Before my first child was born, I had a miscarriage. It was very early in the pregnancy, but it was devastating nonetheless. When we first found out I was pregnant, my husband and I were so happy and excited. We stayed up late musing over names and wondering if if it would be a boy or a girl. The miscarriage brought crushing disappointment and sadness over the loss of what could have been.
Just a few short months later, and a bit unexpectedly, for we had decided to wait a bit before trying for another, I found I was pregnant again. My pregnancy was uneventful and normal. My 110-pound frame ballooned nearly 70 pounds due to my new love for chocolate cake covered with chocolate syrup. I was as big around as I was tall, but my husband proclaimed I was still just as beautiful (bless him).
It was a difficult labor, lasting the better part of a day before doctors decided to cut her from my body because she was stuck in my pelvis. I had never had a broken bone or even stitches before, so I was terrified. But as her heart rate dropped, my fears for myself were overcome by my fear of losing her, this child that was so wished for and wanted. In February of 2000, my healthy baby girl was born. I got to glimpse her adorable cone head and wrinkly face before I passed out in exhaustion. When I awoke, I found a crowd of friends and family at the door. They had been there all day, anxiously awaiting the girl’s arrival. They surrounded her bassinet and cooed in awe at her perfection.
The pediatrician came around early the next morning to check her out from head to toe. He noticed a distinct clicking sound as he manipulated her little legs and hips. He discovered that her hip socket was malformed. Her condition was called hip dysplasia. She was immediately fitted with a tiny brace that held her legs in a position that would allow her hip to grow properly. She had to wear it all of the time, unless changing clothing and diapers, or bathing. It added a new level to baby care for an anxious pair of new parents. But again, our fear for her health and safety made us stand up to the responsibility and stifle those fears. After a year and a half, our daughter’s hip was proclaimed normal, although she must still be checked periodically until she is finished growing.
Only 16 months after the birth of my daughter, along came my son, fat and healthy. The next several years were a blur of joy and despair. Frazzled and tired beyond comprehension, I suffered through the loneliness and isolation of being the only mommy in our group. I worked nights as my husband worked days. Those nights after work with my friends, I drank too much, pretending I was still cool. Alone with my children, I sobbed with guilt, because I didn’t feel up to the task of being a good mother. I was nearly undone, but my husband recognized my spiral, and helped me get back on my feet with renewed purpose.
Fast forward a few years. We have continued to work our crazy opposite schedules so that we don’t have to entrust our babies to daycare. We trust very few people to care for them, and never for more than a few hours. My youngest is about to go to kindergarten. I am ready. I want to start my own career. But fate has different plans for me. As soon as I enroll in school, my mother in law suffers a fall and an injury that requires me and my husband to care for her in our home for a couple of months. I have no alone time, and now have to fully care for an adult more demanding than any child. Shortly after she is well enough to go home, I find out that I am pregnant again.
Although I manage to finish school during my pregnancy and childbirth, we decide to once again place my career on hold until my precious third child and second daughter goes to school. It is a sacrifice that I am happy to make, though that means that I will be forty years old before I start any type of career. I continue to work nights. As you know if you have read my blog for a while, I then had to care for my mother in law once again for the better part of a year. This was an entirely new type of madness in our tiny home. We were tethered to the house, bound by our responsibilities, and completely unable to keep all of the balls in the air. Though she is now gone to a nursing home, we are still recovering from the effects of her stay here.
Fate continues to throw us curve balls. I found a job as soon as my baby went to kindergarten. I started part time, but was quickly offered a full time gig with great “bennies.” We were very happy, but that meant putting my baby in afterschool care. She is not adjusting so well to the long times away from us. She is having some behavioral problems and separation anxiety. My son is going to counseling because he has a terrible time focusing at school and at home, because of compulsive thoughts and behaviors. To top it all off, my beautiful eldest child might have a genetic disorder called Marfan’s Syndrome.
My daughter contracted pneumonia last fall. Upon examination of her chest X-ray, the doctor noticed that her spine was curved. When the orthopedist she was referred to assessed the severity of her scoliosis, he determined that she has Pectus Excavatum, an abnormality of the chest bones. Those two symptoms combined suggest the possibility of Marfan, a disorder that affects smooth muscles such as the heart, and connective tissues. I have discovered that if she has it, there is a 50% chance that my other two have it as well. TOO MUCH TO BEAR! I have banned myself from reading any more on the internet about the syndrome as we await an ultrasound of her heart to find out more.
Fourteen years ago, I learned the meaning of true love. At the same time I had to learn to live with oppressive worry that is with me constantly. I suffer doubts over my capacity to endure and remain strong. I find it difficult at times to hide my fears from my children. My own mother left my family when fear of the unknown became too great for her to bear. How was I to know way back then how terrifying parenthood would be-how fraught with danger and uncertainty, how much sacrifice would be involved. I face it all willingly, but still afraid.
My baby, now six years old, has just now wandered in with bleary eyes and funky breath, wanting to cuddle. Still toasty from the warmth of her bed, I hold her close and think, “this is what it is all about.” I can and will face whatever comes, for them.