Resources and reporting for mothers and others who think about social change.
get active
about mmo
mmo blog

Full House

By Erica Wells

Rationally, I did understand that many women have miscarriages with worse situations than I did but that didn’t change the sadness I felt. I had waited and prepared in order to make everything right. But it wasn’t right— not now.

This fall my daughter will skip off to kindergarten, leaving our home with no small children. There will be no pitter-patter of little feet during the day, making the rooms eerily quiet. This milestone makes me feel reminiscent about my pregnancies and the birth of my two kids.

I can’t help but think about the decision I made so long ago to keep my baby boy when I was a teenager. That baby is now seventeen years old, and my decision to have and keep him so many years ago is as poignant today as it was then.

After I had Ken, I was inspired to get back on track and make my life (and his) better. What I needed was to create a life filled with more opportunities. To me, this meant getting an education. It took what seemed like forever for me to complete my degree and become a teacher, but I knew it was worth it.

When I landed my first teaching job at twenty-six, I envisioned motherhood becoming so much easier. I finally felt that I was going to get somewhere. I had worked a menagerie of low paying jobs from meat wrapper, to stock person on a late night shift and even picking strawberries. Now, as a teacher, I had something more to offer my family— like health insurance. We could see the doctor if we needed to. Plus, I could be home nights, weekends and holidays, which was something I greatly appreciated. The job offered me a sense of security I had never known before.

During my early working years, I met a wonderful man who I married. We eventually bought a nice home in a family neighborhood. With my education and job in place, we decided we were ready to have a family of our own. My husband adopted Ken shortly after we were married and had wanted children right away, but I was really worried about making sure I had everything “right” before jumping into having a baby. Guilt had tugged at me for so long when my son was young because I didn’t have many of the resources that make life easier. I had wanted to take better care of him, and I wouldn’t bring another child into the world until I was better prepared.

So, now I thought I was prepared. My husband and I tried to have a baby, and we got pregnant. We were ecstatic, as was the rest of our family. We did the things most couples do when expecting like checking out baby furniture and nursery wallpaper. All of the excitement and anticipation ended abruptly when I began bleeding at three months. About a week later, I miscarried. I was devastated. Rationally, I did understand that many women have miscarriages with worse situations than I did but that didn’t change the sadness I felt. I had waited and prepared in order to make everything right, but it wasn’t right– not now. What more could have been done? Inside I felt empty and alone as though a key part of me had been taken away.

Our obstetrician assured us all would be well and that after a month, we could try again. We did try again and sure enough, we got pregnant. I was so nervous wondering if I would get through that initial three months. About halfway through my first trimester, I wasn’t feeling so well. In fact, like many pregnant women, I was feeling down right green. But this seemed to be more than a case of morning sickness, more like morning, noon and night sickness. I wasn’t able to eat or drink really anything. Knowing I was supposed to be eating healthy foods and taking prenatal vitamins, I tried and tried to take sips of liquids and eat small bits of anything I thought I could get down, but each time I put something in my stomach a terrible light watery feeling would result making what went down come back up.

Part of me kept saying: “this is just part of the process and it’s probably normal.” But I couldn’t erase that nervous niggling feeling that kept tapping me on the shoulder saying something could be wrong. One day I felt so weak and awful, I looked in the mirror and really saw how I looked. My skin had a gray cast to it, and my eyes were glazed. My face and neck were covered with petechia, a rash of sorts caused by broken blood vessels from the pressure of repeated vomiting. I looked like a stand in for the movie The Night of the Living Dead. After going to the doctor’s, I ended up in the emergency room for fluids for dehydration and medication for the nausea, and came away with a diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a nasty little condition that makes eating a horrendous chore during pregnancy.

I tried all the tricks the doctors and nurses told me about: I had a collection of popsicles, watery fruits for hydration and salty foods. One of the doctors had told me some of his patients had mentioned salty foods helped to ease their morning sickness. Trying all the tips plus medication brought some relief; unfortunately, I ended up back at the emergency room again shortly thereafter. I constantly worried that I was harming the baby, but the baby continued to thrive and grow, taking from my body what nourishment I couldn’t give to her.

As my due date approached, there were other complications resulting in an emergency cesarean. We had a healthy little girl who we named Gabrielle. She made it through all the difficulties unblemished. When I held her, relief washed over me as I thought of how precious she was and how happy she had made our family. The whole experience was reminiscent of how hard I had worked to be a mother with Ken, just in a different way.

About a year later, we decided we’d try for another addition to the family. Having Gabrielle enriched our life, filling it with the wonder that only a child can. Even when I was a child myself, I had always wanted a large family. I used to beg my mother to adopt a sister for me. So, she wasn’t surprised when I brought home runaways and teens that had who were having trouble at home as though they were stray cats.

I was looking forward to another bundle in our lives. However, this time it took about a year to become pregnant. We had just settled into a new home when we found out. I was so happy that Gabby would have a brother or sister to grow up with. It was something I had always wanted for Ken, but circumstances weren’t conducive at the time to having more children. But like me when I was his age, he has always brought friends home for dinner. I never minded; I wanted him to have that companionship of growing up with others and not feeling lonely.

Just as we were organizing our new home for ourselves as well as our new member, I started bleeding. I was just about three months along. My mind raced with worries from concerns of how far my kids would be spaced apart in age if we had to try again to the dread of losing of another baby. The situation continued as it was for nearly one month, and then the bleeding completely stopped. I knew I was still very pregnant because unfortunately I had Hyperemesis with this baby too. Hope peeked its way back into my life making my mind flirt with thoughts of new babies with their soft puffy cheeks and fuzzy hair. Maybe everything would be fine. The problem could have just been early pregnancy bleeding, who knows?

Household activities buzzed as the holidays approached. Soon, it would be Christmas. My stomach still gave me a great deal of trouble but I found training myself to try not smell anything helped a lot. I breathed through my mouth and burned candles all the time to try and keep smells away that might make me gag. There was a strange comfort in feeling ill as it gave me the reassurance that I was still very pregnant. Due to weight loss and difficulty functioning with so little food, medication for nausea became a necessity for me. Taking those measures helped me to at least maintain the weight I had, although I could tell that the baby wasn’t growing. I was still wearing my regular button jeans, and they were loser than they had been before I was pregnant. Rubbing my hand over my stomach, I would talk to the baby and encourage her to grow.

Shortly after Christmas at nearly five months along, I began bleeding again. With the return of my appetite, I knew what I would discover when I went in for an ultra sound. I had lost the baby. I was scheduled for a procedure to take the baby away. The first time I miscarried I had wanted the whole experience to be over with as quickly as possible. Peculiarly, this time was different. I didn’t want to go to the hospital for the procedure. There was such finality in that. I longed for that closeness of having the baby inside me and almost felt that I was betraying the baby by allowing him or her to be taken away from me. The mind can work overtime creating possibilities while it wonders if the baby would have been a boy with blue eyes like his dad or if it would have been a girl with dark hair like mine? Would this little person have been active and into sports or more introspective? I mourned the loss of the person my baby could have been.

These wonderings led me to travel to thoughts of a more spiritual nature. I’d read somewhere that when a soul comes to its parents, it has chosen the life it was given. Every soul has a purpose here on earth. Sometimes the busyness of daily life, individual choice and circumstance can get in the way of a person’s mission, but the soul had a mission when it came here. So, what does that mean for a soul’s life that never came to fruition – or did it? I wondered where a soul that didn’t live in the outside world goes. Does it just go back to heaven, if that is your belief, and come back again? Questions such as these raced back and forth in my mind for some time, and often still do.

Again, my husband and I considered the age difference between the children, the risks of the pregnancy along with a myriad of other issues as we thought about whether to try again or not. Months later, we decided to try once more. Regrettably, my last pregnancy was just like the previous one, ending with me back at the hospital for another procedure. After many discussions, my husband and I decided we were done. It was a hard decision, but one that we had to make on our own for our own reasons.

We’re still sorry that we couldn’t make our family fuller, but we did accomplish that in other ways. Shortly after the last miscarriage, we got a puppy. We already had one dog, a Husky named Al, but he’s older and becoming less social. So, we decided to spice things up with a puppy. Then, my mother lost her job of twenty-six years along with her apartment and ended up moving in with her puppy, a Labrador, named Max. And then Ken rescued a little puppy from some stupid young men who were playing catch with it and hanging it by its leash. Now, our household consists of three adults, two children, four dogs and a cat. Life is busting at the seams all around me. Further, a gray and white feral cat has taken up residence in our garage with her kittens. We also take my husband’s grandmother several times a year for a month or two when his mother goes on vacation.

I did get what the big family I wanted, just in a different way. Our home is full, that’s for sure, bustling with someone or some animal at every turn. My daughter may have been socialized like a puppy crawling around bringing you balls to toss for her, but she is growing up with others. And, my son, well, never has my decision to keep my child so long ago when I was a teen mother been more important to me. My children aren’t perfect by any means, but I cherish my time with them and the joy that they bring to our lives.

The difficult times? Well, that’s been part of the process. There are troubling times in all families. Spiritual growth and learning take hold and thrive when someone gets through tough times or learns from mistakes.

In the meantime, I’ll try to keep my eyes open for whatever comes my way (hopefully, it won’t be another dog or cat). Circumstance can be a wonderful thing when we’re lucky enough to notice that it really is fulfilling a goal or a dream we had. It’s amazing how situations blossom into beautiful gardens when they aren’t weeded out.

mmo : september 2004

Erica Wells lives in Phelps, NY in an 1840s farmhouse. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she is playing chauffer for her kids, walking the dogs or gardening. Her essay on becoming a teen mother appears in You Look Too Young To Be a Mom.
Reuse of content for publication or compensation by permission only.
© 2003-2008 The Mothers Movement Online.


The Mothers Movement Online