I have promised y’all the story of Thing 2. It’s because Thing 2 HAS a story. It’s a serious story… a big story… a Christmas story.
(But not the kind of Christmas story where you get an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action, 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and that thing that tells time.)
(Although that is a really sweet and precious kind of Christmas story, because who doesn’t love Ralphie Parker?)
This fall I was asked by a local pregnancy center in town to write Thing 2’s story for their quarterly newsletter. And then the director said, “Something in the 600-words range.” Excuse me? Six hundred words? I can pound six hundred words out in the introductory paragraph. Six hundred words limits me. It’s like telling a baker, “We want a wedding cake for the royal wedding. It needs to feed the 3,000 guests and look good on camera. But, the only ingredients we’ll let you use is this boxed Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix and a cup of oil. Good luck.”
Or maybe it’s like telling the engineers at NASA, “We need a rocket that’ll reach Neptune. You have this engine out of a 1982 Dodge Colt to work with. Make due.”
Of course I wrote the article. Of course I went over the word limit, and pushed almost 700 words. And 700 words couldn’t tell all of Thing 2’s adoption story; 700 words gave the newsletter-readers the story’s skeleton. The basics were laid out on the page. The story of the miracle was there, minus all of the little tiny miracles that happened AROUND the big one.
So, what with me being the CEO here at Jedi Mama, Inc., I’ve decided to tell Thing 2’s entire story, with as many words as I need. And make no mistake: I’ll use a lot of words, but I’ll do it in segments, because it’s the Christmas season and who actually has time to sit down and read long-winded things when they have to find an ugly, holiday sweater to wear to their staff Christmas party?
First of all, Thing 2’s story is actually God’s story. If you don’t believe that God is still in the business of performing modern-day miracles, then I’m here to tell you otherwise. I was one of those girls who really believed that the miracles were very much a thing of the Old Testament, and that Jesus performed some in the New Testament, and now blam! The Bible was written years and years ago, and enormous miracles just don’t really happen anymore. Or maybe they happen to OTHER PEOPLE. But then Hubs and the boy and I found ourselves in the middle of a giant miracle… a miracle that we didn’t really deserve, because goodness! We’re some kind of sinners down here! Hubs swears at football coaches on TV; I lied about “having a mandatory meeting” to get out of a function I didn’t want to go to; the boy assured me he’d done his chores, when in actuality, he had not. We were high class sinners, who didn’t deserve a miracle, and in God’s sweet mercy… we were given one anyway.
So let’s get to the meaty part of the miracle. I’ll just warn you right now and up front that I am perfectly horrible at writing about serious topics. I write nonsense; it’s a spiritual gift. I can write fourteen hundred words on the fact that I did absolutely nothing all weekend long, but I’m always hard pressed to write a full sentence that’s serious and gut-wrenching. The writers of the touching Hallmark movies do not want me on their paid staff; I’m better suited to the writing tables of Saturday Night Live.
I think the story starts in 1972, when hairstyles were awful and the bell bottom pants were even worse. My mom’s sister (my Aunt Phyllis) had just delivered her first baby, and she didn’t feel right. By the time her baby (my cousin) was two months old, Aunt Phyllis had a stroke, and she didn’t make it. The doctors later discovered that she’d had a blood clot, which had broken apart and caused her stroke. Understandably, my mother was overwhelmed with grief and sadness; Aunt Phyllis was just a young, newly-married, twenty-something-year-old wife, mother and sister.
Hubs and I got married in 1995, when the hairstyles were better than those in the ’70s, but I still had enormous sleeves on my wedding dress, because enormous sleeves that didn’t fit through doorways told the world, “I am at the height of fashion here.” I look back on my wedding pictures now, and I still think that Hubs was THE VERY CUTEST groom of all time, but I’d like a do-over on my dress. But… in 1995, I loved that dress; I loved it so much, I wanted to wear it several more times, but not at weddings. One wedding in my lifetime is all that I want. But I really did want to wear that dress to dinner… or to the grocery store… JUST ANYWHERE ELSE, because MY WORD AT ALL THE LOVE I HAD FOR THAT DRESS.
Sad times, people.
In 1997, Hubs and I miscarried our first baby. It was one of the saddest trials of my life, because OH! We wanted THAT baby. Good-meaning friends assured us, “There will be other babies for you to have.” Hubs and I were sure that there would be other babies, but that didn’t change the fact that we wanted THAT ONE. THAT ONE was already loved and cherished, and we know that he’s doing well with Jesus right now.
After our miscarriage, Hubs and I decided to wait on children. I was a nervous wreck whenever I thought about getting pregnant a second time, because I wasn’t sure that I could handle it, if we lost a second baby. So, we said we’d wait a couple of years before trying again.
We found out that we were pregnant with the boy the first week of January of 2000. Our New Year’s, New Millennium baby. The boy was due to be born on September 9th. We were overwhelmed with joy and happiness and HOW MANY DOLLARS CAN WE SPEND AT BABY GAP?
I had a miserable pregnancy. Mis. Er. Able. I was so swollen and distorted, I was put on bed rest in May. My doctor told me that he needed to get us to 28 weeks to safely deliver at a hospital in Denver. If we could make it to 32 weeks, I could deliver at a hospital in Bigger Town, USA. If I could get to 36 weeks, he’d let me deliver here at home, in Small Town. Dr. S. told me that he was keeping his fingers crossed that I could even make it to 28 weeks.
I did. I made it to 35 weeks. The boy was born as a preemie on August 8th, 2000. He couldn’t breathe, because his little lungs weren’t fully developed, and he was life-flighted that night out of Small Town’s hospital to the one in Bigger Town. He was put on a ventilator for three days, and then blam! He could breathe on his own, and we spent two more weeks in the NICU there, trying to get him to gain weight and keep his oxygen levels up to satisfactory levels.
Two weeks later, Hubs and I brought our baby home. He was fine and healthy and the cutest child we had ever seen in our entire lives. We were so smitten with him, we could barely breathe.
About thirty-six hours after we’d gotten home (Yes! Thirty! Six! Hours! Later!), I woke up to take a shower, and I didn’t feel quite right. My left leg didn’t want to work. I was having a hard time standing on it, and it kept shaking uncontrollably. I called Dr. S. and he said, “I want you in my office right now; RIGHT! NOW!”
Dr. S. actually met me in the parking lot. He walked with me into the building. His face was solemn and serious, and then he said, “I’m going to have you go to the hospital. I’m pretty certain you have a blood clot.”
Within thirty minutes, I’d already had an ultrasound on my leg, and I’d been admitted to the hospital. My left leg was purple and blue, from the hip to the toes. Hubs and I had a brand-spanking new baby, and I was suffering from a blood clot, and suddenly visions of the tragedy with Aunt Phyllis in 1972 began being whispered about.
The differences between 1972 and 2000, though, weren’t just noticeable in fashion. 1972 had awful, brown-and-burned-orange-plaid bell bottoms; 2000 had the unsightly bohemian trend in sloppy clothes that is best forgotten. 1972 had medicines and scientific knowledge… but 2000 had it so much better. I was given IVs of blood thinners that weren’t around in 1972. I was given ultrasounds and an MRI that didn’t exist in 1972.
In one of those MRIs, it was discovered that my blood clot was twenty-four inches long. Two hours later, I was being moved, via a small, expensive, private jet to a hospital in Bigger Town, USA. Hubs and I, right in the middle of all of that scariness, joked that our insurance company would be giving us Frequent Flyer Miles on Flight-For-Life jets.
The boy, being all of two weeks old, was passed between Hubs, my mom, my sister, Hubs’ mom, and Hubs’ brother’s wife. He became everyone’s baby, while his mama spent two entire weeks in a hospital 135 miles away from home.
Eventually, I got out of the hospital… on the very last day of August, of 2000.
In October of 2000, I was back in the hospital in Bigger Town, for another solid week. I got to spend three days in ICU, with a catheter hanging out of my leg. The blood clot hadn’t dissolved like the doctors thought it would. All during September and October of that year, I felt like I’d been dragging a dead limb around with me. My left leg still refused to cooperate with what I wanted it to do; it was still discolored; in my heart, I knew something was still wrong.
I had a catheter put into the leg and spent some time on enormous clot-busting drugs that required nurses to physically check on me every five minutes, around the clock, because my chances of hemorrhaging from my blood being TOO THIN were quite high. And then, when the clot had been broken up a bit, I had surgery on my femoral vein, because it had collapsed. The surgeons reopened it, and I have twelve entire inches of titanium stents inside of it now.
If Hubs and I are ever hurting for cash, we’ll check the stock market values of titanium.
And then, people, I got better. My leg shaped up. Oh, it still swells, even on this day in 2012. Plus, my leg is discolored. It has enormous blotches of blues and reds on it, where some of the tissue has died, due to a lack of blood flow. I refuse to wear shorts and show those splotches off, because they’re quite a sight. But, a swelling leg and some ugly spots are a very small price to pay for still being alive.
A very small price, indeed.
By the end of 2000, Hubs and I knew that we wouldn’t be having any more biological children. We had seen five different doctors — including a high-risk pregnancy specialist — and four of those five doctors told us, “Don’t attempt another pregnancy. Those stents are in your groin area, and we’re not sure that a developing baby sitting on them might not squish them shut. If that happens, there’s a fair chance you could lose your leg… and the baby… or your own life.”
The last doctor said, “Well, sure. Give another pregnancy a shot. We’ll monitor you like you’re a suspect on the FBI’s most-wanted list.”
Needless to say, Hubs and I went with the percentages. I bawled my head off, because Hubs and I had a plan! Oh, we had a very CONCRETE plan, that involved us having two kids, two years apart, with an option for a third child. Hubs wanted two kids; I wanted four. The third one was going to be our compromise, after our two perfect babies were born two years apart.
Sometimes it’s funny how OUR plans get trumped and cancelled by GOD’S plans.
Two years later, my sister was pregnant with my niece, L. She was going to Dr. S. for her pregnancy as well, and Dr. S. told her, “I want to do some genetic testing. With your sister’s blood clot and your aunt’s blood clot, I want to know what’s going on.”
An $800 blood test revealed that Sister and I have a clotting disorder known as Factor V. Not V, as in Van or Violin. V as in how the Roman’s wrote 5. Factor V. In a nutshell, having Factor V means that your blood is a bit stickier than normal. Instead of your blood cells nicely ricocheting off of one another like they should, they like to stick together and have a party. And when a whole bunch of them have joined the party, they call themselves a BLOOD CLOT.
We also learned that one out of every three pregnancies in women with Factor V end in a miscarriage. We consider ourselves blessed that out of four pregnancies between Sister and myself (our lost baby and the boy, and her daughter and son), we ended up with three great kids.
(And the other one is great, too; he’s just showing off his greatness for Jesus right now, waiting for us to come see him later in Heaven.)
Sister was able to catch this Factor V condition early enough, that she could take expensive injections of a daily blood thinner during both of her pregnancies.
And by expensive, I mean $10,000 worth of daily injections in nine months.
Insurance companies hate us.
And that, people, in just over two thousand words, is why Hubs and I had an only child for eleven and a half years. We had talked about adoption; we had prayed about adoption. And WE BOTH felt that adoption was not what we were supposed to do. People asked us continually, “Why don’t you adopt?” Friends made it sound so easy, but Hubs and I both knew that God had clearly told us no on the adoption front. That much was very clear to us.
We were to be satisfied with the fantastic son God had provided us. Although it took me almost two years to get over my bitterness and sadness about not being able to have another baby, I did it. By the time the boy was two, I was completely, 100% at peace with having an only child. I had never wanted him to be an only child; I had never planned to have an only child; my heart ached that the boy would never know the joys and frustrations of brothers and sisters.
I continually felt like a family member was missing. I won’t kid you. I honestly, truly, genuinely felt that our family wasn’t complete… and yet I was at peace with having one kid. It was the weirdest, doesn’t-make-a-lick-of-sense feeling ever. I felt like Hubs and I were missing someone… and yet I was happy to just have one child.
And that’s the HOW COME we were a family of three for eleven-and-a-half years.
Part I of Thing 2’s adoption story has been written. We’ll see you tomorrow night for the next installment, if I can manage to start getting it all written down in real words.