Last month, I wrote a post entitled, Blogging for the Brain, and in it, I stated that I would come back on the Anniversary of the death of my sister to explain why writing helped me navigate a very dark period in my life.
Tomorrow is that day, Gloria Cross, Jr., who was born on April 10, 1963, would have been 54 had she not been killed in a fiery car accident on September 14, 1992.
My cousin Louise and I were to collaborate on a joint post as she too has gone through more than most I know, even more than me, however, when I read her writings, I knew I had to post her article in a two part series. Therefore, these next two posts, will not be my dedication to my sister, Gloria, but in memory of what we both lost throughout the years and how journaling/blogging served us both!
The following are the words written solely by my cousin, my guest blogger with slight grammatical editing by me….thank you Louise (Robynn) for sharing and bearing your soul, perhaps it will help someone who may have gone through something as tragic or are going through something horrific now.
My name ain’t Job, nor am I Jewish: however, I believe that I must be a first cousin several times removed. For the past 34 years, I have felt like maybe I know a little bit of what Job was going through. My name is Louise; however, my family’s nickname for me is “Robynn.” I do not know anyone else whose birth name is Louise and their nickname is Robynn. I remember asking my mother how did that happen since in my know it all mind it did not make any sense.
She told me that when I was born I was very ill and that the doctors told her if I did not have a blood transfusion I would either die or be seriously brain damaged. In any case, the nurse that took care of me after the transfusion said that I had the coloring of a Robin, so the nickname stuck. I am not sure how true all of this is. However, I do know that my blood type is different from my parents and my siblings. Maybe my advent into this world was a portent of how my life would be. I did look up the name Louise and it means “warrior-fighter.” How fitting as you will see.
I also looked up “Robin” which means bright fame; which is not my case at all. I am a little over a month short of being 58: however, I say “my” Job started with the birth of my daughter, Eboni. Eboni was born with Down’s Syndrome. I cannot speak for my extended family; however, my immediate family had never known anyone with Down’s. I remember thinking how could this happen. I had done everything “RIGHT.” I had finished high school, gone onto college, graduated, worked for a while and then joined the Air Force. My dad was always saying “do something for your country.” When Eboni was born, I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan; thousands of miles away from home.
My pregnancy was definitely not normal (in my mind anyway). I was four months pregnant when I found out. My fiance’ (who would later become my husband for a short period of time) had broken up. In my mind, there was no way I could be pregnant because I was on birth control and I was still having my menstrual cycle. This was all new to me, so there had to be some mistake. I made the clinic do the test two times just to be sure. I was so far from home and terrified, this could not be happening to me. An unplanned pregnancy was not on my checklist of things to do.
To this day, I still say Eboni is seven years older than what she is supposed to be. I wanted to travel the world before having a family. Apparently, God had other plans. Eboni was delivered by emergency caesarian a few weeks before my due date. Apparently, the umbilical cord was around her throat and she was in distress. I found all of this out from a friend later, who knew the doctor that delivered Eboni. It would be several days before I would actually hold her; apparently, both of us went into distress. I remembered being on the gurney and them rushing me down the hallway into the operating room. I had to sign the papers consenting to the operation. I looked at my fingernails and thought “Oh I am going to get into trouble for this red nail polish”; you are not supposed to have nail polish on in the operating room. When they wheeled me into the room, I distinctly remember seeing explosions of color with white lights, sitting up and telling the staff that the baby was a girl (I did not know this) that I was going to die and for someone to please take care of my baby.
That is all that I can personally remember; everything else is hearsay from my ex-husband, my friends, and my mother. My girlfriend told me that she was at an associates house when the doctor came in and told them about a case where they had almost lost both the mother and child. She found out later that they were talking about us. I did not name Eboni; her father and I had still not agreed on a name, nor did we know the sex of the baby. 34 years ago, the tests that are being done today were not done then. I did have an ultrasound just to make sure it was only one; because multiple births run in my family, we thought that we still had time. He remembered a letter that my baby brother had written to me in Japan, saying “if it is a stupid girl (he was only nine at the time and not into girls yet) name her Eboni Nikkia; his name is Nicholas; ironic she was born on his birthday they are exactly 10 years apart.
It may have been a little jealousy on his part, there is a 14-year difference in our age and he was my baby until I left home. The hospital asked her father to fill out our paperwork because they did not want her to pass away without a name. After all of that and I did not even get to name my one and only child. I was so sick after the birth and contracted bronchitis while in the hospital. Eboni was a fighter, a few doctors did not give her much of a chance and the doctor who delivered her, asked me when I went back for my checkup what I was going to do with her. I did not understand the question. She was asking if I was going to put her in an institution. The thought had never crossed my mind, now that I think back on it, we were in Japan, what institution was I supposed to put her in?
The Red Cross sent my mother a telegram informing her of the birth. She was able to get a passport within 24 hours with help from them and the State Dept. In her mind, she thought she was going to Japan to bring back two caskets. When she saw that we were out of danger she thought that she would bring Eboni back to NY and take her to the finest children’s hospital. Her pediatrician nixed that idea since Down’s Syndrome is not a disease.
Her words were “take her home, love her, care for her and treat her as you would any other child;” which is what we did. Eboni had her ups and downs and a few surgeries. She spent her first birthday in the hospital because her esophagus was not connected and whenever she nursed or had a bottle, she could not be laid down right away. The liquid would back up into her lungs. She had to have chest x-rays almost every month; it was so heartbreaking to see her in what I called the hard plastic corset with her arms raised over her head crying the entire time. She spent so much time at the hospital that when friends came over dressed in white she would start crying. I guess she thought they were going to stick her with a needle.
Years would go by and life kept coming at me. I divorced, no sadness there, except that her father really does not have much to do with her; however, I had lovely in-laws and we have a great relationship with them. Eboni had a great social life, thanks in part to my parents and other family members and friends. I remained on active duty in the Air Force, which meant there were times when we were separated. I was stationed in Korea twice, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Eboni was not able to go to any of those places because they did not have the facilities for her; it was at this time when my parents would step up, take custody of her during that time until I returned back to the United States.
In April of 2004, I was stationed in a combat zone and noticed that my right breast hurt. I did not think that much about it since I had just had a mammogram in February and everything was fine. I called my mother to get her advice; she was a four-time cancer survivor, Uterine, breast, lung (never smoked) breast again; she had battled with it for 32 years; however, looking at her you would never know. She asked if I had bumped into something extremely hard, the answer was “no” to all of her questions. I figured since I was due to leave in a few weeks I would just go to Walter Reed Military Hospital when I returned home. I made an appt and had two mammograms and two biopsies in one day.
The results came back…
Due to the length of Robynn’s post, Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.