This is Chapter three. To read chapters one and two go to the Table of Contents and catch them there.
A Baby, Girl or Boy?
Breezes blowing, the smell of salt and sunscreen in the air, and constant laughter of those swimming or playing with a beach ball or frisbee were what met us as we entered the beach area near the base nearly every night.
Living so close to the beach at that point earlier in our marriage, had us spending a lot of time at the beach. If it hadn’t been only 5 minutes away, I am sure we wouldn’t have gone just about every night, but living that close, why not? Our home at that time was still in the very first mobile home park we found when we first got to North Carolina and was five minutes from the beach and 5 or so minutes from the base where Andy was stationed for training. It was perfectly located. Almost every night when he got off duty, we would pack up and head off to the beach. I was pregnant at this point with child number one. The time of year was the summer of 1977.
Sometimes we would stop at a pizza place for dinner although I couldn’t stomach pizza often at this point in my pregnancy. If I was feeling terrible, I didn’t go in myself. I was craving a cola product. I was continually sending Andy to the store for bottles of it. Pregnancy can do some weird things to you, just like pizza. I loved pizza, but while pregnant with child number one, I hated it.
Many times, we would stop and get a bushel or so of crabs, and we would use a hibachi for cooking them on the beach. Using the saltwater from the ocean to season it, we would cook the crabs. My husband didn’t eat the crabs; he did that just for me. Sometimes we would bring our friends to share in this treat. Since this was about 40 years ago, and the water wasn’t as polluted then, using the saltwater for seasoning the crabs didn’t seem like a bad idea. At least we never got sick from it, so I take it that it was okay. I wouldn’t do that today. Today I wouldn’t even set foot in the water, let alone cook my crabs in it. On a side note, one night a year or so later, my neighbor in base housing where we were living at the time, asked me if I wanted some crabs. I was delighted and agreed, not thinking about the fact that my husband wasn’t home, and I was afraid of them and didn’t pick them up. When the neighbor came back, they were in a paper bag that was falling apart. The crabs were scrambling around in there, and their sharp claws were tearing the paper bag to shreds.
I had the pan of boiling water on the stove and using a pair of tongs I tried to pick up a crab to drop it into the water. It slipped out of my hand, and it was running around on the floor, and I was barefoot. Luckily my washer and dryer were in the kitchen, and I climbed quickly on top of the dryer. The crab happily ran around my kitchen while I was sitting on the dryer. I sat there for about an hour until Andy came home and started laughing. I begged him to please pick up the crab off the floor and to put it and the rest in the pot which had almost boiled dry by now. After teasing me for a little while, he finally reached over and picked it up and put it and the rest of the crabs in, after refilling the pan with water.
My current home is on the east coast in New Jersey, and there are beaches approximately an hour to two hours away. The beaches here would never allow cooking with a hibachi right there on the sand, and they regulate visitors with beach passes. We had more freedom 40 years ago, and for all I know, it had to do with the state we were in at that time. Different areas have different rules or laws for their beaches. Many an unsuspecting beach-goer has gotten in trouble for not having a beach tag. Even in this state, not all beaches require them. My sister has a beach house in Ocean City, New Jersey, and they buy season passes for their whole family and a couple for visitors.
Back to the beach for the summer of 1977. It was a miserable time for me as I had terrible morning sickness. The only good thing is that back then in the 1970’s they would give you something for nausea. I also spent a lot of time in the morning consuming saltine crackers. I didn’t occupy my time ferrying my neighbors around every day like I had been doing. I was exhausted myself. If I had to go to the base, I would take whoever had to go that day with me, but that was it, no special trips.
Finally, Andy’s training ended, and he finished first in his class, and that gave him the right to choose his next duty station first. There was only one on the east coast; in fact, I don’t believe there were any others in the United States. If there was, it was on the west coast, and we wanted to stay as close as possible to our families. So, he picked the one in North Carolina. It was less than an hour from where we had first lived in North Carolina.
Luckily, he worked hard and won that choice as most of his fellow buddies headed straight overseas to Japan. Andy never really got the chance to go to Japan, and he still regrets that. He had a short trip to Germany for a few weeks, but that was all. His CO (Commanding Officer) at his regular duty station didn’t believe in sending his married men overseas if it could be avoided. Especially if they were having babies and I had two while he was with him.
Somewhere along here he also got another meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal. Before he got out, he also was given a meritorious promotion to Corporal as well. He worked on getting Sergeant, but he didn’t quite make it before he decided not to re-enlist at the end of his active duty. He had enlisted for four years of active duty and two years of reserves. He used around six months of reserve duty so that we could spend our first Christmas together after he joined the military. We were married July 10, 1976, and he left for boot camp on December 26, 1976
Getting back to the subject of child number one. We had to move since he was changing duty stations. We went out looking for another mobile home park. He couldn’t find an opening in base housing, so we had no choice. We drove up to the new base and drove around it and found a few parks. We didn’t like what we saw. We had been fortunate with that first one when we first arrived in North Carolina. We had a brand-new, fully furnished mobile home in a beautiful area. That wasn’t the case here.
We found one that was also fully furnished, but the place was a dump for one thing. We had no choice as we had to move, and we couldn’t find anything else. So, we packed everything up and moved to the new place. I unpacked our food boxes, but most of the stuff still needed to be emptied as we had come in later in the day.
We had seen a few cockroaches but didn’t think much about it. The next morning Andy got up to go to his new duty station. He always ate breakfast. So, Andy got a bowl, the milk and a box of cereal. He filled his bowl, and he recoiled when he saw the roaches. I screamed and just about puked. He was calmer than me, but he sure wasn’t hungry after that.
I made him check all the food. Anything in a box or cardboard container was eaten through and full of roaches. So now since this is where we had to live, I had no choice, but to put all our food into the refrigerator or into a hard-plastic container which I had to go out and buy along with the food that I had to replace.
Then I started to look around and realized that they were everywhere. In the furniture, the curtains, on the ceiling and in the drains were two-inch-long water bugs or water roaches. I was horrified and thought about the baby. I became hysterical and told him he had to get us base housing. I was not bringing a baby into this place where roaches could climb all over him or her and fall off the ceiling on them either. It was freaking me out which was bad enough, but not my baby. I still had several months left, so there was time, although that didn’t help me calm down any.
I refused to unpack our boxes. When we got the go-ahead to move, I wanted to throw them into the car and go. Thankfully it only took about three weeks to get base housing. When we went to unpack though we had to go very slowly and carefully and shake everything out well, so we didn’t bring any of those nasty creatures to our new home with us. We unpacked those boxes outside and carried the stuff in once we had determined it had no bugs or what looked like eggs. When our first daughter arrived in January of 1978 just a day after her father’s birthday, she was not greeted by roaches thankfully.
This housing was for the lower enlisted men and women. I liked them, though. The kitchen was large enough to put portable washers and dryers into them. It was a tight fit, but it fit, and for that, I was grateful since we were going to have a baby soon and we were using cloth diapers and going to be doing a lot of laundry regularly. There were two small bedrooms, a bathroom that had a window in the tub which meant closing it up as well as possible while showering since it opened right at the door, and then a living room which had a door that opened onto a walkway that went between the houses. We used the back door where we parked, usually for coming and going. The other door was mainly for keeping it open during the day or for going for a walk down the walkway.
One day I was sitting out front, and my big belly was quite obvious, and a lady walked past and asked me, “is that your first child?” I said, “yes, it was.” Then she asked me, “do you have any clothes for him or her?” I said, “no, I don’t have any clothes for the baby yet.” After a few more words, she left. As I was wondering what that was all about, she came back a few minutes later with three of the one-piece sleepers that babies wear. She says, “they aren’t new, but here are your first baby clothes.”
I was so excited. The woman had seen the baby clothes at a yard sale. I started to go to yard sales and to gather baby stuff. No one there was going to throw me a baby shower. We didn’t know anyone, and our family was in New Jersey, not North Carolina. Almost everything we had for the baby was used, not new. We got as much as we could from people we knew, rather than strangers though. I didn’t want things such as a crib, playpen, or stroller from a stranger. Clothes I could easily wash.
We ended up painting the bathroom before I delivered my child. I had never painted before, and when we were finished painting, I had more paint on me than the wall. My belly stuck out so far that it kept rubbing up against the walls we were painting. I didn’t do any more painting after that.
Child number one was born early, but the labor itself was 36 hours long, and the hospital sent me home. I was furious because I was sure that the baby was coming. They insisted it was not. First babies are notorious for taking a long time they told me.
My husband had to go to the veterinarian with the dog, I couldn’t make the trip, and I told him to go without me. We had a CB radio at home and in the car, and if he was there already, I could try calling the veterinarian’s office and ask for him. Nothing happened anyhow. I was still pregnant when he got home.
The next day he had to go to work, and I had to go to the dealer for work on our car. Their young worker who did the customer driving was horrified when he was told to take me home. I was still in labor and huge, but I wasn’t going back to that hospital any time soon. We all argued, but finally, he took me home when his boss ordered him to. No baby came. It waited until daddy got home from work. I had been in labor for Andy’s entire birthday. I guess it wanted a birthday of its own.
The child we were expecting was our first child, and we had no idea what would happen. Andy wanted a boy for the first child. I wanted a girl, although a healthy child of either sex would be okay. Finally, the pains were closer, and I had no choice but to go back to the hospital. They broke my water and started active labor. I refused anesthesia. All my births were natural. Finally, as the baby was out of my body, I heard the doctor say, “She peed on me.” The fact that I might have peed on the doctor mortified me of course, but it turned out to be the baby who peed on him. So, on a cold day, the end of January 1978, child number one, a daughter, arrived into this world, and we were first-time parents.
While I was in the hospital for some reason, they didn’t bring my baby to me to stay like the others. Friends came to visit and brought their four-month-old daughter with them. I was worried, and I wanted them to leave as other children were not allowed in there. Suddenly she starts to scream. Andy and her parents left her lying on the bed and took off. I was terrified that someone would come to see why I was having so much trouble with the baby, and they would have found a four-month-old rather than my newborn who was still not staying with me. I was mad at them for quite a while after that. They could have gotten me into so much trouble. Nowadays, children can visit the maternity floor, but not back in 1978.
Taking her home was uneventful, but when we got there, and I put her in the crib, our cat decides that it was nap time. I hadn’t realized that the cat had been sleeping in the crib while we waited for the baby to be born. The cat jumps in and in shock jumps right back out. That ended the cat sleeping in the crib thankfully.
The first time we took our baby home to show the family we were staying with my mother-in-law and she had given us an old crib for the baby to sleep in while we were there. It was bassinet-sized, and we thought it was put together right. During the night, she started to scream and wouldn’t stop. My mother-in-law yelled upstairs asking if everything was ok and just then Andy yelled at the baby and smacked the side of the crib and the whole thing fell out of the bottom. Instant silence everywhere. We were all stunned, the baby, most of all. She never made another sound.
The trip up with the baby was awkward. She had problems with her feet and wore corrective shoes that turned her feet out rather than in and looked like she had them on backward. People were always telling us that we put her shoes on wrong. Then there was a bar attached to them to keep her legs turned a certain way. Try taking a long road trip holding a baby with this weighty bar on her legs and banging my legs for 10 hours or so. We didn’t have baby car seats back then.