Introducing . . .

28 07 2003

Jacob

After fourteen hours of labor, the doctor’s expression showed concern. The fetal monitor indicated the baby was experiencing distress. Dr. Polk explained the situation to me and George, and a few minutes later an anesthesiologist was holding a mask to my face. Dr. Polk said, “See you in a few minutes.”

I thought, “He’s about to cut me open, and I’m not asleep!” The next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery. A heavy-set nurse stood across the room with her back to me. She appeared a little startled when I spoke. “What did I have?”

“Oh! You’re awake!” she said, coming to my side. She looked at me, smiled, and announced, “You had a boy. We’ll get you out of here soon so you can go see him.”

A boy. My first-born son. And how appropriate that he was born on Sunday, May 10, 1981. Mother’s Day.

The next morning Dr. Polk came into my hospital room and smiled sheepishly. “If I’d had any idea how big he was, I never would have let you go through all that labor.”

Jacob entered the world weighing 10 lbs, 4 oz. That’s pretty hefty under any conditions, but (as I’ve said before in this journal) I’m a runt. About 5′ 2 1/2″ and petite. George is 5′ 8″ and lean. Not exactly the parents you’d predict for jumbo baby. He looked like a three-month-old next to the other infants in the neonatal nursery.

We soon learned Jacob had a will to match his size. Several days after we brought him home, I heard a creaking noise coming from the next room where Jacob was supposed to be sleeping. Then I heard Jacob begin to cry. Not the gentle newborn mewing sound one might expect. A loud, angry squawk. Leaning back in my chair to glance through the doorway, I saw the whole bassinet swaying from side to side, and I thought, “What have I done?”

By the time he was two, we knew Jacob was very intelligent. He had an extensive vocabulary, knew the alphabet and numbers, and expressed himself well. His ability to comprehend and process information was comparable to many kindergarteners. And he was also adorably cute! With his head full of strawberry blond curls, bright blue eyes, and chubby pink cheeks, one could almost forget what a little toot he was. At least when he was asleep. He looked so beautiful and angelic when he slept, it made me want to cry. When he was awake, he made me want to cry, too. But not because he looked beautiful. Nor angelic.

With a biologist for a father, Jacob had a living encyclopedia to answer many of his incessant questions. And George always gave him the scientific answer. Jacob had a great memory to go along with his insatiable curiosity. “What’s that?” he asked. (It was a daddy long legs.) “Phalangida,” George answered. And from then on, Phalangida it was.

I could give countless examples of Jacob’s stubbornness. Like the habit he developed as a toddler of holding his breath until he passed out. Something would upset him, he’d begin to cry, work himself into a frenzy, then reach a point of no return. We felt so helpless as we watched fear filling his eyes; he gulped for air, turned blue, and keeled over. As soon as he fainted, he’d start to breathe normally and wake up moments later. But it was awful. Our doctor said the best thing was to ignore him. Not so easy to do, but we tried. He quit after a couple of years.

When he was five, he decided he wanted to play soccer. We bought the uniform, the ball, the shoes. He was so proud of all of it. On the first day of practice, we drove to the soccer field. Little kids were running all over the place kicking balls, waiting for practice to start. George and I got out of the car, but Jacob didn’t move. “Come on, Jacob,” we said. “It’s time for practice.”

“I don’t wanna play. I wanna go home.”

“What? Don’t be silly. You’ll have fun. Look at all the other kids.”

“No. I’m not gonna play.” He sat in the back seat, arms across his chest, face set like flint. We’d seen that posture enough times to know this wasn’t going to be easy.

“But Jacob . . . you have a brand new uniform! And your shoes . . . ” He loved those shoes. Jacob looked at the shoes with genuine remorse, but his resolve returned in full force.

“No!”

George and I were surprised and confused. Jacob had been so excited about this. We couldn’t figure out what the problem was and decided to talk to the coach, a young surgeon who had a son on the team.

He laughed and said, “Oh, he’s probably just nervous. Let me talk to him. I’m sure he’ll come around.”

We waited at a distance from the car. About five minutes later the coach came back, red-faced and flustered. “He won’t budge! I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe if he watches for a while . . .”

We sat in the car with Jacob and watched. After an hour or so we went home. We drove him to practice several more times, but he never participated. After talking to Jacob over a period of time, we realized he had a deep fear of failure. He couldn’t bear the thought of going out there on the field and possibly performing poorly. He couldn’t stand the idea that people would be watching him fail.

He was only five. I wondered how he would handle school.

To be continued.


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4 responses

29 07 2003
ragamuffen

That is the same age I have Cody to in my story and I am so stuck. You do this soooo much better than me. Jacob sounds like an amazing guy. You have quite the family.

I’m eager for more.

xoxo

29 07 2003
jeannedamoff

Thank you for your encouragement, but I have to disagree that I do this better than you. I love the metaphors you come up with, the emotion that permeates from your words . . . my writing may be “clean”, but yours is alive.

The story line of the book starts when Jacob is fifteen. Earlier events are only included as back-story. So I’m indulging myself a little here and taking my time about explaining who Jacob is today. I know only a few people are likely to read this, but if those few grow to love Jacob, it will be worth it.

30 07 2003
allenb

Climbing Jacob’s Ladder …

Oh wow, EZ, this is AMAZING!!! Thank you for sharing this with us! My goodness … I didn’t know one could actually hold his breath until one passed out. I can’t imagine being so INTENSE at age 5!!!

30 07 2003
jeannedamoff

Re: Climbing Jacob’s Ladder …

Thank you, Allen. It’s a rather strange road to walk back down for me. In many ways (as you’ll learn if you keep reading the story!) the former Jacob was taken from us and a different Jacob given back. I love them both. But writing about his childhood almost feels like writing about someone else . . . someone I used to know. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. At any rate, as always, I appreciate your enthusiasm so much! I want you to know Jacob. He’s very precious. Thanks for reading and responding. It means a lot to me. ♥ EZ

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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