By Terri White
It was one of those iconic births. As with all my babies, my labor began at 5:30 a.m. Then the day would drag on until I gave birth twelve hours later – literally – with all three.
Since I endured a grueling birth with our first baby, I hoped for an easier labor. We had prepared differently and learned that breathing through the contractions should be pain-free. Ha! You shout. Good luck with that!
Earlier in February, my mother-in-law announced, “Don’t you have that baby on leap year day!” Like I could choose. So, of course, on February 29, I began mild contractions early that morning. Steve stayed home, and we piddled around most of the day. I even cooked him lunch.
Figuring it would take hours like our first one, we never even bothered to call our midwife or my sister. We did, however, send our 22-month old son to spend the day with a friend.
Since the temperature rose to a balmy 70 degrees, we decided that a walk might speed up my contractions. Strolling hand-in-hand, we headed across the street to a steep hill, enjoying the day. Down we trekked. However, when we reached the bottom of the hill, the weather abruptly changed.
One minute a glorious blue-sky 70 degree day, and the next, a blistering wind blasted through with menacing, stormy clouds. To compound our troubles, my contractions had speeded up to every two minutes. Great.
Inching uphill, we stopped every two minutes for me to breathe through the contractions. Not fun. Nevertheless, there were no other options. Finally arriving home, we called our midwife. Then in our haste to finish our preparations, we forgot to call my sister.
Soon our midwife arrived. After checking me, she announced that our baby should arrive in about two or three pushes! So far no pain. I repeat. With no pain, I pushed my nine pounder out into the world. Joseph Levi announced his arrival with hearty lungs.
From there, Joseph was the easiest infant. To this day, we remind ourselves that he smiled, ate, and pooped. Until. Until he turned two and became the most contentious toddler on the planet.
His mantra: “I can do it myself.” If I said left, he said right. If I said stop, he said go. That’s when I learned that “it’s time to give the rubber ducky a bath” proved a valuable approach.
Surprisingly, though, I don’t believe in the “terrible twos” label. I understand that once a child is potty trained, he no longer views himself as an appendage of mommy. So Joseph stumbled around to navigate this thing called independence. But oh boy, was it taxing.
While our oldest son was more cautious, Joseph threw caution to the wind. If Jonathan hollered “whoa,” Joseph countered with “giddy up!” What a pair. When he discovered cowboy-adventure books in the library’s early reading section, his reading soared.
All those adventure books, however, only fueled the flame. At age 41, he still devours books – and he’s still the biggest kid at the carnival!
As a boy, on our shopping trips to Wal-Mart, Joseph bee-lined for the sporting goods to drool over the display of knives. He loved the outdoors and gobbled up his dad’s scouting survival manuals.
When we lived on 40 acres in the country, he and his brother explored the creek and woods. I’m sure his knives proved useful in the woods. Those adventures are still being declassified today. On family gatherings, my sons often regale us with those heart-pounding tales.
Nowadays, his coveted knife collection fills a drawer. During the years his son Tristan participated in the Boy Scouts, they came in handy. I don’t know who enjoyed those scout campouts more – he or his son.
No surprise that his scout troop misses Joseph’s fun-loving antics on those campouts after Tristan graduated.
By the way, true to his nature, Joseph named Tristan after the mischievous Tristan in the James Harriot books. If you haven’t read them, grab a copy. You’ll enjoy some great reading. This from a picky reader, as you already know. But back to Joseph.
During his teens and early twenties, he gave us a run-for-our-money. However, he has turned out to be a fine man: a caring son, thoughtful husband, and loving father. He only lives two blocks away and still checks on me. He’s a man of depth and highly intelligent – all with a strong work ethic.
Although nowadays he thinks more carefully before he acts, he never shies from a debate. And believe me, he can paint you into a corner. He’s like a dog with a bone when he determines to make a point. He thoroughly enjoys it, too!
Five years ago, tragedy struck when Joseph suffered a freak accident at work, losing a third of his right arm. No mother ever expects to receive that phone. I had visions of his hand on ice to be sewed on. Nope. The machine shredded it. Four hours after entering Parkland Hospital, he called to reassure me, “Mom, it happened, and I’m moving forward.” He did. He has.
The whole community of Cleburne showered him with meals, gift cards, fund raisers, and prayers. For his family, the adjustment was radical. After a year of numerous doctor visits and dozens of appointments for his prosthetics, he returned to work. His courage to return to the scene of his accident proved a testament to his coworkers. Seeing his 6 feet 5 inch frame, his coworkers cheered, “Big Bird’s back!”
During his year off, his company installed additional safety measures. Now they send him to safety seminars around the country to share his story. A dramatic visual for safety precautions in every plant.
Even though our choices largely determine our futures, life always throws a few curve balls to test us. As our oldest son stated, “If anyone had to lose his hand, it had to be Joseph because he will always make lemonade out of lemons.” I concur.
After Joseph ripped his hand out of the machine, he glanced at his shredded arm, lifted up his arm, and – to acknowledge his fate – shouted, “I’m a one-handed man now.” With that, he raced down four flights of stairs to get help.
He’s my hero.