Then they told me carrying twins would be too hard on my kidneys. They suggested I abort one or both of my babies. I learned right then, I would die for my children.
When my kids were little I used to “tuck them in with kisses”.
After bath, stories and prayers, I’d get them all settled in bed. Then, sit down beside them on the edge of the mattress, lean over and cover their sweet faces in kisses: first atop a damp forehead, next on a chin that smelled like toothpaste, then, each cheek scrubbed pink received a peck too. Finally, my lips would land on the tip of an adorable shiny nose. Afterward, I’d inch myself up just a bit, inhale a deep lungful of yumminess, and declare with gratitude and a smile, “Today was another great day, wasn’t it?!”
My baby girl (who has always been a glass half-full kinda child) would gleefully grab hold of my face, pull it down close to her own, and plop a wet loud smooch on each of my cheeks proclaiming loftily, “Yes! It was great! Thank you for a wonderful-spectacular day!”
My baby boy (who was a poet and didn’t know it) would respond to my question with a giggly, “Uh-huh!” and then he’d pull me close and ask, “Can I have cheek-lovings, mommy?” Happily, I’d lean over and caress his soft little boy cheek with my mommy cheek. He’d smile.
One night he held my face a moment longer, “Mommy, you are so pretty. Your skin is like white velvet. And your freckles? God gave you one new freckle every time you were kind to someone.” He was eleven when he said that. Melt.
When people hear my story, my struggle to get my kids here, they understand the reason I longed to be a mom, yet they still often asked, “But how did you know you’d be okay?”
I didn’t know for sure how it would all turn out. How could I?
I’m not a prophet, but I do get these feelings. People tell me I’m an intuit. Maybe that’s my gift? I do see things–images that pertain to my present and my future; possibilities of great wonder and delight, sometimes easy to achieve, but more often in the form of challenges, that appear in my mind all the time; visions that may seem like delusions of grandeur to some. To me, they are my truth.
I trust them.
There were many doubting Thomas’s along the way though; baby doctors, kidney doctors, family members, even some friends. My own grandmother was mad at me. So mad, she stopped writing me. That was the one and only time I ever remember her truly angry with me.
My aggressive approach to such an inconceivable sacrifice was something my gram never understood, nor accepted. Even though she had gotten close to her oldest daughter later in life, the cold hard truth was this: motherhood had never brought her any kind of joy.
I can remember trying to appeal to a love I knew she was capable of, “Gram, I want to know the kind of love you known.” She shot back, “I wouldn’t have any of my kids again, if I had a choice. Not a damn one.”
Fear of losing me, had made her livid. It was her grandkids that knew her heart; that she valued. We were the ones that had seen her capacity to care. Her daughters had come too early in her life, and the constant struggle to raise them; the memory of being stretched beyond her abilities, had only brought disappointment–theirs and hers. I knew she loved her girls, but reliving that, was more than she could imagine enduring..
I got that. But that was her truth. Not mine.
Once in awhile, I did wonder if I was in denial, but then I’d revert back to my instincts; that confident drive that got me out of poverty. My purpose in life, my will to be and do was so fierce… at first it was survival that I strove for, then it became success. Spent the next year getting my kidneys stable, and then we tried for babies…
“Did you feel your egg fertilize?”
I looked at my husband confused, and then back at the young woman we had just met an hour before and asked, “Is that even possible?” Neither one of us had any idea what she was talking about.
It was 1998. We were at a Valentine’s party, chatting.
Everyone there knew we were going through fertility treatments. The different responses to our efforts at making a baby were remarkable. When I mentioned to my friends in Hollywood we were trying for a baby, I got the same question every time, “Already? You’re only 30!”
Most of my friends in the film and television industry (that are around my age) still have younger children today. Its such an unpredictable, time consuming industry, we all put off having kids for as long as we could. Many didn’t even start their families until they hit their forties.
In Orange County though, everyone I knew already had two or three kids by the time they were thirty. When we ran into them, the question often asked was, “You guys ever gonna have kids?”
With my IGA diagnosis, my answer to everyone became a resolved, “Yes!”
I had actually gotten pregnant once, but I lost it pretty early on, over Thanksgiving. I knew it before the doctors too. I could feel the energy, that life force within me, simply evaporate during dinner. It was that quick. Poof. Gone.
I mourned privately, until the doc confirmed my suspicions a week later with a blood test. He was stunned at how well I knew my body.
After that, I was sorta devastated and became very determined in my resolve: this was my last attempt.
For three years, I had cried, and prayed, and cried some more. I took every avenue I heard of to realize my dream of becoming a mother; of finding a reason to live, to love, with all my heart. All my efforts were shot down time and time again, with one monthly white dip stick soaked in negative bitter disappointment.
In a desperate plea for sanity, I told myself (and all who asked), I just couldn’t go through another discouraging result. My kidneys were doing okay, and if this last insemination didn’t take, I vowed to return to work in Hollywood, and forget about having a family forever.
Put it behind me.
Don’t know why she walked over to me at the Valentine’s party that night, or why she offered advice, but people do that in my world, and I had learned to listen, “You would have felt cramping in the area where your ovaries are.” I did laugh out loud at the absurdity. What? She continued in ernest, “It’s true! If you pay attention, you can feel your egg fertilizing.”
A sudden rush of heat covered my face, as I glanced down in reverent awe at my belly. Then, as if testifying, I appealed for confirmation, “I felt cramping…TWICE!…two nights in a row. Woke me up! Once on this side, and last night it was this side. I even told Juan, if I was pregnant, I thought it meant I had lost it.” and then, in stunned disbelief I implored, “Do you really think I am pregnant?!”
The young woman reached out, put her hand on my arm, gave it a squeeze of excitement, and nodded with absolute confidence, “With TWINS!”.
My life is so weird. Nothing ever happens in a normal way. Why should making a baby be any different? I went home that night believing it was a possibility though… and a week later I had proof.
Again, my fertility doctor was unnerved at how well I knew my body.
“Yep! You’re pregnant!”
We didn’t officially know it was twins though until later. We didn’t even know it was a baby until after the doctor called…
Told Juan, “The doctor is gonna call and let us know how the blood test turned out. Don’t let the phone go to the machine–answer it when it rings! Okay?!” (Yes, I have trust issues).
Went out and made my deliveries to the local hospitals and came home to flowers and two little balloons–one pink and one blue!
There was no way of knowing THAT for sure at the time, but as soon as I saw those balloons I knew, “Twins!” I can till remember my hand reaching for my belly. I loved them both. Instantly.
Juan jumped in quickly, “What? Wait, no! I didn’t know what it’s gonna be, boy or a girl, so I just got both.” Didn’t matter. It was just another sign we were having two babies. I could feel it.
Then my brother in law walked in from the garage (he worked for us) and said, “Hey, I heard the good news! Congratulations!!!”
I looked at Juan in disbelief, “You told your BROTHER before you told ME ?!”
Idiot. But I digress.
Spent the next three months absolutely euphoric. Then, morning sickness came and didn’t leave for five solid weeks. At five months pregnant, I laid on my back and you could see my hipbones protruding through my skin. No baby bump at all. I had lost eleven pounds in one month, and continued to keep nothing down.
Tried to get through the castle guards at my OBGYN but they kept saying throwing up was normal. This was NOT normal. Took that big book of pregnancy everyone has and self diagnosed myself with Hyperemesis. Then, through tears of defeat, I called them back and threatened something awful. The doctor saw me within the hour, “You have hyperemesis.” A tear of relief ran down my face, “I know.” He caressed my arm and apologized for his staff. I spent six days in St. Joseph’s. Doritos and tuna fish sandwiches brought me back to life.
After that I was peachy…
till my kidneys started to revolt. And the Braxton Hicks kicked in. Put me on strict bed rest for two months, and I stayed there the entire time, except when I had my two to three doctor appointments a week (kidney, baby, kidney, baby…). It was grueling. But my love for that image I had in my head, of two healthy babies, made me obedient.
They monitored my contractions twice a day remotely, and phone calls came in frequently, insisting I gorge on protein four times a day. My belly was growing, which was good, but both my doctors were getting concerned. The protein in my urine was spilling in huge numbers.
“I need to offer you an alternative to carrying these babies to full term.” My baby doc was the best around, and I trusted him. He was now telling me my pregnancy had gone from high risk to potentially dangerous. But I still didn’t understand what he was suggesting?
“It’s called selective reduction. We go in and reduce the pregnancy by one baby. There is a risk the other may not make it in the process…”
I laid there stunned. Couldn’t get my head around what he just proposed. All I could say was, “Abort one of my babies?”
I couldn’t summon even one drop of grace at that moment. Sometimes, you can’t. The real world is too much. My doctor said what he had taken an hippocratic oath to say, what he had to say. So I said what I had to say, I let my truth speak:
“You know that’s not an option for me.” And I left.
Reality set in when I got home, and I sobbed for a week. Late one night, I woke up to the moon shining brightly in our bedroom window. We had a beautiful tree just beyond the glass and the wind was gently swaying the leaves back and forth. Looking up at nature’s beauty, a peace washed over me. I wasn’t going to cry anymore.
I decided trying to control my future, their future, was an exercise in futility. Love brought us this far, and love will get us to where we need to be. Women die every day in childbirth. I wasn’t naive. I just surrendered to knowing I had done all I could, and had to accept the outcome either way. If my babies made it and I didn’t, then my purpose in life was to bring them into the world. Period.
What greater honor?
God had this. I could feel it. I knew all I needed to do was believe in my TRUTH and in my LOVE. Sixteen years later, I am happy to say, I was right. <3