The Rose began life as a very special child, born in crisis, taken forcibly by c-section in the eighth month of pregnancy. Less than two hours after her birth, her grandmother reported, “The baby is humming!” Indeed, she was carrying a tune, and we knew that she would be all right. The Rose began making up her own songs as early as two years old. Each night I sang to her and watched her talents grow. By nine years old, she announced that I would no longer be required to sing her to sleep. She boastfully added, “I can sing those songs better than you can, Mommy!” In deed, she was right! By an early age, her voice had grown into a mature instrument. She often performed solos in school, in church and with the girl’s choir. She was a happy child with an “A” average and so full of life.
Then without warning, the Rose became silent. She suddenly stopped singing, and the humming that had lasted fourteen years was gone. We watched bewildered as the Rose shriveled up and tried to die. She withdrew from all her social activities and from life. Knowing something must be wrong, we hauled her everywhere to see counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, to no avail. The Rose just wasn’t talking about anything to anyone. Perhaps, the Rose was in denial, minimizing the trauma, or just numb. But time waits for no one; on July 30, 2001 her secret was revealed!
It had started out as a normal busy morning, until I received that frantic and urgent call from the emergency room. My heart stopped as I learned that the Rose had given birth to five-pound baby boy. Mass confusion filled my head; I questioned if they had call my number by accident. I had just sent my daughter to visit her father only two days before. I had no warning that my daughter, who did not even have a boyfriend, could be pregnant. I called my mother, in despair, while waiting for the next flight out. After hearing me in such a panic, she calmly asked, “Is she alive?” Despite what I said, she kept repeating that question until I got it, “Is she alive?” I replied, “Yes, but…” She interrupted me again, “Then go to her and celebrate your new grandson!” My mother, the time-honored grandmother of twenty-three and great-grandmother of two, brought hope to my heart and music to my ears. In an instant, her words lifted up my spirit and refocused my world. Just like that the chaos stopped and my mission was clear. I became singularly focused on helping the doctors save my daughter and embracing my only grandchild.
Who knew? Beneath the loose fitting clothes, the Rose had been hiding a dark secret. She had given birth alone in her bedroom the night before. After wrapping the newborn child in a warm towel, her mind was fixated on cleaning the room. While getting more towels from the bathroom, she passed out and hit her head on the toilet. Hearing the noise, her stepmother awoke to find a bloody child on the bathroom floor. With 9-1-1 on the speakerphone, her stepmother and the doctor, began life saving procedures. Her first thought was to stop the bleeding, but “where was all this blood coming from?” The Rose became conscious just long enough to say, “The towel on my bed.” Her father ran to her room and discovered a newborn baby wrapped snuggly in the bed. He yelled to the doctor, “Oh, my God, there’s a baby! She had a baby!” With paramedics now in route, the doctor attended to the seemingly healthy child. Just that quick, our peaceful world had been turned upside down. The Rose almost died that night from the massive blood loss and trauma to the head.
When I arrived at her bedside, I had to fight back the tears. She was unconscious and connected to all sorts of tubes and monitors. She was at risk of multiple organ failures and her blood pressure was critically low. Her typically caramel brown face was without color and her body was icy cold. I placed a pretty pink robe from the gift shop on her lifeless body and warm wool socks on her feet. Then I prayed and waited for my baby girl to come back to me. I just wanted the Rose to bloom again! As I sang and prayed for strength, hours passed without any movement or sound from her. The Rose had begun life in my womb to the sound of music. She was born with a song in her heart and on her lips. I could only hope that the power of the music would give her the will to live and would bring her back to life again.
At last, her eyes opened and my Rose was back. “I knew you were here, Mom. I just knew it! When I felt the warmth come to my feet, I knew you had arrived. I was singing with you, Mom. Could you hear me?” While the heavy medicine held her body hostage in a paralyzing slumber, she felt every prayer and rejoiced with every song. It would be days before the Rose could tell us what had happened. She explained that she had wanted to tell. “But, when it was a good day, I didn’t want to ruin a good day. And, when it was a bad day, I didn’t want to make it worse. There was never a good time to talk about it. In the end, I just ran out of days.”
After several weeks, the Rose and her Bud were finally strong enough to come home. Which meant the hardest part was yet to come: the process of re-building her life again. The school system was unprepared to handle the needs of a victim-of-crime and a new mother. They simply could not provide the services that she needed to reclaim her self-esteem. The students were cruel with their words and foolish games. The hours away from her newborn were long and painful. The teachers were judgmental, both unwilling to listen or compromise. Not knowing her story, the community stared at the young awkward mother and branded her with a scarlet letter! Combined with feelings of the loss of a childhood, the shame of her circumstances and doubts about her future, the Rose was in the fight of her life. With so many conflicting emotions and endless questions, I feared that I might be losing the Rose once more. Something had to be done to move her beyond the pain and confusion, to bring order to chaos.
Finally, the Rose and I decided to take matters into our own hands. I had been a school administrator for many years; it seemed logical that I already had the answers to our problems. “If I could direct the learning for thousands of children at school, I should be able to educate one at home alone.” Home schooling became the only viable alternative for the Rose. But, it would require great focus and determination on her part. It was a leap of faith to convince her that a “hero” laid within her. And so it began, I would instruct her at night and assign her independent study for the next day. We charted a course, monitored our progress and adjusted the roadmap as we went along.
Before long, the end of her coursework was near, and I heard it again. One night while getting ready for bed, I heard the humming Rose again. At first it startled me; our life had been filled with so much pain that I couldn’t handle the joy. It made my heart weep, and I could not stop the tears from falling. It had been such an ugly road, such a long time coming. I crept down the stairs toward her voice, and the humming turned to singing. Not a meek voice, but a bold “Patti LaBelle-like” voice. At last, I got my first glimpse of the Rose singing her Bud to sleep. I knew then, that my Rose garden was blooming at last. My prayers, as a mother and grandmother, had been answered. It was a sign that life would work itself out.
The Rose graduated from home school in May 2002. She attended community college for two years before transferring to the university. Her grades are strong, her self-esteem and confidence are growing each day. The Rose had survived the drought. She walked through the Valley of the Dead, and she has found happiness on the other side.
Today she is a loving mother, a good student, a powerful singer and a creative songwriter. She has recently discovered the joys of volunteerism through reaching out to teens and their parents. The Rose hopes to build a career in music. I am very proud of the Rose because society would have predicted a much worst scenario. Today, when I look upon her optimistic face or hear her angelic voice, I know that God is a loving God. I ask that your prayers be with the Rose as she grows her garden. The Rose is a role model for survivors and un-wed teenage mothers. Like her mother, she regularly shares her lessons learned with others.