“This isn’t working, something is wrong,” I told Military Man from the hospital room when I was trying to deliver Morgan in 2009. After “pushing” from 2pm until well after 7pm without progress, things took a bad turn. The labor and delivery team had a shift change, and a new team arrived. Believing I should try harder (because clearly six hours of active-labor isn’t hard enough), she began showing duress on the fetal monitor. “I’m telling you, this is NOT working,” I shouted at the nurse, who ultimately agreed and got the doctor. I had been in the hospital for nearly 24 hours already gradually progressing in contractions, constantly feeling in my gut that something was wrong, and having nobody listen to me. Military Man, being this was our first child, had no idea what to do.
The new labor and delivery doctor saw that she was in duress on the monitor, asked me to push a few more times, and then he decided an emergency C-Section was necessary. But due to the excessive amount of ladies having babies on the same day, and the extreme procrastination by my own medical team, there were no operating rooms available. Finally nearly 57 minutes later Morgan was delivered via C-Section. The anesthesiologist gave me medicine that he said would “help,” and the moment the medication was moving through my body, the doctor was getting her out. He held her up quickly without showing her to me, and I heard him say something like “oxygen.”
“Stay with her,” I told Military Man, and that was all I remember. The medicine consumed me and combined with total exhaustion from labor, I passed out. Waking hours later, he told me “Morgan had an open head wound on top of her head from my pelvic bone hitting it during contractions, as well as the chord being wrapped around her neck caused a strangulation that led to her duress. She was never coming out of you naturally. The doctors gave her 100 percent oxygen for over two minutes to bring her from eggplant purple back to a color of the living.”
“Is she ok now,” I asked, and he handed me a little six-pound-girl wrapped in a pink blanket. “Wow,” I thought, “she is mine,” and a wave of contentment soaked through me. And then an unusual feeling of lioness protection instincts kicked in, and a need to make sure nothing bad ever happened to the beauty I was holding. Looking like she had a migraine, I felt terrible for what she went through and praised God she was alive.
“She has cerebral palsy,” the neurologist told me just days before her first birthday. After watching her struggle to crawl, with a left arm that seemed to be uncooperative and bent most of the time, I took her to a medical clinic in Atlanta to diagnose it. Instead he told me she suffered a traumatic brain injury during that terrible delivery, an injury that could have been avoided. Military Man was on a trip with the Air Force, and delivering that news was the worst thing I’ve ever had to tell him. “It’s called left hemispheric spastic cerebral palsy, and he says it’s very mild. She has physical struggles with the left side of her body.”
“But it’s a brain injury,” Military Man said, worried at the findings. “But it’s still our Morgan,” I replied. “Nothing will change what we already love.”
Watching the movers pack our house in Georgia a couple months ago, and saying goodbye to the school and friends we called family, I felt that raw concern again for Morgan and her transition into a new place. “Lord this is out of my control, and I just don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” I am sure all parents feel that way about their children, but when a tiny baby goes through something so unjust before she has even entered the world, I can’t help but want to work harder for a better future to counteract what’s already been done to her.
“Why, again, did your first doctor leave,” someone asked me once. “She had a party to go to, and my labor was taking too long.” “I hope it was worth it,” they replied.
Moving into our RV after the movers cleared out our house, that feeling of worry continued to consume me, but I should have been more concerned about the campground we were staying in.
With my sister visiting, I laid down for a nap in the camper, and Military Man, the kids and she took a paddle boat out on the alligator infested Grassy Pond. Waking to Military Man’s laughter and kids crying, I asked what was going on.
“The paddle boat sank,” he said. “The kids were sitting in the back, and Brandy and I were paddling. But the back end started going underwater and Jake got flooded up to his waist. Morgan started screaming and clawed her way up and over my back, and I grabbed Jake and held him in the air.”
“Holy crap! Did you have to swim back???” I was having visions of gators eating my babies.
“No, we were shouting so loud for help that all these people came running to the dock. It was apparently the farewell party for the campground manager, and we interrupted it with the sinking of his boat.”
“Morgan, Jake, are you guys ok?” I asked.
“Mom!” Morgan shouted at me. “The boat sank, and daddy held me and Jake over his head. I closed my eyes because I knew an alligator was going to eat me!”
“But how did you get back,” I asked.
“Aunt Brandy paddled with her feet,” Jake chimed in.
“I did not!” she exclaimed. “I used my hands Jake!”
“Yeah, and you paddled right between those gators that were trying to eat me!” he answered back.
“We never saw any gators,” she replied.
Paddling the half sunk boat back to the dock, the employees by that time were able to grab the kids and help get my family back to safety. Had I been in the boat I would have died right there. Well after I levitated to shore with the kids on my shoulders. Jesus would have had nothing to my ability to walk on water.
“No matter how hard I try, I just can’t keep scary or bad things from happening,” I told Military Man. “Well, you aren’t God,” he replied. I don’t know why that stung a little bit, but it did.
The Valentine’s day dance was on the agenda for Morgan’s last day of Kindergarten in Lake Park, Georgia. It was timed perfectly, because the whole day was a big celebration. Military Man took the day off of work, so that he could “take Morgan to the dance,” and it was also Arco’s last day volunteering with the school’s Deputy Sheriff.
As much as I felt sad every time I saw another face I loved, I would turn around and see Mlitary Man dancing with Morgan and their smiles were endless. Jake even joined the dance party and all three of them jumped, shuffled, clapped, twirled and partied like they were the only ones on the gym dance floor. As the dance for the kindergarten class ended, “Deputy Doc” went onstage with Arco. The PE teacher announced a special goodbye surprise, and she turned the music to “Who let the dogs out.” The entire class shouted along with the song and Doc and Arco performed a dance onstage. I’m not kidding. Arco with his front paws on Doc’s shoulders, they hopped all over that space until the song ended. Kids clapped and cheered and the next grade came in for their turn at the dance.
Going to Morgan’s room to pick her up, her teacher and classmates gave her a notebook with handwritten letters from all of the kids, as well as a signed picture from the class. Considering kindergartners are just learning how to spell and write, it was such a touching gesture that they each took the time to write down what they wanted to say.
Even the fifth grade class had a thoughtful surprise for Arco. Showering him with jumbo cards covered in pictures of bomb dogs and Arco being a school hero and mascot, those that wanted to, gave him presents of balls, chew toys, snacks, and play things. Some even came onstage to read him tearful goodbye letters. The principal and Deputy Doc then presented him with a Lowndes County Deputy Sheriff’s badge, and I was given a teeny tiny portrait of Doc and Arco for our Crowded Camper. “I know you don’t have much wall space,” he told me.
The PE teacher gave Arco a box that could have served as a sleeping pod for Jake, with a strict warning to open it after we left. And then the last grade of the day swarmed Arco for love and hugs, and the final dance of Who let the Dogs Out went on.
Opening the box later that night we found a signed basketball, that caused Arco to turn into a crazy-eyed lunatic, and we were informed that they let him have all the deflating balls all year long, to which he would assault as if it was a convict on the run. Opening the book of letters from Morgan’s class, I saw beautifully colored pictures of children holding hands, hearts, flowers, sunshine and happy and sad faces. One little boy, that said when she moved he would “put his head in his hat and cry like a girl,” wrote her a note that hit me like a hammer and I didn’t know why. It was a pencil drawing of him and Morgan, smiling, and above it, the note said, “Two by Two.”
The Crowded Camper left Georgia just a couple days after that, heading for our new destination in Tucson, Arizona. Taking five days to get across country, we explored some amazing museums and places along the way.
One day we visited the Southern Museum of Aviation with a kid-size air traffic control tower that Jake enjoyed mashing the crisis horn. Another day we dead-ended into the Women’s Service Pilots of WWII museum in Sweetwater Texas. My childhood role models, they became pilots to ferry airplanes around the US as they were needed. Walt Disney even designed them a logo, called “Fifinella,” to serve as their good luck gremlin in flight. A true league of their own in relation to flying, as a kid I thought they were glamorous and awesome at the same time. I was so excited that we stumbled across their vintage hangar, that I forgot to put my car in park. Stepping out to literally run inside proclaiming, “I am here! You know you missed me ladies!” the car began to roll right at the front door. I fell on the ground and saw it continue driving, Morgan shouting at me from inside.
With visions of a horrible crash entrance, I dove for the car, smashed the break and all was fine. I left a copy of my book with a wonderful lady that worked as the welcome committee, host and tour guide, but also because I felt bad that I nearly turned their museum into a drive-through.
We camped at the Sandhills State Park off I-20 one night, and the kids, being avid diggers of all dirt mounds, were able to jump right out the front door of the camper and start digging. That night there was no bedtime, as the weather was warm and they were so happy.
Our final stop, Carlsbad Caverns, was also impressive. With icy temps and snow falling, we made the kids take the natural entrance with us that wound through the bat cave. “Youre going to earn those Junior Ranger badges!” Military Man told them. “We won’t be taking the elevator.” I had to agree. The chances of us making it back any time soon were slim to none, and I also didn’t want to miss anything. Morgan, having been given strict rules from the park ranger, became the cave police and shushed anyone talking above a whisper. She got onto people for touching the formations, and yelled at me, her own mother, for running down a hill at one point!
Jake had his own set of problems that began about a mile into the adventure. Constantly grabbing his backside he would shout, “my butt hurts!” and Morgan would yell at him, “Jake, stop shouting!”
Nearly at the end of the massive hike, we realized he had his underwear on backwards, so he was basically wearing a boys-thong through the cave.
Departing with hard caver hats for the kids, and two banana puddings (costing a whopping $60 because we bought them at the store 750 feet down in the cave), we realized we were done journeying and ready to be in Tucson. Not to mention, broke from the random travel expenses. “Did that pudding come with a free toaster,” Military Man asked me. “No why,” I replied. “Because at $8 for that tiny cup, it should.”
Parking in our new spot, on the Air Force base in Tucson, I kept thinking about sweet Daniel and his “two by two” note. It finally hit me a couple days ago, after telling Military Man my wish to make friends as special as the ones we had in Georgia.
Everything is always better with someone to share it with. Someone to laugh with, or to be sad with, or to just make it through together. My family was an arms reach away in Georgia, and now they’re on the other side of the nation. My Bible study ladies are still studying, and I’m trying to participate from out west.
“You have me,” he said with a hug. “I know I do, but you know what I mean. Everyone should have a friend close by, and you’ll be TDY a lot coming up.”
“I promise you Becky, we are going to take Tucson and make it our own. You’ll see,” he said with confidence. “I believe you,” I replied.
Having a “two by two,” and having that support system to help you raise your children, even when your spouse is gone, and to keep you going straight, is something I long for in Tucson. The Bible never sent out missionaries alone in the New Testament, and it’s been researched extensively the reason for sending disciples out two by two. I’ve been digging myself on the topic lately.
We shared conversations and food with some wonderful people in the campground last night, and my sorrow for what was left behind is starting to go away. I think of the note, probably not with the message that Daniel meant it to have for Morgan, but as my motivation to keep waiting with an open heart, and my new life will find me here.
Right here, in my Crowded Camper. I will never be able to cover my children in complete protection, especially in the face of change as Morgan starts a new school Monday, but I am able to ask God for that blanket. And I can also mirror Morgan’s prayer that she’s been praying every night for weeks now that, “God will you find me some new friends all of my own in Tucson.”
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