"Wow! You have four kids?! How did that happen?"
FYI — don't ever say that to anyone. It's kinda rude. It implies that having four kids is somehow weird, or that my having four kids is somehow weird. Both of which may hold some truth, but it's still rude. But, since I have never shared just how these minions invaded my life, I will share it now. (Not the actual how — I mean, ew. But, you know, the how.)
I met my husband in 1997. We knew almost immediately that we were meant to be together, and in less than seven months we were engaged, and six months after that, we tied the knot. We had grand plans — be married for five years, have a child. When that child was 3 years old and potty trained we'd have another. When child number two was potty trained, we'd decide whether or not we wanted a third. We knew that the kids were in our future, we planned on them. Very specific, detailed plans. We planned, God laughed.
In early 2001, my sister called to tell me that she was pregnant. I believe my exact words were, "Better you than me, but congratulations." Less than three weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant, too. My sister was a little miffed since I had butted in on her special time. It was completely unintentional, so I was a little shocked. Not at her reaction, but at being pregnant at all. This was not my plan. I had only been married a little over two years; Baby #1 wasn't supposed to come for another three years. I was on birth control. I wasn't sure how this had happened (I mean, I know how it happened, but I had not planned on this). Plan or not, there was a baby coming, and regardless of when we had planned on it, it was happening now. We embraced it. Gladly.
I was one of those people — the ones who said that I was going to work until the baby was born and that I would go back after the baby was born. I was convinced that I wasn't going to let this change my plans any more than it already had. Other than reeducating myself in the creative napping techniques that I had learned in high school to make it through my work day, making time for doctor's appointments, and eating and sleeping like a teenager again, no major changes. But at seven months, I started almost passing out — kind of a bad thing when you're in outside sales and spend half of your day in a car. So the doctors put me on home rest. This was the beginning of the end of my career.
Insane With Fever
When my water broke it wasn't a big river like I was expecting, but I knew. Unfortunately, when I called the doctor's office, the doctor on call believed that I had "just peed a little." So, since it was the weekend, and since this was my first pregnancy and I was not quite the snark-filled creature that I am now, I hung up the phone and went to bed. Monday, I didn't feel right. I was really thirsty and really tired, and I slept a lot. Tuesday, I went to the doctor and the same idiot who was on call over the weekend was there that day and he sent me home without a thorough exam. My husband was working nights, and when he came home early Wednesday morning, he found the cat and dog pressed up against the cool glass of the sliding door. The heat was cranked up to 78 degrees, I had the gas fireplace going, and I was curled up on the hearth — as close to the flames as I could possibly get without actually catching fire. He put me into the car and took me to the hospital. Problem was, the hospital was in Atlanta, and it was rush hour. It took more than two hours to get to the hospital. I was having contractions. By the time we got to the hospital, they were about two to three minutes apart. I was certain that I was going to die.
After being rushed back into the maternity ward, a very sweet older nurse came to the room and sat down on the bed beside me. She took my hand in hers and said very gently, "Sweetie, you are not in labor." I began to protest, thinking that if this wasn't labor then they were going to have to just knock me out until it was over. She said, "You are having contractions, but they are not progressing. You are contracting because you have an infection. Your fever is over 104 and you are dehydrated." They determined that I was dilated two centimeters, and then put me on a fetal monitor, an IV with medicine for the infection, medicine to help my labor progress, and gave me my epidural because I was in pain.
Now, insane with fever, pumped full of drugs, and worn out from fighting infection is the best way to be in labor. I remember very little of the next eight hours or so. By the time I was coming around, I could feel my legs. I wasn't supposed to be able to feel my legs with the epidural. So I called the nurse. My sweet old nurse was gone and in her place was a shrew. She told me that I couldn't really feel my legs. She said that it was an illusion. Although I could feel my legs, I didn't think I could walk on them, or I would have marched down to the nurses' station and told her off. The doctor on call was awesome. He came in at about 7:30 and said he thought things should be ready to go within the next hour. When I told him I felt ready now, he snapped on some gloves and said "Well, then let's do this!" Thirty-five minutes later, I was a mother. My son was seven pounds and 11 ounces. (Oh, and after the baby was taken away, I swung my legs over the side of the bed and walked to the bathroom — much to the horror of the shrewish nurse who said, "Well, I guess your epidural did wear off." Idiot.)
Unfortunately, my new son had been the source of my fever and he took it with him when he left me. They let me see him briefly before whisking him off to the NICU. No one was telling me anything. Nearly three hours had passed before I knew that he was in trouble. My husband and I went to the NICU to see our son elevated on a crib, full of wires and IV lines, fighting the infection that had brought us to the hospital that morning. The next few days were torture. He was a fighter though — and he began improving. A little over a week later, we were able to take him home.
My husband and I had been surprised by this baby, but we had decided that we would continue with our plan — three years later we would have another kid. Well, when Baby #1 was 15 months old, I was pregnant again. Again, I had been on birth control and wasn't sure how this had happened. My OB started calling me "Fertile Myrtle." I admit that the news of my pregnancy, at first, made me cry. I felt that I would be depriving my oldest child of something by having another child so soon. My mother calmed me down, and soon I was embracing the idea of having two children so close in age. We found out that this child would be a girl, and we were happy to have one of each.
I was scheduled to be induced on a Monday. I was supposed to leave for the hospital around 7:30 in the morning. My new daughter, however, had other plans. I woke up in labor around 2 a.m. the day of my scheduled induction, and by 9 a.m. I was the proud mother of an eight-pound, 15-ounce baby girl. Three days later, we brought her home. By 7 months, the little dynamo was pulling up on furniture and beginning to cruise. By 9 months, she was running through the house. She had her own health scare — at a year of age, her doctor was concerned with how small she was and we had to have her tested for cystic fibrosis. Luckily, she was fine. Somehow she had thumbed her nose at her gene pool and was the one thing I never was or ever will be: petite.
A few months after my second child's second birthday, my husband and I briefly discussed whether or not we wanted to have another child. We decided to think about it and discuss it again in a few months. I found out I was pregnant less than two weeks later. Again, this was a birth-control baby. My OB amended her nickname to include my husband — we were now "Fertile Myrtle and Potent Pete." Baby number three, another girl, arrived at seven pounds and 12 ounces the day before Thanksgiving in 2006. I was now outnumbered. Three kids, all under five. We were busy all the time, but our kids loved each other and we loved them.
The summer after Baby #3 arrived, my husband began interviewing for another job. His interviews took him to Texas where he was offered a job and accepted. My mom came and stayed with my two older kids while he and I took Baby #3 out to Texas to look for a house to rent. We found one with four bedrooms — each child could have their own room, and there was a room for us. It was perfect. Two weeks later, the husband left with a U-Haul full of stuff and I stayed in Georgia to try to sell the house, with the plan that we would follow at Christmas a few months later.
My Winning Lottery Ticket
Three weeks before Thanksgiving, I got very sick. I was certain that it was the flu. I went to the doctor to confirm and he said that he was pretty sure that it was the flu, but wanted to run a blood test to check the white count. The next day, he called and this was the conversation:
"Your white count looks good, but you're pregnant."
"Ummmm . . . No. That isn't possible. I am on birth control, I am still nursing, and I have only seen my husband once in the past six weeks."
"Well, (chuckle), I'd go buy a lottery ticket with odds like that!"
"Really?? 'Cause I'm not feeling very lucky!"
When I called the husband, he laughed.
So, now sick, pregnant, with three kids ages 5 and younger and a husband working out of state, and trying to sell a house and pack up everything and move halfway across the country, I began to come to terms with the fact that I was to be the mother of four. My OB declared that I was one of the 0.02 percent of the female population that is unaffected by birth control, and I thanked the Lord that I had never been a slut in high school, because this whole process could have started a long time ago and I could have been the old woman in the shoe by now.
A Whole Heart
Somehow, we got moved to Texas and into our now too small house and I found a new OB and life kept happening. When Baby #3 was 20 months old, I gave birth to a 10-pound, three-ounce, red-headed, baby boy. I now had a 6-and-a-half-year-old, a 4-and-a-half-year-old, a 20-month-old, and an infant — two boys bookending two girls. Thirty minutes after Baby #4 was born I had my tubes tied.
And that is how I became the mother of four kids. I love my kids — all four of them. The beauty of being a mom is that no matter how many times your love is divided, it's still whole. I had not planned on four, but God knew that I needed all of them. Of course I vent about how they drive me crazy, I complain about the unforgivable things that carrying them has done to my body, and I sometimes wonder what my career might have been. But I love my kids and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything. It isn't weird, it's my family, and it's perfect.