Happy Birthday, Mark!
I’ll come when I’m ready
The fall of 1978 found us still living in Isfahan, Iran – but not quite so comfortably as we had been. Politically, the country was in constant turmoil. We were living under martial law, which meant we had to be in our house between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Martial law also restricted public meetings to groups of three or less, so our church meetings had been canceled. We knew from shopping trips out and about the city, that some bank buildings had been hit with firebombs and occasionally we could hear rioting in the distance. Sporadic power outages were common, and it was not unusual to be without power for the whole night. Our parents were very concerned about us living under those conditions; they got their information from television news, and the media coverage was a bit disturbing! We too were beginning to feel the stress of the political upheaval, although we had not witnessed or experienced any problems personally.
In the midst of all this chaos, we learned that we would be welcoming a new baby into the family around March 28, and we were excited! I remember being a little intimidated about having three kids, since that would mean the parents were outnumbered by the children; but Emily was gradually maturing into a more reasonable pre-schooler and Nathan was showing signs of better behavior. It’s interesting to me that as I look back, my memory is that I was more concerned about handling three kids than I was about giving birth in a country that was on the verge of civil war!
Although this picture is poor quality, you can still tell that the faux fur collar remained a wardrobe staple – the wrap style made it a perfect fit for my expanding mid section.
We had plans to spend Christmas in Germany with Carolyn and Stephen who were stationed there, and then go on to the States. Don would stay just a couple of weeks and then return to Iran to complete his contract, while the kids and I would live with my parents until after the baby was born and Don returned. We all decided that the restrictions of martial law would make a potential middle of the night trip to the hospital challenging. We couldn’t be out during the curfew hours, but we had no phone to call for a police escort and none of us was interested in a home birth!
That plan worked pretty much as outlined. by the time baby #3 was due, Don was back from Iran, working between San Diego and Chicago preparing for our new assignment in Saudi Arabia. He was home for occasional weekends, but I knew the chance of him missing this delivery were high. As the due date approached, my doctor and I agreed that since Don would be home the weekend that the baby was due, I would have labor induced so that Don could be here for that event. But when that weekend arrived, neither Dr. Westrup nor I really wanted to go through with that. I kept thinking that when the baby was ready, he would come, and I didn’t have the right to hurry the process for my convenience.
The weekend passed without any labor pains and Monday was uneventful as well. Due to a United Airlines strike, Don’s return to Chicago had been delayed until Monday evening, but that still wasn’t enough time. My dad drove Don to the airport and didn’t start back until Don had called back to check on me around 10:30. It was a terse conversation that went something like this (imagine Don speaking in a kind and concerned voice and me responding through gritted teeth, furious that this was happening):
“So I’m here at the airport, and before your dad leaves I just want to make sure nothing’s going on.”
“Nothing’s going on.”
“If you think it might be tonight, I can come back to Greeley with him.”
“It’s not tonight. Quit asking me! Just get on the airplane and go.”
However, before my dad returned to Greeley an hour later, I was timing contractions and getting ready to go to the hospital! Mom took me to the hospital, and sat with me through an almost painless labor process. I think that was my reward for going on my own – the contractions really didn’t hurt! But because of the logistics of this birth, none of us thought to take a camera to the hospital, and Mark’s first pictures weren’t taken until three days later.
At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 3, Mark made his appearance – all 8 pound 10 ounces of darling little boy! When I called the Telemedia office in Chicago to share the good news, Don hadn’t even arrived there yet so it was a couple more hours before he knew that he had missed the whole show. And knowing how Don loves to be a part of childbirth, I could almost think he planned it that way!
And as with his brother and sister, Mark was welcomed into the family and adored from the beginning. From a letter to Don:
April 8, 1979 – Emily and Nathan are so cute with baby Mark. Of course Emily thinks she can do anything and everything for him. She’s real sweet with him and doesn’t seem to be jealous. And Nate is just his usual self. He came in the house after church this morning and hollered down the stairs, “Where’s my little brother?” I told him Mark was in bed, and his reply was, “I need to hold him.”
And does it get much cuter than this?
When Mark was young, he was unusually afraid of bridges. Each time we drove across one, from the backseat we could hear his voice edged with fear urging whoever was driving to, “Hurry, hurry. Go faster! Hurry and get across.” He didn’t look out the car window, but kept his head down or his eyes straight ahead so as not to see the ground fall away beneath. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to get to whatever destination was on the other side, he was simply terrified of the process.
Then when he was a little older and began to understand that bridges weren’t so scary, Mark was brave enough to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on a family trip to San Francisco. He realized it was kind of fun to be up so high and have such an amazing view of the entire Bay area- although still a little nerve shaking to look down.
Last July we were in San Francisco once again as a family. This time we rode bikes across the Golden Gate bridge, stopping from time to time to marvel at the time and effort spent in construction, the view, the distance across, and the convenience that bridge provides. Mark was as excited about that adventure as the rest of us – even sporting 10 month old Charlie in a seat on the back of the bike. We all felt something exhilarating about biking across that expanse of concrete and cables – it was one of the highlights of the vacation.
This week as I’ve been processing seemingly endless pictures and mementos of family members I don’t actually know, a couple of times I’ve wondered aloud why I’m really doing this. I wonder if I’ll ever really complete the project. Tell me again who is going to care about all this stuff. Why am I taking the time to sort, organize, preserve and label pictures of a lot of people who are gone and almost forgotten? Who would really know if I threw some of this stuff away?
“. . . family history builds bridges between the generations of our families. Bridges between generations are not built by accident. Each member of this Church has the personal responsibility to be an eternal architect of this bridge for his or her own family. Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes,” Ensign, May 1999, 83
What a great reminder! The picture albums I am creating, the blog posts I am publishing, and the memories I am preserving are family bridges. This work allows each member of the family – past, present or future – to be discovered or rediscovered. These records are the bridges that connect those of us living today with those who have gone before and those who are yet to come. I am in awe when I consider the time periods these bridges span, the care with which they’ve been constructed and preserved, the panoramic view of family they provide, and the connection I feel to these faces and letters. My feeling of exhilaration returned!