Since the day we found out we were pregnant it's been nothing but happiness and excitement for us. I suppose it's somewhat of a Cinderella story for me personally. You see, before meeting the most wonderful man and falling in love, I never imagined I'd have a second child.
—Young single mother, a string of jerks in her wake, bitter, fiercely independent, strong willed, and very VERY feisty.
I had been through my own personal hell, and I came out smoldering.
My reconciliation, my story of grace, the fact that I eventually came to be a wife and a soon-to-be mother for a second time, is just as much a mystery to me as anyone.
Let me rewind.
In May 2006, I was a month shy of 20 years old, newly married and VERY pregnant. The pregnancy was rough and difficult. At 41 weeks, I was sent to the hospital for an induction, but was suddenly whisked to the OR for an emergency c-section after 18 hours of labor with no progress.
I had not prepared for this. I was terrified, and asked that someone please call my dad and tell him that I needed him. He left work early and made it just in time to squeeze my hand. He told me I would be just fine and that he loved me, and then they whisked me away on a gurney.
I saw him one last time, after I awoke from surgery. I was wheeled down the hallway toward my family; my dad, sisters, brothers, aunt, husband and friends. And FINALLY saw Ezra, my chubby little bundle of sweetness, for the very first time. Down the hallway further and into my recovery room we went. "Can someone get my dad?" I asked, noting his absence. "He's gone to take your sisters home sweetie. He'll be back to see you guys in the morning."
The next day, I awoke to the sound of our cell phone ringing. It was my younger brother, Isaac. Dad wasn't waking up. Something was wrong. "What do I do?" he asked me. "Call 911!" I said. We hung up. I waited and waited, still not completely awake or coherent this soon after surgery —it all felt like a dream. Some time later a call came from my uncle. Dad was gone. Heart complications. He died in his sleep.
I was so confused. The next several days were spent in excruciating pain, lying in my hospital bed. Streams of people came and went, bringing flowers, gifts, congratulations and condolences. I wish I could remember the faces and the words, but they're all a blur. The happiest time of my life —turned so bittersweet. A day of joy overthrown by confusion, sadness, and mourning. My two younger sisters and youngest brother were brought back to the hospital. I told them the news myself, as they stood at my bedside. I can't remember how their faces looked. I can't remember if they cried. I just remember that I did.
My oldest brother was away on tour with his band. He flew home with the news that something terrible had happened, all the while not knowing exactly what.
Days began to pass by; We eventually went home from the hospital, and along with us came my two oldest brothers. They couldn't bare to stay in the apartment where my dad had passed, and we all needed each other.
Months began to come and go, and it all felt like a blur. I was a terrible mother. I couldn't nurse my baby. Emotional trauma overtook my body and things weren't working like they should've. I wasn't healing well from my surgery. I started to sleep a lot.
It must have been weeks before I ever saw my baby boys legs and feet for the first time. Someone else was always changing him, bathing him, sleeping with him.
He had his first overnights away from me almost as soon as we got home. Two very dear friends and their family kept him for me while I attended my dads wake and funeral, and allowed me time to rest and recoup in between without interruption. The grief and confusion I experienced kept me from feeling guilty about it. It was what it was.
Shortly thereafter it became apparent that my then-husband had very little interest in our marriage, and I began to discover relationships he was having with other women in his workplace.
By October, I had had enough of the lying, the sneaking, the cell phone checking, and the tears.
I found a job and a place to live, took my sweet baby, and left to go it alone.
During my transition period I spoke with my friend Beth, who was the single mom of two teenaged boys. She said to me, "Cherri, don't rely on your ex for support. Don't count on the word or the efforts of any other person. You're a single mom now, and the only person you can count on is you. Work harder. Work as hard as you have to to make sure you're never left stranded."
Truthfully I thought she was being a tad dramatic. My ex had promised to pay child support. He was seeing Ezra regularly. I never thought my situation would mimic the one Beth knew so well.
Then one night my ex called to tell me that he'd changed his mind; he would no longer give me ANY support without an order. He had a new family now. A girlfriend with 2 of her own children, —and they were pregnant.
I was devastated and in a panic. How would I pay rent and childcare fees on my puny office salary?
Here I was, betrayed and abandoned. Still grieving. Angry. Scared. Alone. And suuuuper FAT. No wonder I couldn't keep a husband, I thought. I didn't want me either.
One night shortly after, Ezra had had one of those epic baby-blow-out diapers, and I took him upstairs to change him. I prepared his changing mat, laid him down on the floor, and just stopped and stared at him, tears streaming down my face. I began sobbing and walked out of the room, leaving him there on the floor. Slumping against the wall in the hallway, I continued to sob.
I didn't want to do this! I allowed myself to admit it. I didn't want to be the one responsible for every single need this child had; every moment, every day. I didn't feel like I could do it, and I didn't feel like it was fair.
Somehow, after a few minutes of prize winning self-pity that would put any Hollywood actress to shame, I picked myself up, dried my eyes, and went back in to find Ezra waiting there, smiling at my sudden reappearance as if I was the greatest sight he'd ever seen. I knelt down, kissed his grinning cheeks, gathered my supplies, and changed his diaper.
I was his momma. And at that moment, I could see that life wasn't over. It was just beginning.
The next few years were hard. Harder than I imagined. But I found my way. People actually started to say that I was GREAT mom! Maybe I was. Maybe she had been in there all along, just waiting for the fog to clear.
Soon after my divorce was finalized in January 2009, my ex stopped showing up for visits with Ezra entirely, and I began to fill both parent roles as best I could.
I had gotten used to the idea that I would fill them both forever. I wouldn't let someone hurt us like that again. I had dated a little, each time worse than the last, until I concluded that it wasn't worth the effort to build relationships that nobody else took seriously. I really became very bitter and hard hearted over it all. I was very cynical; always copping an attitude with any guy who looked my way. It was better to put them in their place immediately than to let them anywhere near my heart, OR my remaining shred of sanity.
Then it happened... My BEST FRIEND got a boyfriend. How dare she. We lived right next door to each other. Both single moms. We did everything together. Our boys were the same age, on the same soccer and football teams, at the same school. WE were supposed to grow old together. Like The Golden Girls.
Unfortunately, she had less time to spend with me, and I was lonely.
Maybe I should try dating again. Maybe the men have matured. (laughable, I know!) I decided I'd give it a try.
After going on a terrible date with a pretentious 30-something I met on eHarmony, I was approached by a friend who told me he had a buddy I should meet.
Ugh. No thanks. I appreciated his pity, but I was fine. Stuck my toe back in the dating pool already, and it was icy cold.
A couple of weeks went by and my BFF was still shuffling her time between me and her new beau. I was still lonely. I told her about this friend of a friend I was encouraged to meet and she said I should go for it.
Reluctantly, I did.
It seemed like FOREVER between the time I told my friend Eric I was interested, and the time HIS friend, Adrian, broke the ice with me. After talking for a few weeks we had our first date. Although he LOVES the way I tell this part of the story, I will skip it for now. Most of you know the rest. A short engagement, a beautiful wedding, a new family, and about a year and nine months later, a brand new baby boy on his way any day now.
Such a crazy whirlwind for me, but God has been so faithful. I'm not who I was before. I'm optimistic. I believe in love again. I believe in family again. I believe husbands are capable of being loyal again. It feels amazing.
Yet, as the birth of this baby draws nearer each day, I am fearful. I can't help but let my mind take me to places of sadness and dread. I have said so many times throughout this pregnancy that I don't know what to do with this baby, and people have laughed with me about it. But some part of it is true in my heart. I didn't have the experience most mothers get with their brand new babies. I don't remember most of it. I wasn't present, emotionally or physically for so many things. Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something to go wrong. For the rug to be pulled out from under my little family. I hate that I feel this way, but my experience haunts me.
So much will be different this time. Everyone keeps telling me that, and I keep telling myself the same. But the "what if's?" are nagging.
Waiting for this baby to come has been a great source of anxiety in itself. One of my very best friends lost her precious baby to stillbirth one year ago in July. As my due date grows closer, I am so overwhelmed with grief for her on a level I was not able to fully grasp last July. I was heartbroken for Lacey, no doubt about it. We had all lost this baby. She was much loved and much anticipated. But the reality of her loss grips my heart in a new way as I realize the devastation she must feel, ever-present still, after months of expectation, preparation, dreams of the future, a second precious daughter; one who never made it home this side of Heaven. Healthy and thriving one moment, and suddenly gone in the next.
I fully believe what God's word tells us about the plans He has for our lives. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us a hope and a future. And with wisdom and experience under my belt, I now know that sometimes those plans are painful. They don't always unfold the way that we expect or desire. They don't always produce the results we think they should.
So here I am at His mercy. Longing to bring home a healthy, happy baby boy, and everyone else I love along with him. And I'll trust in the plans He has for us, no matter what happens.