There are many ways I could start this story.
“If I have to come down there once again, I am going to have to spank you!” (Opener 1)
“Well, no wonder!” (Opener 2)
“Ay, Senora, of course this is your baby!” (Opener 3)
“I heard a disturbing story about your baby at the hospital. Do you want me to tell you? It might freak you out.” (Opener 4)
Today is Thing 2’s and his other brother’s 11th birthday. Born 2 hours apart in the same hospital in Mexico City, they share Californian mothers. That is about it. Virtual twins they are not.
Like a dog sensing an earthquake, Thing 1 would not stay in bed one evening eleven years ago. Her grandmother had been up and down the stairs to put her back in, her father, and finally me, who HAD HAD IT. On the brink of infanticide, I yelled down the hall to her Opener 1. Naturally, she got out of bed. Having called my bluff, I had no option but to haul myself out of bed and whack her bottom. Waddling down the hall, I felt a slight, but unmistakeable trickle.
After 3 weeks of internal pummeling and unproductive (but not false) labor pains, 6 hours of nondilating Pitocin, and mounting concern, Thing 2 was surgically extracted from me, prompting the Fantastic Doctor Jorba to exclaim Opener 2. Roughly the size of a cantaloupe, my baby’s head was disproportionate to the rest of his body, even though he looked mature with a little fat padding his thighs. Cherubic would be an understatement. No blotchy face, no squishy skull like Thing 1. I was relieved. I was tired. I was overjoyed. But still envious of the 38 or 39 year old woman in the room next door who popped her Thing 3 out in two hours. Mr. Understanding, The Radish and I all heard that baby’s first cry.
“The lady next door just had her baby! After only two hours! A boy! She’s from California too. Her husband is just sooo nice,” my mother reported. Humpf, I thought, as they wheeled me away two hours later to the OR, my womb shut tighter than Jimmy Hoffa’s tomb.
Three weeks later, I was at home and an OBF (Old Best Friend) called to tell me Opener 4. Did I want to know? Of course! How weird could it be? It seems that my child was given to Sra. Lopez instead of me in the hospital (Opener 4). The nurse claimed Sra. Lopez was still hazy from the drugs and could not tell the difference. La Lopez will have to share this part of the story because it belongs to her alone, but in any event, for an afternoon, my Thing 2 was Thing 3 Lopez.
Six weeks later I walked up to a couple dressed as Luci and Desi at a Halloween party and thanked them for returning my son. We agreed to keep in touch and when the babies were 6 months old we met for chilaquiles at Sanborn’s.
Shortly thereafter the Lopez family moved to Santiago, Chile. When we moved to Brazil, we promised we would visit. So last year, for the boys’ 10th birthday, we flew over the Andes to see the other brother, mother, father, and siblings, drink red wine, and see a little bit of Santiago. We did not even really know them that well, just had this unique bond.
It is so hard to keep in touch with the myriad of people one meets in the course of their expat adventures. Some people write you all the time, some you never hear from again, some remain vigilant with their Christmas cards (that would be La Lopez). What was born that day besides two beautiful Mexican American boys? A decade plus of friendship. You never forget the woman who gives you back your baby. She is always and forever on my Valentine list.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LOS MEXICANOS!