I thought our pregnancies were all in the past. When Lois loss the seventh child in 1975, she claimed she had the doctors tie her tubes. It would just be us going forward. I was settled with the idea of never being parents. Life was good as it was. I was satisfied with my job and had an extended family at Laurel Hill Bible Church. We were active, very active, extremely active youth ministers, so in a way we had kids, about fifteen. The great advantage was we didn’t have to feed them and clothe them. The money we made was our own and we could really enjoy the good life. We had no debt, except an occasional car loan and no homeowner responsibilities. We lived in a perfectly beautiful apartment and any repairs were taken care of by management. We just had to pay the rent every month. The only utility bill we had was electricity. Water, heat, trash pickup all came with the lodging.
Lois was even involved with some things outside of the Word of Life Club that she seemed to enjoy. She had taken up skating and at Christmas performed in a Christmas Show at the rink as a Dancing Christmas Tree.
We had even had money for some travel now We had been to Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa in the early seventies. In 1976 we headed south to Tennessee, crossed that state and came back via Kentucky. I remember how crowded the highway was that snaked through Gatlinburg, bumper to bumper traffic. We stayed over in Knoxville and then down to Chattanooga. All along the highway between those two cities were billboard saying, “See Ruby Falls”.
After a day in Chattanooga we turned west for Nashville. We did get into Greeneville and the home of Andrew Johnson. We remained in Nashville about three nights. I started off driving with an idea of going to Hannibal, Missouri, the location of much of Mark Twain’s legend. I had tried making it to there on our previous trip on our way back from Wisconsin, but halfway down Iowa I couldn’t take the flat land anymore and turned east. Now I thought we could cross Tennessee and go there, but then realized our schedule wouldn’t allow it and I turned northward into Kentucky instead.
We got to one of the large thoroughbred horse farms. We also toured the Jim Bean distillery. We had a motel in the same town and that evening as we were walking in the town we saw a lady across the street collapse. We hurried over and she was unconscious. I left Lois with her and knocked on doors until a person answer and had them call the police. ) Did not have cell phones in those days, and by that year only 17% of the United States was serviced by 911. The home owner called a local number and soon ambulance and police arrived. As they began attending to the lady, Lois and I just slipped away and returned to the motel. I assume the lady was taken care of, but we didn’t want any fuss made over us.
One of our last stops in Kentucky was Bowling Green. We ate in this restaurant that had this gigantic salad bar running down the middle. I had never seen anything like it. Not long afterward restaurants back home began featuring salad bars. Perhaps the biggest was La Grande Salad in Glen Mills. It was a gig attraction for a number of years, but the fad for large salad bars faded and it closed. A McKenzie’s Brew House occupies the spot now.
At the end of August of 1977, we took another trip during one of my vacation weeks, making a tour of Central Pennsylvania. We had made a big circle through the state and near the end of the tour we took a little tram tour through one of the coal mines. After we come out of the ground, Lois complained of not feeling very well. Back at the motel, she said she might be pregnant. How? She claimed her tubes had been tied after the last pregnancy, but she confessed she had lied. (She denies she ever said this today, but she did.) We waited until after another month and she missed her period before following up with her doctor.
It wasn’t I was concerned about the financial costs of my wife’s pregnancy. We had excellent health insurance, paid for by my employer and if history was any indicator, there would be no resulting child. And there was the real concern, the wellbeing of my wife. She had been devastated by the last baby loss, what would another loss do to her? Even worse, she was risking her life. She had been through this too many times. how much more could her body take?
That was her obstetrician’s stand as well. He had warned before that she was risking her health and doctors had told her she could never have a baby, it was impossible. He stood by those decisions now as he told her she was indeed pregnant. to the point he would not take her case.
There was a doctor attending the church and he was able to obtain a new obstetrician. On October 3 I called my parents to tell them Lois was again expecting. On October 6 she was once again in a hospital being sewn up, a cervical cerclage to hopefully prevent a premature birth…maybe. We’d been down this road before. She came home from the operation on the ninth, then on the tenth was right back to the hospital. She had a reaction to the spinal they had given her.
On the 11 my mother and grandmother brought us dinner. Lois was home, but forbidden to do much. That first day home she had to lay down and drink 1 ounce of flat soda every hour. From that point forward she was not to do anything for the remainder of the term. I rearranged the living room so she hadthe sofa available for lying upon or sometimes sitting. The TV was where she could watch and the remote was at hand for her. I placed a cooler nearby within arm’s reach with drinks and some food for her. She was restricted to walking short distances when necessary; she could walk to the bathroom or to the bedroom to sleep at night. Everything else that had to be done fell to me.
However, the church understood our history and plight. A prayer group formed and met weekly to pray for Lois and the baby. Some of the women brought us meals occasionally or helped with the cleaning. My parents were down on November 1 with dinner and they did our laundry.
Off and on I ran Lois to the doctor, those were her big outings. On Christmas, my parents came over and brought the whole turkey dinner with them I was sick, really miserable. My parents were over again on December 27 to take Lois to the doctor since I was still ill. They brought me soup and juice. And so the weeks went. On January 29 my father brought me snow tires already mounted on wheels since I had been unable to find any in Jersey. Everyone was sold out.
On February 3 my cousin Little Francy’s wife Carol, gave birth to their first child, a girl they named Kelly (left).
That winter was brutal, cold and windy with occasional rain or snow. This was the case on February 26 when Lois told me to take her to the hospital. She was in her dreaded fifth month. I drove her through the night snowfall to John F. Kennedy Hospital in Stratford, New Jersey, perhaps the longest 4 and a half miles I ever drove.
She was immediately admitted and placed in a labor room. I sat in the room with her all night until 4:30 AM. They were giving her an IV to retard any labor. She was complaining of the pain she was in. The doctor asked us if they could try a new drug, it was still experimental, but they thought it would strength the baby’s lungs. They said it was something called steroids.
I called my parents the morning of the 28th. Lois was still in pain. They had taken some of the stitches out and told me the baby might be born at any time. I called the hospital that evening after getting home from work, but nothing had happened yet.
I got the call early Tuesday morning of March 1, 1978. The baby, a girl, had been born at 4:00 AM. Lois had a hard time with the delivery. The baby didn’t need to be spanked, she came out howling, protesting leaving her cozy place in the womb. Who knows, maybe it was Roid Rage. She weighted 5 pounds 1 ounce and was 17 inches long. She had a head full of dark brown hair. We named her Laurel Christine.
She was quite premature and they placed her in an Isolette.
My parents came down on March 4. Lois had come home from the hospital at 9:45 in the morning, but Laurel had to stay there. She had lost weight since her birth and wouldn’t be released until she gained back up to 5 pounds. My parents came down and we all went to the hospital to see the baby. She was still in the Isolette and would remain there for a while. She was all long legs and arms.
They took her out of the isolette on March 7 and placed her in a crib, but she was still in some danger. She was sleeping more and had lost more weight.
The hospital called us on March 14 and said we should bring some clothes for the baby. She had finally reached 5 pounds and we could take her home. We came in and they handed her to Lois. We had to dress her before they would allow us to leave. We didn’t have a clue how. The nurses stood about laughing at our attempts to put clothes on Laurel. Even the newborn outfits were too large and she kept squirming and kicking and waving her arms about. She was as easy to handle as a greased eel. After a long time of wrestling, we did get her dressed and at last placed her in a baby seat in our car and took her home.
A miracle had happened against all odds and we had a living, breathing child. It was for those faithful who prayed at church that we named her Laurel, after Laurel Hill Bible. We gave her the middle name of Christine, which is French for “follower of Christ”, because Christ was central in our lives.
Lois said she had her tubes tied after Laurel was born.