Note to all: This is my story of knowing Marley Cote’s mother, Joan Cote. She was my birth roommate. RIP Joan. 
Marley and Jeremy

Marley and Jeremy

Marley was Bob’s last name but his songs and positive vibrations have inspired many to pass on more than his gift of uplifting messages on to their youth.

Joan held a precious one inside her belly.

I could not tell you what it was, exactly, that inspired her when she heard Bob sing.
Was it his poetry? Was it the rhythms his songs moved her to and fro? Was it his accent? His culture? His Vibes? His One Love message?
The puzzle pieces are there to be had, but not by me. That story can be told by another.
I only know she named her first and only child Marley. I only know the strength and love she offered him. For two months we were room mates, or should I say deck mates since the home we shared merely consisted of mismatched decks added one by one to form a compound, known by some as a magical Oasis. I only know…
Joan was in the house…
and Marley was zooming by.

Smiles, Blonde hair, no-you don’t understand—bbbbllloonnd hair, kindness, deviousness, cute…like really adorable, lively…like really rambunctious. This was Marley. He became my two year old’s playmate. Jeremy and Marley rode tricycles up and down, round and round those tiny decks as if they were on the Indianapolis 500. Marley set the pace and Jeremy was for ever trying to catch up.The green flag would fall as early as 7 am. Zoom….Zoom. The apparition of a black flag would pull them in for lunch then back to the tracks. Zoom….Zoom. Jeremy often watched out for the blue flag mirage, warning him of fast approaching vehicles.
I arrived on Key West shores eight months pregnant and ready to pop. I had made the long voyage back to my midwife all the way from St John in the Virgin Islands where I had lived since newly pregnant. I couldn’t find any midwife there who would attend a home birth, really boat birth, since that is what I had been living on. I flew to Miami and stayed with a friend then took a greyhound bus down to Benjamin’s mom and dad, Carol and Tony. Benjamin had recently acquired a little brother via a home birth safe haven that was attended by my midwife, Sharon Hamilton. I was really not into ownership much but once your midwife, always YOUR midwife, and Sharon was MY midwife who I was happy to share with everyone who’s womb carried a precious one inside it. Benjamin and Jeremy were friends ever since mandatory attendance at Sharon’s childbirth classes in the dark confines of Carole and mwah’s belly.
Carol graciously took me in but her home was modestly small and I was soon turning two into three. Not to mention the strong nesting that was going on; like a mother bird, I needed to prepare me a nest. A friend told a friend who told me that there was the nicest women/mom looking for a roommate. I was a little worried about finding a place since the prospect of a pregnant mom (me) with an almost two year old might be too much for a stranger to take on; then add on the news that not only did I need to rent a room for the short duration of a couple of months, but I also wanted to turn that bedroom into a birthing room for a few days.
I walk down Passover Lane, a little alley off a cemetery road, finally reaching the end. I call out, “Joan, you there?”
A strong wise looking women with long brown hair, large dark eyes walks to open the gate while an infectious gravely voice says, “Welcome, Look at you two…Come in.”
She adores Jeremy while Marley comes running up to see what the fuss is all about. “This is Marley, He is my little man.” I lift Jeremy off my hip and put him on the ground while he quickly grabs my leg trying to get away from the strange face so near to his, pulling his hand away from this same new person that is grabbing it. Marley has a crooked smile and is tenacious to find out why he is being avoided.
Joan lets go a deep throaty laughter telling Marley to give Jeremy a minute to get to know him. We walk across gravel, up steps, across a deck to sit next to a tea pot full of warm peppermint/camomile tea. She cuts an apple for the boys to share, says she is excited to have me move in and can’t wait for the arrival of another baby. She is all smiles and full of warm sisterly love. She takes me a few steps to my room, a perfect nesting spot with large glass french doors, wooden floors with a foam king size mattress waiting with sheet all ready to sooth the next tired body that sinks into it: mine. “You can move in today,” she says while wrapping her arms around me to bind the contract. One trip to Carol’s house to retrieve my one black suitcase and I am all moved in. A few hand drawn pictures on the wall and toys thrown on the bed along with the plastic bag of newborn baby clothes and cloth diapers I saved from Jeremy and I am nestled in.
I have been walking all day getting ready for Jeremy’s birthday party tomorrow. Sure, I noticed Braxtin Hicks contraction following me everywhere I went but I had no time for that, I had a boy turning two and besides, this baby wasn’t due for another week. Around 8 pm that evening, after more than six hours of walking, I arrive home to an excited roommate and her friend getting all dolled up to go to a big reggae concert that is coming to Key West tonight. The house is steaming with giggles that quickly turn into out burst of laughter. Not by me, of course…no, I am in the bathroom getting Jeremy ready for bed when suddenly my water beaks, I resign to the fact this is labor and I should call my midwife. That was the easy part, the hard part was telling Joan that I was having this baby tonight and she would not get to go to the reggae jam after all. She quickly shifted gears from party night to labor coaching night, not hesitating to add good cheer and boisterous laughter along the way as we prepared my room for the birth. Plastic has to go over my sheet set and sterile sheets that I had baked in a brown paper bag in the oven went on the bed. Carol came and took a worn-out Jeremy for a sleepover with Benjamin. People were coming and going in a blur as I was lost in labor land. I don’t remember who came when; I know Jeremy was gone and the midwifes assistant was there. Was that my landlord, Krishna Michael-who owned the complex, that just poked his face in my room? At one point I remember all noise annoyed me, it felt as if there was a party going on in my room, everyone sitting on the floor with me as the main attraction, so I ask them all to be quiet.
Sharon arrived at 9:54 pm and 15 minutes later I start singing the birthing song, Ha-Ho-He-Hu, Ha-Ho-He-Hu. This song helps me move with the rhythms of birth. They tell me I am relaxing well and keeping a good head, I am flowing through. My mind thinks of nothing but the birthing song, in between contractions my mind goes limp. Thirty minutes later I have a strong urge to push. I am completely dilated to 10 centimeters so I gently push. This is a sign I am transistioning from labor to birth. This normally would be a time when everyone settles where they are because they know the baby will come quickly for a second-time mom.
Not this baby, not this birth.
Sharon does an exam and matter-of-factly says, “There’s the balls.” She swings into action telling Beth, the assistant, that we need to go to the hospital. Someone brings me a dress, I tell them “Not that one,” as I point to the wall where my favorite dress is hanging. A contraction comes and everyone stops, all eyes on me. As soon as I start to get relief I look into Sharon’s eyes and say, “Sharon, you can deliver this baby, you can deliver a breech birth.”
A slight pause and we change strategies. Sharon decides she needs a higher birthing position than my piece of foam on the floor. In seconds we are walking to Joan’s room, all 27 million of us. Joan’s bed is two feet off the ground and three feet away from where the baby decides to literally rear its bottom into the world. Sharon assist the feet then the arms then reaches into my birth canal (it use to be called my vagina) and puts a finger into the babies mouth to pull the chin to the chest so the chin doesn’t get hooked on the public bone. Sounds gross, I know, but it was so fast, I noticed nothing but my baby slipping out of my body into the world, the sweeping sweet relief of the release of his body from mine. Still feeling total connection but glad he is connecting with my arms instead of my vaginal-opps, birth canal.
The circus show is not over. A group of paramedics arrive at our birthing compound, oxygen tank and gurney at hand, ready to wisp me off to hospital land. This, I would be most grateful for, had I needed to be rescued. Fortunately I had a midwife attending my birth who knew exactly what to do in a medical emergency and she handled with grace and speed our unexpected birth presentation. The paramedics were very respectful of our needs and privacy. They could hear the healthy cry of a newborn so they stayed away from the bedroom, only requiring me to sign a release form stating there services were not needed.
As soon as everything calmed down I returned to my foam on the floor, plastic still intact under my clean sheets. Joan’s bed was not expecting to be the recipient of a resting mom, newborn baby at hand, delivering a placenta on its non-plastic covered cotton fibers. The crimson red was not there for long, Joan had a bottle of peroxide at hand, knowing exactly what to do.
…after all, she owned her own cleaning business with Jimmy Buffett being a long time regular customer.
Now Marley was the big man in the world of two fellow Conch’s.
Key West, where the wind blows all kinds of gypsies into its welcoming coral footings and if you are lucky enough to be born there you are lucky enough to bear the name of a giant seashell.
Marley and Jeremy Easter morning


Sharon, the midwife

Sharon Hamilton, midwife

Sharon Hamilton, midwife

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