “Labor and Delivery” placed us in the last delivery room, but it wasn’t far enough away that we couldn’t hear the happy cries of newborns and their parents throughout the long night.

We labored for hours as my body fought to hold onto our son and the doctors fought to convince my body it was time for him to come out. Inducing labor that early in a pregnancy can often be hard on your body and my body was tenaciously holding onto that last connection.

Finally in the wee hours of the morning, Nov. 25, 1984 we delivered our son, Joseph Jeffery Coleman. I held him and cried as Chet held us both. He was perfect. We could find nothing wrong with him, his fingers and toes, his little head, everything looked perfect, he looked so perfect and yet he never took a breath of air, never cried, never smiled.

Chet was my rock; he stayed with me until I slept. When I awoke he was there still, holding my hand, petting my hair, just silently being there while I, once again, came to grips with the idea that I would be leaving the hospital without my baby boy. I’m sure that I was selfish, at least I don’t remember inquiring about how he was doing, and that was bad of me. I regret that I wasn’t more solicitous of his needs at the time.

I'll add more to this later.

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