Expectations. They're a funny thing aren't they?
I had already raised a son and he was 23 when my husband and I decided to have a child. I was reluctant because I wasn't so good at it the first time. I had my first son was I was 17, so I never really had much freedom to know who I was outside of being a mom. When I met my husband, it was the first time in my life I had been away from my son and on my own. I really enjoyed my independence and getting reacquainted with myself for the first time. So the idea of having a child again sent me into a panic, but I figured I had finally met my "dream man" and I was older now, so maybe this time wouldn't be so hard.
One day, while enjoying a relaxing and fun evening at Jazz in the Park in Milwaukee, Jared and I saw this young couple next to us with two small children. These children were little angels, and the couple looked so content and happy as they sipped their red wine and cooed over their exceptionally well-behaved children playing so nicely together. I was in awe. And I leaned over, kissed Jared and said, “Let’s have a child.” My best friend who was with us at the time overheard me and screamed with wide eyes, “ARE YOU NUTS!?” And that was how it all started with our expectations of a joyful, peaceful family life.
I was pregnant a month later. I wasn’t overjoyed by any means. Fear set it deep and hard. I remember crying on the covered toilet seat as I told Jared while he was in the shower. He later told me he wanted to be excited, but because I was so gloomy about it he didn’t want to show his happiness.
A month after I found out we were pregnant, and living in a high rise, one bedroom condo in Chicago, Jared got injured on the job. Since he worked on a boat, the company he worked for was not under federal guidelines for worker’s comp. Instead, they cut his salary by a quarter of what he had been making. My job as a seasonal tour guide had just ended and I was desperately waiting for unemployment to kick in. Only two months after moving into our new apartment, we needed to reconsider living in the city and high rent. We had no money at all to survive there any longer.
Our whole idea of having a family was the stability of both our jobs. And now that was gone. Jared’s company fought him hard. They didn’t want to pay him or help him, so we ended up having to hire a lawyer who was utterly useless. But our kind of dispute wasn’t normal. We were fighting marine law, not federal law. In the end, Jared spent months and months in surgeries, physical therapy, and eventually re-injuring his knee through that process. But his company wasn’t willing to pay another cent to him. So Jared did the only thing he could and filed for unemployment. Two months later, his company fought his unemployment claim and won, and we now owed the federal government $2300 in unemployment. The settlement from the company through our lawsuit was an utter joke! We barely walked away with enough to pay off the debt we accrued through his time off. And now he had no choice but to try and find a job while still being injured. We had a baby on the way!
So we had to pack and move back to my hometown, Kenosha, WI. Fortunately, my mom was moving into a new house and offered for us to take over the mortgage on her other home. Unfortunately, she left it in shambles and refused to clean it when she moved out. She also refused to move all of her things out, figuring she could still use our home as some sort of storage facility. So we were stuck cleaning this disgusting house, and Jared spent weeks in Wisconsin trying to remodel the house and fix it up to make it livable, while I packed up our apartment in Chicago on my own.
Tavin was born a several months after we moved to Wisconsin. All our expectations of having Jared cut the umbilical cord were shot when complications in my delivery came about. Tavin was stuck in the birthing canal and they had to do a C-section. I didn’t even get to see or hold Tavin for nearly two hours after he was born. I was in agony.
That night, when the nurse brought Tavin into me to be nursed, he had a hard time with it and wouldn’t eat. The nurse came in and checked him and immediately rushed him out of the room. HIs blood sugar had dropped tremendously and that was the beginning of a very long week in the hospital where I very rarely got to see him because they had to force feed him, keep him under a heating lamp, and run tests. Nothing seemed to be working and they were very concerned about his survival.
After the blood sugar incident was resolved, he developed jaundice and spent the next few days in a blue box. When we were finally able to take him home, he cried ALL. THE. TIME! It never ended. And trying to get him to sleep was a nightmare. When he finally did sleep, the slightest noise would wake him and he would scream and cry all over again. This went on for MONTHS!! I mean…………..months that felt like years! Our nerves were shot. And my stress level was skyrocketing since Jared still hadn’t found a job and I was trying to travel from Kenosha to Chicago to work on the boats as a tour guide again, but it was a long drive and tiring.
(Ironically, I named this picture, “This picture should have told us something.”)
I eventually quit my job and tried to do in-home party sales, which started out wonderfully. Jared finally got a job in Milwaukee working on a boat on the river, and eventually got his captain’s license when my mom offered for us to charge the course and fees on her credit card. All seemed hopeful…until I had no more parties lined up and no one was willing to schedule one. My business was dying and eventually died. In the meantime, Jared’s company gave the open captain job to their longtime friend and not Jared. Jared was barely making enough money for us to pay the bills, and the bills were piling up quickly. We were months behind on everything. And to make matters worse, Tavin was still crying all the time. He was nearly two at this time and we were beside ourselves with grief. Nothing we did worked. He seemed to be the most unhappiest child on the planet, and it wore me down and made me feel so terrible. That’s when it really started for me. When I just gave up all hope of having the happy family I longed for.
Since then, Tavin has gone through a series of unknown illnesses that has led him to screaming fits of pain for months! I mean ENDLESS crying and screaming. He underwent countless tests and we spent months running to the ER and the Children’s Hospital. No one could figure out what was going on. So we were told to just deal with it. He was three by this point.
Yeah, I had a lot. I blamed God for a long time because I couldn’t understand how he had given us our hearts desire and then gave us a child with nothing but sorrow and pain. Where Jared and I were once happy-go-lucky people who enjoyed being together, we have now come to the point where we are always walking on eggshells around Tavin and blowing up and snapping endlessly at him. Our nerves are just shot. We’ve spent almost four years now with a crying, whining, temperamental, sleep-deprived child (he refuses to sleep anywhere but in his bed, and it takes him hours to fall asleep and when he does, any noise wakes him).
You see, this is it for me. I’m going on 45 now. This was my last chance. This was my last hope of being a mother…and I’m blowing it…BIG TIME! And the anger that seeps out of me is not something I like, but I have no way to vent it in a healthy manner. We have no one to help us and I very rarely get a break now with Jared’s new job.
Everything we had envisioned was a joke. Oh, how God must have laughed at our expectations and our lofty ideals of parenting. We have been trying to deal with this grief and sadness for years. We keep trying to do the best we can and it never seems good enough. We always seem to be beating our heads into a wall. We have random days of peace with Tavin, but they are SO rare. I want to cherish this time with him, but it’s so difficult.
Sarah says in Chapter One of, Desperate, Ideals and Going Under:
“After all the anticipation, excitement, and planning, my hopes and dreams were dashed and my mother-heart was already broken…I felt intense pain of heartbreak, of having nothing but the sadness of empty hands.” (pg. 8)
I ached when I read this, because it was my story of Tavin and the heartache I have felt since the day he was born.
Expectations. Well, at least I don’t have any anymore. Now I only live on hope and prayers.