Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On birth and renewal

The birth of a child is one of most wonderful events in the world.
Yes, I know that some children are born into hunger and poverty and some are born with debilitating diseases that will never help them lead what we consider a "normal" life.

Yet, with each child we have a message that humankind is expected to reproduce and live on and hopefully make the world a better place to live in as time marches on. The births of my three children and nephew, whom we adopted in Texas, were wonderful experiences for our family.

On the subject of Hispanic children, it is important to note that the Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. That high fertility rate will fuel the rapid Hispanic population boom in the coming decades. By 2050, the Latino population will have tripled, the Census Bureau projects. One in four Americans will be Hispanic by mid-century, twice the current ratio. In states such as California and Texas, Hispanics will be in the clear majority. Nationally, whites will drop from near 70 percent of the total population in 2000 to just half by 2050. Hispanics will account for 46 percent of the nation’s added population over the next two decades, the Pew Hispanic Center reports.

My Hispanic children are all grown up now. One of my sons will soon have three children and two others have two each and counting. More importantly, with each generation, Hispanics are becoming better educated. My children certainly have gotten a good education and are ready to impact society.

I will review them, one by one.

Numero Uno: When Mario was born, he came into the world screaming, crying, moving and almost wanting to jump out of our arms when we held him. He was hungry, very hungry. The doctor had given strict orders that he would only be fed natural milk, but that wasn't enough. Ha. When they carted him back to the baby nursery he would cry and cry and cry and soon all the babies in the nursery were crying. Imagine a symphony of 25 crying babies. It was more like a cacophony, a mixtures of sobs, cries, snorts and wails. It was loud enough and scary enough that even crows wouldn't stop by.

"What's wrong with him?" I remember nurses asking as I watched through the glass windows at the nursery. "Is he sick?" Finally, I heard one say, "He's a big boy (almost nine pounds and 21 1/2-inches long). Maybe he's hungry?" There was a small pause in the action. Nurses gathered round the head nurse. I think one said, "But the doctor said not to feed him anything but natural milk."

Again, there was a pause. Babies were still crying. Mario was the loudest. Then, it was decided. Next thing I know one of the younger nurses was coming with a baby bottle full of formula milk in her hand. She moved Mario up and pointed the bottle toward his mouth. He seemed to jump out at it and grab it with both hands (wait, babies can't do that). But, he did. The young nurse yelled back something. It must have been, "He was hungry." Soon, the nursery was quiet. There was peace again. At that point, Mario earned a new nickname for his voracious and insatiable appetite. It was in Spanish and it was not "pretty," for a baby any way. Suffice it to say that it had to do with a hobbit with pretty much a glutinous hunger.

Throughout the two days Mario was in the nursery, the nurses would periodically give him extra bottles to keep peace in the nursery. As far as I know, the doctor never found out. Mario grew up into a beautiful young man. He is at least 6-foot-2 and maybe weighs 275+. He still hits the bottle every now and then and he has a wonderful appetite. He was a blessing in our lives. He went on to be quite and athlete and an outstanding baseball pitcher. He helped lead Miller High School to the state baseball playoffs and was named all-state, earned his degree from Texas A&M-Kingsville, led both Laredo Community College and Texas A&M-Kingsville to either conference championships or playoffs in college baseball, played a little pro ball, was a successful high school coach and now he is in education working with highly at-risk kids at a charter school.

My second son, Marcos, is a completely different story. He came into the world quietly. Again, I was not allowed in the delivery room. The first glimpse I got of him was when they wheeled him out in a baby crib of sorts and paused momentarily to show him to me. His eyes were wide open. I had been told babies couldn't really see at birth, but I swear I saw him focusing on different things around the room.

He was healthy, too. A big boy, but he seemed interested in everything around him, including me. He seemed to focus on me as if to say, "Who are you?" His baby eyes were dark, dark blue, like the hues in a Walt Disney animated show. He was eager to learn everything about the world around him. His quest for education would continue and now, with a master's degree in hand, he is the principal at Calallen Middle School. He is well on the way to having a successful and beautiful life. In between, Marcos helped lead Miller High School to the baseball and football playoffs, making all-state in baseball. He set several hitting and home run records that still stand at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He played a little pro baseball, was a successful prep coach for a while and then went into educational administration. He is still looks at the world with wonderment and is one of South Texas' premier Tejano researchers and an accomplished genealogist. Every day, for him, is full of wonder. Now he is enjoying life with his family and is one of the most respected people in Northwest Corpus Christi.

Tres is not enough: My daughter's birth was traumatic. When we arrived at the hospital, the afternoon shift was going on. Nurses were scurrying to and fro and somehow they forgot about my wife and I.

I was left to tend to the birthing myself in the "waiting" room. Ha, there were really nervous dads there and they were all smoking except me. Wow. All of a sudden, it was time. I shouted for help. No one came. Finally, one of the nurses who had just arrived said, "We have to hurry." This time, I was allowed in the delivery room. They wheeled my wife, who was screaming loudly at this point, to the delivery room. Now, there was no doctor. I thought the nurses would know what to do, but it wasn't their patient. "Who is her doctor?" one of the nurses asked. I yelled out a name and said, "It's too late. He's not here." The nurse screamed, "There are no doctors here. We're all on break."

I panicked and ran into the hallway. At a distance I could see a young man in a light green scrubs. I ran him down and asked, "Are you a doctor?" Wow, he looked much too young. I didn't wait for a response and said, "We're having a baby!" He replied, "Now?" I grabbed by his right arm and led him toward the delivery room.

My daughter's head was now "showing." The young doctor gasped and started helping. Within minutes, my daughter was born. She was petite, about 2-3 weeks early and didn't have her eye brows or eye lids yet. She was almost a preemie,but I could tell she was going to be a big girl. Her eyes remained closed as they took her to the nursery and put her under some lights they said she needed for whatever medical reason, but she was fine and we were fine and that was what was important.

We learned later that the inefficiency of the hospital staff could have caused us her life or that of my wife as well, not to mention the heart attack I almost got that day. We talked about the lack of professionalism of the hospital staff and considered filing a lawsuit, but we didn't really care. We had our girl and she was healthy.

The baby stayed in the hospital several days before they allowed us to take her home. She was beautiful. So, we didn't care about any lawsuit. We had our little girl.

She went on to do great and beautiful things. The most important thing she did was overcome dyslexia, a reading disorder that often stops a person from being successful. She, too, was quite an athlete in high school and college. She excelled in all sports, but was very good in softball. She was all-state in high school and all-conference and All-American at Texas Woman's University. She led both her high school and college teams to the playoffs, played a little international softball and played with the nation's top amateur teams. She went on to get her bachelor's degree from TWU and master's in special education from the University of Texas and is now a successful university softball coach and spends time as a consultant for reading disorders.

She is a marvelous young woman and one who has made us very proud.

I could not write these words without mentioning my nephew, Raymond Acevedo, whom I love dearly. Raymond was our pilón (extra or bonus). He moved in to live with our family twice. The last time, when he was a teen-ager, he stayed and we became his guardians and adopted him into the family.

Raymond was born at a military base in Taiwan. Of course, we could not celebrate his birth. We wouldn't see Raymond for some time. Eventually, we adopted him into the family. The one thing I never told him was how happy we were when he was born.

I remember my father-in-law Lupe coming to me with the news. We were at the rancho. He said, "Manuel, vamos a celebrar. Soy abuelo otra vez (Manuel, let's celebrate. I'm a grandfather again)." With that we called the family, went to the store and bought some supplies (fajitas, tortillas, hot sauce, soft drinks and beer) and planned a small but honorable barbecue at the ranch in Raymond's honor. Raymond was a whole world away, separated by an ocean and land masses neither my father-in-law or I had visited, but we were going to celebrate his birth. It was a joyous time.

Ray grew up into a wonderful young man and a strong family man. He has survived much and we are so proud of him. Today he works for AT&T and is a supervisor. He, too, was a great athlete, probably the best in the family. He still ranks seconds in stolen bases at Miller High School, and he did get a college scholarship to play baseball, but the university was not for him.

After some struggles, he earned an electrical engineering certificate from Del Mar (Tech) College. He was the top student in the program when he finished the course. We are so proud of him. Did I mention he makes more money than my children with bachelor's and master's degrees.

Yes, the birth of a child is cause for celebration. A new life has come to earth and the possibilities are boundless. When a child is born, there is renewal of the life cycle and also rebirth of the adults involved.

Mario, Marcos, Teresa, Raymond....thanks for the memories and good luck.


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