From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

We Need a Rock

The day before my son’s birth was definitely one I’ll remember. My mother was in the hospital recovering from a stroke that paralyzed her left side and affected her speech. My sister and I had gone every day to encourage her and try to get her to talk. The doctor said she would speak when she had something to say.

That day, Mom tried to tell me something. Her eyes would look at me and then shoot back to the door. She tried forming the words that her mind was screaming, but her mouth would not cooperate. I hugged her and we cried together. I knew she was worried about me and wanted me to go home, but I knew I had a month to go before the baby was due, and I wanted to stay. We really didn’t need words to communicate, but one word from Mom would have given us so much hope. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” I finally said, as I waved and waddled out the door. I could see her shaking her head as if to say, “You stay at home and rest.”

Mom was right. I should have rested. Seven hours later, I was rushed to the emergency room of the same hospital. The doctors said it was placenta previa. All I knew was that the baby and I were in trouble.

With the help of God and some good doctors, I lay upstairs from my mother, with a beautiful little boy in my arms. As I gazed at him, I kept trying to think of a name. A name is important. A name must have a history that my child can be proud of. A name must be rooted in something. But I was too emotionally drained and exhausted by the emergency cesarean to come up with the right one.

Our first son was given his father’s name, Daniel. Our second son was given his father’s middle name, Michael. Unfortunately, Dan had no more names. Our daughter was named after the most beautiful county in Ireland, Kerry. All the other family names were taken two and three times over by many of my nephews. My uncle told us that Finbar was the patron saint of our family, but I knew that a “Finbar Ryan” would have to learn to defend himself before he learned to walk.

Time was running out and the nurses were pressuring me. Suddenly, I had an idea. I called the nurse and asked her to take a note down to my mother on the third floor: Mom, it’s a boy. Will you name him? Love, Kathy.

I waited most of the day for some response. Every time I held the baby, I rocked him and whispered, “Soon you will have a name.” I’d think about Mom and wish I could see her, and my eyes would fill up with tears. All of a sudden, the nurse was standing in the doorway. She had a mischievous look on her face.

She took the baby and whispered, “Shhh.” Startled, I asked, “What’s happening?” She motioned for me to get in the wheelchair and be quiet. Another nurse took my baby into the nursery. She wheeled me down a darkened hallway. There in front of the nursery were Dan and my mother, smiling the best crooked smile I ever saw.

“Mom,” I called, as the tears welled up in my eyes. This was her first time off the third floor. Then there was a long silence as she raised her left hand and pointed to the nursery where the nurses had brought my baby to the window. In very slow and labored speech, she said, “Name... him... Peter. We... need... a rock.”

Kathy Ryan

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