As a 36-year-old single mom-to-be, I felt that my life was nearly perfect. I was a hardworking attorney in Trenton, New Jersey, with an easy commute to a job I loved from my new condo in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. And then — what better news than the announcement by my obstetrician that my due date would be Easter?
I looked forward to all those spring days of sunny warmth and lovely drenches of sweet-smelling rain with my brand new baby — whom I already adored.
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But in my last trimester, my obstetrician’s edict came down hard. He diagnosed an acute case of preeclampsia, warning me that I would have to remain bedridden for the last two months of my pregnancy. I was stunned. How could this happen? I had survived a legal separation from my first husband of 11 years, along with a painful divorce. I had taken excellent care of myself — no alcohol or medicine (not even an aspirin) from the moment I learned of my pregnancy. And for the first time in my life, I had a home of my own, paid for by my years of toil. Didn’t this entitle me to thrive along with my as-yet-unborn son?
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The nursery also needed painting and wallpapering. I had a garage filled with baby stuff from a selection of cribs and playpens that required assembling — not to mention mobiles, toys, gadgets and gizmos.
My doctor won, of course. But that’s only because I landed in our local hospital’s ER one night after work, my blood pressure soaring almost to the point of seizure or stroke. Given the preeclampsia, I soon realized it would be impossible for me to remain living in my new home alone in Doylestown. I needed help and I’d have to ask for it, or beg if necessary.
My doctor told me later that neither me nor my son would have survived if we’d induced labor.
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My parents were away for an extended trip on a cruise, so my dear sister stepped up to the plate. She had a great position with a musical recording company in New York City but was willing to go on a sabbatical of sorts to take care of me for the time being.
Close to term, all at once, we needed to drive urgently to New York City. Preeclampsia again reared its ugly head. My obstetrician immediately admitted me to the ICU. There, I was intravenously provided with life-saving medicines that kept me stable for the time being. The problem, though, was whether my son or I could survive childbirth itself.
There was strong disagreement between my obstetrician — who wanted to perform an immediate C-section — and the head of obstetrics, who preferred to induce labor. Confused, I knew I needed God. I needed a few moments, so I sought a patch of blue outside a partially open window next to my bed. With a wisp of warm, fresh air on my face amid the blessed street sounds of city life below, I prayed as if prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament.
It was decision time. I decided to fight for that C-section. As an effective pairing of doctor and lawyer, we won in a far bigger way than either of us imagined. Afterward, my doctor told me that neither me nor my child would have survived with induced labor because the baby’s umbilical cord was only four inches long.
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It took a few weeks in the hospital, but I eventually recovered and my beautiful new son thrived. But once we arrived home, it was anything but smooth sailing. While I managed through the first six months of maternity leave, when it was time to go back to work I didn’t care about anything or anyone but my kid.
After all of this, and perhaps because of it, Easter marks a time never to be forgotten in my life.
Holding my son in my arms, I saw how he looked up at me and with his tiny fingers reached for a tear trickling down my cheek. Incredibly, it felt like he knew — and was comforting me as if to say: “Hey, Mom, we can do this!”
The next day, I called my parents, who had returned from vacation. My mom and dad wanted me to move back home to New Jersey for awhile to give my son the start of a safe and secure family life — and I agreed to take their advice.
Packing up and selling off nearly everything wasn’t easy. But once I said my final farewells to Doylestown and headed to the ol’ homestead, I felt a deep and abiding peace.
By this point, it was almost a year to the day of my son’s birth. I turned to my son in his car seat and said aloud: “What does it matter where we live? And anyway, I’ll work again — I’ll start my own law practice, and that will mean more flex-time for us.” My baby son kicked in reply.
After we settled in at my parents’ home, a funny thing happened when I started running again. My running paths inexplicably ended at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was part of The Missionary of St. Franciscan Sisters. And I began spending more time there as the weeks and months passed. Eventually, I was introduced to the mother superior, who took a special shine to my son. Mother had this way of gently touching his cheek that I felt was a blessing.
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With Mother Superior at my side and the grotto of Our Lady as my refuge, my conversion from Episcopalian to Roman Catholicism was inevitable — and extends today to my son and my husband of 20 years.
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After all of this, and perhaps because of it, Easter marks a time never to be forgotten in my life. I see it as God’s most generous gift toward my rebirth through His magnificent creation of my son — the Easter kid — who did nothing less, by his very presence and joyous arrival, than save his mother’s life.
The author, a retired attorney, is a published poet, writer, and columnist based in Arizona.
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