Here’s the story I read last week at Listen to Your Mother. As I mentioned in my post-show recap, it’s a story that a few of you have already read (one version of it, at least) and some of you lived through with us. I won’t sugar-coat it: it’s one that brings me back to some dark days when I was full of fear. I hope that it resonated for some of the people in the theater, and maybe for some of you reading this, and that I’m not alone in having had some pretty ugly, scary feelings along the way to motherhood. But no suspense necessary: this story has a (cautiously) happy ending.
Most obstetricians’ offices might as well be decorated out of central casting: copies of Parents and Fit Pregnancy magazines, pamphlets for cord blood harvesting — and pictures of the babies they’ve delivered, plastered on the walls. Always the baby pictures, many of them from Christmas cards sent by grateful parents.
I haven’t always been a big Christmas card sender. Early in my time in DC, I was always at my busiest, work-wise, around Christmas. After that, I didn’t feel much interest in sending them out.
By the time I wanted to — when I was one, two, and then three deep in miscarriages — I couldn’t bring myself to send out a card that was missing a baby.
The third miscarriage had the worst timing: right at the start of December, just as the happy photo cards of my cousins’ and friends’ kids started to fill our mailbox. I had to put the cards aside in place of the issues of Us Weekly and Runner’s World that they arrived with.
I left my first OB practice after the nurse told me to just “go ahead and try again” after that loss. I found warmth and solace in the office of my wonderful specialist, and I was thrilled when his waiting room had stacks of travel and news magazines in place of Highlights and Working Mother. But there were so many Christmas cards there that the walls might as well have been papered with them.
Seeing all those babies still stung a little, but then, and there, I got it. Those cards were sent by parents who had walked those same hallways and endured those same exam rooms with the same fear that we had, that they’d never get the chance to send the glossy 4×8 photo card of a grinning infant wearing a Santa hat or tucked inside a stocking.
When I got pregnant again, my new doctor ordered weekly ultrasounds to monitor my progress. Each week, I’d go in, lay on the exam table, and look at the corkboard on the wall filled with Christmas cards, waiting and praying that the screen would show the flashing blip of a heartbeat.
Every week, it did. Once I’d had several good scans, Dr. Sacks, our specialist, “released” us to the care of my new obstetrician.
He sent us on our way with happy shorthand: “I think there’s a 90 percent chance that you’ll have a Christmas card this year.”
I didn’t repeat that line to anyone. It held such hope and promise, but fear kept me from saying it again. We’d made it this far before. We’d seen heartbeats. We’d framed early ultrasound pictures. And we’d agreed, back then, that this would be our last try – the last time we thought we could brave the pregnancy roller coaster.
What if we got cut off at the knees again? The what-ifs were all I could think about in those early weeks.
But with that Christmas card line, Dr. Sacks was giving us hope. My heart so wanted to trust him, but my head, filled with the reminders of the years of physical hurt and emotional heartache, didn’t know if I could.
Even now, tears spring to my eyes when I think of that conversation.
They’re tears of empathy for myself, remembering back to the fear that gripped me, and they’re tears of such relief and happiness that we were finally on the right side of Dr. Sacks’ odds.
He’s now on our Christmas card list, and our son Teddy’s picture is one of those babies lining his office walls.
And I’m already thinking about the card we’ll send him this year, with two babies on it: Teddy and his little sister.