During my first pregnancy, Dutch and I bought our first house. Built in WWII, our tiny Sugarhouse bungalow sat beneath the old, large leafy trees that reached up and over Hartford Street to touch in the center.
Our first Sunday at church, I noticed a dainty little girl with physical differences holding her mother’s hand in the chapel. Her name was Chelsea and her mom’s, Karen. They would become my dear friends over the next few years and teach me a whole lot about acceptance, devotion, and strength.
“When one decides to have a baby, one has to be ready for every possibility,” said a voice in my head that first day at church.
I wondered if my first baby would be different. When he wasn’t, I believed it was because I had done a wonderful job of being pregnant, thus growing a perfectly lovely person in my womb. Parenting, while not necessarily easy, still felt like something I had control over.
I was so green.
The year before we moved to Hartford Street, we lived in Cache Valley in our little white clapboard rental house on a quiet corner near USU’s campus. We were students and life felt busy, but in hindsight it was just completely, luxuriously unpopulated by children.
While we lived in Logan, my visiting teaching partner lost her first pregnancy at twenty-two weeks due to the horribly-named (and just plain horrible) condition called incompetent cervix. The loss of her baby girl stunned me. She was the first pregnant friend I’d had. We had talked about baby names and morning sickness. I was quietly preparing myself for the day when Dutch and I could start our own family.
I took her flowers and homemade calzones. Then I went on a walk around the park, where I considered that my friend had been planning for her daughter’s birth, but instead she was now preparing for her burial service.
There I stood on the cusp of finishing graduate school, ready to embark on the child-raising leg of my adult life. As I rounded the park, the voice in my head said, “Being a parent has no guarantees, but plenty of surprises. Remember this.”
A cold sense of awareness blew through me, a premonition maybe.
Parenthood was a vast, rocky frontier. It scared me. I was going to do it anyway.
Now I’m entrenched in parenting, yet I still sometimes walk through my house and wonder where all these giant man-children came from and why they are eating so much food.
At this point in my life, when I see pregnant people I can’t help but think about all the ways their unborn babies could be affected by physical, mental, and behavioral differences. It’s jaded, I realize this. But from my family’s experience, how could I not see such possibilities?
I also get that most babies are healthy and typical, that not all children are dramatically affected by disabilities.
Some are, though.
I know this intimately now. And I’ve never been able to shake the realization that life can’t be controlled.