What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Be Careful With My Heart

FLASHBACK - A recurring, intensely vivid recollection of a past traumatic experience.

I don't know if the memory that sent me into an hour long crying jag last evening was a traumatic experience, but it was one of utter helplessness. It may be too long and involved to go into here, and although I am not a woman of few words, I will give it the old college try of making it into a Readers Digest Condensed version.

If you have read the excerpt from my book Finding My Way Home, you will already know that when I left my first husband, he was not my husband at all. I had tricked him into a divorce, but yet was still living with him. As I find with many of the women interviewed on this trip, it was fear that kept me there. It was a spur of the moment decision that had me actually walking out the door and I never looked back. Not until I was married to husband #2

Dave was caring and generous to a fault. He made me happy and I hadn't been happy for a long, long time. He was at work the day I found out I was pregnant. Although we weren't married, back then I didn't care. I loved him. He loved me. He was a kind and gracious step dad to Dominick and Val, so why not create a family together.

I had been cooking in one of the few homes we had during our homeless years. We had only been there for a week or two. It was bliss being able to play Susie Homemaker which was all I ever wanted to do besides being a writer. I reached over the stove to the cabinet where we kept the spices. It was then the unthinkable happened to me.

The pressure cooker exploded with such force, it knocked me on my feet. The pain of the steaming food sticking to my stomach was unbearable and my neighbor came running at the sound of my screams. I was rushed to the hospital where it was found I had second degree burns over most of my stomach. The doctors had to surgically remove the elastic waist of my panties that had melted into a small portion of my stomach. X-rays were taken and medication was given for the pain as well as some sort of ointment to spread on the burned area. The following morning, I received the call.

"Miss McPherson. Why didn't you tell us you were pregnant?" I didn't know. I continued to have my period for the first five months of my pregnancy so if it weren't for the protruding belly, I would never have believed them. Because of the x-rays and medication, which I stopped taking immediately, I was told the best thing would be to terminate the pregnancy. The baby could be deformed if carried to term.

When Dave found out I was pregnant, he made the decision to pack up the few belongings we had acquired and head to Woodford, Virginia, population 43, which had been his home since childhood. He had a sister there who was a nurse. If anything happened to the baby she would be close at hand. It sounded logical to me, so we packed up the kids and headed to our new home.

As we began, he thought it would be fun to take our time and see the country. In looking back it was the beginning of the end for us, but I didn't know it then. It was an adventure and it put us on the streets again because hotels were not affordable, but I wasn't afraid this go around because he was by my side.

We would stop every once in a while in some remote town at some remote gas station, 7-11 or the likes. Sometimes we would stop at a church. Dave would tell us to wait in the car. he'd be right back. He was always true to his word, never taking more than a few minutes. He would start the car and we would drive off, continuing on our destination.

It was late November when we arrived. The cold winter had set in early. But the dregs of autumn were still clinging to the trees and it was a sight to behold. But even the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains could not have prepared me for what was waiting for us in Virginia.

Although we were welcomed with open arms, there was an underlying mistrust that I did not understand for years. It turned out they knew what Dave was like and thought perhaps I was the same. They had to learn for themselves that I was not and in time, they came to love me as one of their own. I had to learn what my husband was really like.
Anne, Dave's nurse sister insisted I go to the doctor. It would make her rest easier knowing the baby was okay. Hazel, Fran, Anne and Jody, Dave's mom and sisters, all pitched in the $15 it took to go to the doctor for my first prenatal visit. I was 5 1/2 months along by now. The doctor was not the bearer of good news. In fact he suggested that there may be difficulties with the birth. The baby was large and although he could not diagnose it right then and there, he felt there was something wrong with the baby. It would cost more money for the testing, which of course we had none so the tests were not performed.

A week past my due date, I woke to find Dave had gone. He left a note on my pillow explaining he had just gotten a truck driving job in Springfield, Missouri with a company called Prime. He left me with $100. He would send more when he could. I was devastated. He never said a word just up and left me with his family who although nice, treated me as a foreigner. I was to find out much later, that they knew what Dave was and thought I was the same.

I used that much coveted money to rent a car to take my kids and I to Missouri. I didn't really know how far it was. I didn't really care. I just knew I didn't want to be alone when the baby was born. In my naivete I thought it would only take a few hours to get to Missouri, not a few days. But arrive we did, much to the dismay of my husband.

Two days later, in this strange town, my water breaks. Within 30 minutes my contractions were 3 minutes apart. We go to the nearest hospital which turns out to be Osteopathic. I am told I may die. The baby is large and breech. A C-section is not an option in this Osteopathic center.

Nine hours later, the doctor finally put his whole arm inside of me and turns the baby around.
I push and he says stop. The umbilical cord is wrapped around his neck. If I push, I will kill him. the pain is unbearable but finally after an incredibly painful delivery, 27 stitches later without the aide of Novocaine I am holding my 10 pound 14 ounce baby boy in my arms. There is no outward deformity.

The joy is short lived however. I am released 6 hours later. Dave picks us up. Loving father, caring step father. Everything we own is in the van.

"Where are we going?" I ask.

"I don't know. But I just think this isn't the place for me."

We leave Missouri and 100 miles down the road, Dave opens his wallet which is filled with 20's, 10's and 5 dollar bills. He had just robbed a gas station.

Flashforward: June 9th, 2010.
We can no longer stay at rest stops. Due to budget cuts, the rest areas south of Sacramento are closed. An LDS church has graciously allowed us to park the van we sleep in in their lot. It is dark here. No street lights to keep us awake until exhaustion has set in. It is quiet here. A gentle breeze is flowing through the open window. The crickets and frogs sing their nightly aria. The stars are in abundance in the dark. It is so peaceful.

I lay back in the seat of the van that has been my bed for these last 50 days. The mini travel pillow I sleep with is cradled on my chest instead of beneath my head. I find myself gently, tenderly, lovingly caressing this pillow. It is then I start to cry.

I flashed on that day 29 years ago when my small baby boy, born while homeless lies on my chest, cradled in my arms. I cling to him, regretting at that time that I allowed him to be born into such a life. I caress his tiny form knowing that I have brought him a life of pain. What have I done? I am a horrible mother. I have three children now that I adore and can not provide for. Will this little one go hungry to? No. He is lucky for I can provide the nourishment he needs with my own body. I cannot do the same for Dominick and Val.

It is then, while caressing this tiny being so dependent on me that I decide that I must do what is right for my children. It is then I decide I love my children too much to continue giving them this nomad life. It is that night, on what should have been such a joyous occasion, that I my heart begins to shatter.

August 2nd, 1982; I watch as my frightened children are taken away by a man they don't remember. The monster who sent us into the streets to begin with has changed, just as my parents had said. He can now give them everything they need. He will can give them a roof over their heads, food in their bellies and an education. All I have for them is love and sadly love is not enough to keep them alive.
As the van disappears out of sight I fall to the ground sobbing uncontrollably. My heart will never be the same. My life will never be the same. What have I done? I am a horrible mother. I loved them so very much. I loved them enough to let them go and have what was left of their childhoods.

I cling to this infant and take from him. I take the comfort I should be offering him. But I take, and as I take, I want death to take me, knowing I may never again see the part of my heart that shattered as I watched the first loves of my life go from me forever. But the beat of another heart, a tiny heart filled with love is keeping me from ending my life.
June 9th, 2010: It's just a pillow. A silly pillow. A pillow, that for one very brief moment became my babies at the moment of each of their births. The babies that I loved enough to give them a better life. The babies that somehow through the grace of God, I was reunited with seven years later, and who have never left my side to this day.
God is a God of comfort, and I thank him for believing in me when I did not believe in Him.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Wow. That was an emotional post. Thanks for being so open with all of us readers. It reminded me of a scripture in Isaiah 49:15-16 and one in Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-18:

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee.

"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the riches of eternity are yours."