It started at midnight, as the title suggests. I had fallen asleep approximately 15 minutes prior, and was awakened by terrifying pounding on my bedroom window. Because of the time in which we live here in Mexico, believe me when I say I was horrified. And John was out of town. With my heart nearly beating through my chest, I crept to the nearest window and peeked out the blinds to find nothing. I did the same with the next window, but as I started towards a third window, I heard the soft sounds of a guitar being strummed in the backyard.
"Okay," I said, "I know what's going on here."
I put on my robe, opened the door and peeked out, and there, in the cold, were the 16-year-old girl, sitting on metal folding chair playing the guitar, the 15-year-old boy, the 11-year-old boy, the 9-year-old girl, and a dear friend and neighbor, a senior at the local high school, exuberantly singing "Happy Birthday To You!" But this wasn't any version of "Happy Birthday To You". It had a second verse, which went.... "I looooooove you sooooo much! I loooooooove you soooo much! I loooooooooove you sooooo muuuuuuuch! I loooove you soooo much!" But that's not all! It had a third verse, which was a copy of the original first verse, but sung an octave higher, in falsetto.
It was stunning to say the least.
When they were finished, I hugged them all and invited them in to get warm. We passed through my bedroom and went into the hallway, and our neighbor tried to convince me to let the kids stay home from school the next day because they had sacrificed and stayed up late to sing to me, but I gave him the look, so he stopped talking.
After the look, I looked at the 15-year-old boy, who had charcoal smeared on the side of his mouth. I asked, "Son, have you been eating charcoal? You have it all over the side of your mouth." With his hand he tried to wipe it off, not realizing that his hand was covered in the same charcoal, thus adding much more insult to injury, smearing charcoal all over his nose, chin, and the other side of his mouth. We all started laughing so hard, and our neighbor began shaking his head in disbelief, so much so that he hit his head against our textured cement wall. This caused him to continue laughing even harder, but also to writhe around on the hallway floor in agony, which caused all of us to laugh much harder as well.
When we all calmed ourselves down, I ended the party and made everyone go to bed, but as I lay in bed, I thought, "What a great way to start my birthday." :)
I woke up at the usual 6:10 the following morning, did the usual morning routine, then when the kids were off to school, I began food preparation. Here in our tiny Mexican farm town, the tradition is to visit people on their birthday. Our birthdays are published on church calendars, ward (Mormon word for congregation) emails, and ward rosters. Your birthday will NOT go unnoticed.
And I think it's wonderful. In preparation for the visitors, I put on a pot of Vegetarian Pozole, then stirred up the dough for Chocolate Truffles to offer visitors as they came. My first visitor arrived at about 9:00, which was too early for goodies, but not too early for a good heart-to-heart.
My next visitors were three of the 16-year-old girl's friends who came over for lunch, which was where the pozole came in handy. I loved the hugs and well-wishes, and they loved the soup, so we all won.
During the afternoon, while Baby Hippo was sleeping and the twins were navigating youtube videos, their new favorite hobby, I took a half hour nap, then headed to the high school to play the piano for the chorus. I do this on a daily basis, and it is one of the best parts of my day, every day. There, I was greeted with at least 40 warm and tight hugs from so many darling 16- to 18-year-olds, and was sung Happy Birthday to again.... and given a Hostess cupcake with a lit candle stuck in the middle. It was beautiful.
On the way home from school, after having picked up the 4 school-aged children, the 15-year-old boy, who was driving, stopped at the stop sign at the corner next to the school. Just as he was letting his foot off the brake, however, I saw a young man from church and told the 15-year-old boy to ask if he wanted a ride. The 15-year-old boy immediately put his foot back on the brake and yelled across the road to see if the boy needed a ride, when we were slammed into from behind. Hard. I turned to see who had rear-ended us to find that one of the beautiful, European-esque school buses from the Academy had plowed into us. He had seen the 15-year-old boy stop once, then proceed, but had been looking away when he stopped again.
I told the 15-year-old boy to pull over to the side of the road, and the bus followed suit, but not before tearing off a nine-inch in diameter branch off one of the trees along the side of the road.
Because many other towns-people were picking up kids from school, it didn't take long for the town authorities to be notified and arrive, who happen to be my second- and third-cousins. My third-cousin, whose only interactions with me are teasings about the fact that I am mostly vegetarian, said, "Jen, we're going to have to take [the 15-year-old boy] to jail because he was driving without a licence. "That's fine," I said. "Do what you have to do." He started laughing and elbowing my son, then put him in a bend-wrist head lock until my son started making girl noises. My cousin asked, "Uncle? Uncle?" and my son squeaked "YES!" He was then released.
After leaning on the front of the bus for nearly half an hour more, watching every small-town neck crane to see the carnage as they passed, observing the bus driver and town authorities trying to keep the kids on the bus, and attempting to discourage the 5-year-old boy from jumping in the nearby ditch, we were finally able to go home. It was then, during this 2-minute drive, that I decided to tell the kids this....
"So guys. I need to tell you something. About a month ago, I found out we were going to have another baby, but then about two weeks later, it died. So, tomorrow, I need to go to the hospital so they can take it out. Pretty crazy birthday for me today, right? Hahaha!"
I really can't even remember how they responded. I think the 5-year-old boy said, "Awww, that's sad, Mom." The next day the 9-year-old girl told her friends and teachers at school....
"I felt so sorry for my mom yesterday! First a bus hits her on her birthday, and then her baby died and she is in the hospital now so they can take it out!" Yes, you can imagine how the town interpreted this data. Fortunately I think it was nipped in the bud before it got too far past the school playground.
Getting back to my birthday, I arrived home and began laundry and directing the kids to their after-school chores, received another visitor, and simply went about continuing my house work and trying to keep order.
This because I knew my mother was coming to surprise me on my birthday. Here's how that played out.
The previous weekend I had tried to convince my mother to come down on Friday and visit us for the weekend. I had told her that there would be many basketball games to attend (her favorite) and that it was the weekend after my birthday and the weekend before the 9-year-old girl's birthday and that it would be really fun! She said she would think about it.
The day before my birthday, Wednesday, I called her and asked, "So, Mom, what did you decide about coming this weekend?"
"Well, I decided to come, but it was supposed to be a surprise, I think."
"A surprise?" I asked. "Well we talked about it. It wouldn't have been a surprise at all, Mother"
"Well, the surprise was that I am going to come on your birthday instead of Friday."
"YOU'RE GOING TO COME ON MY BIRTHDAY?!?!?!?! THAT IS AWESOME! THAT'S A WONDERFUL SURPRISE! THANKS, MOM! :) :) :)"
"Oh, so you didn't know I was coming for your birthday?"
"No, Mom, I didn't."
"Oh. Well. Surprise. Hahahaha!"
Later on my birthday evening, while I was rocking Baby Hippo to sleep in the dark of my bedroom, I heard my mother and John arrive. I enjoyed listening to the sounds of the kids animatedly greeting them as I held my baby and when I finally put him down, I joined them in the kitchen where the 16-year-old girl and our neighbor, the same who helped to serenade me at midnight, were making my favorite chocolate vegan cake for my birthday. And lest you think chocolate vegan cake is something to shun, think again. My mother couldn't stop talking about how delicious and rich and moist it was.
And thus ended a memorable birthday. And I know you are wanting a little more info on the nonviable fetus.....
But lest you mourn for me, let me explain. I'm not sad. The only reason I discovered I was pregnant was because with the rush of the holiday season, I completely forgot that I should have had my cycle. When I returned home from my border hometown to our home in Mexico, I was lying in bed, and the thought suddenly occurred to me, "Wait! I should have had my period. Let me grab one of my handy-dandy $1 pregnancy tests that I pick up by the dozen from The Dollar Tree and take a look-see." To my surprise (and I'm really not sure why this always surprises me), I was indeed pregnant. And since this was my 11th pregnancy, and perhaps my last, my next thought was, "I am going to see what it feels like not to tell a living soul." I'd never done that before, and I thought it would be an interesting psychological experiment.
I succeeded in keeping my secret for nearly two weeks, but in a effort to explain my fatigue and nausea, I told John, over a sushi dinner in the big town, that I hadn't been feeling too well and that perhaps I was coming down with something. He asked, "You don't think you could be pregnant, do you?"
Now, since I couldn't just out-right lie to him, I started smiling and laughing, and looked him in the eyes, and he knew instantly. He started laughing, too (he is always a bit surprised as well), and we spoke further about the pregnancy and other things.
About two days later, however, I started feeling good, which was cause for alarm. My pregnancies are notorious for making me miserable for at least four months.... nausea, fatigue, bloating and the like. The only way I can usually alleviate my nausea is to make sure to have food in my stomach every two hours, so I actually did a test to see how long I could go without eating before I felt nauseous. It was five hours. As the days went on, I felt better and better, my stomach size remained the same, and I instinctively knew what had happened.
I went to see Dr. R, the same genius (no sarcasm intended, and you can read all about his genius-ness HERE) that had delivered Baby Hippo, and told him my concerns. He looked at the fetus and said it was too young to detect a heartbeat, but that it really should be bigger. He told me to return in a week and we would know. I did return, and I already knew, and after performing the ultrasound, he knew.
I suppose because I had told so few people and because I knew the baby had died early on, I wasn't heart-broken over the loss, especially since we had lost another baby at about this stage only six months earlier. Maybe I was somewhat prepared. And I tell people I'm really okay, and they say things like, "Yes, but it's a life and no matter how small or early it was, there is still a since of loss and sadness" or they say, "Yes, but any time a child inside you dies, it is heart-breaking." I'm not sure why some try to convince me that I should be sadder than I really am. I don't know what to say when they do that. I don't want to argue with them, and say, "Nope, not really sad at all," because that seems kind of heartless, but really, I'm not. Actually, I feel a since of relief because I'd known he was gone for two weeks, just waiting for bleeding or something else to start, and now he is gone, and there is closure and I feel great physically and I feel like I can move on emotionally.
And I want to tell you all about how a D&C works in Mexico in the next post! Just as a teaser, the ten hours I spent in the hospital with my mother attending me were wonderful, relaxing, love-filled hours that bring me fond memories every time I recall them. I heart Mexico! :)
Thanks for listening.