part fourteen

A few weeks earlier I was laying on the couch watching tv when I turned over and said to R “We’re going to have a baby girl and her name is going to be Erica Rose.” I had no idea I was already pregnant and I now truly believe my girl told me her name that night. That moment still fills me with awe.

The feelings that coursed through me the day I learned I was pregnant alternated between euphoria and sheer terror. It was a Friday morning in March and I called a friend and asked “Are you sure the doctor told you home pregnancy tests are just as reliable as the ones done in the doctor’s office?” She said “Yes.” I said “OhmyOhmyOhmy…I’m pregnant.” Jeanie was so excited. Then she told me that a few weeks earlier when we’d returned home from a little trip home and she and her husband, Denny, stopped by our house to say hi…she said “Dennis told me when we left your house that day that you were pregnant.” I said “No. Way.” Denny was an indian spirit some kind of guy and told me later he’d seen it in my eyes.

Whatever. I didn’t care. I was going to have my baby! I went down to R’s place of work to tell him. He was out on a job when I found him and he was so totally excited. It was a beautiful moment. Of course, I had no idea how it would all end up but for that brief second in time, I thought “It’s going to be ok now.” I called my mother at work. She sobbed. (a side note here: My mother was 42 years old when Erica was born. I will be 42 in July. Weird.) I called my dad and brother and they were excited too. Then I started getting calls from our friends in town and it was a good day. I’m telling you, word gets around fast in the Witness organization. There are no secrets.

Even though Witnesses are discouraged from having children, once the news of an impending arrival gets out, there is excitement all around. They are human after all and it is a life affirming event to be sure. When I had my first doctor’s appointment, I was given a due date of October 13. I tried to tell the doctor I didn’t think that was right since my cycle was different than the ‘average’. She didn’t want to hear it much and left it at that. In a small town, when the only doctor available is the one you have, it’s not like you can find another one. And I wouldn’t have known to do that then anyway. When anyone would ask me, I would say “I think late October” is closer to right. Turns out, my new found determination to learn about everything under the sun was already serving me well.

The euphoria in our house didn’t last long. R wasn’t about to change his behavior because we had a baby coming. I wish I’d known then what I know now. Although, I suppose if everything happens for a purpose, perhaps it’s better I didn’t. The physical abuse didn’t continue so much however the verbal and emotional stuff got worse. I was constantly informed that I was not the best wife for him and berated for being reasonable with money and not letting him do whatever he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. He was glad there was a baby coming but he didn’t care that a baby was coming if it meant he had to be responsible and blah, blah, blah.

R’s meeting attendance declined drastically. Mine didn’t decline as much but it wasn’t up to par either. Of course, this did not go unnoticed by the elders in the congregation. Our congregation had about 45-50 members so when some didn’t show up, it was noted. R’s job performance was heading downhill as well. We were making plans to attend the summer convention in Salt Lake City and I’m not even going to get into the drama surrounding that experience.

My parents were coming after the convention and we were going to take a trip with them back to see my grandmother and my dad’s family. I remember laying in bed one night sobbing hysterically and praying for Jehovah’s forgiveness because I wanted to take this trip with my mom so badly. I knew it was wrong and I knew there would be consequences. I knew it. We went anyway. I had tried for so long to do what Jehovah wanted me to do. I never felt successful, I never felt like I was good enough and since my pregnancy, I wanted my mommy so much it was a literal pain in my chest most of the time.

The trip was mostly good. My dad and I never got along too well if we were in each other’s company for very long and we did get into it a few times. For the most part it was good though. We travelled up through Idaho, into Wyoming and Montana, through South and North Dakota and into Minnesota where my grandmother lived. I think we were gone for three weeks. When we arrived home, the consequences I was concerned about were waiting for us.

We’d been back for one day when my friend, the elder, stopped by our house and asked R some questions about where we’d been and if it was true that we’d gone with my disfellowshipped parents. R said yes we had been with them. The brother then told him that since he was the scriptural head of our family, his presence was requested at a judicial meeting the next afternoon after our meeting. I have no idea what R felt about this but I know I was quite literally sick to my stomach. The baby wasn’t too happy about it either. The more worked up I became, the more that baby kicked and jumped.

After the meeting the next day, I got a ride home while R stayed after to chat with a committee of three elders. When he arrived home later, I could tell he was ummm, disturbed. We talked about what happened although, oddly I cannot remember that conversation now, and I’m quite sure some kind of discipline was discussed. I can feel my head literally fogging up right now so I know that’s true however I cannot remember what was going to happen. R ended up calling my parents to talk with them about it and within the week R made the decision to move us back to where we came from…and into my parents house. I was seven and a half months pregnant.

I must have felt like I was losing my mind however I had this coping mechanism in place that I wasn’t aware of at the time. I would get upset about whatever the stressor was and by the next day I would be on auto pilot. I didn’t feel upset, angry, sad, or anything else. I only felt determined to figure out what needed to be done and do it. Within days my mom, dad, aunts, uncles and cousins were in the high desert mountains of Nevada to pack up our stuff and take us home. We were going to live with my parents.

Just writing that last sentence has triggered an anxiety attack. Geez.

I knew once we arrived at my parents home (the town my mom grew up in, the town where I was taken under the congregation’s collective wing; where so much had been expected of me and hoped for me) there would continue to be consequences. I comforted myself by saying it wasn’t my choice to move in with them, it was R’s choice. It was about the only way I could keep it together I think. I do not remember arriving at my parent’s home. I do not remember the trip there at all. I’ve seen the pictures and I’m in them but I simply cannot recall one single moment of that journey.

R and I moved into my old bedroom. Yea, that was weird. I set about finding a doctor. R set about getting a new job. We settled into an uneasy routine. My parents would go to work. R would go to work. I would stay home and take care of my pregnant self and the house. I reconnected with my old congregation and yes, there were some uncomfortable moments. R completely stopped attending meetings or having anything to do with the brothers. I know his guilt ate at him. It was a difficult time.

I ended up with the most amazing obgyn. I cannot believe how it happened. This woman still takes care of me all these years later. She is incredible. I had an ultrasound that put my due date at the end of October and on we went. By the time my original due date arrived, R had reconnected with his parents. It was not a good thing. R was gone with his dad and brother over my due date. Yea, I know. By the time the due date I’d calculated arrived, R and my dad were gone hunting. Oy. R was working and not doing too well otherwise. We’d celebrated our 3rd anniversary and weren’t getting along too well. I simply did not understand how he could be so disconnected from the fact that we had a baby coming. I was 21 years old.

I developed pre-eclampsia when the baby was 3 weeks overdue. Yea, it was awful. I was gi-HUGE-ic and swollen and even my biggest maternity clothes didn’t fit. I’d been induced twice the week before and when the second attempt didn’t work, my husband quite literally went off the deep end. He was found at work one day standing in a corner, catatonic and shaking. I met him at the ER. I don’t remember how he got there. Here I was, weeks overdue, huge and swollen, disappointed because two attempts to deliver my baby had failed and he was freaking out. I was angry and disgusted and fed up to say the least and I wasn’t very nice about it either. The ER doc was not the least bit sympathetic. He told me it was sometimes like this when new babies were coming. The schmuck. R was sent home with some anti-anxiety meds and told to see a doctor after the weekend. I had an ob appointment on Monday afternoon and was admitted to the hospital immediately.

Not one person from the congregation who professed to be concerned about my spiritual health was anywhere to be seen. Go figure. I still don’t understand that but have given up trying to.

Our 9 lb. 4 oz. baby daughter was born at 3:56 a.m. on November 12th. She was 21 and a half inches long and the loudest, screaming-est baby I’d ever seen. I fell in love with her immediately. Her name is Erica Rose. She will soon be 21 years old.

My entire family visited the hospital to meet her. Not one Witness person did. I was confused by that and terrified by that at the same time. I was also exhausted.

There is one moment that still shines brightly in my memories from that time. And it involves my husband. The evening after Erica was born, after everyone had some sleep, R returned to the hospital. He picked our daughter up from the bassinet and held her and walked with her and talked to her. The words he said to her resonated within me and still do today. He just kept telling her over and over how much he loved her and how he’d always take care of her and she was daddy’s girl and he talked about all the things they would do together. I can see him with her in front of the hospital window just like it was this morning.

I still felt scared. I also felt hopeful.

to be continued

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Awww, I’m glad your baby was born healthy. I’m sorry you were so alone in so many ways, though. The difference 21 years can make, eh? 🙂

    Reply

  2. I stumbled upon this while on a word search for something or other. And read a few of the previous posts.

    This is courageous. And perhaps overdue.

    Reply

  3. Isn’t it something that so much stress is put on a pregnant woman? What timing. I think had it been me, I would have been stressed because the ‘threat’ would have been in the back of my mind. What a bind to want and need your mom and to be living with your parents after all the things that so-called church beat into your head about how displeasing they were to God. I’m so sorry that you had to endure so much strife, Traci.

    Reply

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