Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hold Them Close to Your Heart

Numbers.  My brain has a way of holding onto them.  342-3667...my phone number when I lived on Main Street in New Lexington.  I haven't had that number in 20 years, but I know still it.  15-22-11...my locker combination my senior year of high school.  67...the number of months John and I tried to conceive before our miracle happened.

Babies are miracles.  Our participation is largely primitive and unimpressive, but what happens at the cellular level is truly magical.  Conditions must be relatively perfect for the egg and sperm to unite.  The window for conception is quite small.  It's amazing conception happens at all.  (Unless you're an unmarried and uncommitted teen in the back of a car....that seems to be the recipe for pregnancy.)

I carried a lot of anger inside me while trying to conceive.  It seemed like there were babies everywhere.  Everyone I knew was having a baby.  John's family popped out children like the Duggars.  Yet, it wasn't happening for me.  I longed for the chance to be a mother.

Somehow, with a lot prayer and wine, I made peace with not being a mother.  John and I decided to wait until we turned 30 to adopt.  We planned to travel, buy a timeshare, enjoy our life together.

In March 2007, we went to Vegas.  I was sick the entire trip. I assumed I caught something on the plane.  John was disappointed because "Fun April" was replaced with "Tired as Balls April" in the most liberal city in the US.

When we returned home, I still wasn't feeling better.  A month went by and I was falling asleep watching the 5 o'clock news.  John thought I should see a doctor. No way...no docs.  My friend, Brenda, said I was pregnant.  I laughed at her and went to buy a large chocolate milkshake at McDonald's because I couldn't seem to get enough of them.  (I have never like chocolate milkshakes.)

Shortly after, we had a party and Brenda helped me set up for it.  She was chopping veggies while I sat on the kitchen floor drinking another milkshake.  She opened the fridge door and I caught sight of the dill pickles.  I kid you not, I had to have one.  A pickle and a milkshake.  Brenda said, "We're going to Walmart. You need a pregnancy test."  I finally thought she could be right...I just didn't want another negative test.

We ran to Walmart and I read the test directions on the way home.  The directions recommended waiting until morning.  I couldn't do that.  I had to know.  If it was negative, I was going to get so smashed at that party - drunk enough to forget the hope of having a baby.

It was positive.  I walked out of the bathroom stunned.  I asked Brenda, "What am I going to do?"  Her reply, "You're going to have a baby."

You're going to have a baby.  The most longed for words in my history.

We told very few people we were pregnant.  We kept it from our family.  It seemed too good to be true.  My pregnancy was verified by the doctor and an ultrasound was scheduled for a week later.  I had no idea how far along I was.  I hadn't kept track of my menstrual cycle...it hadn't mattered.

John had to miss the first ultrasound.  He was traveling for work.  My doctor said, "We've got a heartbeat.  Want to hear it?"  In that moment, it became real.  I really was having a baby.  Unbelievable.  I had no experience with any of this, but I thought it would be odd to have a heartbeat at such an early gestational stage.  It turned out, I was 13.5 weeks along.  My doctor said, "Welcome to the 2nd trimester."  I thought, "well, that was easy." My due date was Christmas Day.  My miracle.

It was mid May, 2007.  We waited to tell my family at my dad's birthday.  I signed the card from John, April and Baby Gano.  It took him a minute to get what I meant.  He asked if we were finally adopting.  Everyone knew I couldn't conceive and no one was expecting a natural pregnancy.

One minute after our announcement, my sister said, "Chris and I are going to try to have a baby too."  Really, she usurped my moment.  I was pissed.

My sister was pregnant by July.  John's sister was pregnant by October.  Why wouldn't anyone just let me have a little bit of the spotlight?

But I got over it.  It would really be nice for my daughter to have 2 cousins to grow up with.  Then tragedy came, as it always does when things are perfect.  Too perfect.

My sister went into labor in December.  She wasn't due until April.  Tyler was born on December 11, 2007.  2 weeks before Christmas.  We knew his survival was slim.  I sat in the window sill in her L&D suite while he died.  I did not hold him.  I could not hold him.  My baby was due in 2 weeks.

How could this happen?  I was so sure he would be a miracle baby.  Born way too early, but strong and relatively untouched by the trauma of his early birth.  It happens.  Why didn't it happen for him?

Have you been following Grey's Anatomy?  The Kepner/Avery story line crushed me.  Last week (SPOILER!) April and Jackson said goodbye to their baby.  April struggled with her faith.  She demanded to know where the justice was in their loss.  She begged for a miracle.  "They happen.  Miracles happen," she cried.

This is on my mind today.  My newest niece will be born tomorrow in the same hospital my nephew died in.  I can't think of being there without feeling the pain of losing him; relieving those horrible few days.  I do not know how my sister puts that memory aside when she enters that hospital.  Maybe she can't?  I do know that she is much stronger than I ever gave her credit for.  Perhaps that is a miracle?

Miracles do happen.  I know because I had 7 pounds of miracle inside me while my nephew was being called home.  Why does that happen?  Why do so many mothers get such few precious moments with their new babies, their miracles? Why do we stumble when the miracle we've prayed for isn't received?

Maybe, we expect too much.  We demand biblical miracles: the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, the dead living.  Perhaps, we are failing to see every day miracles around us.  The pregnancy we were blessed to have.  The ability to feel another human being growing inside us.  The sun on our faces, the snow, the rain.  A smile from a stranger.  The birds returning to the exact same place every spring.  Fruit trees, flowers, nature itself.  The Ordinary Miracle.


  1. I remember you on the floor in the kitchen and the pregnancy test....guess I wasn't as drunk as I thought at that time. I always figured when you stopped trying so hard and stressing about getting pregnant it would happen. Well, that and all that liquor that Tony fed you!

  2. Ha! Pretty sure I was legally intoxicated all of 2006. The entire year.

  3. This is beautiful, April, and made me cry. As one of the lucky way-too-early babies who made it, I am grateful for miracles every day. <3