At 6:30 this morning, The Boy crept into our bedroom and gently shook me awake and whispered “Mom? Do you want to say it?!?” I gave him a sideways, sleepy hug and said “What? You want me to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FAVORITE 7 YEAR OLD?!” And he grinned from ear to ear and jumped up and down and said “I can NOT believe it! The day I’ve been waiting for is finally here!” and bounced off into the other room doing his little robo-dance and saying “oh YEAH, oh YEAH, it’s my BIRTHDAY today!”
He tore into his presents with surprise and gratitude (oh COOL! you got me ALL THIS Star Wars stuff?! I didn’t expect this much. Oh COOL! I don’t know who this guy is, but I’ll find out. Oh AWESOME! I saw this on the website! Oh I’m SO excited!)
Yes, lots of exclamations and italics and capital letters around here today – he’s so happy he can hardly contain himself.
Me? I’m remembering so much today. I rarely cry, but I find myself tearing up as I think back.
I remember 17 years ago – half my lifetime ago! I was 17 years old and I sought medical advice for the first time in my life. The women’s health practitioner examined me and said “I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you. I just know that I can tell you that you probably will never have children.”
(Years later I was diagnosed with PCOS – 17 years ago, it was just starting to blip on the medical radar. It’s one of the leading causes of female infertility.)
I was absolutely devastated to hear that – while I’ve always wanted a career in addition to being a wife and mother, having children was something that I absolutely planned for and wanted.
I had just started dating my husband, and I remember working up the nerve to tell this man that I liked better than anyone I’d ever met “um, by the way, before we date too much longer, you should know I probably can’t have kids.”
I was so scared to tell him, because I knew he wanted children too – but his response was “who says children have to be biologically ours?” <3
So, fast forward 3.5 years – we got married in July of 1997. We wanted time together before having a child, but knowing that it may be difficult we began “trying”* in Jan. 1998.
*I hate the word “trying” in relationship to infertility. That word masks so many medical procedures, so many months and years of heartbreak, so many inconvenient and privacy-invading charts and thermometers and doctor appointments, so many medicines that make you want to claw your face off (or even better, claw your spouse’s face off.) There’s nothing sexy about “trying” when you’re dealing with an infertility diagnosis!
During one of the cycles where it seemed like there was no chance, I finally got pregnant in Oct. of 2000. I found out I was pregnant on Nov. 26th. On Dec. 1, 2000, our baby died.
Miscarriage, “losing” a baby, is another one of those words that has so much subtext.
I wanted to scream at everyone who with such well-meaning said things like “There was probably something wrong with this one” (Really? Do you REALLY think I would be such a horrible mom to a child with special needs that God took her?)
“You can always have another one” (Since when are children interchangeable? I wanted THIS baby. I’m grieving for THIS child that I won’t hold until Heaven. And given my fertility issues, no, I may not ever have another one. I just don’t know!)
One person – a very very young, newly married teenager – came and found me that weekend at church where I was hiding out in an unused room and she put her arms around me and she said “I don’t know what to say. May I cry with you?” and she sat there and held me and we mourned my baby together.
I remember feeling Jesus in her hug.
The next couple of years are a blur of surgeries and all of the medical assistance that jumps into the fray when a woman with infertility is determined to have a baby.
I was blessed with a wonderful medical team who did their best.
I rode the hormonal roller coaster of fertility medicines way too many times, and my patient, patient husband endured it with much more grace than I would have shown someone were the roles reversed.
I mean, I like my personal climate to be comfortable and so does he.
The day we were driving to town and I stripped down to a tshirt and rolled down all the windows and snarled at him “if you don’t like it WEAR MY COAT. But DON’T TALK!” he just smiled and pulled on extra layers. It was only 40 below zero that January day!
He did say that if he ever starts a support group, it will be for husbands whose wives are undergoing fertility therapy. Apparently, we aren’t the easiest people to live with 😉
Finally, in Nov. of 2002, my OB looked at us and said “we’re at the end of the line. We’ve done every treatment we can do except IVF, and I don’t think you’re a candidate for that. I’d advise you to seriously consider adoption.”
We certainly weren’t opposed to adoption, but insurance doesn’t pay for that. At the time, the wait for an infant was 9-10 years.
So, we planned to start the home studies and find an agency and jump on that whole new roller coaster – but first, we decided to take a break from everything.
In Feb. of 2003, we visited my family in South Carolina. A minister was speaking at special services, and we attended one.
Now, I don’t know if anyone had told him we were trying to have a baby or not. All I know is that during service, he stopped preaching.
He began praying for people, and he came over to my husband and I and he shut off his microphone so no one else would hear him.
He prayed for us, and he said God had shown him we were praying for something and God would answer our prayer.
Well, no offense to you, random preacher-dude, but Miss Cleo could have nailed that one 😀 Seriously, who at a church service *doesn’t* have something they want God to do?
He prayed and began to walk away, and my husband and I had just enough time to roll our eyes at each other before he turned back to us.
He asked us if he could share with us something specific, and when we gave permission he took a deep breath and said “God showed me you two are praying for a child. I want you to know that God has heard you, and you WILL have a child very soon. He has heard you.”
We both started crying and he started to walk away, and then quickly turned back to me and said “do not be afraid. God is giving you a healthy child. Let Him take the fear away.”
Needless to say, we were flabbergasted and still a little skeptical. I called a friend I trusted, and she said “hey. Worst case scenario, someone told him you wanted kids and he’s trying to give you some positive thinking. Best case scenario, God really did speak through him and you’re going to have a baby.”
Without getting into too many gory details 😉 I got pregnant for our son within 3 weeks.
The PCOS spontaneously went into remission (my doctor, in shock at that first ultrasound at 5 weeks, said “I’m looking at a miracle. When I did your last surgery there were hundreds of cysts and scar tissue. That’s all gone!”)
At 6 weeks, the point in my first pregnancy where our baby died, I began bleeding.
An ultrasound at 2am showed a baby with no heartbeat, but since it was right on the cusp of when the heart starts beating they told me not to give up.
36 hours of bedrest later, I went in for another u/s. That flickering pumping 167 beats a minute is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. <3
The tension wasn’t over, though. I had the same problems at 11 weeks. 13 weeks. 14 weeks. 18 weeks.
And at 20 weeks, I woke up feeling wrong. I went in for yet another check, and my OB assumed it was work-related stress.
The next day I got up and got dressed for work and thought “that felt like a contraction.” I had enough of the same pressing waves over the next hour and a half that I called my OB.
I told her I thought I was in labor, so she checked me that afternoon.
I was having contractions, but no other worrisome signs, so she told me to go home and put my feet up and relax.
4 hours later I was back in her office, in unmistakable full labor.
She admitted me right away. In spite of the medications, I was having contractions every 4 minutes or so.
- The nurses and doctors urged us to call our minister.
- They told us to prepare for a late-term miscarriage.
- They told us that there was no way a 20 week baby would survive.
And when I looked at one of them and said “My baby will be fine” she told me “Mrs. Diamond, I appreciate your positive thinking, but you need to face reality. Your baby will be born tonight and your baby will die tonight.”
I told her “You want me to face reality? You go pull my chart. You look at the odds I’ve beaten to even be pregnant. And then you need to know that God has given me this child, and this baby will be fine. THAT is the only reality I’m going to face.”
I stayed in labor.
For almost 17 weeks, I had contractions that the medications couldn’t stop. Each time I was admitted to the hospital, doctors would tell me “ok, when he’s born he’ll have condition A and problem B and be deaf or blind or both”.
- They would wheel me into the delivery room.
- And then we’d wait. And wait. And wait.
- And then they would wheel me out, still in labor.
- And admit me for a day, or three, or a week. And then send me home again.
That whole time, I was laying on my left side week after week and getting to know my son.
Persistent, tenacious, eager for life…he would kick off the fetal monitor.
He would rock back and forth, jittery because of the drugs to keep him inside.
And I’d sing to him, and soothe him, and tell him of all the wonderful things waiting for him outside the womb when it was time. “Please stay, little one. Stay with mama. Just hang on….”
And he did. Until 37 weeks, when pre-eclampsia meant that it was suddenly safer for him outside.
Measures were taken to put me into more intense labor than I’d experienced before – much more intense.
Even then, he couldn’t do things normally.
Mamas who have been there…let’s just say that triple-peaked, 3 minute long contractions with a 15 second break during back labor resulting in the delivery of a posterior baby 2 hours 27 minutes later is INTENSE.
His heart rate plummeted because of cord compression, and the medical team was yelling at me to get him out *right away*.
I remember pulling off the oxygen and growling at my doctor “He’s FINE!” as I went back to the hardest work I’ve ever done.
As he was born, I was trying to grab him from the doctor, crying and saying “my precious baby, hand him here!”
I took him in my arms and I called him by his name and I said the words I most wanted him to hear: “Mama loves you. Daddy loves you. Most of all, Jesus loves you!”
And with those words, I welcomed my son into this life.
That was 7 years ago. It’s been an incredible, heart-wrenching, heart-warming time so far. I’ve learned and grown and stretched right along with my son.
My parenting baby-steps coincided with his milestones, my growing pains have matched his.
I thank God for the people he’s brought into our lives (the community at GCM chief among them- I hope in Heaven I do get the chance to hug all of you and thank you again in person.)
Through the sleepless nights of endless nursing, through each bump in the parenting road, through the joyous moments of watching him learn new skills and begin to explore the world around him, we’ve been blessed to be surrounded by friends online and in real life who prayed and rejoiced and worried and rejoiced some more with us.
- So as I look at my favorite 7 year old in the whole world, I think back and remember that young girl 17 years ago who was told she’d never give birth.
- I remember the 27 year old new mom, triumphantly holding her newborn son 10 years after hearing the diagnosis of incurable infertility.
- I see me now, contemplating the road ahead and trying to imagine the next 7 years.
I don’t know why God intervened in such a way to give us such a child.
I really don’t.
People tell us all the time that God must have something very special planned for him to do…maybe he’ll cure cancer, or invent time travel, or do something else really huge and amazing.
I don’t know.
But I do know that if “all” he does is continue to be the sweet, empathetic person he is – if “all” he does is grow up and get married and become a caring father to his own children – if “all” he ever does is continue to spread the Grace of God into people’s lives…that will be enough.
Happy Birthday, Son. Mama loves you. Daddy loves you. And most of all, Jesus loves you.