19. How did you feel the moment you became a parent?
I’m not sure there is enough time or space or words in the universe to describe how I felt when I became a parent. To even begin to share that, I will have to split my experience with each of you into two pieces – finding out you were on the way and actually meeting you for the first time.
Finding out I was pregnant with Sarah was a shock. My divorce from my second husband had been finalized three months earlier, and I was seeing someone who was good looking, sweet and a lot of fun but not someone with whom I wished to be on a marriage track. We enjoyed each other’s company, and at that time in my Life, that is all I wanted. After two failed marriages, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be married again, and if I did ever get married, I was certain it wouldn’t be to him. He didn’t seem interested in running down the aisle either, so our relationship was comfortable and didn’t contain many high expectations.
Finding out I was pregnant changed everything. I had been very sick and had been to the emergency room due to what I thought was gallbladder problems. When I saw your Aunt Yvonne and told her how I had been feeling, she said, “You know when your Mam-ma thought she had gallbladder problems, she found out she was pregnant with Mark.”
Even though fertility testing a few years earlier had shown that kids weren’t in my future, her words stuck in the back of my mind for the next week. I can’t get pregnant, I thought, but I’ll take a test so I can quit thinking about what she said.
When two blue lines immediately appeared in the test window, I looked back and forth from the instructions to the test a dozen times or more to be sure I saw what I thought I saw. Jumping in my truck and driving faster than any law has ever allowed, I flew to Target and picked up three more tests – the most expensive, supposedly credible ones I could find – and took all three at once.
One test with two blue lines.
Two tests with two blue lines.
Three tests with two blue lines.
There were now four tests saying a baby was on the way. My doctor recommended we draw some blood to confirm and to find out how far along I was. I worked at the hospital where the lab work was done, and the ladies in the department knew me and knew my struggle with infertility. A couple of them had similar struggles, and we had talked about the pain of Mother’s Day and how it felt to see our friends effortlessly pregnant.
Needless to say, they were shocked when I handed the orders through the window. It was late in the afternoon, and I was the only patient there, so they put a rush on the results. When I heard the door begin to open, I glanced at the intake window and saw several women gathered around it staring excitedly at me and fighting back tears. Of course, when I heard that doorknob turn and saw their faces, I already knew the answer but couldn’t breathe until I heard the actual words.
The lady who came out smiled and said, “Congratulations, Mama,” and the ladies at the window cheered. I doubled over like someone had punched me in the gut and let the tears flow. All those years of childless agony came pouring out in that one moment, and she knelt down next to me and gave me the happiest, most comforting hug I have ever received.
The next few months streaked by in a blur of excitement and nervousness. At 39 weeks and four days, Sarah finally made her debut. I got to the hospital at 11:15 p.m. on December 27, and at 10:10 the next morning, she came screaming into the world. The first words I ever said to her were, “I love you,” although I’m not 100% sure I ever really knew the meaning of those words before that moment.
I was happy growing up. I was loved and hugged. I heard the words “I love you” frequently. I knew what they meant.
Or at least I thought I did.
When Sarah was handed to me for the first time, those three simple words took on such an enormously overwhelming depth of meaning, and I have never looked at them the same since. In that moment, I understood what it meant to prize someone else’s Life more than my own and to be willing to sacrifice, sweat and suffer if need be to make sure my child was safe and happy. Every time the nurses took her to the nursery, I agonized until she came back – What are they doing? Is she okay? Does she miss me like I miss her?
Realistically, she didn’t even know where she was. But I knew from that day on that my Life would never be the same and that no matter what happened, it was this tiny baby and me together through it all. All we had was the two of us and the love we felt at that moment, and we didn’t need anyone else to be part of our family of two.
But sometimes the world throws you a blessed little curveball, and mine came in the form of your Daddy. When Sarah was about nine months old, your Daddy and I started dating, and she was right there with us every time we were together. We were an instant family, and Daddy never hesitated to treat her like he had been part of her world from day one. About a year and a half later on August 2, 2008, we got married. Sarah walked up the aisle on Daddy’s shoulders after we said, “I do,” and that was the image of how our Life was going to be – just the three of us as a happy little family.
Thankfully, the Universe had other plans.
A few months after we got married, I was eating a lot more than usual. It wasn’t that I was bored and feeling snacky or that I had missed any meals. I felt like I had a parasite that would tear my insides out if I didn’t constantly have something to eat.
This isn’t normal, I thought. What is wrong with me?
On an odd hunch, I took a pregnancy test. Again, just as it had done when I found out Sarah was on the way, two lines appeared immediately, and again, I looked back and forth from the instructions to the test a dozen times or more. Daddy was working late, so I texted him to find out how much longer he would be. He said he was going to be a while, so I texted him a picture of the positive pregnancy test.
He texted me back: “Whose is that?”
I told him that the test was ours, and I’m pretty sure the night sky lit up from the glowing beamingness of his smile. We were giddy that our little family of three was going to be a family of four.
Sarah was supposed to have been my miracle child who beat all the odds to get here, and yet here we were less than two years later with another child on the way. We tried to tell Sarah that a baby was on the way, but at just under two years old, I’m not sure she completely grasped the concept. On the other hand, telling our friends and family was fun. I remember your Aunt Karen hugging me at Christmas and asking, “Hey, sweetie. How are you?” As she stepped back, I grinned and said, “Pregnant.”
Based on the excitement that filled the room when I said that, you would’ve thought I had set the place on fire. Your Aunt Kara was pregnant with Grant and Ethan at that time, and our family which had previously had no grandkids was going from zero to four in a single year. Blessings were pouring out of every moment in our Life, and the excitement was practically palpable.
A few months later I was at the Woman’s Clinic for my regular weekly visit, and Dr. Sheppard measured my stomach to see how much Aubrey had grown. She eased back across the room and leaned against the counter.
“We need to get this baby out of there,” she said.
Aubrey was getting big quickly, so we made an appointment to come in that Thursday to induce. When the morning of August 13 arrived, Daddy, Sarah and I left the house at 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark outside. Everything was so quiet and happy and laidback, and as Daddy carried Sarah to the car, she looked up to the sky and said, “One, two, ‘free,’ five, six, seven. Seven stars.”
“Remember that,” Daddy said. “There were seven stars in the sky the day Aubrey was born.”
Those weren’t the only stars to be seen that day, though. I’m pretty sure I had stars in my eyes when my sweet Aubrey was born, and I, once again, said the same three words to welcome my child into the world: “I love you. ” We were surrounded by so many family members and so much love, and the look on Sarah’s face when she saw her sister for the first time was priceless. She was hesitant to hold her for fear of breaking her, but we could tell she was drawn to her in a way she couldn’t explain and was already well on her way to earning the name “Mama Sarah.”
Friends and family drifted in and out for the rest of the day, and it wasn’t until much later that evening that I had a chance to be alone with my newest daughter. I was so overwhelmed by the shock of being a mother of two, but Aubrey was immediately snuggly and loving and easily soothed.
My first night with her was so different than my first night with Sarah. With Sarah, I had talked to her endlessly and told her how sorry I was that she had been born into a broken family without a reliable father figure. I had stared at her in disbelief for hours and had been unsure of what the future held.
But when Aubrey was born, that was not the case. I knew her future was filled with family and stability, two parents who loved her and a sister who would always be her friend. So when Aubrey and I were alone for the first time, we didn’t talk as much as Sarah and I had. Instead, I stared at her sweet face and thought of how blessed I was to have this precious little person in my Life and to feel her breathing that sweet baby breath on me as she snuggled her face into my neck. Every time the nurse brought her back to me after having her in the nursery, I lit up with the joy of seeing her as if it were the first time, and we mostly sat in quiet bondingness and just soaked each other up. I felt peaceful and complete, and I cherished the first quiet moments to get to know my youngest child.
Or at least we thought Aubrey would be our youngest child.
June 8, 2012, we got a puppy. Our family was finally complete, but oh what a handful sweet Piper turned out to be. At 3 a.m. the following morning, I was up with her yet again, and as we sat in the floor playing, I was suddenly struck with waves of nausea.
Where are these feelings coming from, I wondered. Could it be…
I took a pregnancy test, and it went through the window positive, just as it had done with both Sarah and Aubrey. I didn’t need to look back and forth this time, though. I knew what those two lines meant – yet another Mixon baby was on the way.
I really didn’t know what to think. Zoey was just as unexpected as Sarah had been. We had wondered if Aubrey might be possible and had hoped we would be able to conceive her, but Zoey was our unexpected blessing.
I was in shock, and if I knew this little secret, your Daddy needed to know, too. I crawled into bed next to him, poked him on the arm and said, “Hey. I don’t feel well.”
“What?” he asked, still groggy from the deep sleep he had been in before I poked him.
I repeated what I had just said, “I don’t feel well, and I know why.” I held up the pregnancy test, and he opened one eye to look at it, saw that it was positive and fell back onto the bed in shock. We spent the next couple of hours laughing, shaking our heads and wondering where we were going to put a third child in our tiny house. We had already had to convert the den into a bedroom when Aubrey was born. What would we do now that yet another child was on the way?
It didn’t matter.
All that mattered was the surprise and joy of knowing another child was on the way to bless our home. When we told your grandparents, Daddy was in Crossett. He logged into Google Talk so we could video chat, and Sarah and Aubrey got to tell each set of grandparents that I was pregnant. They were as shocked as we were but thrilled at the prospect of continuing to grow our family.
My pregnancy with Zoey was harder than it was with Sarah and Aubrey. With Sarah, I had a rough start but ended up having an easy pregnancy for the most part. Other than having swollen feet and hands, Aubrey was basically a breeze from day one. Zoey, on the other hand, was different. Nausea, backaches and headaches were common throughout my pregnancy, and she was the most active baby I’ve ever seen. There was hardly a moment in the day when my stomach wasn’t moving. It was like she was begging to get out and get her Life started from the moment she was conceived.
January 16, I went for my weekly appointment. I had been dilated to three for several weeks, and when Dr. Sheppard checked me, she once again eased across the room and looked at me, just as she had when she said it was time to induce Aubrey. This time, though, she had more urgency in her voice.
“You’re dilated to six, so it’s time. Do you want to go to the hospital now?”
It was three weeks before my due date, and I wasn’t ready for her to be born. I wanted her to stay in there as long as she could, but in true Zoey fashion, she had her own plans. On January 17, we once again left before the sun came up and went to the hospital thinking we would have a baby by mid-morning.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Dr. Sheppard had several emergencies throughout the day, so the nurses had to slow me down so I could wait for her to arrive, which she wasn’t able to do until nearly 7:30 p.m. I had spent the day in the delivery room waiting to meet this precious child, and with every passing hour, I became more anxious. There was a time mid-afternoon when the lights were almost totally out in the room, and I was wallowing in depression. I had thought that by this time of the day, I would already be in a room and entertaining guests, but we were still waiting with no signs of progress.
Once we finally started pushing, Zoey made her debut very quickly. The nurse laid her on my chest, and that is where she stayed for a full hour for what the hospital calls “Mother-Baby Bonding.” Once that little doll was in my arms, the struggles of the day were forgotten, and all that mattered was holding her. Just as with Sarah and Aubrey, the first thing I said to Zoey was, “I love you,” and I swear she spent the next hour lying on my chest saying it back to me with her eyes. She hardly cried at all. She mostly just looked around and took it all in as if she were an old soul who had perhaps journeyed this way through the universe before. I was totally in awe of this little creature who would someday call me Mama. For 37 weeks, she had grown inside me, and we had more than our share of conversations about Life and family and what she could expect once she was born. But now here she was, and it was like I was thinking about her and understanding for the first time that there was someone new in our family.
Once they took her to the nursery, it was nearly 1 a.m. before I saw her again, but when they brought her to me, it was as if we were meeting for the first time and yet somehow already knew each other like old friends. Zoey immediately fell right into place in our family, and I spent that first night looking at her and beaming with pride. I thought a lot that night about Zoey’s place in our family and how she would fit in with her sisters who were six and three. I wondered if they would be friends and actually asked her what she thought. As odd as it may seem, I swear she grinned at me when I asked her that, and I didn’t know if that was an affirmation of her intention to be her sisters’ friend or if it was a devious, they-won’t-know-what-hit-’em grin. Regardless, our little family was finally complete with a husband, a wife and three beautiful princesses to light up our world.
Wait. What? Three kids. Holy cow, I thought. I have three kids. Three kids. Me. Mother of three. When did this happen?
It happened while I was making other plans, as Life tends to do. It happened in three distinctly different but wonderful ways, and each time I met one of you, I experienced that world-changing love all over again. It’s difficult to remember who I was or what I wanted before you girls came along, and I can’t imagine one second of the last seven years without you in it.
How did I feel when I became a parent? After 3,000+ words of trying to tell you what it was like and trying to explain the happiness I felt, I think I can actually sum it up in one word.
Thank you. You each came along at the exact moment I needed to meet you. You didn’t just change my world – you became my world. You were each a blessing when you were born, and you continuously amaze me with what you bring to the world around you. Since you were first conceived, you have been everything this Mama has thought, breathed and felt.
You were the pieces of me I didn’t even know I was missing.