by jeanne charters
that is the question
was 21 when I birthed Corinne Elaine Charters. Married at 20, pregnant
on the honeymoon, and scared to death that the coming birth might happen
less than 9 months after the ceremony! This was small-town Ohio, after
all. Although I was technically pure as the driven snow on my wedding
day (yes, we really did that in those days), the phenomenon of pregnancy
scared me to death. The wedding to Ed had seemed like a great idea.
I loved him, and I really wanted to stop being a virgin
I was Catholic, I knew that we were supposed to reproduce quickly and
often. I just didnt have a clue as to what was involved in that
was a certain embarrassment to it. My burgeoning middle said to the
world, Look, Ive done it. It was humiliating
being around my parents. In my house, the word pregnant
had never been uttered. My father considered saying it akin to swearing.
The same was true with the word cancer.
here I was, his perfect daughter growing a belly that belied all he
had told me about being a good girl.
that time, I was working as a secretary at a local insurance agency.
My boss, Mr. Carr, told me that once I started to show,
I would have to leave my job. That was the first time I ever fought
authority in the workplace (but not the last). I marched into his office
and screamed, No way! We need that money. We are trying to save
for a down payment on our first house. You cant make me leave
here after 4 months. Poor Mr. Carr. He was a good guy
following rules. He looked startled, but finally acquiesced. It was
agreed that I could work until 6 weeks before my scheduled delivery.
little Cori was in a great hurry to be born, she emerged just 3 days
after I left that job. Sorry, Mr. Carr.
I was not prepared to be pregnant, I was less prepared for what delivering
a baby was all about. I asked my obstetrician, Dr. Froelich, about something
called natural childbirth. He said, You are not a
worker in a field, Jeanne. Your body is just not equipped to deliver
naturally. What they offered in lieu of a warm and comforting
environment and someone to help a frightened young girl through the
process of first birth was a sterile hospital room where she was sequestered
alone for hours screaming in pain. Husbands were not allowed in those
rooms. After those many hours, they whipped you into a surgical suite,
knocked you out and took the baby with forceps.
was 4 weeks premature. She was long and very thin. From birth, she struggled
to hold up her head and to be independent. At her 6-week checkup, the
pediatrician said, This girl will be an artist or a neurotic.
I have never seen a child with such sensitive reflexes. He nailed
it. Today, Cori is an entrepreneur in California whose sensitivities
have made her very successful
and at times, a little tortured.
She is also an incredible wife and mom to 2 great kids. She is artistic
in every area of her life. Nature wins!
Cori was 6 months old, I developed a large tumor in my uterus. After
surgery, Dr. Froelich predicted that I would never again conceive. When
I got the coast is clear signal, my husband and I had a
second honeymoon of sorts and, guess what, I was pregnant again. Nature
Where are you going, my little one, little one? Where are you going,
my baby, my own?
was 2 when Stacia Jeanne Charters was born. I called Stacy my sunshine
baby. She was plump and rosy and relaxed. Naturally, she nearly
drove Cori crazy with jealousy; and I was not a smart enough woman to
understand much about the nature of sibling rivalry. I regret my immaturity
and ignorance in those days.
Stacy was and is a loving and laid-back doll. Shes now a family-practice
physician in Maine and the mother of 3. She got through medical school
and residency simultaneously having her babies because of her ability
to relax into life. Again, nature had its way.
Stacy was such fun, I decided to have another baby. When Stacy was 15
months old, little Julia was born
and I do mean little. During
the first 6 weeks of this pregnancy, I developed a severe flu. Movement
came very late with Julie. I tried to tell my Chicago doctor that I
thought the flu had slowed the babys growth, but he disagreed.
After the tumor, I had to deliver by caesarean section. My doctor set
the date for the surgery. I entered the hospital knowing that I should
stand my ground, but in those days, doctors knew best. Julie was delivered
weighing less than 4 pounds. She was in NICU for weeks. She developed
hyaline membrane disease, the lung disease that had taken the life of
Jacqueline Kennedys infant, Patrick. I was told that girls generally
survive the disease better than boys.
several weeks, I was able to take her home. I watched her constantly
for signs of oxygen deprivation. The doctors told me that shell
either be perfect
or a vegetable. I swear to God
what they said. We lucked out. She was perfect, but the fight that helped
her to live manifest itself into a feisty little creature with a scream
louder than any baby I had ever heard. It was ear splitting, and we
were living in a walk-up apartment in Chicago. The wife downstairs would
knock on the ceiling with her broom each time Julie started one of her
rampages. I didnt care. Those screams sounded like a symphony
to me. Her power resonates to this day. She is a successful mortgage
broker in Raleigh and mother to 3 fabulous kids. I knew shed make
it from the very beginning. It was nature!
around and youre 2
turn around and youre 4
around and youre a young girl going out of my door.
3 girls under 4 years old and living in a tiny apartment in Chicago,
we decided it was time for birth control
to us that meant rhythm.
I faithfully took my temperature every morning and charted my fertility
carefully. I never cheated once and was sure that our little family
was complete. I was 25.
argued with the doctor. I cant be pregnant again. Its
thats why Im throwing up every morning. My
periods have never been regular. Youre wrong.
wasnt. Later, when I complained that my back and legs hurt much
more than in previous pregnancies, he said, Youre not as
young as you were, Jeanne.
Marie Charters was born when I was 27.
are you going, my little one, little one?Little dirndls and petticoats,
where have you flown?
was beautiful and big and healthy. She brought joy and a reprieve from
worry to me that was so healing
but living in a 2-bedroom apartment
with 4 kids under 6 was intolerable
not to mention how angry it
made the lady downstairs. When we moved into the little split level
house in the suburbs, I kissed the walls. Caroline was more mellow than
Julie had been, but she, too, is now a successful mortgage broker like
her sister and a mother tiger defender of her 2 boys. Her
sweet nature early on didnt prepare me for her strength. Maybe
nurture won out on Caroline.
around and youre tiny
turn around and youre grown.Turn
around and youre a young wife with babes of your own.
are all coming to visit me this month. Cori with her boy and girl from
California; Stacy, with 2 boys and a girl from Maine; Julie, with 2
boys and a girl from Raleigh; and Caroline with 2 boys from New York.
They will all stay here in my house, turning it into a wall-to-wall
sleeping bag. We will laugh and reminisce and I will cry when they leave.
I will tell them that I am sorry that I was so young when they were
little and that I wish I had been wiser. They will tell me I was a good
mom and that they love me. Funny, isnt it? Its true.
around, turn around, turn around, And youre a young wife with
babes of your own.
Around from The Kingston Trio's 1964 LP Time to ThinkWords
& Music by Harry Belafonte, Alan Greene and Malvina Reynolds
is a former V.P. of Marketing for Viacom Television. She started her
own award-winning broadcast advertising agency in 1990. Jeanne lives
in Fairview with her husband, Matt Restivo.
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