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LT & meWhat raising a champion taught me about life, faith, and listening to your dreams
By Loreane Tomlinson Patti M. Britton Ginger Kolbaba
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Loreane Tomlinson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBorn to Break Records
LADAINIAN WAS BREAKING records from the time he was born. When I was pregnant with LaDainian in the summer of 1979, I felt as big around as a boat. I was on my feet all day, working at HEB, the local grocery store in my hometown of Marlin, Texas. That was difficult, but I tried to stay healthy and in shape by walking in the evenings and keeping busy. And since this was my second child, I felt pretty confident about what to expect. The birth of my daughter, Londria, had been long, but relatively easy, seven years earlier. And she was a sweet, quiet, gentle child. She slept through the night early on, and I took quickly to being a mother.
My husband, Oliver-whom everybody called Tee-and I talked often about our second child. Tee had asked me early in my pregnancy if I wanted a boy or a girl. Just like every mother, I told him it didn't really matter as long as the baby had ten fingers and ten toes. But deep down, I admit I was hoping for another daughter. I figured another girl would be easier. After all, I would know what to expect because of having Londria. And I didn't know anything aboutraising boys. They had their own issues!
But Tee shook his head. "No," he said. "This baby needs to be a boy. Every woman should have a son to help her and protect her."
I didn't think much about Tee's words. I was too busy raising our daughter, working to help pay the bills, preparing for the birth of this new child, and wondering how this second baby would affect our lives.
June 22 was a typical central Texas day-hot. Temperatures hovered in the low hundreds. My doctor had marked my due date for the next day, June 23, so I was feeling anxious and eager about the baby's arrival. I had a burst of energy that day and cleaned everything. I didn't feel tired-I couldn't believe it! Later that evening, I took a shower and got ready for bed. Even though the air-conditioning felt cool, I still couldn't get comfortable. Tee brought a fan into our bedroom, but even that didn't seem to help.
I finally dozed off to sleep until about one in the morning, when the baby decided it was time to make an entrance. Jerking awake from the painful contraction, I thought, I don't remember my last labor being this bad. I immediately woke Tee, because I figured if I was in pain, he was going to need to be awake to go through this with me! My bag had been packed a week ago, so I was ready to go.
"The baby's coming, Tee," I told him.
Tee jumped up, dressed, and ran to get Londria. He got her settled in the car while I called my mom to alert her that we were on our way.
Although our small town of Marlin had a hospital, it did not have a maternity ward. My obstetrician practiced in Marlin but used the birthing facilities at the hospital in Rosebud, about twenty miles away. So we dropped Londria off at my mom's house and set out for Rosebud. I was in so much pain, I wondered if I was going to make the car ride or if I was just going to pop this baby out during the drive over.
We made it to the hospital, where the staff checked me out and monitored my contractions.
"Well, Mrs. Tomlinson," the doctor on call finally said, "you still have a long way to go. You're barely dilated. You might as well go back home. We'll see you sometime tomorrow evening."
Tomorrow evening? I thought. Is this man crazy? Does he not understand the kind of pain I'm in? I'd had a baby before-I knew hard contractions when I felt them!
Tee placed his arm around me and guided me back out to the car so we could make the twenty-mile drive home again. The pain was overwhelming. I rocked back and forth; I puffed my breath; I did everything I could think of to lessen the pain, but nothing helped.
"Oh, God, just let this be over already!" I prayed out loud. Londria's birth hadn't been this bad. As a matter of fact, I was sure that no mother had experienced the labor pains I was experiencing-or for this long! The contractions seemed to go on and on. By about seven that morning, I couldn't take it any longer.
"Tee, we've got to go back to the hospital," I yelled. "Now! This baby's killing me!"
Back into the car we went, retracing the twenty miles to Rosebud and into the maternity ward. But we received the same news: "You're not ready to have this baby, Mrs. Tomlinson."
This time Tee shook his head. "Uh-uh. I'm not taking her back. She's hurting too bad. I am not taking her back." t
I didn't know whether he was supporting me with understanding or if he was sparing himself from having to listen to me moan and wail, but it didn't matter. The doctor agreed and assigned me a room.
Tee was able to stay in the room with me. He was such a big, strong man-in most circumstances. This was not one of them. He looked as if he were in the same amount of pain I was! Every time I groaned, he cringed and looked away.
For the next several hours, I stayed in the room crying and feeling the most intense pain I'd ever experienced. I happened to look over at Tee and saw that he was crying too.
"What are you crying about?" I asked him. I couldn't figure out why he seemed to be suffering so much. After all, we had Londria and he had four other children from a previous relationship, so it wasn't as if this labor stuff was new to him. He just shook his head and wiped his face. I think seeing me in so much pain was just too difficult for him.
Finally a nurse came in and checked to see how much I was dilated. Apparently I had hit the magic number, and they prepped me to go to the delivery room. The best part was the epidural: the pain eased, and I was a much nicer person after that!
Tee walked next to me as they wheeled me down the hallway, then he held back slightly as they turned my gurney to go into the delivery room. But Dr. Phillips placed his hand on Tee's arm.
"Come on in," he told my husband. "You won't want to miss this!"
Tee hesitated but slowly followed. I wondered if Tee was going to need his own medical attention; I was sure he was going to pass out from the whole ordeal. Men are strong in some things, but Tee couldn't even stand to see me cry. I didn't know how he was going to handle childbirth! But I give Tee an E for effort. He really tried.
Since arriving at the hospital the second time, I had been in hard labor. At 12:10 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, 1979, almost twelve hours after my first contractions, our baby was born, our LaDainian-all nine pounds, three ounces of him.
He'd broken his first record in my book: he gave me the most difficult labor of the three children I'd have! But somehow I forgot all about that as soon as the nurse placed him in my arms. Anxiously, I counted his little brown fingers and toes. They were all there, and I sighed with relief and joy. As I held this precious baby in my arms and looked into his big, dark chocolate eyes, I remembered what Tee had told me several months earlier: "Every woman should have a son to help her and protect her."
But I was my son's protector for now. "We're going to have a wonderful life together," I whispered. "I'll get to know you; you get to know me. I'm Mom. Always remember that. And you're my son. Okay?" He gurgled, cried, and flung his tiny hands up and down in response.
I was nervous about having a boy. But somehow I knew this little baby was going to bring joy to our lives. God had blessed us with a special, beautiful child who would change our lives forever.
* * *
Back at home in Marlin, I looked forward to returning to a normal routine with my family, but LaDainian had other plans. This was no normal child; he cried night and day.
The longer his crying continued, the more nervous I became. I knew this was the only way a baby could tell his mother something was wrong. So finally, after another long night with no sleep, I settled him into his car seat and headed for the doctor's office.
"He's fine," Dr. Phillips told me. "He just has air in his stomach. That's fairly common for babies. You just need to make sure you burp him really good after you feed him."
"But he cries all the time."
"Well, just burp him. I'm sure he'll be fine."
I packed up Dainian and headed home. However, no matter how often I burped him, the crying continued.
Several weeks passed, and he continued to wail. We couldn't take him anywhere because he was so disruptive. I knew he was in misery, and Tee and I were too!
There was nothing we could do to make Dainian settle down. We bought everything available to rock or roll him in, hoping it would help him go to sleep. I sat up all night rocking him, both of us crying.
Tee would take a turn when I couldn't function properly. We even got in the car and drove around at all hours trying to get him to settle down, but nothing worked. I didn't know a baby could cry this much or work himself into such a frenzy as LaDainian did. It was another record! How long could he cry and go without sleep? And how long could Tee and I go without sleep?
When the time came for me to go back to work, I wondered how I was going to leave my baby with someone when he was obviously in such pain. But I had to go back to work. So I dropped him off at the nursery and told the staff what was going on. She nodded reassuringly and told me he would be in good hands. They had dealt with these things before.
One day I encountered Mrs. Cheeves, a treasured member of our community who tallied at least one hundred years of living. Out in the country, we took advice from these older women. We respected their age and wisdom, and they knew home remedies that could help-in this case, an elixir that would restore peace and quiet to our home.
"How is that new baby?" she asked me.
I sighed. "I'll just be so glad when we can get a good night's sleep; he cries all the time."
"Well, baby, he's probably colicky."
I said, "Yes, ma'am. So what should I do?"
"Go on over to the drugstore and ask the pharmacist for some asafetida."
"Some what, ma'am?" I couldn't understand what she said. It came out more like "athafethadah," since the poor woman didn't have her teeth in.
"Asafetida," she said again. "Pinch off a little piece, mash it up real fine, mix it with Baby Percy, and put it in the nipple part of his bottle. Let him suck on that a while. That'll settle him."
I wasn't sure what asafetida was. But if it could bring some calm and quiet to our home, I was ready to give her elixir a try. As soon as I got off work, I rushed to the drugstore, made my purchase, picked up the kids from school and day care, and then headed home to care for my colicky baby.
I opened the small bag and just about passed out from the pungent, offensive odor. It made my eyes water; I had never smelled anything so nasty before. I almost shoved it back into the sack and pitched it. But the sounds of LaDainian's wails made me push on. I took a deep breath and held it as I looked at the yellow-brown leaf. Well, here goes, I thought, and I did as Mrs. Cheeves had instructed me.
And wouldn't you know it? LaDainian sucked it down, burped easily, and went right to sleep. I kept to that prescription for the next few days, and we never had a problem again. This little boy was having a rough start. I only hoped parenting him would get easier.
* * *
Now that LaDainian's crying was under control, Tee, Londria, and I settled into life with a little boy in the house. It was especially fun to watch seven-year-old Londria take to her new brother. She treated LaDainian as though he were her baby. She r helped feed him, held him, and even changed his diapers. She loved making sure LaDainian was well taken care of.
And Tee enjoyed his son too. I often caught him holding LaDainian and just looking at him. Seeing the two of them together like that always brought a smile to my face.
But early on, I could see that Tee and I had very different parenting styles. With Londria, for some reason, it had not been as noticeable. But once Dainian came along, I began to see our differences rather quickly. The first time it became apparent was when Dainian was around a year and a half old. Convinced that he was ready to move to a sippy cup, I suggested that we throw away the bottle, but Tee disagreed.
"Dainian likes that bottle," he said. "Let him keep it." From the very start, Tee made sure that whatever Dainian wanted, Dainian got.
Not one to be dissuaded, though, I simply threw the bottle away. The next day I discovered Tee had gone out and purchased another. And thus began the bottle wars. I would hide the bottle; Tee would find it and return it to his boy. I would throw it away; Tee would buy another. One day Tee and I entered the kitchen to find an almost-three-year-old LaDainian sitting on the floor by the refrigerator with a gallon jug of milk. He was busily trying to unscrew the lid of his bottle so he could help himself to a refill.
I crossed my arms. "Now do you think he is old enough to give up the bottle?" I demanded.
But both Tee and LaDainian were stubborn and persistent. LaDainian refused to drink from a cup, and Tee refused to make him. I feared LaDainian would enter high school and still have his bottle with him!
A few days after Dainian's third birthday, I decided the day had come to end the bottle wars once and for all. It was trash day, and Dainian and I went out to the curb to wait for the garbage truck, bottle in hand.
When the truck arrived, I told Dainian, "Tell the bottle bye-bye," as I tossed the bottle in with the rest of the trash. A small hand raised, waving good-bye. His sad little voice said, "Bye-bye, bottle."
To drive home the point I said, "Now LaDainian, that bottle is in with all the trash. You don't want that back, do you? It's nasty." I contorted my face into the most disgusted look I could muster.
"Nasty," echoed the small voice, as he imitated the look on my face. Problem solved.
Unfortunately, that didn't work so well on his father! Though we no longer had the issue with the bottle, we now had another problem to deal with. Dainian seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to knowing what time his father would return home from work. Even as young as three years old, he somehow knew that it was nearing his dad's arrival time. I thought it was so sweet to see my baby boy sitting quietly, watching out the window for his dad's car to pull into our driveway. What I didn't realize, though, was that LaDainian wasn't just waiting for his dad-he was waiting for what his dad brought him every night.
One night as I was brushing Dainian's teeth, I noticed that they weren't the white they should have been. Instead they were covered with little dark spots. I'm not sure how I hadn't noticed it before.
"Tee?" I yelled into the living room, where Tee was sitting. "What's wrong with Dainian's teeth?"
Tee walked in and looked, then shrugged. "I don't know."
I stood up straight and put my hands on my hips. "This boy's teeth look rotten." Somehow I knew Tee had something to do with it. That's when I found out the truth: every night when Tee came home from work, he brought candy for Dainian!
Between sucking on his bottle for so long and eating all that candy-both compliments of his father-Dainian's mouth was a mess. However, Tee didn't seem to be as concerned about the problem as I was.
"Oh, he's all right," was all he said.
That statement became Tee's motto for just about anything that happened to Dainian, and it drove me crazy! Tee always played the role of the laid-back, no-feathers-ruffled, let's-spoil-them parent, while I played the overprotective, stern disciplinarian. The truth was that my children needed both to balance out, something we would discover as our family continued to grow.
Excerpted from LT & me by Loreane Tomlinson Patti M. Britton Ginger Kolbaba Copyright © 2009 by Loreane Tomlinson. Excerpted by permission.
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