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
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
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
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?
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
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