When I became pregnant with my son, Conor, it was a total surprise. We had been trying to get pregnant, but I had had two miscarriages and we decided to put things on hold. We needed a change I had lived in South Florida for ten years, my husband twenty-one. We got out the road atlas and picked Denver. After a few months of research, we decided that Denver was the perfect place for us. Clean air, lots to do, great job opportunities. That April, we flew to Denver and went to our job interviews. My husband, a respiratory therapist, got a lot of “maybes.” I had fifteen years of critical care and oncology experience and was offered a job on the spot. So we went apartment shopping and found a nice two bedroom apartment that we liked in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver.
The trip was fun, as we went up the Rockies, went to the Museum of Natural History and ate odd foods at The Fort, a restaurant that served elk and ostrich among other game. The ostrich did me in and I was sick for the rest of the trip. When we got home, my husband said to me one morning, “Geez, your boobs are huge!” He ran out to the closest drugstore and got a home pregnancy test that tested positive within seconds. No wonder I was sick. The next weekend, as we lay in bed, we both decided it was better to stay in Florida, where my in-laws lived, than move to a city where we knew no one. So, with a saddened heart, I called the nurse recruiter and told her we weren’t moving because I was pregnant.
The first few weeks at home were a nightmare. My mother-in-law decided to move in for “a few weeks” to help out. After two days, I had enough, and my husband politely asked his mom to leave. Conor, who was born at thirty-three weeks, like most preemies, developed jaundice and had to be on a “bili-bed” at home the first weeks. Every morning, the home health RNs would arrive to weigh him and draw blood from his tiny foot to check his bilirubin levels. He wouldn’t eat. I had to bottle feed because I needed to get back on my lupus medications. It took forty-five minutes to get him to take an ounce of formula. It seemed forever before he actually finished a bottle completely. He also had gastric regurgitation, so he had to sleep in his car seat at night. After a few weeks, things normalized and we had our new baby. I spent my time, worried about how much he ate, slept and pooped. Why he cried. Whatever looked wrong. What I didn’t see was a scrappy little kid that couldn’t wait to get out to see the world.
I was a new mom. I cried a lot. My mother-in-law was no help. She criticized everything I did for him. The day I found out she had taken him to church on her lap, I freaked. I worked trauma and flight for ten years. I knew what could happen to a baby on a lap in a car. We bought them a car seat for grandparent’s day. Meanwhile, she compared Conor to her kids. “My Debbie talked in complete sentences when she was a year old”, she commented one day. That changed from time to time until Debbie was talking at six months. The end of my relationship with her came when we were at dinner at their house. It must have been a holiday because my sister-in-law was down with her fiancee. Conor was on my lap and wasn’t eating. He wanted his dad, so I handed off to Tim, and Conor started to chow down. “Thank God Tim’s home four days a week or Conor would starve!”, she announced. It was the last time I treated her with anything other than civility. I refused to take Conor to her house. Tim took him.
Meanwhile, my “monster-in-law” as I took to calling her, continued to make my life miserable. She offered to watch him while I worked two days a week as a Visiting Nurse. I would go to her condo at the end of my day and find his diaper full of urine and he was cranky. She wouldn’t turn the air-conditioning on even when it was in the 90’s, and one evening I found him sleeping, under a blanket, with a ceiling fan on. He was beat red. I took him home and told my husband I was quitting working. A few hundred dollars a month wasn’t worth the chance of my child being killed by his grandmother.
Then there was the “binky” argument. My mother-in-law and Tim’s sister said Conor needed to stop using his “‘binky” when he was two. Tim’s sister’s daughter had been using one and they had a big party for her when she gave it up, only to find it and use it to sleep with. I went with my own sister-in-law’s advice.
She had two kids and was an elementary school teacher. She said he’d give it up when he was ready. Which was true. When he was about three, he set it down and never picked it up again. So much for motherly advice. I constantly wished my own mom was still alive since she made a lot more sense in most things, especially her belief that she wouldn’t offer advice unless asked.
When my mother-in-law died, I refused to go to her viewing or funeral. They are services to pay your respects and after five years of carping, I had no respect for her. Tim went alone, which bothers me to this day. He could have used my support but I just couldn’t do it.
We moved into our first house two years ago. My husband’s inheritance from his mother helped us buy it. I swear her spirit is here. Things break, fall down, I’ve been found unconscious twice, once by my eight-year-old son and once by my husband. We’ve decided to move in five years, after NJ’s first-time homebuyer’s assistance requirements are up. We’re moving to Washington state, far from the bad memories of NJ and the taxes and cost of living. I thought it would be hard to convince Tim to move across the country but he got on board rather quickly. By then, I won’t have to be worried about getting pregnant while planning the move. This time will be the right time. And we’ll have lots of good memories of raising our son, whether in Florida or NJ or Washington.
Keep the good memories close to your heart and let the bad ones go. Life is short, too short, and enjoy the time you have with the people you love.