Fifty Years Ago, I had a Baby!!
I was thirty, and we decided to have another baby. We already had three lovely children. But many of our friends were just getting married. It just looked like so much fun to add to the family. After all, Charley’s family had two sets of children separated by seven years. And we started so young with the first ‘set .’We were twenty when our first one was born, and I was still twenty-two when we had our third. It would be fun to do it again and be more mature this time.
So I said to my doctor, “We want to have another baby. But I definitely do NOT want to have one in December. I have one child whose birthday is in December, which is difficult for me and not much fun for her. “Don’t you worry!” The doctor said with great authority, “You have been taking birth control pills for eight years. It will take your body a while to adjust to being fertile. I expect it will take you about six months to get pregnant.”
“Are you sure? ” I asked with real trepidation. “Absolutely,” he said. Haha! I had Robert Redd Matheson nine months later, on December 8th, 1972. ( I was still 30.) It took my body no time at all to adjust. So I have two children with December birthdays. I also have two more with January birthdays and one in February. Winter is busy for us.
Robert was my much anticipated second December baby and fourth child. I had purchased a new layette for an infant. It was such fun to buy new clothes for the baby. They were so tiny. I could not wait to feel that sudden lightness when you pick up a newborn. They usually feel as light as a feather. Not mine, though. He did not fit into ANY of those brand-new clothes.
He weighed 10 pounds. I noticed when I was ‘pushing” that he seemed to sort of “stick,” and it was an effort to get that baby out into the world. But I was used to having babies and did not panic. I just pushed a few extra times, and out he came! Triumph! Having a baby is the most wonderful, powerful, self-fulfilling thing a woman can do! I LOVED having babies. But I was fortunate. I knew a lot about birthing babies by that time. And my doctor was a wonderful man who let me do it by myself. No monitors, not inducing, nothing attached to my body. He understood that women are designed to have babies, which is no big deal. Our bodies know how to do it.
I fear that there are very few doctors left like him.
Robert was an adorable baby. He was ten days old the first time he slept through the night for 6 hours. He was a fat, healthy, contented baby. And I was a relaxed and happy mother. I let him nurse, whenever he wanted, and we picked him up a lot, but he seldom cried. As his Mom, I thoroughly loved him. So did his Dad,
But along with us, there were also his three older siblings. An older brother and two older sisters. He was always in someone’s arms or sleeping peacefully. No fussing, no colic, no sleepless nights. It was a breeze.
I was at a wellness check with Robert when he was nine months old. He appeared to be getting ready to walk. He would pull himself up to a standing position all the time and try to take a step. But my other children started walking around a year or even later. I asked the pediatrician if he was about to walk. The doctor said, “No! He is way too chunky. He is not going to walk any time soon. Don’t worry.”
When was I going to learn that doctors, though often well-meaning, do NOT have a clue about what is really going on?
Robert was walking within a few days of that doctor’s appointment. And that marked the end of my worry-free maternal experience. From the time he got up and walked at nine months, Robert was off on his own. Unlike most children, he was not tied to me in any way. He would go off exploring, and he would NOT return even if I called him. I had to go and forcibly bring him back. It was exhausting. His escapades scared me to death. But eventually, I learned to trust him.
It is true he would just run off, but he always knew where he was. He never got lost. He had a purpose for all of his explorations. He was insatiably curious. But he was also amazingly competent. He knew how to get things done. He could destroy things fast. But he could put them back together too. (mostly)
He was driving a lawn tractor by the time he was six. He understood a lot about machinery and animals, and life in general. He was fearless. He was sometimes a bully. But he protected weaker kids from others if he wanted to. He was and is super sensitive and compassionate.
He had so many heart-stopping adventures I cannot list them here. Besides, I am still discovering some of the things those kids did back then. Some of them are almost unbelievable, like when Robert was 14 years old. He drove his younger brother and two of their friends to the movies in Mannasis in the pouring rain. Mannasis was 25 minutes away from our farm, down route #66, on a good day. I shudder to think of how dangerous that was, but they all survived. When Charley and I came home from the party we had been to that evening; the boys were all sitting in the TV room with their feet up, innocently watching a movie. I would never have known about their adventure except that Robert confessed to me the next day.
There are stories still being told about his antics. He painted the white truck black with creosote. He set the woods on fire with some friends. But they were able to put it out. Drove our cars all over the property, and put diesel fuel in my convertible from the farm tank. He once tried to cut the leg off of a sofa with an ax. He shot guns, drank beer, and tried to kiss girls at an early age. Boarding school was certainly an education in every sense of the word. He played sports and loved to go to parties, and he even studied when necessary. And he learned caution. (Finally) He became the designated driver for many of his friends. I suspect he saved a good many lives doing that.
Somehow he grew to adulthood and lived through all those early traumas. Even his college career was not predictable. He did not get into UVA when he first applied. So he went down to Charlottesville anyway, rented a house, and enrolled in Piedmont Community college. The idea was that he would transfer to The University of Virginia after two years. But by that time, he was tired of living in Charlottesville, and he moved on. Later he graduated from George Mason University in 1998. I went back to college there at GMU to get a degree in Psychology. Going to school with one’s son is undoubtedly extraordinary. Sometimes when walking across the campus, I would hear, “Hey, Mom!” and sometimes, we would get a bite to eat together. We both graduated in the same year though he graduated a semester ahead of me.
He is an entrepreneur. He has had ups and downs over the years. Do you have a Robert Redd shirt? Many people still love that brand. It will be back shortly, I believe. The story of Robert Redd is a part of who he is. Part fantasy and part history, it has shaped much of his life.
He produced the most loveable blond-haired, blue-eyed child. This angelic individual, whose behavior is exemplary, surprises all of us. I smile about this internally. How could it be that Robert, who caused so much anguish and fear for his parents, would have such a well-behaved child? He is a very organized and diligent parent, along with his child’s mother. They both deserve a lot of credit. Robert’s son, Jack, is our youngest grandchild.
He also has a dog named Uhtredd, after the hero of the series called The Last Kingdom. Uhtredd is the best dog! Robert is crazy about him. And so am I. Lucky for me the dog is marvelous. I see him a lot. It is lovely for me that my boy Robert now lives nearby. He is accommodating, and we help each other look after our dogs.
Can it be true that he is 50 years old today? I just cannot believe it. Happy Birthday, Robert. You make me very proud. I love you.
Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson