November 17, 1980, nine-thirteen p.m. the doctor announced, “wow, you have a big healthy boy.” He weighed eight pounds, fifteen ounces. We named him after his sire, William Earl Collins II. At eighteen years old, this was our first child, I was attending Dawson Technical Institute, and he was a drug dealer. Dating since we were fifteen years old, this I believe, is the moment our worlds became one. Our son was pale in color, big as a three-week-olds infant, screaming at the top of his lungs, and hairy as a newborn monkey, we were proud parents. College, fast money, designer cloths, fancy cars were the focus of our lives, now meant nothing.
For the next six weeks, he cooed, cried, looked at bright colors with excitement and nursed sometimes eight times a day. He slept most of the night, waking up promptly at four a.m. for his scheduled feeding. I sang softly to him in only a voice a baby could love because he only heard mommy’s voice and not the botched up tunes coming from within his mommy’s un-tuned soul. I changed his clothes every time he regurgitated his milk. I breast fed, used cloth diapers, read nursery rhymes, played classical music, sterilized bottled nursery water and used draft detergent to wash all of his delicate outfits. I wanted to be the perfect mom. No preservatives, additives or substitutes would touch his skin or enter his little body.
Little Will’s four a.m. feeding lasted until about seven a.m. This was unusual because he usually nursed during my terrible rendition of Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star was burped, changed kissed and rocked back to sleep all within one hour. Tuesday, January 13, 1981, the phone rang around eight forty-five a.m. I heard my mother’s voice on my answering machine, telling me to get up and get the baby ready for his first doctors’ appointment. Even though I didn’t answer the phone I did get up about fifteen minutes later since the baby was still sleeping I took a quick shower, got dressed and picked out his little Mickey Mouse outfit along with matching blankets so we could make his two-fifteen doctors appointment. I picked him up, set on the couch and called my mother to let him know I was up and getting ready. His paternal grandmother, a nurse for twenty-five years, snatched him out of my arms, started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, screaming, “Call an ambulance.” I just set there with the phone in my hand my mother screaming on the other end, “What is wrong, Rhonda, what is wrong?” I simply replied with no emotion, “He is dead.” Emergency room personnel informed us that he passed due to crib death.
Every year I sing happy birthday and say a prayer; it finally hit me that God gave me those last four hours of his life, cuddled in my arms and staring into each other eyes as a gift.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.