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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Those Wonderful Days that Turned Into Years

By Edith Matte                                          
              Beyond any doubt, the saying ‘with children the days are long, and the years short" is true. How the years have flown, it seems like yesterday, that I was a young wife and mother. In 1965, We were expecting our first child. I was employed as a 4-H-Home Economist with the LSU Cooperative Extension Service. To be productive, the job required long work hours and being away from home six weeks during the summer. Therefore, I knew that remaining in this position would not be possible after the baby was born. Therefore, I resigned. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl on June 2, 1963. That first year as a ‘stay at home mom’ was rewarding, enjoyable, and sometimes trying. Our daughter, Mary Beth, was the picture of health, but she was an ‘allergy baby’ which often meant long nights rocking a crying baby and many trips to our pediatrician. She walked at ten months and was talking at a year. In the spring of 1966, we found out we were expecting triplets which were due in mid August.
            Late in the afternoon of June 25, 1966, three precious, little girls decided it was time for them to enter ‘our world’. After their dramatic arrival in Breaux Bridge, they brought them to an isolation nursery at Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette. Dr. Wynne, our pediatrician, gave them excellent care and kept me posted on a daily basis. Their birth weights were 3 pounds 11 ounces, 3 pounds 12 ounces and 4 pounds. They were in the isolation nursery for four weeks. Then, one Friday, they told us that we could bring them home on the following Tuesday. It was a busy, hectic weekend. My doctor would not permit me to drive or do much for four weeks after the birth of a baby. Preemie clothes, if available, were very expensive. That weekend, I spent long hours at the sewing machine making eighteen very tiny, long sleeve plisse diaper shirts. We also shopped for other necessities and washed new diapers, crib sheets, and baby clothes. How I wished I had disregarded my doctor’s orders and done a little at a time to prepare for bringing our babies home! The men set-up three baby cribs - one we got with S&H Green Stamps, friends gave one to us and we borrowed one. Our home had only two bedrooms with wall to wall beds. One bedroom contained three baby cribs and a double bed, and the other had Mary Beth’s baby bed and our double bed in it.
             The big day arrived. My Mom and mother-in-law went with Mary Beth and me to the hospital to bring them home. We brought them home in a large oval laundry basket and a smaller round plastic container. I still have the basket as it is a wonderful keepsake of that time in our lives. On our way home, Mary Beth, oblivious to what was happening, sat in her car seat sucking her bottle. When she finished, she just tossed it. It landed in the basket hitting one baby on the head. Were we so thankful it was a plastic bottle!
              The first twenty-four hours that the babies were home, were great. We fed them 3 ounces of formula every three hours, day and night. Feeding took about two hours and fifteen minutes because they were so tiny. Forty-five minutes after one feeding was finished, it was time to start another. It took at least two people for each feeding. Then things’ changed - on the evening of the second day all three babies started crying like they were in terrible pain. Colic, we thought. Then came diarrhea, a doctor’s visit, formula change, more crying and diarrhea, another doctor visit, another formula change. The crying and diarrhea continued!! Each doctor’s visit took three adults, but also confirmed that although they were in pain and had upset stomachs they were still gaining weight. Finally, it was determined they had come home from the hospital with an E-Coli bacteria. The doctors would not prescribe antibiotic or any other medication because they were still so little. After weeks of screaming, they prescribed antibiotic and Bentyl to be put in each bottle. I kept them on Bentyl until they were eight months old for fear they would start hurting again. For many years, I had flashbacks when I heard a young baby crying in pain.
Besides caring for their normal baby needs, there were thirty-six bottles to wash, sterilize, make formula for, and fill each day. We washed between three and four dozen diapers daily for four little ones. Since Mary Beth was only fourteen months old, she still required much care and love so that she would not be jealous. Both grandmothers took turns staying a week at a time for about a month after we brought them home. Then my mother-in-law had a kidney abscess that required surgery. We hired a middle age lady who came to help me for six hours a day until they were almost a year old. I am so thankful we had many wonderful friends who came to help without ever having to be asked.
           As the months went by, our home became more and more baby proof. We put latches on doors to hook them to the wall so no fingers were smashed, locks on cabinet doors, and put up several baby gates. Play pens were a valuable possession for us. We had two in the living room, and one behind the front seat of our 1959 green Chevy station wagon. We had put down the back seat, opened an oblong playpen, and placed it there. This creative arrangement enabled me to travel with the girls without the help of another adult. When they were about a year old, if the weather was good, I would set out for Port Barre with four little girls - one in a car seat by me and three behind me in the playpen. That playpen also came in handy to go to the grocery store for a few items or to get notions at Zene’s Fabric store. I would put the girls in the grocery cart and put the items around them or they would hold them. One day I could not find the banana I had put gotten. When the girls stood up in the cart for me to take them out, there they were - mashed bananas - Janet had sat on them.
             Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and a special time for our family. We always had a large Christmas tree. When the triplets were eighteen months old, my father-in-law and husband built a cage to surround the tree. This enabled us to enjoy it without constantly saying ‘no", and also to prevent them from getting hurt. Since I sewed all their clothes, each child had a beautiful dress to wear to church and to participate in the Children’s Christmas program. Since I only have one brother and Clarence is an only child, in 1967, we hosted Christmas dinner for both our families. That tradition continues until today. The grandparents are gone, as are most of my aunts. We are now the grandparents, but the tradition continues, with our children, grandchildren and uncle and aunt.
Birthday parties were also special times with grandparents and friends to celebrate. Each child had her own birthday cake that I made with special care. In 1969, we went on our first vacation to Lake Charles to the beach. Both grandmothers came along to help us. This tradition also continued - a vacation either far or near until the girls were grown. After they started their own families, we enjoyed several family vacations with our children and our grandchildren.
             The memories of those wonderful years, with their joys and sometimes difficulties, are precious to me. Surely, God’s hand was upon us throughout the years as He provided for all of our needs. We may not have been rich in material possessions, but we were rich with what money could not buy - faith, love, wonderful family, and loving, devoted friends.

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