Being a mother has been the most terrifying and joyful role I have ever taken on. I sit here and seem a bit frozen on what to say about the topic of pregnancy. I know it is extraordinarily important part of shaping the life to this ordinary lady. So I guess I will start at the beginning and see where my rambling leads.
I met my husband at 19 years old. I was on active duty in the Army. My first day of my first permanent duty assignment. We were married nine months later. Yep we met and married in nine short months (a story for another blog I am sure). On our wedding day my mom accused me of being pregnant. She was convinced that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. Even told me that she gave our marriage less than six months. Go mom, nice cheerful things to tell your daughter on her wedding day!
Mom’s heart was in the right place. (That is the only safe thing to believe). She is just not the greatest at expressing things without offending people. Or maybe just offending me? She wanted me to be happy – my take. Mom also wanted me to know that being pregnant was not a good reason to get married. I could not convince her that I was not pregnant and that I was getting married because I was in love. Nope, she was not going to be convinced. She hated my husband, really hated him. He was a hick, a career soldier type of guy from a family of career military. He had no social skills, etc… the list was exhausting even though I tuned out most of it. Of course he did not help at all. He found the whole thing amusing and actually worked to keep mom’s impression going. He would whistle random tunes at random times. Throw in random “hick” words or phrases like “welp, see ya’ll in the mornin”. I was not sure if I wanted to smack the crap out of him or roll on the floor laughing at the pained look on mom’s face. Pretty sure my dad caught on to the game almost immediately, but he never said a thing to mom. Dad is the best ever!
So three months after our wedding I was in line at the health clinic. My military unit was scheduled to get our annual flu shots. So there I was standing in line not feeling so hot. Queasy, blah, just feeling all around off. Next thing I know I wake up on a cot with a doctor congratulating me on being pregnant. He told me I was a little over three months along. So first thought that pops into my head – damn it mom was right, I will never live it down now and never ever convince her that I did not get married because I was pregnant. The next thought was the hell I am pregnant – I am on birth control pills! That thought was actually shouted. Out loud, in front of my entire unit, the doctors, nurses. Yep no filter there. In fact I argued with the doctor about his verdict for several minutes much to the amusement of all viewers.
I lost the argument. Let’s face it I did not then or now have a medical degree and therefore not a leg to stand on in the argument. Also, the doctor had blood test results. Sort of difficult to keep arguing (even though I tried). I was pregnant, and angry. Birth control pills were supposed to prevent pregnancy otherwise what is the damn point of taking them? I did not miss any pills, I was not sick during that time. I did not take any other medications that can interfere with the effectiveness of the birth control pills. Medical science had failed me utterly. I think this was the first time I realized that medical science is not an exact science, more like a best guess sort of science. Damn it all I was too young for kids. My marriage was too new. I was still learning how to be part of a couple and now we were adding a third to our family. It was too much. I remember this time as mostly angry. Anger so hot that it seemed to almost consume everything including my impression of how my husband took the news.
I find it odd now looking back that I am not sure how he felt about our impending parenthood. I know he held me when the anger lead to tears. He helped me find a GYN and went with me that first appointment where we listened to the sound of our baby’s heart. But I do not know how he felt and part of me is glad and part is sad because five weeks later at 19 weeks pregnant I had a miscarriage. Our son died and I blamed myself because I did not want to be pregnant. Was in fact angry that I was pregnant. The loss was devastating. What I had not seen through that anger was my growing love for that life growing inside of me. My 19 year old self shouldered the blame for the death or her son. She did not want a child yet so she wished it away and it happened. It went away. So she killed her child. That is utter nonsense, but to that very young woman made complete sense.
What my 19 year old self did not know was that miscarriages are much more common than many realize. Some statistics say that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. That is 25% folks, huge. The number jumps to 1 in 3 when you count pregnancies before a positive test result. In other words, women lose a child they never knew they were carrying in the first place. Mind boggling really. I am not sure if the knowledge that my 49 year old self has would have really helped that 19 year old. Her path lead me here so it worked out, but I would have saved her some of the pain if I could.
Six months later, shortly have my 20th birthday I became pregnant again. I think I was a little obsessive over this pregnancy. I mean I caused the death of my first child I was not going to make the same mistakes. Again, utter nonsense we cannot wish things away or I would be a skinny little toothpick with all the wishing away of fat cells I have done over the years! (Trust me when I say I am not skinny, more born in the wrong era to be fashionable – Rubenesque yep that is what I am going with!)
This pregnancy did not go the way I had planned out in my head. At 25 weeks pregnant I found myself in an ambulance going from my regularly scheduled monthly appointment to a hospital. Then two hours later in a helicopter heading to a much larger hospital with neonatal facilities. I had a very severe case of pre-eclampsia, where my kidney’s and liver had shut down. In the short period I was in the doctor’s office (before the ambulance) I had gained over 40lbs. By the time I was in the operating room I was up over 100 lbs. Things were critical, my blood pressure was out of control the only choice was to deliver.
Our son, Cody, was born weighing one pound 15 ounces at 12 inches long. The doctors did not have much hope for his survival. Seven days later Cody passed away. Another devastating blow. This time nearly costing my life as well. One good thing that came of this time: my mom got to see my man, the real man. Suddenly the son-in-law she hated was now worth at least two of me. Mom and hubby spent a great deal of time together while I was in the hospital healing. Silver linings are there if you look hard enough, and I need this one no matter how thin it was.
My odyssey to motherhood took many hits in the next six years. Overall, I was pregnant seven times. Three live births, with five total pregnancies going far enough to tell the sex of the child. All boys if anyone was wondering – two of which I have raised to adulthood. So for a total of seven years I was the glowing picture of pregnancy woman. Yea, that is what we are going to call it. I think I am still trying to lose the weight from that second pregnancy.
The two son’s I have been privileged to raise were both born in Germany. During both of those pregnancies I was put on complete bed rest. I can tell you, that bed rest in a foreign country is exponentially more boring that one can imagine. Only one television channel in English, and it was about 6 months behind the states. So I took to watching German Soap Operas and making up my own dialog. I am pretty sure that my dialog was much better than the real thing! Beyond my German Soap Operas there were not enough books, magazines, movies or entertainment of any sort to make it through a week, never mind 40 weeks. No family nearby to help out with the little things, cooking, cleaning, laundry… instead I had the USO sending a parade of wonderful women over – strangers every one.
These USO women were a both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that someone was at my home at least three days a week, making sure I was not bored, lonely or trying to do things that were on the “no-no” list. This was necessary because my husband was deployed for both pregnancies, the lucky dog! So, a whole long host of someone’s paraded through my life, rarely did I see the same women more than once every other month. These women cooked and cleaned for me for the entirety of two pregnancies. Wonderful selfless women who gave up their personal time to go to the grocery store, plan meals, and keep my life moving forward in such a way that I did not have to spend those weeks in a hospital bed. Staying in my own home was much preferred to spending weeks in a hospital room. These ladies helped set up my home so that I had the sofa bed with a real mattress on it. So I could “go to bed” in the evening and spend my days in the living room. I was brought a small refrigerator to use as a night stand in the living room. The small fridge was kept stocked with fresh fruits, veggies, sandwich makings already cut and easy to eat. A tea pot sat on top of the fridge with a variety of herbal teas and plenty of water. Everything I needed was within reach from my prone position.
Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? The curse comes when you consider that complete strangers are stripping the sheets off your beds, rummaging through your cabinets to put things away or cook, washing your UNDERWEAR! I am sorry, there is just something that is so many levels of wrong having someone you do not know (and are not paying) cleaning your underwear. Maybe that is just me? No clue, it just sort of bugged me and made me feel helpless. Plus, I spent both pregnancies feeling guilty. Here I was in bed while others did all the work and I did not feel sick. I felt fine, and I guess that is the point, I needed to keep staying fine, so bed rest. But I did not feel sick so the guilt train was running me over and I could not figure out how to get off the track!
In the end, I survived the inadequacies of my body during pregnancy and gave birth to and raised two beautiful boys into two wonderful young men. I would not have wished my particular journey to motherhood on anyone at all (even my worst enemy – if I had one). Though excruciatingly difficult at times I am pretty sure I would not change the crazy path I walked. Life is a gift. I treasure the gift I have been given. I also learned through my many pregnancies to accept that some paths we are lead to are more arduous than seems possible to survive– but as long as we keep moving we can reach the destination. I learned that an ordinary lady can survive extraordinary circumstances to achieve the goal of motherhood. That the destination we reach is not always reached in the way we sought to reach it, but can bring joy just the same.