“How did he sound, Cindy?” Margie was concerned about Alan and how he would react to the news.
“I think I just blew his mind. He had no clue that something like this could ever happen. You know how macho he thinks he is. This is a royal blow to his ego, unless he stops and thinks about what’s happening.”
“I think we should ask Alan to meet us. We want him to feel comfortable with the situation.”
“Let’s see if we can meet tomorrow and discuss it.”
The girls tried to call Alan all afternoon and finally he picked up the phone around six.
“Hey, Al; it’s Cindy. Margie and I want to have brunch with you tomorrow. Are you up for it?”
“Sure, where do you want to meet? How about O’Charley’s? I like their lettuce wedges and they make great burgers.”
“Sounds good. The lettuce wedge is a meal in itself. We’ll see you around noon.”
Alan and the girls got to the restaurant at the same time and met in the parking lot.
“How’s it going, Al?” Cindy said as she grabbed him by the neck to kiss him. Margie was right behind him waiting her turn.
“Well, if you would have asked me that question twenty-four hours ago, I would have worn you out with negativity, but I saw Jamie yesterday and he made me realize that this baby knows what he’s doing.”
“Yes, he does.” Margie patted Al on the back.
Al opened the door and the threesome entered the foyer. They were seated at the table in front of a massive picture window.
“Mase does know what he’s doing. Cindy and I have had several dreams about him, and all I can tell you—without your thinking we’re crazy—is everything is going to be fine. Mase will be a challenge, but he’s coming into our lives for a reason and it sure is going to be fun as well as a challenge figuring out what that reason is.”
The brunch was buffet style with plenty of lettuce wedges, so the three of them got up and fixed a plate and continued their conversation about how they would deal with Mase. They had four months to prepare and Alan said he would do all could to help them when he was in town. The time seemed to fly by and the conversation about the baby and their responsibilities continued as they got into their cars three hours later.
“I’m going to Taiwan tomorrow. I’ll call you when I get back.”
“Have a good trip, Al, and don’t worry,” said Cindy.
The girls kissed Alan goodbye and headed back to their Georgetown condo to do more research on Down syndrome babies.
“I guess we should think about moving at some point,” said Cindy. “We need more room. Perhaps we should move closer to Perception Farms.”
“I guess we should talk to your mom and dad and see what they think. It may make sense to move to Perception Farms since we spend so much time there anyway.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Cindy and Margie were always on the same page.
The next four months flew by. Cindy and Margie continued to do research and even set up meetings with experts who studied Down syndrome kids. Realizing that Mase would have enough to deal with by having DS, they wanted to prevent any unnecessary birth trauma. Margie was browsing the Internet when she came upon Sondra Ray’s Web site.
“Listen to this, Cindy,” said Margie “It is typical in conventional medicine for the baby to be removed from the total darkness of its safe and warm environment of 39 degrees Celsius inside the womb into the cold surroundings and bright, harsh lights of a delivery room. Occasionally, the baby is violently drawn out of the womb with the use of tongs, forceps, or other surgical tools. It may also be under the effect of anesthesia, epidural, or other drugs used during birth.”
“That’s terrible!” said Cindy. “It’s like being asleep one night in your warm snuggly bed when someone drags you out from underneath the covers and throws you outside in the snow on a bright sunny day.”
“Yeah, and I don’t want anyone picking me up, turning me upside down, holding me by the ankles, and smacking my naked butt while everyone watches, either,” Margie laughed, but only momentarily. “All the while the baby is trying to breathe for the first time ever when the umbilical
cord supplying oxygen is cut.”
“Can you imagine the panic, pain, and confusion the baby experiences in such an event?”
“And that’s if it doesn’t have tongs or forceps on its head to help hurry things up. Sounds like the same kind of force a dentist would use to remove a tooth.” Margie was worried.
“I don’t want this happening to our baby.”
“Sondra Ray says that the consequences of birth trauma do not stop with the experiences recorded in the physical body. They are experienced psychologically later on.”
“What can we do to avoid this?”
“I’m going to talk to Brenda Hicks,” said Margie.
“Who is Brenda Hicks?”
“She’s Dr. Benson Cartwright’s married daughter. She also serves as a midwife to women who give birth at the farm. She is very holistic in her approach to childbirth and patient care.”
“I remember Dr. Cartwright. He’s the specialist who handles adolescent and adult DS cases. We met him at a fundraiser.”
“Yes, and he’s going to be Mase’s doctor.”
Margie made her routine visits to Doc Mathews. He and Brenda agreed to work together to help Margie and Mase have the most blissful birth experience possible. They would be prepared for anything. Margie stayed active throughout the pregnancy as she and Cindy continued to walk each morning before breakfast. They both gave up red meat, alcohol, and fried foods, and lived on a diet of fresh vegetables, salads, and fruit.
Perception Farms continued to address the needs of the ever-growing homeless population. The Russell’s approach was completely foreign to the status-quo thinking about the homeless at that time. Warren and Claire knew that the lack of money didn’t create homeless families and individuals—there were many internal factors that contributed to this social stigma. They believed it was rooted in self-worth issues that stem from a deep-seeded feeling of loneliness within the psyche long before the homeless ever become homeless. Naturally, these issues lead to drug and alcohol abuse, but those substances are only vehicles to cover up the separation that is so prominent in the human belief system. The Russells were violently awakened to their separation of self; it took a near-death experience to bring them back from the brink of self-destruction and they understood that the homeless go through similar traumas to close the gap that exists within the self. The couple understood that everyone creates their own experiences. Some people choose homelessness as the vehicle that awakens them to their own inner world.
Even though the Russells were raised in a religious setting, they knew that God does not create social issues; men and women create their own life experiences through their belief systems. Religion is another belief that people use to close the brokenness they feel within themselves, but religion may not be the vehicle that everyone needs to close that gap.
Warren did some research on windmills and wind power and found that the wind could provide all the electricity they needed to keep Perception Farms warm and well lit. He constructed a prototype windmill using an empty milk carton, a drinking straw, a cork, a paper clip, two or three feet of thread, some sand, and a sail made from cardboard or paper that resembled a pinwheel.
He filled the milk carton with two or three inches of sand and made a hole on two sides of the milk carton so he could put the straw through the two holes. Then he put the cork on one end of the straw and the sail on the other end and tied the thread to the paper clip and the cork. He would blow on the sail, and the sail and the paper clip would go up and down. The prototype helped him design a windmill using wooden posts and four balsa wood blades. The shafts of the blades were attached to a large break wheel that was attached to a gear box. The first prototypes were primitive, but with the help of Ralph Morales, one of the new residents on the farm, he got the project started. He started building wind turbine-type structures in some of the pasture fields.
Whenever Warren needed advice about a product or a service or had to build something for the farm there was always a resident available who knew something about it. George Fulmer was an ex-marine and a construction foreman who went to pieces and lost everything including his home when his wife divorced him. He still wore his hair regulation length and was now living and working on the farm. He was the first line manager in charge of building new residences. Tony Delgado, the Al Capone look-a-like and sheet metal expert, could make just about anything.
He was in charge of utilizing scrap materials as well as selling or recycling them. Wilma Ventura, the former accountant and long distance runner who lost everything because of heroin, became the first bookkeeper for the farm. One resident after another had the expertise to make a contribution to the farm and they were elated when they were given a chance to contribute.
Another one of Warren’s brainstorms came after he read about Francisco Pacheco from Bolivia. Francisco had been working on the concept of a hydrogen generator for years. Warren saw a show on 60 Minutes in 1980 that highlighted Francisco’s invention, but the interview didn’t
show the full potential of the generator. Warren knew it had to work, so he got a copy of the patent and asked for the rights to build them. It was a perfect product for Perception Farms. The farm needed them and could sell them to other individuals and businesses when the time was right. These same energy-saving concepts were in the preliminary stage of development around the country, but Warren knew that this type of energy would be the future of Perception Farms as well as the country.
Warren also developed a system for growing algae, which he believed was the perfect biofuel of the future. Algae uses sunlight to produce lipids or oil and can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than a football field of soybean plants. Warren started by dedicating an acre to constructing eighteen-inch-deep algae troughs. He used wastewater from the dairy cattle
and he then let the sun do the rest. He found that the algae not only produced oil, it could be used to feed the cattle and the other livestock on the farm.
In 1987 there were one hundred formerly homeless people, including families, living on Perception Farms.
The budget had grown from seventy-five thousand dollars in 1984 to one hundred seventy-five thousand in 1987 and the Russells believed that the project could support itself by 2010.
Cindy and Margie spent a lot of time educating the former homeless residents of Perception Farms; in fact, it was more than a full time job for both of them, but they loved the challenge. They even set up a transportation service so the residents could go to the local market to buy small items. The transportation van would make trips to the store at nine in the morning and at seven at night. Carolyn Woods was one of the residents who found herself homeless when she was faced with overwhelming debt due to an auto accident. Carolyn broke every bone in her body including those in her face. The insurance paid some of the cost but she had to sell everything to pay her share. The surgeries left her with a new face and fear issues that included driving a car again. With the help of Cindy and Margie she decided to face her fears and became the first van driver for the farm. The job helped her overcome her fear of driving a car again. Warren arranged to purchase thirty old cars for three thousand dollars from a used-car dealer. The cars were originally going to be sent to the Virgin Islands to be refurbished and sold, but the car dealer knew Warren and wanted to help him. The cars changed the transportation dynamics
on Perception Farms once the resident auto mechanic got the vehicles running.
The internal structure of the farm was in place and functioning, but the community was growing quickly. So the family focused on educating the residents in order to maintain a healthy growth pattern. Cindy and Margie set up a school designed to help residents get in sync with their emotions and inner self. This self-awareness school touched on different topics that pertained to self-limiting beliefs.
These misperceptions were discussed and examined from a personal perspective. Since the school focused on self responsibility, a plaque hung over the doorway of the converted hay barn. The words written by Aristotle were the school’s mission statement: Education is an ornament
in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.
When Margie and Cindy were not working on the farm they were studying about Down syndrome. Their research showed that one in eight hundred babies are born with DS. They also discovered that older mothers only account for twenty-five percent of the babies born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. Most children with DS have an IQ that is considered mild or in the moderate range of retardation (DS is the most common cause of genetic retardation). Some of them grow up and live independent lives and are gainfully employed. Medical problems like congenital heart disease, hearing and vision loss, and hypothyroidism are frequently experienced by these kids. The girls talked to parents of kids who have DS and the kids themselves, plus they read about the health guidelines that pertained to them. They read about the advantages of breast feeding and visited with clinics in the Nashville area that specialized in treating these kids.
They found a National Down Syndrome Society and discovered that a lot of these kids do what we would consider exceptional things like becoming excellent athletes and artists. The women spent hour after hour learning about what they thought Mase would have to deal with in physical life. The rest of their waking hours were dedicated to the homeless and Perception Farms.
It’s always exceptionally humid in August in Nashville and 1987 was no exception. Margie was feeling the heat and tried to rest as much as possible. She managed to keep her weight in normal pregnancy range but the heat was a challenge. When September first arrived Margie was more than ready to have the baby. Claire and Warren couldn’t wait to see their first grandson. Kathleen was excited about being an aunt. Blake was also excited, but was too busy being a doctor to think about children, although his new wife, Nancy Elgin, the former Kentucky beauty queen, was anxious to start a family. Margie’s family was gone, but she had a few friends from the rescue mission, the farm, and of course Darlene and Alan were part of her family now. Alan made plans to stay in town the week of September eighteenth, so he could be around when Mase arrived. Darlene had a flight booked and planned to spend a week with the girls and the baby. Doctor Benjamin Mathews was on standby since he had agreed to let Margie deliver her baby in the birthing cabin at the farm with the help of the resident midwife. He would come to the farm and be present during the birth in case something went awry. He would also make the initial evaluation of Mase’s health. Margie and Cindy had done their research on natural childbirth and had decided to allow Mase to choose his own birthday. Margie refused to have her labor induced or allow herself to be confined to the harsh environment of a hospital. Anesthesia, epidural spine injection, as well as any other substance, poisons the pure system of the newborn baby. Only if the baby’s or her health were in jeopardy would she allow conventional medicine to intervene with the most natural process in the world. Women have been giving birth since the world began; there was no need to hinder the wonderful wisdom of Mother Nature and create birth trauma for baby Mase.
On the evening of September seventeenth, Margie knew Mase was ready. She was having a few mild contractions when she went to bed. She told Cindy she might wake her early in the morning, and that’s exactly what happened. Margie rolled over in bed trying to get comfortable when she was taken by another contraction—this one was the strongest one yet. Then, it happened.
Margie nudged Cindy at four-thirty in the morning. “You better get up unless you want to swim!” she said.
“What?” Cindy opened one eye.
“Either my water just broke or I’ve wet the bed. I’m floating over here.”
Cindy jumped out of bed. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just soaked and so is the bed.”
“I’ll call the midwife and Doc Mathews.” Cindy reached for the phone.
Margie stood up and was taking the sheets off the bed when another contraction made its presence known. She sat back down on the side of the bed and started breathing the way the midwife had taught her.
Cindy brought Margie a fresh gown. “Doc will meet us at the birthing cabin within the hour. Brenda is there now. She had an intuitive hunch about you.”
“Thanks. I’m going to take a shower.”
Cindy called Darlene, suddenly realizing it was two-thirty in the morning in L.A. Darlene picked up
“It’s Cindy. Sorry to call so early, but we’re on our way to the birthing cabin.”
“Great! My flight arrives at eleven. Is Alan going to pick me up?”
“I just left him a message to remind him. I’m sure he’ll be there.”
Cindy finished taking the wet sheets off the bed and dropped them into the washer. Then, she called Alan and finally her parents.
Claire answered the phone with a groggy, “Hello.”
“Mom? Margie’s water just broke. We’re on our way to the birthing cabin. I’ll see you and Dad down there in a little while. I don’t remember if I told you, but Mase’s full name is Mason O’Brien Russell.”
“That’s wonderful news, dear. I’ll wake your father and we’ll see you shortly.”
“No rush. The contractions are about ten minutes apart and Margie is doing great.”
“Ten minutes apart, my foot!” Margie was holding on to the bathroom door frame and puffing through another contraction.
Cindy put Margie’s bags in the car and came back inside to help Margie make it to the car.
Mase arrived at 6:45 a.m. weighing five pounds and four ounces, and measuring a mere fifteen inches. Margie’s midwife delayed clamping the umbilical cord to allow more cord blood and crucial stem cells to transfer from Mama Margie to her baby. Researchers at the University of South Florida’s Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair agreed with this practice in an article published in Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
After the baby was allowed to bond with Margie and take nourishment at her breast, Doc Mathews went into action, checking Mase over from head to toe. While the baby had some mild characteristics of DS, he seemed to be in fine health. He arranged for the pediatric DS specialist, Dr. Steele, to come by the next day to examine Mase and conduct the necessary tests.
Mase had already changed Margie and Cindy’s life, and now they wanted to share him with the rest of the world. By mid-morning Alan, Darlene, Warren, and Claire were gathered in the lounge area of the birthing cabin, patiently waiting to see the mama and the baby. Alan had a mini soccer ball in one hand and a black monkey with blinking eyes in the other, and Darlene had a stuffed teddy bear in her arms. Warren was holding a bouquet of colorful balloons of various shapes. Claire, with tears rolling down her cheeks, held a photo book. On the front cover, “Mase O’Brien Russell” was engraved in bold black capital letters. She handed the book to Cindy and hugged her tightly.
“Here, honey. Pictures are worth a thousand words.”