My husband and I were a confirmed childless couple. It’s a topic that every couple should agree upon before they get married, and we could check that off of our compatibility list. We loved to travel. We loved to entertain and be entertained. We wanted successful careers. We would give back to the world in other ways.
And then I got pregnant. The first time.
Despite the precautions, I got pregnant. Something happened to us in those hours after it was discovered. Our lives suddenly flipped over. Everything had changed. Our future was totally different than we had been imagining. We were terrified, but we were excited. We could do this. We bought a baby-naming book to solidify the idea. We told our families. We told just a few of our very closest friends. We made plans, thought through scenarios of how it would all work. We had a new bond. A new purpose. All of a sudden, we were going to be a family.
And then, about six weeks later, I had a miscarriage.
I never saw it coming. Never even considered the possibilities. Not for a minute.
It started to happen when I got home from work. We went to the hospital. We were there all night. I sobbed the entire time. I knew nothing about miscarriage, so I maintained the thinnest strain of hope that they could somehow save my pregnancy. The emergency room doctors didn’t know what to do in terms of consoling me. My husband didn’t know what to do in terms of consoling me. It was the second worst night of my life (the first, unfortunately, was still ahead of me).
I had heard of women having miscarriages, but because I had been so far removed from the idea of pregnancy, I really thought it was no big deal. I had no idea how absolutely and totally devastating it could be. I was shattered.
In an emotional rush, and because I had to call into work the next day, I told my boss and my closest co-worker about the pregnancy and the miscarriage. I tried to go back to work, but after a week I couldn’t. I took a week of vacation time. I spent the days crying and trying to make myself feel better.
Because, despite the fetus only spending about three months in existence, the minute I found out about the pregnancy, I became a mother. And then I wasn’t.
Eventually, the gashes in my heart began to seal, but never completely.
About five months later I became pregnant again. My entire adult life I had never gotten pregnant. And now, in my thirties, I was pregnant twice in one year.
I was more cautious this time. A little more emotionally removed. I understood the cruelty of the world a little bit better. So when six weeks later, it happened again, I was a bit more prepared. We didn’t go to the hospital. I did all my crying in the comfort of my own home.
My husband and I didn’t know what to do. Did we actively try for another pregnancy, now that we’d come to accept and welcome the idea of being a family? Did we actively not try to protect ourselves from any additional devastation? Did we leave it up to fate?
Another five months later, fate bitch-slapped us for our indecisiveness. My 33 year old, healthy husband had a massive heart attack in a boxing gym. The doctors explained that he literally dropped dead of a heart attack. A nurse, who was at the gym to pick up her son, got him breathing again. The New York firemen down the street from the gym saved his life. When I got to the downtown emergency room, the attending doctor told me he would most likely have brain damage because of the length of time he had stopped breathing. If it weren’t for one of the owners of the gym, who stood by my side the entire time telling me not to believe it, I might have died myself.
My husband was transferred to the best heart hospital in the city. They put a couple stents in his heart, but they couldn’t comment on the brain damage theory until he woke up – in a couple days. This would be the worst night of my life.
When he woke up, he had no short-term memory, and the doctors couldn’t tell me that it wasn’t going to be this way forever. In addition, he was in some kind of mental hell that resembled schizophrenia. Sometimes it was 15 years ago for him. Sometimes he thought I was his ex-girlfriend’s sister (that was fun). He would tell non-sensical stories he believe were historical facts. He couldn’t walk. I was told he would going to have to live at a facility where he would receive the therapy he needed. This part of the story gets more horrible, and then it gets miraculously better. He recovered and was home in a week and a half.
Months later, when the dust settled, and sometimes we could pretend that everything was back to normal, we decided to let fate drive the bus. The years brought new jobs for both of us and a defibrillator for my husband (against my better judgment) after a minor heart incident.
The following year our daughter was born. Knowing what I know now about her personality, her determination and sheer stubbornness, I truly believe that her little soul wasn’t going to give up on being born. And for her, the third time was a charm.
If we never had that stretch of rough road, we probably wouldn’t be in Brazil today. But for me, while the road got somewhat smoother, it certainly wasn’t paved. I had an idea of how my new life at home in New York with my daughter was going to be.
It didn’t play out as I imagined…