John was going to be born at home. Everything was going well. The midwife had me on a diet that gave me lots of energy and life was good.
We had been living on an outpost north of Manaus, Brazil where our assignment was to learn the language of the Indians who lived around us. They knew no Portuguese and no one spoke their language. As linguists with the Summer Institute of Linguistics, we had been invited to join with the government Indian agency in making contact with this group, analyzing their language, learning it and figuring out an alphabet. It was a tall order since in 2 years time, my husband had only had about 24 hours worth of time with them divided between about 8 or 9 different contacts. I had only seen them once. To expect us to learn their language under these circumstances was a huge stretch! But in fact, we did learn how to say, “What is this?” in their language and from there began to glean a list of words. But we were far from the point of having enough data to determine the appropriate alphabet for their language when we found out we were expecting John, our second child.
Malaria was running rampant in the area and since I had no desire to contract malaria during my pregnancy, we requested permission to take an early furlough and return to the Dallas, Texas area.
When we got settled in, we discovered that a number of other women in the mission were going the route of having home births with the help of a local midwife. I had read lots about it and had been quite unsatisfied with my birth experience in Brazil so we prayerfully made the decision to have this second baby in the USA with a midwife and home birth.
All was going very well until one morning about 6 weeks before my due date I awoke with an excruciating headache. The pain was so intense, I could do nothing but lie on the couch or bed and wait either for deliverance or death. If that sounds dramatic, it was. The pain was impossible to describe in words and I have never before or since actually wished that death would deliver me from it. In addition to the pain, my eyes crossed and I saw double of everything. We went to specialists who sent us to other specialists but no one could figure out what was happening to me. They did a CAT scan which showed nothing. They called in their colleagues to see this strange case. In the end, they concluded that it was all due to a hormone imbalance. And because of the headache and double vision, I suddenly had a “high risk” pregnancy and could no longer have a home birth.
And that’s why John Cameron Reece entered the world at Grand Prairie Community Hospital around 6:00 AM on June 24, 1977. The birth was very normal. The nurses held up a mirror for me to watch his birth, but I didn’t see much of it. Actually, I saw it double and couldn’t really see what I was seeing. The most critical thing, however, was that he was placed in my arms, wrapped in a receiving blanket and I was nursing him within minutes of his birth before they even cleaned him up! That is a precious memory indeed, far different from my experience with my daughter who had been born in Brazil. I had had to fight to get the nurses to give her to me after more than 24 hours – one of the reasons I didn’t want to experience anything like that again.
John was our Texan although he loved Brazil and claimed it as home. Inadvertently, we named him John and his birth fell on Brazil’s “St John’s Day” (Dia de Sao Joao). We had forgotten, but probably would still have named him John. We both loved that name. Cameron, his middle name, was after Uncle Cam, William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators who was a man of great faith and a personal friend of our family.
How do you really pay tribute to a son who departed far too soon? Perhaps you understand, having lost a child or family member yourself. The only way is to say, “Thank you, John for your presence with us for 22 years.”
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