In case you’ve missed the news on Facebook, I have a new nephew. Philip Edward Shull was born at 11:02 this morning. Mom and baby are doing just fine. A few minutes after I announced the news, I got a text from a Dear Friend, “Are you okay?”
I assured her that I was fine and that this time was much easier than last time. And for the most part that is true. I haven’t had nearly the difficulties with Leah being pregnant the second time as I did the first.
But there’s always a small bit of lingering sadness that remains behind underneath the happiness. I won’t be able to share the things with Leah that she’s sharing with me. My hysterectomy makes that impossible. I know I made the right decision and I don’t regret it in the least. My pregnancy would have been an extremely high risk one and that’s even without the factoring in of me carrying 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. I would have had a whopping fifty percent chance of bringing a baby into the world that was equally as bad off or worse off than I was myself.
That’s a lot!
So, yes, I’m confident that I made the right decision in my head. Even in my heart, I’m much more confident this time around than with the last one.
It wasn’t always this way though.
I’ve always been jealous of Leah. I’ve always felt that her perfect health was God’s way of saying to my parents, “Yeah, sorry about that first one. Here’s one to make up for her.”
She was smarter than I was, made better grades in school than I did, liked better fashion, had more friends, and on and on the list could go. When she was pregnant for the first time it was extremely difficult for me. I had always wanted to be just like my mother. Being just like my mother included having three kids of my own and a family. My doctors had always assured me that I would probably be able to carry a pregnancy to term without any problems.
That was before the lung injury.
After that happened, we knew there would be no way for me to have a baby. Babies take a lot of space up and are right next to your rib cage. I was already on oxygen even without a baby. Who knew what having an extra little person inside me would do to me.
The choice for the hysterectomy had been the best one. Mom had always said that she didn’t want to have to choose between keeping me alive or keeping the baby alive. Given the complications of my health and heart already, there was a good possibility that eventually we might have faced that if I’d gone that route. We’d made the right choice for everybody. But it wasn’t the easy choice.
There’s a scene in the movie Julia & Julia where Julia Child finds out her sister Dorothy is pregnant via telegram. She turned to her husband and said, “Oh Paul!”
Nothing else was said in the scene. But there didn’t need to be any more words. I knew just how she felt.
When Leah first told me she was pregnant with Clara, I closed the door in my room and cried. The next few months I struggled hard with bitterness and envy. While I worked on the baby blanket for Clara, sometimes I would dissolve in tears at random while stitching my squares. Tim was very supportive during this time, making me feel better when I needed him to. I had him and I had the kitties, but it still wasn’t quite enough.
I remember praying for something I could do; preferably something I could do better than Leah. But something. Anything. I wasn’t going to be picky about what. But I wanted a way to stand out. I wanted something to fill the void about the lack of little feet running through the house.
The following year in February, I found Holly Lisle’s Create-A-Plot Clinic and not much longer after that, I ended up signing up for her How to Think Sideways writing course.
The next few months I learned everything I could about writing fiction. I soaked it up like a sponge and then wrung it out on paper. I came up with some book ideas based on my feelings about the pregnancy that likely would have put me in an institution had I showed them to anybody but fellow writers. I also started dabbling in poetry. I wrote some nature poetry and some dark and depressing poetry.
But the months went by quickly instead of plodding as they had been before.
April 22, 2010 Clara was born. She was a month earlier than she was supposed to be. Dad called to tell me the news. I called and talked to Leah for a few minutes. After we hung up, I cried. I gave treats to the kitties to make myself feel better and went to Hobby Lobby to get yarn. Retail therapy, I told myself.
It turned out I didn’t really need it. Not much later, Dad called again and asked if I wanted to go see Leah and her baby. He collected me in the airplane and we flew to Jackson. Mom drove the car so that we would have a vehicle.
Once we united, we stopped at the Papa John’s to get Leah some pizza and bring her some doughnuts. She hadn’t been able to have any sugary sweets during the pregnancy with gestational diabetes. Now that she wasn’t pregnant anymore she could have all she wanted.
I wasn’t sure what I would feel when I gave her my presents. I had ordered some clothes specially made and I brought those with me. I can’t remember if I gave her the blanket before this or at the same time. But I do remember the first time I held Clara.
She was so tiny and so precious and so perfect. All of the bitterness and envy I’d been feeling since Leah first became pregnant just melted away like butter. Leah trusted me with something special. How could I be sad around what was so full of life?
Fast forward two years later. Clara is now walking and talking. We love to Skype together, although she doesn’t quite understand the fact that I’m far away and not in the actual room. But I love my sweet girl. She can always brighten my day just by being with her for a few minutes. So when Leah told us at Christmas she was pregnant again, I was excited instead of sad.
I didn’t spend the months between dwelling in misery and being mad at her like I had the first one. Instead, things continued as normal. I worked on my manuscripts and I crocheted on shawls and blankets.
Today when I got the news she’d finally had Philip, instead of sitting at home crying and then taking myself shopping, I was working on a shawl for a friend of mine. I quickly posted the news on Facebook. And the only retail therapy I needed this time was finally buying her a gift.
So when my Dear Friend texted me to ask, I was able to reply with confidence.
I might not get everything my sister does and I can’t be just like my mother since I’m not in the best of health, but you know, I’m okay with that. We’re different people. And Clara brought us both closer together. This time I was able to really be happy for my sister like a sister should be.
And I am happy for myself, too.