Thursday, September 10, 2009


Our little Kimberly sang fortissimo (VERY loudly!) from the next room, “And crown Thy good with…”

Abrupt pause sent feet scampering to my side. She sputtered breathlessly, “Mama, is it Robinhood or motherhood? I never can remember which.”

It’s motherhood, usually motherhood, that curls around my heart and hugs out a smile or tear. I cry watching strangers on the TV show Having a Baby.
Ask any mom about that moment when she earned her title. It’s a strange mix of human agony and divine ecstasy. There’s truly a sense of eternity and God’s presence but we're also keenly aware that anything beginning with the word labor isn’t going to be easy.

I remember praying aloud when Kimberly was born. My words were a stream of consciousness, “Oh thank You, Jesus! Thank You! How will I know what to do? She's beautiful! Oh, Lord, please help me!"

A large black aide assisted me. She smiled knowingly at my maternal ravings. She knew the Lord. She knew motherhood. I knew I’d never forget her but figured she’d never remember me, among so many births she attended.

But she did. Here’s why.

Next morning after my firstborn was first born, at about 2 AM, the same aide brought her to me to nurse. (Back then only 2 babies in a full nursery were not bottle fed, Kimberly and a little boy. I'd just met his mother. We were either ahead of our time or behind vogue in the baby-feeding trend.)
At 4 AM I was awakened again by a crying infant needing to nurse. Man! I just fed her 2 hours ago!

Bleary eyed, I took the tiny thing to my breast. The aid left. The crying stopped. My eyes cleared a bit. My thoughts unraveled, My! Look at all that hair…seems to have grown in the last 2 hours…it’s even in a finger curl on top...she didn’t have enough to do that…”

I twirled the tiny arm band around the sweet baby wrist and read “Anderson Boy.” I blinked. Hard. Several times.
Not Henderson? Girl?

She’d brought me the wrong baby! I buzzed the aide then showed her. Horrified, she took the now contented man child from my arms. She begged me over and over, “Please don’t mention this to no one, Missy Henderson. I could lose my job.”
Get that bouffant! What WERE we thinking!?
I tried. I really tried. But Kimberly was brought to me again at 6 AM.
And by 7 I was finally getting some much needed sleep. My new friend, also a new mom (her third time), Mrs. Anderson, poked her head in my room, teasing, "Come on, Henderson! Get up and walk! MY boy slept through the night already."
I couldn’t stand it. “No, he didn’t already! And if you had to feed your baby and the other nursing kids, you’d sleep in too!” I chided her. We both cracked up. Shoulda billed her for wet nursing!

Two years later. Same hospital, same aid. Kent's being born and coming fast. No doctor there yet. I said to the sweet aid, “Hi! Do you remember me?”
“Shore, Honey,”she lied. (You tell women in labor whatever thay want to hear.)

I knew she was humoring me, so I recounted in a whisper, “I’m the one you brought the wrong baby to a couple of years ago to nurse…”

She froze. Her big eyes grew bigger, “Lawd have mercy, child, I DO remember you. Ple-eease, honey, don’t mention it to no one. I could lose my job.”

I got the best care all week. If I requested a glass of apple juice, she brought the whole bottle…no tiny plastic cups for me. No sir! "If you need anything, Missy Henderson, anything at all, you just buzz me now, ya hear?"
Doug was such an involved father those first days at home but night shifts were my lot, by nature of the feedings. One long night, however, I'd been up countless times with Kimberly. Feeding and diapering done, she cried out yet once again.

I begged a groggy Doug, “Honey, could you please check on her? I’m exhausted. She’s fed and dry.”

He stumbled down the hall. I heard her crying stop. So I pulled the covers to my chin and nestled in. Ah-hhhh, blissful sleep...
Then I heard the most horrific crash and groan, followed by silence. He’s killed my baby!
I flew to the nursery, turned on the light and saw Doug sitting on the floor by the rocker. Kimberly was safe in his right arm as he rubbed his backside with his left.
He answered my unasked question, “I reached for what I thought was the left arm of the rocker. It was the right.”

When he felt himself going down, he protectively grabbed her with both arms, sacrificing himself to save her. My hero! Superman!

Doug on a better rocker day and Kimberly eventually rocking herself
But I rarely woke him up after that.
Except once more as I recall. Same scenario but this time, feeling his way around the room, he stumbled into our closet, not the hall door. I watched in the shadowy darkness. Surely he’ll soon figure out that he’s in our closet. It was rigged so the light clicked on when the door opened, like a car. But he just went in, closed it and remained there in the dark.

So I finally went to her. When I came back to bed he was there fast asleep. Next morning he had no recollection of it.
Night shift was permanently mine.

Wrong baby. Wrong arm of chair. Wrong room. Right Daddy...just wrong role.
God ordained motherhood with unique abilities. We wear a crown. Our throne is the rocking chair. Our scepter may be a thermometer or a spatula in any given moment.
Our baby girl, Katy, will give birth to her fourth son any day now. As you read this, I'm in Canada with her and Dave, hopefully in time to welcome Jordan, our 12th grandchild, to our zany world!

And crown thy good with motherhood!
I’m singing loudly!

1 comment:

  1. LOL!! I love this story! I can't believe that nurse brought you the WRONG Times have changed! As I'm sure you know, they can't even let you take your own kid out of the hospital now without having to remove their "house arrest" pack from their ankle...LOL...boy you sure had the upper hand with the nurse second time around, with Kent. Oh and thanks for those funny stories about Uncle Doug too...hehe...poor guy! :) Love it.