The boys were becoming mobile and were still attending school with us. Robert was pastoring his first church and building a little house on a few acres way out in the country. Literally, he and his father were building a home for us to live in. We were both taking a full time class load in the hopes of meeting the requirements for graduation. It was a crazy time and we often felt stretched beyond our limits. Several times I would break down in tears in the scurry to get diaper bags and book bags packed for our morning commute to campus. I might have given up in those times had Robert not reminded me how close we were.
We faced all the difficulties newly married couples do. We worried about finances. The little Baptist church Robert pastored operated on a "free will offering". In other words, there was no set salary and no benefits. Whatever ended up in the pastor plate at the end of the service is what we took home - whether it was $10 or $100. We quickly learned to look to God for our provision. We bought building supplies as we could afford them. When we moved into the house, it was literally a shell with studs for walls, plywood floors, and an open ceiling that looked into the attic space. But it was our home and we were happy to have it.
Many people said starting a family so soon would rob us of our time together. I wonder about that logic now. Robert and I became a tuned machine, working together to meet the needs of one another and our little family. There were no "assigned jobs". We worked as a team to get done whatever needed doing - diaper duty, typing papers (on a typewriter no doubt!), cooking, cleaning. It's a philosophy that still rules our house. See a need - fill a need. We grew together because we needed one another.
This second pregnancy was easier. I didn't experience the morning sickness I had with the boys (severe morning sickness that put me in the hospital at one point). How much harder would a third baby be? We had a rhythm going and I was in the final stretch of school.
I began a negotiation with God in the Spring. "God, what is it going to take to let me finish school and graduate before this baby comes?" Surely He wouldn't let me come this far and not let me finish. He was teaching me about His perfect timing though. Each OBGYN check up was met with speculation from my doctor. He just couldn't be sure if the baby would come before or after graduation day. I took it easy in those final weeks, taking the three flights of stairs to my Lit class very slowly. Everyone around us encouraged us that the baby would wait, but we saw their fingers crossed behind their backs.
When graduation morning arrived and the baby hadn't, I thanked God. I was feeling a little sluggish, but the excitement of the day gave me the adrenaline push I needed to get going. We arrived at campus and were greeted with a record crowd. The auditorium was already filled to capacity with family and friends of the graduating class. Administrators made a last minute decision to have the graduates stand throughout the ceremony so there would be enough room for spectators.
It was a warm Mississippi May morning, I was nine months pregnant, and I was just told that I would be standing throughout the 3 hour service. Do you see the perfect storm brewing here?
It started with a subtle ache in my lower back. I shifted from one foot to the other. If I rested my hand on my lower back, it helped a little. The graduation candidate in front and behind me looked anxiously at my movements. "How you doing? Do you want to step out of line and sit down?" There was no way I was stepping out of that line. I smiled and shook my head to ease their discomfort since I couldn't ease mine. After the speeches had been given, the issuing of diplomas began and the line started to move. I thanked God again for marrying me to a Landrum and not to a Zimmerman.
Crossing the stage and taking that diploma was as good as hearing God audibly say, "I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I turned in my robes at the conclusion of the ceremony and headed to the hospital. "Well, it looks like you're going to have two major accomplishments today, Leslie," my doctor declared after examining me. Hannah was born later than night, just an hour shy of Mother's Day. Robert propped my degree up on one of the shelves in the birthing suite. Nurses would walk through and pause to gaze at the official looking document, shake their heads, and remind us that we were lucky that we had waited until graduation to have a baby.
And then when Hannah was less than a year old, I found out I was pregnant again. . .