It’s Thursday, 6:30 pm, December 19th, 2019. I’m sitting in Row E, seat #3. It’s dark, save for the previews on the movie screen, and I’m watching with my friends whom we’ve lovingly dubbed the “Group of Nerds.” We never miss these movies.
The anticipation for “The Rise of Skywalker” is heavy and we’re all feeling the excitement. And as the theater grows pitch black and John Williams’ glorious score blares through Dolby surround sound, I clutch my lower belly.
I have a secret. A tiny spark of hope. As the famous scrawl moves across the screen, I let the joy I feel wash over me, and daydream of the promise and hope 2020 is sure to bring for my growing family, and across the world.
My Journey to Motherhood
The truth is, pregnancy isn’t easy on me and it hasn’t come by easily, either. A lifetime of irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and debilitating cramps have haunted me since my first period at 12 years old. (Ironically, I was granted a reprieve during Army Basic Training when my period ceased for nine grueling weeks; it made low-crawling through Fort Jackson sand and triple digit heat absolutely worth it.) After a heartbreaking miscarriage, my husband and I decided I should visit a fertility specialist.
After countless hormone shots, cycle charting, and negative pregnancy tests, we were pregnant with our first baby in 2017. At 35, I was granted the esteemed title of “geriatric pregnancy” and developed preeclampsia. As my blood pressure soared and my ankles swelled to the size of pot roast, my daughter was born three weeks early via C-section. Two days following her birth, I was hospitalized with eclampsia for nearly a week.
Despite the challenges I faced with pregnancy, by 2019—and now 37—we were ready to try for baby #2.
Once again, we were met with negative tests and no answers. After meeting with our fertility specialist, we became pregnant by the end of 2019. Pregnant! What a way to start 2020, the year to end all years with celebrations, joy, and new beginnings.
Enter the Unexpected
If I thought my initial entry into motherhood had been challenging, being newly pregnant with a toddler running around when COVID-19 hit was an entirely different scenario.
By March 1st, the virus had spread like wildfire, a devouring beast destroying our way of life, our livelihood, and our very lives. Bodies were left on the streets in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Coffins carrying their dead piled up in churches in Seriate, Italy. New York funeral homes overflowed with the deceased. Hazmat suits, ventilators, and masks were nowhere to be found in the very hospitals where they were needed the most. Our country’s brave and dedicated medical staff were running on fumes, frustration, and tears.
My pregnancy was only a few months along and my little girl was not yet two years old as the world came to grips with the horror of what the coronavirus was capable of. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control were working at break-neck speed through unprecedented international collaboration on research and innovation, all to determine the necessary precautions to slow the spread of this overwhelming virus.
While I watched updates on the virus, I relied heavily on my doctor’s advice, adjusting and adapting as the world’s leading medical advisors and scientists continued to learn more, and COVID raged on. At a time when you lean on family and friends, draw closer in celebration and anticipation for your growing baby, social distancing, quarantine, and isolation became the norm.
“By the time I was 4 months pregnant, I was going to my prenatal appointments alone. My husband would leave work early to watch our daughter, while our baby’s sonogram growth and movements were shared only between me and my lovely nurse."
By the time I was 4 months pregnant, I was going to my prenatal appointments alone. My husband would leave work early to watch our daughter, while our baby’s sonogram growth and movements were shared only between me and my lovely nurse. This was especially hard for our family, because my husband had been Army-mobilized during our daughter’s first year and was understandably disappointed to miss anything with baby #2.
As a “geriatric pregnancy with predisposition to preeclampsia,” my worries for a healthy delivery were increased with COVID in the picture. There were still so many unknowns concerning a growing baby in the womb and the subsequent “what ifs” of how the virus could affect a pregnant mother. Could she pass it along to her baby? Can it affect fetal development? Would there be long-term effects?
The months ticked by. We sold and closed on our home in March before the first, large-scale lockdown, moving to an unfamiliar rental house. Adhering to social distancing guidelines, we didn’t go to restaurants. There were long stretches between family visits. We didn’t see my mother—a nurse—for months. I played with my daughter on the front porch of our rental while I waddled around the house. I wore a mask to doctor’s visits and Zoomed with friends. We bought a SmartTV and the gift of Disney+ came down like manna from heaven.
By July of 2020, I was 8 months pregnant. We had just bought a house and started the arduous process of moving when once again, preeclampsia hit. My doctor scheduled a C-section and we adjusted to the fact that because of COVID, no visitors would be allowed.
I had never been away from my two-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours, but in order to bring her brother safely into a COVID-infected world, I had to leave her with my sister—I wouldn’t see her again for three days. I cried in the car on the way to the hospital.
On August 31st 2020, while the world still sheltered in place, my son–my tiny spark of hope–came into it roaring like a lion.
Hope for the Future
With my second baby’s birth, I was able to see hope for the future. My C-section was a success and my recovery was 150% better than the first time around. Our son breastfeeds like a champ, sleeps well, and stares at me like I’m the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen. (The feeling is way beyond mutual.)
When he finally got to meet his big sister—at three days old—her reaction was beyond amazing. She begged us to keep him, wanted to squeeze his head off, and was somewhat disappointed to learn that historically, heads don’t work that way.
Watching her love on him serves as a reminder to me that amazing things can happen in three days.
“Watching her love on him serves as a reminder to me that amazing things can happen in three days."
Today, nearly 17 months have passed since COVID first strangled the dreams of 2020 and ruined the lives of so many. My “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” ticket stub still lies on my dresser, now next to several colorful masks, and the memory of a pre-COVID world feels so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
And yet, there is hope.
For instance, both my husband and I received the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as we were eligible. He recently returned from an Army mobilization assisting civilian medical personnel with vaccine distribution in areas where medical teams were overworked and burnt out due to this traumatic event. This vaccine is a product of billions of dollars of medical trials and research, unprecedented scientific development, international cooperation, blood, sweat, dedication, frustration, failure, sheer force of will, tears, and eventual success.
And despite the challenges and heartache the past year and a half has brought, I credit many things in helping me navigate the unknown. My military experience fortifies my discipline and respect for rules, whereas my faith in Christ guides my treatment of and love for my fellow man. With my growing family by my side, we move forward.
The next Star Wars movie is slated to hit theaters December 23rd, 2023 and with my Little Jedi in tow, I look ahead with a spark of hope.
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