Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Miracles and Mama Bears

This post originally "aired" on May 8, 2011 -- Mother's Day. Around these parts, we try to make every day Mama's Day!

The truth is this: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a Mom. I was the oldest of four kids—in a challenging situation. Always The Worrier. The one who felt such little control in an extremely strained and stressed family. I think I was afraid to have children. Afraid for at least a hundred reasons. So, when I met my Hubby, who was divorced and the father of four boys, and who could no longer have children, I believed God had solved that fear for me.

I was 24 when we married. Three years later, three of my husband’s four boys had moved in with us. Watching my husband in his now (once again) daily role caring for his sons caused me to yearn for what I was going to miss. Through some dear friends, I learned about Dr. Sherman Silber’s vasectomy reversals. Bless My Sweet Man’s heart: he was game. (But... picture a man kind of shivering at the very idea. Yikes.) My husband was willing to do this for me because of his unselfish love and loyalty.

We were extremely lucky to find a surgeon in Dallas, as opposed to being on Dr. Silber’s waiting list in St. Louis for months—maybe years. While Hubby was in his three-and-a-half hour surgery (that was supposed to take two)—I had the most incredible remorse. What if he didn’t make it? What would I tell his boys? What had I been thinking?

When we learned, about four months later, the surgery had been successful, I then had some problems becoming pregnant. Much to Hubby’s confusion/frustration. I had promised him there was no reason to think I couldn’t conceive. The day I saw that my at-home pregnancy test was finally positive was the exact moment both of our lives changed—forever.

TLC was a week overdue. I had gained 60 pounds and had been lying on my bed at home for almost three weeks—unable to fit into anything but a (BIG) nightgown. I was beyond cranky and ready for her to be here. And I did know—without a doubt—she was a girl. The one sonogram I’d had wasn’t even remotely close to providing an educated guess. Everyone from the doctor to family members to Hubby was speculating the baby would be a boy. As Hubby put it: “I don’t think I have any girls in me.” I had faith God would give him a daughter—after what he had sacrificed for me.

That whole final week, I began to worry I could be the first woman on Earth to have my baby become a permanent part of my body (you do become irrational and almost psychotic at times, remember?). On a Wednesday in February, I made my (last!) daily call to the nurse, who told me I could check-in to the hospital mid-afternoon.  (Actually, at this point, I am confident they were tres sick of moi. I’d picture the receptionist saying, each morning as she put me on hold: “It’s that cRaZy lady, again.” Then the nurse was surely rolling her eyes—or looking for some vodka to add to her coffee. Bless their hearts.) Come hell or high water, that baby was coming out today.

Around that night, with my doctor sitting bedside (he’d told the labor nurse he’d stay with me while she had a dinner break), I could hear the heart monitor getting quiet. Sometimes it completely stopped. He calmly explained the baby was going into stress and he needed to do an emergency C-section. It was at that second my Mama Bear instincts took over and I felt the urgent need to protect my child. It all happened so fast—in nine minutes, I later learned. The anesthesiologist almost didn’t make it in time to put me to sleep. In those last frantic minutes, I was petrified I’d be awake—thinking that might not be good. With a calm urgency, I pleaded with my doctor (and silently to God)—“Save my baby.”

I woke up at in Recovery, watching my Hubby come towards me with an enormous grin on his face and tears rolling down his cheeks. “Guess what?” he asked me. “It’s a girl!” I almost screamed, tears starting down my relieved face. “How did you know? Did someone already tell you?” He seemed genuinely shocked. “I’ve always known,” I said. Sheesh—I’d told him and told him. When, oh when, will they ever listen—and learn? She was born at That day and time became, in a sense, my re-birth.

Y’all know how much TLC and I ADORE Designing Women. In the episode entitled “The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century,” Charlene (Jean Smart) is in the hospital to deliver her first child and falls asleep. Dolly Parton appears in her dream as her “movie star angel.” Like the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life. Dolly seems to have a lot of info about Charlene, so Charlene has just asked her how she knows she’s from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Here’s their conversation:

Dolly: ... I know all about you. I also know that in a few hours you’re gonna meet the best friend you’ll ever have... your daughter.
Charlene: I knew it! I knew it was gonna be a girl. I have a name all picked out, too—Olivia Frazier Stillfield. I hope she grows up to be just like you. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the greatest hick who ever lived!
Dolly: Well, thank you Charlene. Actually, she is a little like me.
Charlene: Which part?
Dolly: She’s no angel either... Oh, it’s so exciting... Everything’s changing. This whole world is just opening up. Why that youngun could be anything!
Charlene: Wow! She could be the next leader of the free world!
Dolly: Well, that’s right, but she could also work at a car wash.
Charlene: Wow! A car wash! That could be interesting, too. I’m just a little sad, though. Whatever she is, my grandma and grandpa, and my sister Pat who died—they won’t be here to see her.
Dolly: That’s where you’re wrong, Charlene. When Olivia comes into the world tomorrow, they’ll be with her. I mean, everyone in your family that’s gone on before you—everyone you’ve loved—you’ll see them in her eyes, and her smile, and in the way she walks. And when she takes her first step and says her first words, they’ll be there. When she has a fever at three o’clock in the morning, when she gets caught in the rain walking home from school, when she hits her first baseball, they’ll be there... when she’s afraid of the dark, when she forgets to say her prayers, when the wind catches her voice on a warm summer day, they’ll be there... You just remember that tomorrow, when you meet your daughter, you’ll be meeting the person that’ll be holding your hand when it’s your time to go. And even then, Charlene, she won’t be alone. They’ll be there.

(Brilliant/touching writing/words, yes? Must pause to sniff and find a tissue. Sorry.)

As it turned out, my child-bearing came to an abrupt end when TLC was fifteen months old and I was told, by two doctors, I needed a hysterectomy. I cried—buckets of heartbroken tears. Hubby—well, he didn’t. He tried not to jump for joy! I understood. Five children is a lot in this frightening world. Life happens the way it’s supposed to—the way God plans. TLC has given me more than I could have ever asked for or dreamed possible.

My daughter has made me stronger than I thought I could be. She’s taught me to laugh, sing, dance, think, hope, believe, wait, act, listen, pray. Lordy, has she ever taught me how to pray. I’ve made my share of mistakes—as her Mom—as a person—and she’s forgiven me. But, most of all, she’s made me deeply grateful for understanding what true, unconditional love is and how that love can get you through life’s roughest stuff. You surely don’t have to have a child (or a daughter—all of you Moms of Guys!) to feel unconditional love—we all know that. I’m just deeply and profoundly grateful I was blessed with her.

Today, on my 28th Mother’s Day, I thank God, again, for my amazing and selfless husband and my smart, beautiful, funny, kind, sweet, sassy, silly, precious daughter. I love them both—with all of my heart and all of my soul. I feel like the luckiest Wife and Mom on this glorious Earth.

Amen.

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