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The Bridge 4 Us

December 9, 2019

 We started off great. Dad and I seemed compatible. Both families embraced us and we planned for lifetime together. I always felt like dad was a nearly perfect man. He was a hard worker, smart , and a godly man. We met and married in less than a year. I was teaching kindergarten at my old elementary school in Novelty and loved my job. Dad was finishing medical school and accepted a residency in Toledo. I was sad to leave my hometown when we got married, but knew that I needed to be with dad . I knew his residency would be demanding and I wanted to be a support for him. I loved him and wanted to be with him. 

Looking back on it now, our relationship was good, but there was something missing . I didn't know it at the time, but I do now. I think we lacked the transparency and vulnerability that's needed to have a deep, lasting relationship. I never felt like dad was my best friend; Uncle Chooch was clearly that. I always felt like I was on the outside when the three of us were together. It's funny that our first date was the three of us having dinner at the Chillicothe house. Uncle Chooch was there before me and I felt like he was always going to take priority over me. I never told dad that I felt like less of a wife because of this .  

In 1993, we moved to Cincinnati. I went kicking and screaming but then grew to love it there. Dad worked at a podiatric practice and I was teaching school. I remember finding a lump in my abdomen in January of 1994. I knew it was an inguinal hernia as I had a previous one right before dad and I were married. Lifting heavy boxes of medical text books into our first home together caused the first one. I'm still not sure what caused the second one. I knew that surgery was the only way to fix it and since we were just starting to try to have a family, I needed to get it taken care of. On the morning of my surgery, before they started the anesthesia, they administered a pregnancy test. The nurses brought in a little cake that said "congratulations" That's how we found out that JM was on his way. We were so excited! The surgery went well under local anesthetic. It was a rocky pregnancy that was topped off with my water breaking just hours before my baby shower in Cleveland. Six weeks before my due date we were driving back to Cincinnati, soaking towels only to wait on bed rest at Christ hospital until JM was born. When JM entered the world, on our third wedding anniversary, the greatest love either of us had ever known was placed in our arms. Our tiny little 5 lb baby gave new life to our marriage and I really felt for the first time that we were a family. JM had a rough start. He was born 6 weeks early with respiratory distress syndrome. JM spent the first week of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit hooked up to machines to keep him alive. But JM was a fighter. From birth he was determined; a quality that would serve him well as life went on. I don't remember sleeping much during that first year. It seemed like between pumping milk and feeding there wasn't time to get much done. When I looked down on our beautiful boy, nothing else mattered. Holding him was all I wanted to do. 

A little over a year later, we were blessed with the news that JT was on his way. That was a memorable pregnancy. For some reason I would black out regularly. I was never given and explanation as to why. Looking back on it, I think it's because JT's mind was being created with such a high level of intelligence, it was taking everything out of me. I remember having to take extra juice boxes when JM and I went somewhere. I would be going along fine and then suddenly my vision would become spotty and down I would go. It was almost comedic after a while. At the store, the cashiers would see me coming and whip out a juice box and tell me to put my feet up. I remember craving bagels and cream cheese and wondered if that would be a favorite food of this baby boy.  

Dad's dream was to go into practice with his best friend, Uncle Chooch. During my pregnancy with JT, dad was trying to make something work so that they could be together. Uncle Chooch was working for a doctor in West Virginia and things weren't going as planned. Dad was trying to buy the practice in Cincinnati so he and Uncle Chooch could work there but that wasn't working out either. He found a failing practice in Chesterland for sale. It was only a half day practice for one doctor. I didn't think it was going to financially support our families. We still had medical school debt and I wouldn't be going back to work . We had a nice salary in Cincinnati, but wouldn't see anything near that amount for years to come. Dad knew it didn't make financial sense, but the idea of working with his best friend was so appealing that he decided to take a chance on it. In 1996 we moved back to Cleveland. I didn't like living at poverty level for three years, but I was glad that we came back to family. It gave you a chance to grow up with your cousins, something I never had. 

JT was born as soon as we moved back to Cleveland. The small ranch house we bought was a fixer upper and it needed some work before we could move in. JT arrived a month early, like his brother. Dad and I watched the Olympics and played cards during labor. I still have fond memories of that! JT was a beautiful baby. We brought JT home to B & Gram's house while we were fixing up the Aurora house. Quarters there were close and I needed to keep JT quiet at night so that everyone else could sleep. For the first six weeks, JT slept next to me on a recliner in B & Grams family room. He would cry if I tried to put him down in his bassinet. I remember not getting much sleep, but it was worth it .

Dads illness became a hardship for us. He started having lots of health issues when we left Cincinnati. He needed to sleep a lot on weekends and struggled to make it through a day at work. The practice was not producing financially the way we hoped it would and he took a second job at the podiatry school in downtown Cleveland to try to pay the bills. There were employee, insurance and relational issues. It seemed like the stress was killing him. I wanted to make our home a sanctuary for dad. I felt so bad about what he was going through and felt helpless to make anything better. B and Gram helped us out a lot those first few years back at home. They leased us a van for three years and we inherited 40k from my grandmother that helped pay our bills. 

To be honest, I really struggled with the financial part. I was trying to do all that I could at home to cut back. God provided friends who had boys just older than you that gave us their hand me down clothes, B and Gram helped with groceries from time to time and we rarely went out of town. Our trips to Yak and Yo's in Toledo were vacation for us. As soon as we got ahead a little we would take another financial hit and we were scraping the bucket again. I realize now that God never intended for dad to be our source of provision, but that He is our source of provision. It was wrong for me to look to dad for that or be frustrated that we didn't have more. It was an issue between me and God, not me and dad. I wasn't trusting God for our finances. I was wrong.

Despite dad's health problems and a struggling practice we felt like God was calling us to have another child. Life was busy with these two little boys and they kept me on my feet during JR's pregnancy. I remember hearing JR's heartbeat for the first time. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I heard the familiar sound. I was so thankful for this baby and felt that this life had a special calling. It was the best pregnancy so far. I felt great and was thankful to have a good experience being pregnant. I invited Yak to be at the hospital when JR was born. She slept in a chair as I labored through the night and saw his birth in the early morning hours. What a joyous moment to hold our new baby boy. The named we picked out meant," the Lord added... a strong leader" I knew that wherever this boy was in life, he was going to be a strong leader. JR had an infection at birth and had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for the first week. 

When JM was born he also spent time in the the neonatal intensive care unit. I was so scared. I didn't know if he was going to be alright. Now, four years later, here I was again. I remember seeing the other moms leaning over their babies bassinets, eyes filled with tears and hearts filled with fears. I was that mom. I wondered why God took me through such a rough start with JM. Now I knew. As I spent time feeding and holding JR, I was able to talk to the other moms in the unit. I was able to be a source of encouragement and comfort. I prayed with a few of the moms. How cool for God to choose me to help these moms. 

JR came home a week after his birth. I didn't get to hold him as much as I wanted at the hospital so when we got home I spent hours on the couch enjoying our newest miracle . These were some very happy days for me. JR was a wonderful baby. He was a good eater and sleeper and his was easy going by nature, and he was so cute!

The practice and dad's health continued to be a struggle. Dad was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. His diet and daily routines went through many changes. At each step of the way, I felt helpless. He didn't want people to know he was sick and didn't want me talking about it to anyone. That put a stress on me that I don't think he ever realized. I believe the financial stress of the practice was a major factor in dad's diagnosis. He was trying his hardest. As soon as the practice would get one step forward , it seemed like it took two steps backwards. Dads receptionist was going through some hard times. She was confiding in dad. They had many private conversations. Dad said he couldn't tell me what her problems were.

 I felt like he didn't trust me. There were days that I felt like Uncle Chooch and his receptionist were his closest companions and I was a distant third. When we were first married, I felt close to him. I was starting to feel like he was distancing me emotionally and I didn't understand why. I thought it was just a busy season and we would work through it somehow. I started to get invloved in church with a hope that I could build deeper relationships with friends there.  

Only a year after JR was born, God put a prompting on my heart for one more child. When I asked dad about it he said " we can't take care of the three we have, but we can try for three months. If you don't get pregnant, we're done." A month later we were expecting JD. This little boy was in God's plan for us! I was thrilled! One of JD's aunts said that we needed a blue eyed , brown haired baby. We had blondes with blue eyes and brown hair with brown eyes, it was time for something different. The pregnancy went well except for the end. I had stabbing pains in my rib cage and had trouble breathing. The labor went well and I was thankful to have a healthy baby boy. We knew that we were done having children and just wanted to enjoy this last birth experience. JD weighed in at over 6 lbs.! He was just what his aunt ordered, brown hair and blue eyes,cute, smiley and calm. Every mother's joy. I hemorrhaged after JD was born, but the doctors knew what to do and right away were able to stop the bleeding. Thank God for today's medical knowledge. Years ago, women didn't survive that kind of bleeding after birth. The night that JD was born was a wonderful night. All the family came to the hospital. The room was filled with all JD's grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, brothers and of course, dad. 

I remember laying in the hospital bed that night looking at JD in the bassinet next to me and being in awe that God would choose me to be the mother of these wonderful sons. I felt like the most gifted woman on the face of the earth.... because I was. 

There's more to the story..... check back in January 2020 for the next chapter of our story.