In our household, July kicks off four months of birthdays. Our youngest was born in July, our oldest in August, my husband in September, and our middle son in October. They all get to rest up through the winter so they can prepare themselves for my birthday in February, but that’s for another post.
Today we got to celebrate (four days late) the seventeenth birthday of our youngest, the only girl in the family. I love telling her the story of how we found out I was pregnant with her. It really was kind of a miraculous story in a commonplace way. Way, way, way back when—also known as Thanksgiving Eve, 1999—we had just gone to bed after baking the pies we were to bring to the family dinner. About an hour after we lay down, I had sharp pains in my stomach that just wouldn’t go away. The pain became so intense after a couple hours that my husband ended up taking me to the emergency room.
This was during the time when we had sixteen hours a day of private duty nursing for one of our children, and our night nurse graciously offered to keep an ear tuned on the two older boys (four and six years old at the time) while we were gone, since it was 2 a.m. and they had long since been asleep. We hadn’t relished the idea of having to wake them, only to sit in an emergency room for an unknown length of time.
Once we got there, the pain just kept getting worse, and the emergency room doctors began to run a series of tests. It was at some point during all these tests that a nurse casually said to me, “We’re really sorry, but we can’t give you anything for the pain because of your pregnancy.”
Tim and I looked at each other, did a double-take, did a triple-take, and pretty much spat out the word, “WHAT?” in unison. With a six-year-old, a just-turned-four-year-old, and an eighteen-month-old who required some pretty intense medical care, we weren’t even sure that we’d had the time for me to get pregnant. But there you go. God had other plans, as he usually does. And as always, his plans are more perfect than we could ever put together on our own.
A few hours after this marvelous revelation, it was discovered that I had food poisoning; everything was violently evacuated, for lack of a more delicate way to put it, and we were sent home with pain medication. I’m pretty sure I never thought that food poisoning would give me severe muscle aches from my shoulders all the way down to my calves for days, but all that cramping and spasming tends to clench every muscle, everywhere.
In among all the testing, they’d checked my pregnancy hormone levels and found me lacking in estrogen. I was sent home with an estrogen supplement, which was a pretty horrible experience overall. But here’s the cool part: the food poisoning is undoubtedly what saved my daughter’s life. And isn’t that just like God to use something that doesn’t seem to be so great, and turn it into something beautiful and necessary?
Because not even three months prior to Thanksgiving, I had miscarried a baby that almost nobody knew about other than my husband and a few close friends. The doctor had said this particular miscarriage had started off with decreasing hormone levels. We never found out the reason why. But here we were, just a few months later, in the emergency room getting the exact kind of care our baby needed when we didn’t even know we had a baby to care for.
I tell this story to my daughter every once in awhile, not just to remind myself of God’s amazing provision, but also to remind her that she’s special. She’s important, not only to us but to the Creator of the universe. God knew she was there when we didn’t, and he made sure she arrived safe and sound. I get teary when I think of it, and I’m getting teary as I write it now.
And here we are, with our Ellie now at the ripe old age of seventeen. One thing I never counted on was the fact that having teenagers is actually a lot of fun. So many people make it seem like these are the worst years of parenting, but I can honestly say that even though there have been moments here and there with each child, the teen years have been some of my favorite. Then again, at each age of our kids’ development I’ve always found some reason why that age is my favorite.
This age, right now, is my favorite because of conversations like the one she and I had in the car the other day. It was simple but sincere: she told me I was doing a good job. That my husband and I were both doing a good job, and that she respects us so much for our marriage—and that we’re open about the fact that we always think we’re not doing a good enough job and want to try harder at the whole parenting thing. For her to notice it and not be afraid to comment on it touches my heart in a way that I can’t even describe. As parents, we never think we’re doing enough of what’s right or edifying or wise. And sometimes, we’re not. But other times, even our poor efforts are noted by those who matter most.
Happy birthday, Bug.