Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Math

New Math 

"You're pregnant!" My knees felt weak and I plopped into the nearest chair at the women's clinic.

"Are you okay?" The midwife, Laura, checked my pulse.

"Yes, I'm just a little surprised. I'm not married and…"

Laura nodded. "I understand." She smiled as she added, "I know you'll do just fine." I wished I felt as confident as she did. My divorce had been finalized only six months earlier. My daughter Mena had just turned two and I was struggling to establish a home transcription business to support us. How would a pregnancy affect my new business? Could I earn enough for three people? Where would I find the time to do it all?

The baby's father refused to believe it was his. He stopped calling and soon moved away. I later learned he married another woman while I was still pregnant. My own father was horrified that I was pregnant out of wedlock. He urged me to terminate the pregnancy.

When I refused, he withdrew all financial support and even rejected my phone calls. My ex-husband pressured me to let him take Mena. He insisted I couldn't raise two children by myself.

"She'll be better off with me, Ginger. Let me have her. It'll be easier for you with just one child."

Irrationally, I began to feel resentment. I was angry at myself for allowing an unplanned pregnancy, upset that I had to raise my children alone. I hadn't even had time to work through my feelings about the divorce. I wondered how I could ever love this baby as much as I loved Mena. 

I felt more alone than I'd ever been in my life. In that odd way perception has of calling attention to normal experiences and making them seem more vivid, it seemed like every woman in the world had a husband and children. I was haunted by happy traditional families. Everywhere I looked, beaming fathers
tossed chubby little ones into the air as glowing mothers looked on joyfully. The child, of course, would be giggling with delight. I'd return home feeling lonelier and sadder than ever.

I was exhausted from working long hours, often in the middle of the 
night when Mena was asleep, to keep my business going. Many nights I sat at the computer with tears rolling down my face as I transcribed. The worst part was the loneliness. Although there was an extra person developing deep inside my belly, there was a hollow space within my heart. I worked with headphones on, listening to court proceedings and typing what was on the tapes. I felt shut off from the world. Nagging doubts troubled me in those lonely hours.

How would I be able to care for this baby? How could I even love it like I loved Mena?

As the baby grew larger, I withdrew even more. Trips to the grocery store and the clinic for examinations became my only contact with the outside world. I was so tired and I wondered if I had enough energy to even care for my daughter, much less another child. How would I do it?

Mena looked forward to becoming a big sister. I wanted her to participate in the baby's birth, so I checked out a video from the birth center's library to help prepare her. It was called "Birthing In The Upright Position." The video showed a series of South American women delivering babies while they squatted, holding onto a bar. I didn't own a VCR at the time. One afternoon, a friend let us use hers while she went shopping.

The "plot" was the same for each birth. The camera panned on a woman
already in the squatting position, holding to a rail. Within moments, the baby delivered into a pair of waiting hands. There were approximately a dozen births. I spoke to Mena throughout the video about the birth process. I explained that it was natural and amazing. I made sure to emphasize what we were watching was the final step in a long labor process.

When the video ended, I pressed the rewind button. Not familiar with VCRs, I didn't stop the video first so we watched it as it reversed. One by one, the babies seemed to be sucked back into their mothers. Mena turned to me with a sincere expression and asked, "If we don't like the baby, can we put it back?"

Mena's fascination at discovering the world and her sweet spirit carried me through the long lonely months. Money became less of an issue, but I still wondered if I'd be able to love the baby. As weeks passed and my due date grew closer, my concern that I didn't have enough love became overwhelming. In tears one evening, I called Beverly, a dear friend and co-worker at a previous job. She wasn't home but her husband Rick answered the phone, and he sensed my desperation.

"Hey, what's wrong? You sound like you're crying."

I poured my heart out, telling him of my fear that I couldn't love this baby.

"Rick, I don't see how I could ever love another child as much as I love Mena. How could I? I love Mena with every fiber of my being. There just isn't enough in my heart to go around."

He paused for just an instant. Then he whispered, "Ginger, when you have this baby, your love won't be divided; it'll be multiplied."

His simple words calmed my fears immediately and I stopped crying. I knew he was right.

My father relented before the baby was born and we made an uneasy peace with each other. By the time I gave birth I'd moved up and become the primary transcriber for the court reporting company's owner. I earned enough money to cover my bills with enough left over to purchase the necessary baby supplies and a used crib. I decided to repaint it, and chose a soft yellow base with primary colored nine-patch designs. It was while I was repainting it that I realized I had begun to love the baby.

I regained my sense of self-esteem. Each day I felt more excited imagining what the new baby would look like. I didn't even know its gender. My new business associates sponsored a baby shower. I had everything I needed, except the baby. Mena and I were ready to see the new infant.

Precipitate labor and delivery prevented Mena from attending the birth. The baby was almost born in the car on the way into town. I delivered my son James less than twenty-five minutes after labor began on March 7, 1988. He weighed nine pounds, 2-1/2 ounces, and was a whopping twenty-four inches.

 I smile now as I think back on the days when I feared I couldn't love two little ones. Our home overflows with love for one another as well as all our children and their friends. Rick's words still ring in my ears. "Your love won't be divided; it'll be multiplied." 

How right he was.~~GHC

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