Exactly 21 years ago, on March 10, 1990, I took my daughter to Valley View Shopping Center in Dallas, Texas. I bought my bright-eyed four year old with curly locks a Happy Meal at the food court and a lovely Easter dress with a matching headband. The headband cost $14. I remember because my spunky Mary Elizabeth refused to wear the headband. She never wore it a single time.
I also purchased new towels to replace the worn ones we had been using for too many years and a wedding present for my brother James and his fiancé. With my belly growing bigger every day, I was intent on getting everything done before my scheduled C-section.
As soon as we arrived home from our shopping spree, I collapsed in bed while my husband Jerry helped Mary Elizabeth get ready for her nap.
Born eight weeks too early
Just a few hours later, I was at the hospital preparing for an emergency C-section, growing increasingly panicked as the doctors calmly discussed whether or not this baby was ready to survive outside my womb.
I have never been as frightened as I was when I first saw my scrawny, struggling baby, born eight weeks too early. For weeks, he wasn’t strong enough to eat, breathe and keep his heart beating at the same time.
I have never been as tired as I was during those first few months when I tried to recuperate from a C-section, keep my business going, take care of Mary Elizabeth and wake up every four hours to breastfeed Jay. Yes, the doctor stressed, Jay needed breast milk and he needed to be fed every four hours.
I survived, of course, and both my children have thrived. I have never been as proud as I have been watching Mary Elizabeth and Jay become intelligent and productive, thoughtful and caring young adults.
As he turns 21, Jay is a college junior, with his name on the Dean’s List and the outdoor club’s roster of students planning to go hiking in the Grand Canyon during spring break. He also is vice president of an organization that helps foreign students feel more at home on campus with weekly lunches and other activities.
Making life much more interesting
Children often have made my life much more complex and chaotic and confusing, but my children also have made my life infinitely richer and much more interesting.
I have loved Toby Devens Schwartz’s poem “Second Child” ever since I discovered it almost 20 years ago. (It’s from her book Mercy Lord! My Husband’s in the Kitchen and Other Equal Opportunity Conversations with God.)
For her second child, Toby writes that she “sacrificed my trip to Nassau, my job promotion, the last of my waistline.”
She concludes her poem with these words.
Dear son, dear what will be
sweet triumph of hope over fatigue
who looks a little like his father and a little like his mother
and a lot like a miracle.
Happy is the woman who holds her child in the light and says
It was worth it.
It was worth it, Lord.