She wasn’t planned. She wasn’t even supposed to be here.
In 2001, I was pregnant for the fifth time. I had three living children. Needless to say, my pregnancy history wasn’t good. Because of that fact, I had a standing order for a tubal ligation after this birth. My plan was to stay an extra day after delivery and have my tubes tied. In the event of a c-section, I had made it clear that I wanted my tubes tied during the procedure. My wishes were noted on my medical charts.
Life has a way of changing our best laid plans. In August of 2001, I lost another baby. He was perfect and full term. He died when his brain was starved of oxygen after I had a complete placental abruption. I very nearly lost my own life. I had no blood pressure or pulse. I saw myself laying on the operating table. I floated above the room knowing that this was NOT my time to die. I fought and pushed myself through the haze until I was back inside my own body.
Losing another child was devastating, and I was angry that my orders for a tubal ligation were not followed. When I confronted the doctor who performed the surgery, he claimed to be unaware of my wishes. He went on to add that he wouldn’t have honored my wishes anyway due to the fact that my child had died. None of this made sense, because I was advised to never attempt another pregnancy. Needless to say, I was angry to be given a prescription for birth control pills. I wanted my baby back. I wanted him to have lived, but I also wanted the freedom to never have to experience this kind of loss ever again. It seemed like a cruel irony.
Loss isn’t what this post is about. This post is about what we sometimes gain through adversity and loss.
Fast forward a couple of years. Life had settled down. We had moved on and healed as much as anyone can heal from the loss of a child. Our three kids were wonderful and active. I had just started working our local high school where our youngest son would soon be a freshman. Our lives were full and happy.
One afternoon shortly after the holidays, I met a group of women for lunch. I was famished. That’s what I remember most about that day. I wolfed down my lunch, and then proceeded to pick food from my sister in law’s plate. Having a MEGA appetite was unusual for me. I normally eat like a bird. She looked at me and said, “What’s up with you? Are you pregnant?” I stared at her in shock. Was it possible?
I picked up a pregnancy test on the way home. For some reason, I made sure to buy a pack with two tests. This was a few years ago, and the tests recommended that they be performed first thing in the morning. I couldn’t wait until then. I took the test as soon as I returned home that afternoon, and it was positive. I will never forget that feeling. To me, that little pink line meant a death sentence. Isn’t that what the doctors had said? “Another pregnancy may kill you.” Yes, that’s what they had said.
I immediately repeated the test, and it was positive again. I sat in my bathroom behind a closed door, and I fell in love. From that moment on, I loved Lola. I said, “OK, baby. You’re going to have to be tough, and so am I. We can do this together.” I said those words out loud.
I was an elderly mom (waaaaay over 35) with five previous pregnancies under my belt. I was high risk for absolutely every possible thing that could go wrong both with me and with the baby. I refused genetic testing. I refused bed rest. I carried on, and my pregnancy progressed healthily.
We had given away our crib, playpen, and high chair. I refused to buy anything, not even an outfit to bring her home from the hospital. I couldn’t plan that far ahead. Lola and I concentrated on getting through each day as it came.
For eight months, I glowed. I wanted this baby so very much, and I realized from the moment of her conception that I loved her. If was going to lose her at birth, I wanted to love and care for her every moment that she spent living under my heart. I’m not sure if I ever really believed that she would take a breath and grow into a real child…or a wonderful young lady. I treasured every moment that she was safe inside me.
At 36 weeks, the doctor performed an amnio to check on her lung maturity. She needed to be born as soon as possible. My little bun couldn’t stay in the oven a moment too long. In a matter of minutes, the tests showed that she was ready, and I was prepped for a c-section. Lola was born weighing just a shade over five pounds. She was perfect, red, and crying. Her little legs looked like chicken wings. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on her tiny, but long, little body. I was amazed. She was alive! Honestly, ten years later, I am still amazed to see her alive, thriving, living, walking around.
In the days that followed, the family flew into a flurry of activity preparing our house for this amazing new addition to our family. She joined us at home weighing 4 lbs. 10 oz. I don’t care much for pediatricians, and our family doctor was honest enough to admit that he had never cared for a baby so small. He beamed over our little miracle, too.
Lola thrived and grew. She spent the first year of her life in a bassinet placed at the foot of our bed. I couldn’t bear the thought of having her down the hall. Waking up to see her climbing up out of the bassinet and across our bed is still a favorite memory of mine. I finally had to move her to a crib when she learned sit on her knees and rock her little bed across the room.
Lola is an old soul. The wisdom of the ages is in her wit and in her eyes. Before she could even talk, she presided over the dinner table trying in her own made up language to out-talk her siblings.
The very best thing about this unexpected addition to our lives is the fact that Lola allowed me to see a wonderful quality in my teen and pre-teen children. It is an amazing sight to see gentle tenderness in a teenage boy. One of my favorite memories is when Lola stopped a driveway basketball game. A group of sweaty, smelly seniors in high school were hard at their game when Lola wanted to show them her new dress. She shouted at them, but they played on. Finally she said, “BOYS! Stop what you’re doing and look at this new dress!” From the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of the wonderful fathers this group of hard-guy jocks would someday be. This same group of boys once participated in a formal tea party in our living room.
Lola is in fifth grade now, and thriving in her new school. She has noticed boys in a whole new way, and she likes to experiment with makeup. She’s brilliant in school, which still kind of shocks me. Maybe I though that she would be slow, because she was born so late in my life. I certainly didn’t raise her with the same hovering concern as I did the other kids. I know that I didn’t teach her to read before she started school, or work with flash cards, or worry that she watched educational shows. Coming into our family when she did, Lola quickly learned to adapt. She was taken along wherever we went. She was raised by the entire family, and she often bemoans having two moms when her big sister bosses her around.
Ten years later, I am still sometimes astonished and always humbled to have this child in my life. The fact that she is delightful, sassy, and perfect is just an added bonus. I would have adored her no matter what, so I am doubly blessed that I enjoy her so thoroughly.
I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but Lola is my carbon copy. She looks exactly like I looked at the age of 10. She’s like me in other ways, too. She is opinionated. She doesn’t conform. She doesn’t care what other people are doing. She’s comfortable in her own skin. Yet, Lola is also kind. Her heart hurts when she sees an injustice. She wants to make a difference in the world. She wants to help out the underdogs.
Yesterday, we visited her brother in Chicago. Oh, how I love being able to drive into the city whenever we want! We sat in a restaurant enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon together. It was a pizza place, and we watched a family with small children. The kids had each been given a chunk of pizza dough to play with while they waited. Such a brilliant idea! We all smiled as we watched them play with the dough.
On the other side of us were a group of twenty-somethings. They were loud, drinking, and watching the football game. Several times, we heard one or another of them use the f-word. Lola was upset. Not because she hadn’t ever heard the word, but because she didn’t want the small children next to us to hear such a bad word. Several times, Lola leaned over to me and expressed her concern over the language she was hearing. I told her that I also thought it wasn’t nice, but try not to worry. I told her that the little kids didn’t seem to notice.
As we were leaving the restaurant, Lola said, “Wait a minute, Mom,” and she marched over to a young blonde, self-possessed woman. It was the woman (girl) who had been the loudest of them all. It’s easy to picture her type. She was always looking around to make sure all eyes was watching her. This was accompanied with exaggerated gestures and plenty of hair flipping. Lola tapped her on the shoulder.
“Do you see those little kids over there?” Lola asked her. “They really don’t need to hear you saying the F word.” The blonde woman’s mouth dropped open and the smile slipped from her lips. And then Lola turned and walked to where the rest of the family stood waiting for her.
Amazing. Each and everyday of my life I will be amazed to have been blessed with this wonderful child of mine.