A mother’s reflections…
Almost eighteen years ago, I was expecting the arrival of my first child. I was elated to become a mom and my husband was over the moon that it was a boy. A boy that would be “given his name” he demanded. “Someone to wear his Crown Jewels,” so he said.
The path to parenthood had been long and winding. There were also potholes along that path. Along the way. I had become an expert at taking my basal temperature and counting days on a calendar. Getting pregnant was not easy. Many pee tests and one miscarriage later, we finally saw the right color show up on the test. I remember that day as if it happened an hour ago. Not only did I pee on one test strip, but being in complete denial of the results, I peed on two additional test strips. Each one returned a positive result: PREGNANT.
I was happy. I was ecstatic, but within weeks I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum; a condition that caused me to be nauseous twenty-four hours a day. Rarely was I able to keep any food or drink down which left me severely dehydrated. I was hospitalised on a couple of occasions. With no end in sight of my symptoms subsiding, a nurse began visiting me at home weekly to check on the IV that was feeding me fluids. I missed many days of work as well.
Those first three months were horrible. Even the sight of food on TV sent me slumping over a toilet. There was one commercial in particular that taunted me: a gravy commercial which left me pulling the covers over my head like a child hiding from the boogie man.
My symptoms passed. I started feeling better. The next twenty-four weeks were glorious! My hair grew like wild flowers and my skin including my feet were soft as a baby’s tush. Talk about transformation! I felt beautiful and luscious. Other than the first twelve weeks, I could get used to this.
Weeks and months went by. We prepared for our little boy. Excited, his nursery was painted and wall papered. Themes were popular back then so we chose a fish theme. We purchased a crib, rocking chair and all the things we felt were essential for us to function as parents. We were prepared, or so we thought until at thirty-six weeks, one September morning our world came crashing down on us, literally.
Like all first days of school, I was excited to see the enthusiastic faces of my students. I was ready to start a new school year even though I was thirty-six weeks pregnant. My bulging belly was making it more difficult to walk without swaying. The plan was always to work up to the time I went into labor, but the universe had other ideas.
That morning as I drove a short distance to school, my husband was following closely behind, hauling a few last minute items I needed to finish setting up my classroom. Having driven only one or two minutes from my house, I was still in my neighbourhood idling at a stop sign waiting to cross a very busy intersection. While waiting for incoming traffic to slow, I stopped and then glanced in my rear view mirror to see if my husband was still trailing behind me. He was.
Everything after that happened fast. I remember a car the color of the deepest blue of the carribean ocean crashing into my car. The driver’s side. The jolt caused my already protruding belly to hit up against the steering wheel. I hollered “MY BABY!!!!” Suddenly, I looked up and my husband was standing next to the woman whose car hit mine, shouting expletives at her. Blaring sirens began to drown out the shouting match between them. With my husband’s emotions running high, the police threatened to arrest him if he did not settle down. As for me and my baby, we were whisked away by ambulance to the hospital. My husband followed behind.
In route to the hospital, I prayed and pleaded with God to let my baby be alright. For about a week after the accident and being released from the hospital, he was fine. He WAS fine. A week later, I went to see my OB-GYN.
The appointment was going as expected. Just normal routine stuff. I endured the usual probing, but I noticed she was listening very intently to my baby. Nervous, my voice breaking, I asked “Is my baby okay?” She told me she wanted my baby to have a biophysical that day. Immediately. I had no idea what a biophysical was, but I did not have a good feeling about it. Scared. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. Later, I learned a biophysical was basically a physical examination of my baby. Only it took place while he was inside of me.
Well, he didn’t pass the examination and I felt like I failed at the best job I’d ever been given, being a mom. and protecting my unborn child. I was immediately admitted to the hospital. No packed bag for me or my baby. No labor pains. No water breaking. No cussing my husband out, because he wasn’t experiencing the pain I was feeling. No screaming to the top of my lungs. Nothing. Nothing happened as it was supposed to happen… As my friends told me it would happen… The only pain I felt was in my heart. It was broken.
As I lay in the hospital bed, my belly was hooked up to all kinds of wires and machines. One of the doctors that was in the obstetrician practice told me I was going to need a Cesarean section. Never had this doctor seen me before. In fact, he was new to the practice. I had done my research and I did not want a Cesarean. My mommy instincts kicked in and I boldly told him that the only doctor that was going to cut on me was Dr. R. I hoped my demand would give my baby some time to get better.
The next morning on September 11, 1996, Dr. R walked in my hospital room with a smile on her face and called me stubborn. Then she asked, “Are you ready momma? We gonna have a baby today!”
That day was the happiest and scariest day in my entire life. Remember those potholes I referred to earlier? Well, I hit a pa-dunka of pothole when they whisked my baby out of the operating room, because he was not breathing very well on his own. I saw his precious face for only a few seconds. After I came out of recovery I learned he was in intensive care.
The first time I got a good look at him was from my hospital bed which was wheeled to the neonatal intensive care unit where he laid arms stretched from one end of the crib to the other. I too stretched out my arm so I could put my hands through the holes in the glass crib. I wanted him to know I was there with him. His little feet was all I could reach. I hoped it was enough for him to know I was there with him. It was.
The next day his breathing stabilised and we were reunited as mother and son. My world has never been the same since.
I’ve watched him experience many personal challenges and successes, and wiped away many tears. I’ve stood up when he could only sit down and advocated for him when others wanted to simply ignore.
Eighteen years later, I’m older, greyer, and my baby, my son, now a young man is about to go off to college. No longer able to shield him from the world. I will rely on God’s protection. I hope he remembers the important life lessons we taught him. Life may not have started out the way we wanted, but it’s not how you start that matters. It’s about the journey. It’s what you do on the journey. It’s about the decisions you make. The lives you touch. The difference you make. The life you live. I pray he puts God first in his life, because one thing I know is this world is full of potholes along the way.