About motherhood on wheels, or how I won the baby lottery, Part 1

Baby fever. I think all women get it at some point in their lives. For some, it wears off, completely, forever, and that’s fine. Some of us weren’t cut out to be mothers. For others, it’s extreme (hello, Kris Kardashian Jenner.) As for me, I wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I played with various sorts of baby dolls. My favorite was called Kitten, a life-sized doll with floppy arms and legs. My mom used to let me dress her up in old baby clothes she had tucked away.

As I grew older, one of my goals was marriage with children. By the time I did marry, I was twenty-four years old, and working on a graduate degree at the University of Illinois. I was also very active in competitive sports, specifically, wheelchair basketball and track. Because of these things, my husband, Brad, and I decided to wait several years before we tried for children. Then, in 1985, five years into our marriage, I found myself unexpectedly, accidentally pregnant. Let me make something crystal clear right now: unplanned does NOT mean unwanted. We were shocked, but after that initial shock wore off, we were absolutely thrilled! We were going to be parents!

Everything about that pregnancy was going along perfectly. We were patting my belly several times a day, I was singing to my baby (heavy on The Beatles songbook) and I felt wonderful. My basketball team, combined with a team from Minnesota, traveled to Germany in May ’85 to play several games against the German National Team (yes, I had permission from my doctor.) After the games were completed, we had all planned to spend a few extra days in Germany to be typical American tourists. The morning we were to start our sight-seeing adventures, I woke up to find that I was spotting blood. I was fourteen weeks along by then. I wasn’t overly alarmed, as I had done quite a bit of reading about what to expect during pregnancy, and it is not terribly uncommon for something like that to happen for a day or two, and stop just as suddenly as it starts. However, to be on the safe side, I went straight to bed, elevated my legs, and didn’t move except to used the bathroom. Despite my inactivity, the bleeding didn’t stop, in fact, became heavier over a three-day period. I was terrified, and after consulting a local doctor, it was off to the nearest hospital for me. Sadly, I miscarried the pregnancy. Brad and I were heartbroken, and I was an emotional wreck. For so many weeks, I had been growing this new tiny person inside of me, and suddenly it was gone. I was alone. Empty.

I don’t know how I would have survived that experience without the support of my husband, who I knew had to be hurting too. But we both recovered, and my OB/GYN told me it was unlikely that it would happen to me again. We obediently took his advice to wait six months before we tried for another pregnancy. In early 1986, I was pregnant again. At twelve weeks, I miscarried. In 1987…well, the same story. After three consecutive misses, I was beyond sad, I was bitter. I was too angry to try again. I know that Brad was extremely disappointed and upset as well. On top of that, he was concerned for my health. Three miscarriages in a period of two and a half years takes a hard toll on a woman’s body – it sure did on mine.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d had my future blocked out for the next eighteen years, maybe more, in child-rearing and keeping the home-fires burning, with a few extracurricular activities thrown in. That had all blown up in my face. I struggled to find myself. I needed to find something to bring some joy back into my life, instead of wallowing in self-pity. The answer was amazingly simple, once I climbed out of the black hole I’d been hiding in. Back to the track. Back to sport. The 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics were about sixteen months away, and though I was not exactly in tip-top shape, I was still physically fairly strong, and I had an ace up my sleeve – Marty Morse, the best wheelchair racing coach in the country. If anyone could get me on the Olympic team, change my focus from motherhood back to racing monster, it was him. Looking backward in my life showed me a way to look forward again. Winning the 800 meter race in Seoul became my goal, and started a healing process for me that would eventually enable me to take another stab at starting a family.

Part 2 coming soon.

Peace on you,
Sharon

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I did it my way, for better or worse

“I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.” Katherine Hepburn

I think it’s clear that Kate had regrets in her glorious lifetime. So do I, and my gut tells me that anyone who says that they don’t have any is not being entirely honest with themselves. What is regret, anyway? Psychologist Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., calls it feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been, or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made. I would more simply say that regret is a feeling of deep sadness over things that we think are BIG mistakes we made during our life, at one time or another.

I think if you don’t acknowledge regret, you deny yourself the opportunity to grow and change in a positive, meaningful direction. Course corrections in life, if you will. If only I had hung on to that great guy, Bill, that I was dating when I was nineteen. If only I hadn’t slept with that married guy (in my own defense, I didn’t know he was married…at first.) If only I had invested more time into nurturing my relationship with my teenage best friend Sue, we might still be great friends. The biggest one for me, however, is that my curious nine-year old self had to find out why my brother disappeared into my parents bedroom instead of watching TV with my other brother and me, one morning in 1966. I walked in, but I didn’t walk out. Curiosity almost killed the cat. Do I regret what happened to me that day? Of course I do, not only for the losses I suffered, but for everyone else whose life was changed because of my injury.

So, am I trapped into a miserable, incapacitating existence? Hardly. Throughout the course of my life, I’ve learned from my mistakes, changed what I was capable of changing for the better, and adapted to what could not be changed. The most important thing, though, was developing the ability to let go. Let go of blame, of self-recrimination, of “what if’s.” Regrets are okay to have, as long as you don’t live in them – otherwise, they suck the life right out of you.

Unfortunately, the process of letting go is a lifelong one, because you will constantly be reminded of missed opportunities, abilities you’ve lost, or things that, generally, you just messed up. Then, there are always new ways in which you might succeed – or fail. If you need help, get it. Talk to a trusted friend, or seek professional guidance. Personally, when I’ve been stuck inside my own head, in a place I don’t want to be, I’ve done both.

I hope you all find a path to conquering any regrets that may be floating around in your mind. I wish you all good health and happiness, support when you need it, and support when you don’t. Please be aware though, that anybody can wish you all the happiness in the world, but finding it is ultimately up to you. Just one more thing – I still want to be a ballerina.

Peace on your head,
Sharon

In the beginning…

I have been toying with the idea of writing a book for a few years. A story of tragedy and triumph, then more tragedy, more triumph…get the picture? I get a few pages written, I kinda like them, then I kinda don’t. There will be a small handful of people reading this who already know who I am (big fish, small pond) but for the most part, I have lived in anonymity. This brings me back to the book thing. I keep thinking that I may have something to offer to those folks who are still ambitious enough to pick up a book. Confused? I’m not surprised, so am I. Let’s start with a story.

Once upon a time, I was a happy, healthy young girl, nine years of age, who liked to play Barbie’s, ride bikes, climb trees, watch television, play on my school playground with my friends, and go to my ballet and tap dance lessons. Then, in the wink of an eye, everything changed. I mistakenly stepped in front of a kid messing around with a gun. He fired it, not quite understanding how it worked, and I was unable to jump out of the way of a bullet speeding my way at a million miles an hour. I collapsed to the floor, paralyzed from the waist down. The bullet struck my spinal cord. I never lost consciousness. I naively told that boy to look around for the bullet, thinking that if he found it, I would be okay. I began to try to get up, but I could only drag myself along the floor. Suddenly, there were policemen and ambulance personnel, and my mom surrounding me. A warp speed ride took me to the local hospital, where I was tended to by a trauma team, and whisked into neurosurgery. Four hours later, my parents were told that I would never walk again. Tragedy. A little girl died that day, only to be replaced by a different one, with the same face, same personality, but vastly different abilities.

If you’re still hanging in there with me, congratulations, because that’s a bloody sad story. Fear not, though, boys and girls, because the stories of triumph are yet to come.

Peace on your head,

Sharon