My favorite friend's house when I was in early elementary school was my friend Tina's house. She had the most amazing room upstairs that was entirely devoted to playing house. It was, in essence, a miniature house with a wooden stove, refrigerator, a small table and chairs. But the best part was all of the dolls and accessories. Tina had a million baby dolls. And she had cradles and cribs, blankets, clothes, bottles, strollers. It was heaven for a little girl like me. We would play up there in our pretend world at being mommies, having babies who begged to go with us when we needed to go to the store. Ahhh...bliss.
I am the youngest of 7 kids and whenever anyone asked how many kids I wanted to have when I grew up, I always gave a big number. As I grew, I went through lots of career choices..."I want to be a hairdresser, I want to be a secretary, I want to be a marine biologist, I want to be a pediatrician, I want to be a nurse"....it changed often, but combined with all of those was the desire to be a mom. The mom part was a given, no matter what I did I would be a mom too. When my cousins Janelle and Sandi and I played house, one of us always had a pillow under our shirt and gave birth to a doll at some point during the day, no matter what other careers we had as we played.
As Rick and I got serious we talked about the number of kids we would have. I wanted 6 and he thought that was a little extreme. After we were engaged we settled on 4 as a good number. At my first appointment with the cardiologist after being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, that was one of my first questions, "can I have kids?" My cardiologist told me yes, but that I needed to have them in my 20's.
A year before our wedding, just after graduating from college and accepting a job in labor and delivery at St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, I went in for my cardiology appointment. My cardiologist did the exam and told me things were unchanged. Then he told me that he had reviewed my case with the cardiology team and he had some bad news. They felt the risk of pregnancy was just too high. Not only did I have the 50% chance of passing Marfans on to my kids, but the increased blood volume of pregnancy was just too dangerous for me. My aorta could dissect and rupture; pregnancy was life threatening and they didn't feel it was a good option for me.
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I told Rick what the doctor had said and then I told him that I couldn't marry him. He needed to marry someone who could have babies with him. He needed to marry someone healthy. He told me I was crazy, that he needed to marry me--he loved me and he wanted me, even if we never had children. He refused to walk away.
I wasn't sure I could take my new job now. How could I spend 40 hours a week with pregnant women? How could I be faced every day with what I would never experience? But after praying about it, I felt like it was still a field that I loved and that God would be with me and help me in the process.
So I went to work and loved everything about pregnancy. I loved the way pregnant bellies looked. I loved the process of labor and the miracle of birth. I loved being there to hear that first cry and see the wonder on the faces of the parents and the relatives. I loved the tears of joy that filled my eyes and sometimes even slipped down my cheeks each time a baby entered the world.
And I also grieved. I grieved that I would never watch my body grow with another life inside. I grieved that I would never waddle, or have ligament pains, or stretch marks on my belly. I grieved that we would never have that delivery room experience of watching the new life we created emerge into the world. I grieved that no one would ever look at Rick and shout "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl".
I knew we could still have a family. I knew adoption was a beautiful option and that I would love my kids fiercely no matter how they came into my life. I knew that my niece and nephew who had entered our family by adoption were just as much my niece and nephew as the ones born into my family. I knew adoption wasn't the lesser alternative. But my heart ached that my pillow under the shirt play would never become reality.
As hard as working labor and delivery was in the midst of that, I never regretted it. And the added bonus was I met my friend Martha there. In my next post I'll share how God used Martha to bless us more than we could have ever imagined.