1 Samuel 1:20 (NIV) So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[a] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
When growing up, I always knew one day I would be a mom. I saw my friends having their babies, my best friend and I always talked about how it would be getting married, having kids, living nearby, having play dates and living happily ever after for the rest of our lives. Little did I know, it would take quite a while, and some work, and some pain, and some stress, but also that it would involve a gift from God, my biggest blessing, a lot of gratefulness from me, a lot of joy and tons of love.
After Richard & I married, we took a little time for ourselves and then decided to dive right into starting a family. Why the rush? Because I was already 30 years old and Richard was 45 years old. It’s not like we were spring chickens here. We didn’t want to look like relics when dropping off the kid at grade school, so busy we got. We bought a house, with nice rooms joined by a Jack and Jill bathroom and a great yard for the kids to play in. Both our Beagles, Nike & Zoe got pregnant twice, and this was the closest I was to a pregnancy! Needless to say, I enjoyed seeing my baby Zoe waddling with the huge belly, her vet appointments to see how the puppies were doing, Richard delivered one litter and I delivered the second litter. Zoe was awesome to let me help her with my grandpuppies! I was in heaven! As adorable as they were, puppies just weren’t the baby I was praying for. However, despite praying day and night, going from one specialist to the next just wasn’t working, because they couldn’t figure out why we weren’t getting pregnant, but it was beyond obvious we were both defective. We had changed our diets, took supplements, tried one thing, tried something else. Nothing. We thought it was time for the next step and went to a fertility clinic in California. We prayed some more, put it in God’s hands and went for it.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with what an in-vitro fertilization treatment is and what it entails. For starters, it’s very expensive and just by going through it doesn’t guarantee you a baby. The whole treatment is painful, it requires discipline, methodical precise discipline. We both worked a lot to pay for it and I followed the process with strict discipline and diligence to make it work. They found out my cervix needed to be opened up and it had a peculiar curvature. So they implanted this seed that expanded inside to open my cervix up. The pain, it was painful. Very painful. Injections in the stomach, patches on the stomach. Injections on the buttocks. Painful, itchy, rash everywhere, bumps everywhere, driving about an hour each way every other day for blood work and ultrasounds, for weeks. They extracted all my eggs, mixed them with Richard’s swimmers, and then we got a few embryos. Half the embryos were gone within hours, and only a couple were sort of decent to implant. The day had arrived and I had to drink this whole gallon of water so they could see with the ultrasound where to drop the embryos inside of me. That was so uncomfortable and you can’t pee it out! You have to hold it!! Regardless, this whole process meant a chance for us to have a baby, so I sucked it up!! In my heart, it was worth it, so I went through it without complaining, just taking one thing at a time, one day at a time. So now our embryos were inside me, and then we waited, and we prayed while we waited.
I still remember when the doctor told us we were not pregnant. He said I could go ahead and stop the rest of the treatment. See, the treatment (which are hormones) doesn’t stop after they have confirmed a successful pregnancy, it continues for a little longer to make sure the hormone levels stay where needed. So I stopped the hormones cold turkey. If you’re close to someone who is going through any hormone therapy, whether it is for fertility or for something else, please be patient with them. It’s not a nice thing to go through. I was a hormonal emotional mess and couldn’t help it! The littlest thing would set me off and an ocean of tears were coming out. I was blessed that my husband and my coworkers were patient enough to put up with my emotional roller coaster, but in all fairness, it’s not just the treatment, it’s also the devastation coming from learning that no matter what you went through and how much energy and work you put into it, you are not pregnant, and there is no baby, and you’re back to square one.
The following months were also a roller coaster but for different reasons. We decided we would adopt. We had both considered an adoption, Richard’s oldest sister had adopted a baby from Asia years before, and they were the happiest family. I had coworkers that had adopted baby girls from China and other countries. So we went right into the whole adoption process but soon after we realized we were not ready for the grilling part of the process. The deciding factor however, was that most of the adoptions were open ones, and we didn’t want to go through that. We didn’t want to share our baby with anybody. Private adoptions meant more money that we didn’t have, possibly going to another country, which we couldn’t. We prayed, we discussed it, we prayed again, and we decided to just not go through it. It was devastating to give up the idea of adopting a baby, but we felt it wasn’t for us to go through it. We just couldn’t.
Both our families were loaded with suggestions from them and from their friends. What about a surrogate? One of my dear friends offered to be our surrogate, but I couldn’t let her do that. It is the most selfless and loving thing anybody had offered to do for me, she said if it meant I would become a mom, then it was totally worth it. I cried my heart out because I wanted so bad to have a baby, but no matter how much I prayed God for a baby, it seemed like God wanted me to keep waiting. So I waited, and I continued praying.
Two years later, Richard said: “Let’s move to Texas!” What?!? So we came down to Texas, found us a beautiful house, and soon after we drove with Nike and Zoe to Texas. We had prayed and God had blessed us not just with the house, but with jobs, wonderful neighbors that came included with the house, and our lives were settling down into our life in Texas. There was one thing though, one thing that was still not right. We still wanted a baby, well I know I did. Richard would say yes one day, no the next week. I think he wasn’t sure he wanted to go through the pain of being told “you’re not pregnant”, and I understood that, but at the same time, dude! my few eggs are dying here! It was so frustrating to be placed on hold when it came to the mommy part, I mean, I had my babies Nike & Zoe, and they were always right by my side, and actually they were awesome because they didn’t talk back, were extremely obedient, I didn’t have to worry about college with them or cellphones or tennis shoes. But they weren’t a real baby!
One day Richard finally gave me green light for a baby. God answered my prayer! Well one of my prayers. We found a doctor through a nurse friend, this doctor referred us to this fertility clinic, we were very familiar with the process, and we started it. Came to find out from one of my school friends, that they had 3 successful in- vitro treatments from the same clinic we were going to. To me this was a sign that we were on the right path. It had to be from God that we were on the right path. Again the shots in the belly along with the patches, the shots on the butt, the blood tests and ultrasounds every other day. Following the process is really not complicated, but it requires the methodical discipline I already told you about. You have to be able to follow directions, or you may lose quite a good amount of money. For people like us, it meant a lot of budgeting, a lot of savings, using our whole tax return money. We’re not rich people, Richard worked too hard and too much to provide for us, and he worked a lot to get us through this in-vitro treatment. There was so much praying happening with this process, a lot of tears and a lot of prayers. The day arrived, again, we didn’t get too many embryos, but the doctor implanted 2 out of the 3 we had. I had to drink the gallon of water, sucked it up, had to pee some of it, the doctor implanted the embryos and we went home. I barely moved from the couch. I was terrified of being told it didn’t happen, that we didn’t get pregnant.
We then got the best news ever: God blessed us with a pregnancy. We were pregnant. God had a plan, and we prayed, I prayed, and in His infinite mercy and grace, God gave us a pregnancy! Praise the Lord, we were pregnant!!
We also found out I had been accepted into two nursing schools, so there was no room for fooling around. Being accepted was a blessing, and getting pregnant was just our dream come true! So I sucked it up and went for it. We waited to tell people we were pregnant, we waited until it was a definite and beyond confirmed pregnancy before announcing it. Richard and I had spent years going over our favorite names. If it was a baby girl, it would be Ella Grace or Ava Grace, if it was a boy there was no question Samuel Cole was his name. Richard chose Cole, but I decided his first name had to be Samuel. Non-negotiable. I had never seen myself with a baby girl though. Richard was already buying girl stuff, I wanted to wait. Richard was the baby of 3 with 2 sisters, I was the oldest of 3 sisters and 1 brother. I knew deep in my heart I wanted a baby boy, so I prayed like Hannah, and I prayed for a baby boy. The time arrived for us to find out if it was a boy or a girl. We went in there, and God once again answered my prayers. It was a boy! I was ecstatic!! Richard not so much. He just couldn’t understand why I wanted a boy who would be rough and who’d give me buggers and scratches and bugs and worms. I wanted it! I didn’t want dolls, I wanted cars and dinosaurs and jeans with patches! God listened to my prayers and He gave me a baby boy!!! The best gift and blessing from God was a baby boy, a baby boy!!
I was in heaven experiencing the whole pregnancy quirks. I didn’t throw up, but some smells were just nauseating. I couldn’t stand ground beef cooking, or hard boiled eggs. I went to Subway pretty much every week: roast beef sandwich on cheese and herbs foot long sandwich with all veggies, mayo and chipotle, hold the onions. I did enjoy the sleep. I’d fall asleep wherever, whenever, anywhere, except school or on clinical rotations. It was torture trying to stay awake! I just wanted to sleep all the time! Eventually we found out I had complete placenta previa. The placenta had lodged right on top of my cervix, so pretty much contractions and/or a vaginal birth would result into the placenta getting detached, I would bleed to death, our baby would starve for oxygen and die. I knew God wouldn’t let this happen. I mean, we have come so far already, why would this be the end of it? Remember I was also going to nursing school, I had clinical rotations. I was having Braxton Hicks contractions all the time, and at week 34 I had to quit my clinical rotations because they were happening way too often within an hour. I was sad to quit but the baby was the most important thing now. I was scheduled for week 36, baby boy was supposed to be born on 11/11 but God had different plans. I was not ready yet, I mean the baby’s room was ready, but not my bag or anything else! November 5, Richard left for work at 6:15 am, I went to the bathroom in the dark, and I found something dark on the toilet paper. Turned lights on, and I was bleeding, a lot. Called both Richard and 911 at 6:25, got ready, my pregnant belly was hard as a rock, I called my parents and asked to them to pray for us, called our neighbors and asked them to keep an eye on the dogs, set the alarm and locked the door behind me. Richard had just walked into his hospital when I called him, and now he was pulling up when I walked out and then the ambulance showed up. I walked right up to them, our neighbors were there, and off we went. Richard had called report to the hospital, so they were all waiting for us to arrive, they prepped me up, and I was taken to the OR for an emergency c-section. So cold in there, no epidural but a spinal for me, and then our Samuel Cole was born at 7:53 that morning. He was complete, he was crying, he had 10 toes and 10 fingers, he was perfect. God gave us a perfect baby boy. He was fine, he was alive, God answered our prayers.
Samuel had to spend 2 weeks in the NICU, he had come out too early, his lungs were not ready. I was pumping milk since day 1, saving every single little drop of breast milk. I tried to breastfeed him, but this baby just wanted to sleep! I had everybody’s hands on my boobs, ‘you should do it like this’, ‘you should do it like that’ until one day I told everybody off, ‘the kid doesn’t want to be bugged with breastfeeding! Just let him rest, he’ll be fine!’ I was back in school the day after I was discharged, pumping at school, saving the breast milk for my baby, going back to the hospital after class, being there with my baby every 3 hours when possible. He had a tube down his nose for feedings, he was so tiny! We were told about the kangaroo technique, placing your baby on your bare chest, skin to skin, to help them thrive. So every day was skin to skin with Samuel. There were setbacks, nurses I wasn’t sure about, nurses I wanted with my baby 24/7. It’s an emotional period having your baby in the NICU, not knowing what the day holds, just going with the flow, doing your best, hoping for the best, praying for God to save your baby, to make your baby better. It’s hard, but once again, God gave me the strength to go through this.
Two weeks later, the nurse practitioner asked me if I wanted to take Sam home. What? She discharged him, I placed him in the car seat and this kid looked like a little peanut in the car seat. So tiny!! We brought him home, it was such a blessing, a relief because that meant no more running to the hospital every 3 hours anymore, being all stressed about what we’d find once we walked into the NICU. Then the miracle happened: Sam was actually breastfeeding! Yay!! Get the camera, take a picture, a lot of pictures!!! If it doesn’t happen again, at least I have proof he actually breastfed for a minute!!!! and guess what? That was actually the last time he breastfed. I was not thrilled about it, but my milk supply ended when he turned one month old. I was grateful that he was able to drink my milk, pumped or not, at least for that one month. It was an accomplishment for me, I guess it’s what every mom loves to accomplish. To be able to breastfeed their babies, the bonding that comes from it, the connection. The feeling that you’re the one who keeps nourishing this baby, even after the womb. It wasn’t long enough, I had a 45-minute breastfeeding bond with my baby boy and that was it. It wasn’t much, but in my heart, at least I had that. This mama was grateful!
This kid took his time to talk, but when he finally decided to talk, good grief! Let’s say that he has it in his blood to talk. He’s a talker who comes from a different lines of talkers. Professional nonstop talkers. He skipped crawling, I think he crawled for about 2 hours, and he went from sitting to walking and climbing. He is a climber, he climbs on and over everything. There is not an obstacle this kid won’t go over. He puts his eyes on something and goes for it. He is a monkey, he’s a doer, he has initiative, he doesn’t wait for you to say the word, he’s full of life, he’s the most precious baby ever and God gave him to us!!! So I continued with nursing school, at some point had to find a daycare for Samuel while I went to school. Samuel turned 2 years old in November, I graduated from nursing school before Christmas, and Richard passed away between Christmas and New Year’s day. It was sudden, it happened at home. It was difficult to deal with it all while keeping a smile for Samuel, but God helped me go through it. My mother spent a month with us while I got everything sorted out, but then she left and it was just me, the kid and the dogs. I was determined to not have this cloud over his head. I wanted him to be a happy baby, a happy kid. I researched what to do, how to tell little ones their dad has passed away. Just days before he died, I had to text Richard to call home because Sam wanted his papa and we had gone on a papa hunting expedition and the kid wouldn’t stop crying until he talked to his papa. Now, how do you tell a 2-year-old his dad is not coming home ever? I found something online a man said had helped him and his baby sister when their dad died when they were little. Their aunt told them to look at the moon whenever they wanted to see their dad, and their dad would be right on the moon looking down upon them. He said that was comforting for them. It made sense in my head. Richard and I loved going outside and look at the moon. It was our thing. Kids need something tangible, and telling him his dad went to heaven just didn’t seem tangible enough. So his papa was on the moon, and it worked. Whenever he missed his papa, we’d go outside, sit there and look at the moon. It was our little thing, he found comfort in it, and that’s all that matter to me.
We traveled to California to bring Richard home, to his favorite lake for his resting place. I carried Richard on my back while holding my Samuel through the airports. The whole trip was quite emotional, God helped me to manage to keep it cool with Samuel. He was a happy kid during the whole trip. After coming back home, we had to make a few changes. I was starting my nursing job in a few weeks but I needed a daycare during my nurse hours. After going from one place to another and calling half the town, God took me to a daycare that opened at 6 am, closed at midnight and opened on weekends. What!? A huge blessing for a desperate newly widow mom with nobody else in town. We sold our house, too many memories and a whole lot of emotions. We bought a smaller house on a different side of town, and kid was in heaven because he had a whole huge bed with all his stuffed animal friends, all to his own! Our routines were strict, but I made sure I told him what was happening and what was coming next. I believe having a structured routine and knowing what to expect helped in keeping stress and anxiety out of his world. Was it hard and difficult? Absolutely! Especially because I also had 2 dogs that I needed to take care of. But with all the praying I did, day and night and everywhere in between, God helped us keep it together.
Time passed, things got more aligned to what I wanted. Our small transition house served its purpose and then we moved back home, to a beautiful house a block away from the house I had with Richard. I just loved this neighborhood and God blessed us with our forever home after praying for it for so long! We prayed for a church, and God led us to a wonderful place we could go worship. Everything is within a mile away from our house, his school, daycare, HEB, bank, gas station, Walgreen’s, everything we needed. I work from home now, I go to all his sport practices, I don’t miss anything at school and I can even have lunch with him on Fridays and he loves it. Our lives are much calmer now, God has given us some peace after the many storms the kid and I have weathered. I’ve been working on providing my son with what I believe Richard would’ve wanted. I’m sure Richard would be proud on how I’ve handled things, and while it hasn’t been stress and drama free for me, God has been with us every single step of the way and then some. The result? Samuel is a happy camper. He has empathy, he’s helpful, he’s a hugger and a kisser and a talker, just like his mama! He’s everything Richard said a boy would be, a monkey, worm founder, an explorer, he’s rough, he’s a climber, quite active, always running and playing. He is just like Richard, and he would make his dad proud, very proud!
God blessed me beyond my dreams with this little man, with quite an expensive kid, and after everything we’ve been through, God has had a plan all along, I’m sure Samuel has a purpose with his life. I know I was meant to be Samuel’s mama, I know God had a plan and everything that has happened in my life, happened to prepare me to become Samuel’s mom. I know that with God’s help, I will raise Samuel to become the best version of both me and his papa, and a blessing to others.