Columbia SC Moms Blog is bringing you its latest series titled “How I Became a Mother” in honor of Mother’s Day. Each of us has experienced a unique journey into motherhood. Some of us have struggled with infertility while others have relied on faith and science. Some started their families early, while others didn’t begin until “advanced maternal age.” Some joined motherhood through stepchildren and others have dealt with adoption. Bringing a child into this world is miraculous regardless of how it’s done. Over the next several days, we want to share with you the stories of how we became mothers, to let you know that no two families are born the same. Join us on this journey as we celebrate moms!
How I Became a Mother ::
Two on Earth and Three in Heaven
I received my first Mother’s Day card at the tender age of 17. No, I didn’t start my family that young. I was finishing my freshman year of college and my friends gave me a Mother’s Day card in honor (or in jest!) of all of the “mothering” I bestowed upon them our first year. It made me laugh, but it also was a snapshot of my heart. More than anything as I grew up and into adulthood, I wanted to be a mom.
But there is that old song, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Kristi with the baby carriage….”
Love and marriage were slow to come. I graduated from college with no prospect of a husband, and spent my 20s pursuing a teaching career. It wasn’t until I moved to South Carolina to attend seminary that I met my future husband. I was 32 when we married – plenty of time to “start a family.”
Only it didn’t work that way.
We waited a couple of years before I came off of birth control. Planner that I am, I figured by the next school year I would be planning my first maternity leave. However, a year later, our arms were still empty, and I was given the diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” – medical-speak for the fact that we had not conceived after a year of trying, and the doctors didn’t know why.
A year of seeing a specialist didn’t bring about any answers or results, and the stress of extra doctor’s visits on top of the last year of my husband’s doctoral work was taking its toll on us, so we agreed to take a break, and maybe try again after graduation.
It was then, after his graduation, that I felt “funny” one afternoon, and excessively tired. On a whim, I took a home pregnancy test – and it was positive! We had been trying for three years, and I was over-the-moon excited!
My pregnancy was healthy and relatively uneventful, and we welcomed our daughter in 2008. I was 37 years old, officially of “advanced maternal age” and eager (well, as eager as one can be after an unmedicated delivery!) to try again as soon as possible. Who knew how long it might take the next time?
The “next time,” however, came very quickly. Our daughter was 10 months old when I found out I was expecting again! Oh, my – two children in diapers. We would need a double stroller. Could I nurse a baby and a toddler at the same time? I was overwhelmed with questions, but mostly joy. Infertility was behind us, right?
Although my second pregnancy was technically healthy, suddenly I was not. I began battling a series of non-pregnancy-related health issues, the most serious of which was abdominal pain that landed me in the hospital when I was 18 weeks pregnant. The second day I was there, I unexpectedly went into labor.
Our daughter Naomi was born “sleeping,” the victim of an infection raging inside of me. It took another day before I was diagnosed with an obstruction in my small intestine. Emergency surgery revealed that my small intestine had twisted and died on either side.
It was not the only part of me that died.
My baby was gone. My body was broken. My heart felt hollow. Mother’s Day 2009 felt like a cruel joke.
The next 15-months brought about a series of serious medical issues, each unrelated to the one before it. I also conceived two more children during that time – and said good-bye to both in first trimester miscarriages. My body, the one that had given life to our daughter, now felt like a place of death. One child in our home. Three – Naomi, Kyria, and Jordan – in Heaven. Three Mother’s Days in a row when I had added yet another child to Heaven. Our arms were full and empty at the same time.
Our third loss was in late May 2010. By then my other medical issues seemed to be behind us, and we were hopeful that perhaps, just perhaps, we could conceive again. But we went a year with nothing. My 40th birthday came and went, making me feel more “advanced maternal age” than ever before.
During that time, we began reaching out to other parents of babies in Heaven. We started a ministry, Naomi’s Circle, for Columbia parents with information about local resources to help with pregnancy and infant loss. We presented to a group of hospital chaplains about how to reach out to parents who were experiencing a loss. I began to write about loss…and to heal. I accepted that my childbearing days were behind me and that my daughter would be an only child. I resigned from my teaching job, planning to throw myself into stay-at-home mothering and preparing to homeschool my one unique daughter.
Then I got pregnant.
I was 41 and scared to death that I would end up saying good-bye to another baby. But, against all odds, I kept passing milestones and my baby was still alive. Four weeks, when I had lost Jordan. Eight weeks, when we had lost Kyria. Thirteen weeks, when I finished my first trimester. Eighteen weeks, when we had lost Naomi. Twenty-four weeks, when our baby was considered “viable.”
Gradually, I inched ever closer to my due date. I was surrounded by a wonderful support system – my husband, our church, other women in my pregnancy-after-loss support group, an incredible doctor – but I still had a hard time believing that I would not spend yet another Mother’s Day grieving the loss of our child.
Finally, the date arrived. I waited, holding my breath, until they hooked up the fetal monitor and I could hear our baby’s heartbeat again.
He was still alive.
Through the beginning of labor, the waves of pain, receiving the epidural, I always kept that monitor in view or at least in ear shot.
He was still alive.
Finally, one more push and he was there, our son, red and screaming at the top of his lungs. His cry was the most beautiful sound in the world.
“Oh, God, thank you, he’s alive.”
I am so thankful for each of my five children. My sunshine girl who made me a mom. My children in Heaven, who made me a stronger and better person. And my rainbow boy, who made me a mom all over again.
When I dreamed of being a mom, my dreams didn’t look the way my life does now. But as I look back on the path I’ve taken, and see how God has led me, I am ever-so-grateful for how I became a mother.