Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 11, 2002

Overjoyed and overwhelmed

I was overjoyed when Mariya was born 16 years ago, but equally overwhelmed. Five months earlier, my husband Jerome died, leaving me with what seemed like the daunting task of having a child on my own. I was simultaneously angry over losing him and thankful I had a tangible reminder of his life and his love for me.

We found out I was pregnant on Dec. 10, but he didn't have long to enjoy my pregnancy. A brain aneurysm struck him down the day after Christmas. He never regained consciousness. We had talked about names, though. If it was a girl, the baby was to be named Mariya Beth - Mariya because we liked the song, "They Call the Wind Maria," from the movie, "Paint Your Wagon," and Beth because it is my middle name.

Although Jerome wasn't with me, I wasn't alone when Mariya was born. My sister, Jerome's brother and a friend were my delivery room coaches. In the hospital waiting room, both sets of grandparents and another friend waited nervously, wondering when this kid would be born.

Not having had children before, I wasn't really sure what to expect. My sister came from Bolivia to be with me through the summer. She didn't have any children yet either, so she couldn't give me any sisterly insights. During the days before I went into labor, we pored over my "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book to be sure we knew what to look for. In the end, I made it through labor just like mothers have been doing for centuries - with or without books or coaches.

In the first day or two after Mariya was born, we had umpteen visitors - her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Then they departed, leaving my sister and me to cope with a newborn. Not only had neither of us had children, neither of us had any babysitting experience to speak of either.

I wish I had a videotape of our first few days home with Mariya for I'm sure it would be hilarious to look at now. We weren't so amused then, however. One time when Mariya was crying, we tried everything - nursing, burping, changing, rocking, cooing. Still she cried - the desperate "can't you understand what I want" cry that only a newborn has. I was exhausted.

"Here, Gaila, you take her," I said.

"No, no, no, I don't know what to do with her either! You keep her," Gaila exclaimed.

Back and forth we went. Finally, we both flopped on the bed and put Mariya between us. The three of us were soon sawing logs. All she needed was to be put down and left alone for awhile.

It was just one sign of things to come. Mariya still needs her alone time. She loves her family and friends, but once she's had enough, she'll disappear into her room - sometimes for hours - to read, listen to music or just "veg."

A few days ago Gaila's oldest daughter and Mariya were trying on some of my clothes. I was startled to see how well several outfits fit the girls. After Mariya put on my black suit, she went out to model it for Art. Her big smile showed how pleased she was with the way she looked.

"Now all I need is a black briefcase," she said. Art smiled in agreement.

Sixteen years ago Wednesday I carried Mariya into the hospital inside me and a couple of days later I carried her home in my arms. Now she can get in her car and go without any help from anyone.

I'm still overjoyed and overwhelmed by it all.

Mariya learning to walk and in her Mercury Topaz.

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