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,