On Parenting: Cherishing Motherhood Pt. 1
This summer was supposed to be a time of celebration. In December, my husband and I sat at the computer, making reservations for a nearly two-week long trip to Rhode Island with our daughters. We were excited at the prospect of showing them where we had spent the first years of our relationship, where our love blossomed and our commitment to each other solidified. I craved the natural beauty of New England. I couldn't wait to show our girls the apartment (now condos) in Narragansett where we first lived. I wanted to walk with them along the beach where my husband and I spent our weekends, or sit on the wall of Narragansett Pier overlooking the ocean. I couldn't wait to drive over the bridges to Jamestown and Newport, the Atlantic spread out below as far as the eye could see, dotted with sailboats and buoys. I wanted to dine at our favorite local haunts, like Crazy Burger and Aunt Carrie's. I wanted to tour the Newport mansions, frequent the shops and art galleries that lined the cobble-stoned streets, stroll along the majestic Cliff Walk. I wanted to take them sailing to Block Island. I wanted to visit Providence for WaterFire evenings, when the city's waterways and canals were alight with bonfires. I wanted to take the girls to the University of Rhode Island's campus and show them the first apartment my husband and I shared, a one-room attic dormer with vaulted ceilings where we could only walk upright down the center of the room. This was to be the trip that marked a milestone in our family. Our oldest daughter was now a high school graduate and would be heading off to college in the fall, and our youngest would be starting the academic year as a high school freshman. Yet it seemed like yesterday that my husband and I were just starting our lives together in Rhode Island.
It's an understatement to say things didn't turn out the way we expected. We got our first glimpse that our plans wouldn't pan out in March, when the world shut down. At that time, I still held out hope that by summer, life would be back to normal. When it became apparent that the girls would be finishing their school year remotely and the global pandemic would still be a concern during the summer months, I was cautiously optimistic that somehow, we could still celebrate our family milestone. Maybe we could change our reservations for a later date, a final send-off before our daughter moved onto campus? Surely this couldn't last forever. By fall, life would be back on course. With all the unknowns of the pandemic occupying my thoughts day and night, the one thing I didn't expect was for my own body to become a roadblock to the joy I was looking forward to experiencing the summer of 2020.
Around the time of my daughter's "virtual" graduation in late May, I noticed I was tired all the time. Sometimes, when I was outside weeding or even walking up the stairs, I felt like I was going to pass out. I didn't think much of this. After all, everyone was stressed from the CoVid crisis, and I thought my lack of energy was due to being out of shape and anxious over the pandemic. I also started realizing at that time that my menstrual cycle was heavier than it had ever been . . . and it didn't seem to be stopping. When I was younger, my cycle was like clockwork. While I experienced endometriosis as a young adult, there was nothing too unusual about my periods. I was blessed that, when my husband and I wanted to start a family, it took us no time to conceive. Now, I thought my heavier, more frequent cycles were part of the natural course of getting older. Perhaps I was in perimenopause? I talked to enough friends to know we were all in the same boat, so I didn't pay much attention to the fact that I was bleeding every single day until I finally hit a wall. My heart raced constantly and I couldn't move without feeling the blood flow. I finally picked up the phone and called the doctor.
A week later, I was sitting in my OBGYN's office, looking at posters of 3D-ultrasound images of babies in utero when the inspiration for a blog post came to me: "To All New Moms, Cherish Every Minute." I waited in the dim light of the ultrasound room for the technician, marveling at the fact that almost eighteen years had passed since the birth of our oldest daughter. I remembered other times, years ago, when I'd had similar ultrasounds. On those long-ago days, my husband had been by my side and we were bubbling with excitement. We held hands and didn't worry about wearing masks. Instead of finding out whether or not I was a candidate for an ablation, I was going to get a glimpse at the new life growing inside me.
At that time, I was little more than 10 weeks pregnant, and our future daughter was no larger than the size of a kidney bean. When we heard the "whoosh whoosh whoosh" of her heartbeat, I felt an emotion I couldn't identify. When we were handed the grainy image with the reassurance that the pregnancy was normal, I couldn't take my eyes off the little spot that was our baby. We quickly showed our family, introducing everyone to what we affectionately called our "Baby Bean." Later, we revisited the office to discover the sex of our child. I remember watching the screen as the technician pressed the wand to my stomach.
"There," she said. "There's the baby. See the spine? And there are the feet. Now if I move it a little this way, . . . Yep, we can see the baby's sex."
My husband and I glanced at each other and nodded, and that's when she said, "Mr. and Mrs. Hunter, I am happy to say you are the proud parents to a daughter." It was a moment of pure joy and happiness, and one I will always remember.
When we were pregnant a second time, everyone in my family was convinced I was having a boy. But some inner voice told me otherwise. Even though the pregnancies were different (I was more queasy the second time around and definitely more tired and swollen, but then again, I was now taking care of a toddler and couldn't rest like I had during my first pregnancy) I was secretly convinced I was having another girl. My suspicions were confirmed when we had our ultrasound at 20 weeks, and saw the same body parts we'd seen the first go-around. "Well?" My mother asked when we called to share the news. "Is it a boy?"
"Nope. Another healthy girl!"
I was already imagining what it would be like to raise two daughters. Some inner voice told me this was my destiny. I already loved being the mom to one daughter, and this news doubled my joy. My husband was equally thrilled. He loved pampering his little girl, and now another one was on the way.
I was happily taking a trip down memory lane when the ultrasound technician entered and we got started.
I lay back on the examination table and felt the familiar pressure from the wand. This was a routine procedure to make sure there were no complications before I could schedule the ablation with my doctor. As she worked, the technician and I made small talk about the approaching summer, how things had changed in the world, and how different things were this year from the previous year. After a few moments, she grew quiet and seemed to focus on the screen more intensely, moving the wand this way and that, and pressing with a firmer grip. I stared up at the ceiling, feeling the first pangs of concern.
"Are you experiencing any pain?" she finally asked. I swallowed and shook my head. "No, just tired all the time," I said, then joked, "and I have a period that won't quit." My mind started racing. Were these normal questions? Was something wrong?
When the ultrasound was finished, I was taken to a waiting room to consult with my doctor. This doctor had performed corrective surgery after the birth of my first daughter (I won't go into detail about that) and had delivered my second daughter via C-section. I knew her well and could confide in her about "female issues." It took some time before she entered the room, and as I waited, I grew more and more nervous. The door finally opened and she came in consulting my chart. She glanced up with a smile and instantly commented on my hair. "I like it like that. It's curly. You usually wear it straight."
"This is my summer look," I said, happy for the casual conversation. But then she sat down and told me the results of the ultrasound.
<to be continued>