It was hazy, hot and humid. The three H's. Nothing could be worst. Well almost nothing. The smell of hot garbage was intense. The date was July 24, 1994 and I was nine months pregnant. I woke up early and went to the Puerto Rican Day Parade on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. This is near 167th Street, about seven blocks from Yankee Stadium. All day my family had been cheering and waving their flags on the sidewalk.
As the flags waved from side to side, we shouted, " Que viva Puerto Rico! (long live Puerto Rico)." We ate piraguas which are a mixture of juice and snow cones, coquitos which are coconut icies and pasteles, an ethnic food that is hard to describe but trust me delicious. I stuffed myself with every single Latin delicacy available.
Later, around 6:00 PM, I went home exhausted feeling pressure and pain in the center of my back. I walked around somewhat and performed the same menial chores I did every evening; cooking, cleaning and tending to my mother's needs as she is wheelchair bound. I waddled around for two hours. Finally, at 8:00 PM, I grew hungry. I was absolutely ravenous and wolfed down three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At 8:07 PM, I got up to put the plate in the sink and I felt warm fluid coursing down my leg.
My water broke! Immediately, I experienced the most excruciating ring of pain around my waist. My child's father assisted me into the car. I felt every bump, pothole and sharp curve on the way to the hospital. It was an interminably excruciating journey.
He drove me to North Bronx Central Hospital. There were several complications. I had toxemia or preeclampsia, a condition in which high blood pressure and protein in the urine develops after the twentieth week of pregnancy. It is an autoimmune disorder that can have serious repercussions on the fetus, if not controlled.
Unfortunately, I then spiked a fever of 104 degrees Farenheit due to a placental infection. I suddenly stopped dilating at nine centimeters. I screamed in anguish because I only had one more centimeter to go! As if that wasn't enough, I threw up peanut butter and jelly all night long. To this day, I refuse to eat a PB & J sandwiches.
Several excruciating hours later, I whispered to my aunt, as my voice was hoarse from vomiting, "I feel like I'm going to die." She runs out of the room and finds a midwife. All of a sudden there were people screaming orders to one another, mass confusion and I was unceremoniously thrown on to a gurney. I heard "Fetal distress, pressure low. Take her to the O.R. stat!" A nurse jumps on the gurney with her hand placed unceremoniously between my legs. I am not sure if she was holding the crown of the baby's head or just wanted a free ride.
At last I was rushed into the operating room. I was told to count backwards from ten. I made it to nine and knew no more.
Justin Eric Rodriguez was born at 11:31 PM on July 25, 1994. When I finally awoke, sixteen hours later, to my dismay I found myself in the recovery room. I had an emergency Caesarian section. I cried for several minutes as the realization set in that I had missed the first few hours of my son's life. I was in physical, emotional and mental anguish that would not be assuaged until I held my darling in my arms.
I had the pleasure of gazing into his eyes on the 26th, as both our fevers would not abate. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN!
This was written when teaching my students to write memoirs. They were suppose to write one of the happiest moments of their lives. This was mine.
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