“Someday, honey, we’ll be walking along the beach and we’ll find a buried treasure.” I optimistically told my four-year old daughter as we walked along the Mukilteo beach this past weekend. She looked up at me with wide, excited eyes and exclaimed “Really, Mama? We’ll really find a treasure?” And then it dawned on me as I looked into her beautiful blue eyes, so full of wonder and excitement. I had already found the treasure and she was holding my hand.
Theresa has been my joy since the moment I conceived her. I honestly can pinpoint the day down to the hour I conceived this amazing daughter of mine, and I have loved her since the day I was born. There has never been a day of my life when I haven’t wanted to be a mother. I always knew I would be, even though I wasn’t always sure what else I would or could do with my life. Children were always the dream.
As I walked along, holding her precious little hand in mine, I bathed my insides with the memories of her conception, the events of pregnancy, and finally, her birth and the week following. My husband had just enlisted in the U.S. Navy and we were living close to the Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, IL when I found out I was pregnant. I remember gliding down the halls of the medical office on base after receiving the good news of a positive pregnancy test. Every Sailor who passed by me between that office and the library got to hear the news first. The look on my husband’s face as he clicked away at the computer in the library was priceless – green and sickly, with a lot of fear mixed in. He was afraid of the responsibility and I was delighted at all the possibilities of this new life. We had miscarried twins just a few months prior to this pregnancy, (a heartbreaking story for another time) and I was more than ready to be a mom already.
One day during my pregnancy, I was told the baby might not live and was put on bed rest. I’d been under too much stress and was living alone in a new town while my new husband, fully engrossed in the Navy by this point, was deployed to South East Asia. I had no friends, no one on whom I could rely for help or condolences if the baby were to die before my husband could return. I withdrew into my tiny third floor apartment, shut off my phone, and closed my blinds as tight as they would go. It was just my tiny little swollen belly full of a miracle…and me.
Day after day, I lived for this kid. Everything I ate fed her and gave her life. When I slept, I dreamt of what she would look like, who she would be, what we would do to fill our days. The unborn life consumed me. I could not wait to meet her.
Five weeks before the miracle that is Theresa was born, my mom came to stay with me until the birth. This was the glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel that I so desperately needed. In seven weeks, my husband was due home. We had fought the entire course of my pregnancy and I wasn’t sure we’d stay married. Our first deployment and my introduction to military life wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting. I hated marriage, but oh…how I loved the precious life growing inside of me. I would give everything for this child. Nothing in me doubted that.
A week and a half later, my husband announced via an email from somewhere in the south Pacific that he’d be flying home from Hawaii in time for the birth of our daughter. He hoped I’d meet him at the airport. I wasn’t sure I even wanted him at the birth of our daughter. He’d been busy with training for his time in the Navy and then deployed for the remainder of my pregnancy. He hadn’t earned the right to meet our little miracle baby. I’d gone to every OB appointment alone, moved across country alone, and set up and maintained a home alone. What had he done to deserve meeting our precious daughter? Fortunately, my mom talked some sense into me, and I did make the trek to the airport to pick him up. What happened next was just the start to the most amazing treasure I’ve ever laid eyes on.
On the way to the airport, it suddenly occurred to me that I was in labor. Now I know that probably sounds funny to experienced moms, but it really did just happen upon me all of a sudden. I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother’s mini-van as she drove to the airport to pick up my husband and all of a sudden it occurred to me that the pain and cramping I was feeling was labor pains. By the time we arrived at the airport, a good 45 minutes from the hospital where I was all set to deliver my daughter, I was in the full throes of labor and all I could do was push. Yes, push. I went into the bathroom, thinking I really had to go “number two” but nothing happened. Normal women would panic and call 9-1-1. Not me. I prayed. I knew I had to see my husband. I had not seen him for most of the first year and a half of our marriage. By golly, he was going with me to the hospital! I sent him a panicked text message and yes, I still remember exactly what it said – “RUN! I’m in LABOR!!” and then approximately every two minutes following that initial text came an assortment of texts all basically saying “WHERE ARE YOU?” and “How far from your baggage claim are you?” And then finally, after a grueling ten or fifteen minutes, I saw the precious face of the father of my baby, the man I “hated” and claimed didn’t have the right to even look at this baby for a second because he’d had the audacity to enlist. My heart melted. Family. He is family. My daughter has a father and here he is, walking off that really big airplane and oh-my-goodness-is-my-hair-a-mess? He’s so handsome!
The car ride to the hospital was full of expletives. I was in pain. Every part of my body felt like a knife was being ripped through it. My husband, fresh from the oceanic battlefield was somehow patient, tender and accommodating. He even agreed to allow me to cut a certain appendage off to ensure this “pregnancy thing” never happened again. (Yep, he’s a keeper!) Once we arrived at the hospital, he was in full panic mode, as was I. The nurses nearly sent me home. They did an initial fetal monitor and said that everything was OK. I knew better. They did more tests, then machines started beeping. My husband was pushed out-of-the-way by harried nurses who came running at the first sound of those ominous dings and beeps. A nurse called for a doctor to come immediately and a few moments later, a kind older gentleman’s face appeared over mine. He introduced himself as the OB/GYN on duty that night and assured me he knew exactly what he was doing. After spewing out a lot of words and terms I didn’t understand, the statement I had most dreaded was uttered – “the baby is in jeopardy. We have to get her out immediately. What’s her name?” I answered, and he looked at me as reassuringly as he possibly could. “We’ll do everything we can to get Theresa out safely and into your arms, but we need to get you into the O.R. now.” I was in shock. Again, my husband was pushed aside, and I was wheeled away as fast as the hospital bed would move.
Words. Curse words and scary words like “dying” and “dangerous” were being thrown around the operating room by the nurses. No one seemed to realize that I could hear them. The anesthesiologist hadn’t arrived yet. I was fully awake. My baby was dying and it was my fault. I had no idea I was in labor. After all the books I’d read throughout the course of my pregnancy, after all the birthing classes I’d attended, I was so stupid that I had no idea I was in labor, and now, the precious life inside of me was dying. Gasping for every ounce of air I could manage to suck in, I began to hyperventilate. The room started spinning. A nurse screamed at another one who was on the phone with the doctor “Get him in here NOW! This baby is dying and the mother is next! We have less than fifteen minutes to deliver this baby!” A man appeared over my face. He was young, brunette, kind. He said a bunch of words I didn’t really understand, other than “anesthesiologist” and then a mask was put over my face in the middle of my panic attack. I fell into a deep sleep.
It was so dark when I heard the first cry. My eyelids were so heavy that I couldn’t open them. Everything was numb. I heard life. I fell back asleep.
Sometime later that night, I woke up next to a nurse. Startled, I asked if this was heaven. She said “no.” I asked if she was my angel. She said “no.” I couldn’t figure out where I was. I died, right? Where was I? A fuzzy face appeared next to me. I struggled to make out who it was. I knew this man. Who was it? Sleep overcame me. When I woke up, Anthony, my husband was sitting next to me. He asked if I’d seen the baby. A nurse walked in just then, answering for me. I was shocked. I’d had a baby? I didn’t even remember being pregnant. And then it occurred to me. Oh yeah, I had been pregnant. An overwhelming sadness washed over me. The baby died, right?
No. The baby lived. She was pink and beautiful and hungry. A nurse helped me to breast feed her and I stared at this little angel’s face. I saw heaven and I knew why I’d fought for her. I knew why I’d laid in bed when I felt sick, ate good food even when I was depressed and struggling with anorexia. I knew why I’d been so anxious to meet her. She was everything I ever wanted, and more in a daughter. She was the definition of precious and cute and sweet. Nothing in the world compared to her. She was mine.
The first week with my daughter was magical. She ate so much that I had a hard time keeping up. Every little thing she did, every smile, every sound she made, every move she made was the cutest, sweetest thing I’d ever seen. There was no way I would ever tire of being her mother. This is what I’d been waiting my entire life for. My heart soared. Love. I knew love and what it meant to see it. I knew my entire life had changed, and so had my marriage. I needed – desperately needed the man whom I married. This little precious baby needed him, too. I couldn’t do this alone. We vowed never to fight again. It lasted about an hour.
Every day with Theresa has brought challenges and trials and joy and love. I’m wiser, stronger, smarter. She challenges me. She teaches me. She sanctifies me. I love her and she looks up to me. I’m excited about the amazing person she’s become. A thousand questions a day she’ll ask and still tomorrow she’ll have more. The kid can’t get enough head knowledge. She’s fascinated with the world around her. That day on the beach, she wanted to know why she was still little, and when she’d grow up. I fought back tears as I told her I hope she never grows up and gets big because I always want her to need me and to be around me. I know that’s not really true. She needs to grow and it’s fun to watch and be a part of it. I just don’t ever want her to stop loving me or needing me. She’s so precious and I cherish every moment with my treasure. My Theresa.