“Listen, I need you to understand what we’re up against going in,” the Doctor said again. His almost serene manner was infuriating. He kept gazing at me like he was waiting for me to understand, or explode. “There is a very real possibility the baby won’t make it. You will need to be strong for your wife.”
My wife was a nineteen-year-old girl in a room down the hall. She was currently hooked up to so many tubes and machines that it was hard to look at her without fainting. She was pale and frightened, and in pain. It was more than six weeks before the baby’s due date and she’d lost nearly twenty pounds, instead of gaining weight like a normal, healthy mother-to-be. Her appearance was haunting and surreal.
I felt more helpless and scared than at any other time in my life.
“We expect the baby to weigh somewhere between 2 and 2-1/2 pounds, and we’ve taken every precaution. I have a specialist here who will take charge of the baby as soon as we deliver. Your wife will probably require some special attention during and after delivery.” He leaned forward and peered at me to stress his next point, his eyes widening a bit. “If you can’t remain calm and supportive it would be best if you waited this out with her family.”
Afterward, I washed my face with water and caught my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I was looking pretty haggard myself. Little sleep, long hours in the factory, and the stress of my wife’s difficult pregnancy was taking a toll. I noticed my hands trembling. My breathing was irregular. My heart was pumping so loudly I could hear it.
Without planning to I reached over and locked the door, then flicked off the light. I could still see a shadow of myself in the mirror. There was a hum of activity on the other side of the door. I hated myself for feeling so weak. I detested being afraid. My normal response to these emotions was anger. I could get downright hostile when pushed on. Such a response would do me no good in my present situation. In fact, such a response never did me any good. I just hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet.
I dropped my head and began to talk. My hands gripped the cool porcelain of the sink. My words were quiet, but earnest and sincere. I wasn’t religious but I did believe in God. I had learned a few things about churches and pastors, none of them pleasant. But I found myself praying nonetheless, hoping that God would hear me and take pity on my wife and unborn son. It didn’t take long until I was on my knees and begging.
I promised I would be a better father than the man I had never known had been to me. I beseeched God for the chance to break the cycle of pain and despair I’d been born into. My troubled childhood and a stint in the Marine Corps had transformed me into a young man who was hard to get close to. Dropping my pride wasn’t easy. I had always counted on myself during tough times. It would be years before life would teach me how important humility truly was.
As I composed myself I felt the familiar anger rising, but squelched it. I knew I was at a crossroads. I had come so far, overcome so much. I’d worked hard to put the past behind me. But I knew if something happened to my wife or son I was going to suffer terribly. I didn’t think I’d be able to get past such a tragedy. I wasn’t sure I had the capacity to deal with anymore pain.
A few grueling hours later I was peering through a glass window at my infant son. My wife was resting comfortably. It hadn’t been easy, but she’d done it. I was certain it was going to be many years before I recovered from the harrowing experience we’d just survived. As low as I’d been before the delivery, I now found myself surging with hope and promise. I couldn’t stop smiling. I kept touching the glass and leaning toward my son, straining to get a better look. I had never been happier than at that moment.
A man next to me chuckled. “Your first?” I barely glanced at him but nodded. “Yeah, I can tell.” He didn’t sound nearly as excited as I was. “Which one’s yours?”
I pointed. A nurse was still attending my son, taking blood from the sole of one of his feet. He was squirming and giving her hell. “The good looking one,” I told him needlessly.
“A boy,” he muttered. “Good for you. That’s my third girl over there.” I glanced in the direction he indicated and smiled just to be polite. “You won’t be nearly so excited the second or third time around.”
I wasn’t listening to him any longer. What did he know? My son was going to change my life. He was going to prove to the world that I was worth something. He was going to be everything I felt I was never given the chance to be. Everyone would see. All that I never had would be his. I’d see to that. No matter how many hours I had to work, there would be no sacrifice I wouldn’t make. He was going to want for nothing and have everything.
My life changed drastically that day. Almost every decision I made from that point on was focused on that boy. He became my reason for living. I pushed for the best grades and accepted nothing less. I demanded success from him in every athletic endeavor, and there were many. And I never forgot my promise to God. I gave him everything I never had, and I never walked away.
The poor kid.
About the Author:
Don Dempsey experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. “If you’re lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece,” says Don. “But there’s no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle.” But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. “You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too.”
Find out more about the author by visiting him online:
- Betty’s Child website: www.BettysChild.com
- Donald Dempsey Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.
- Twitter hashtag: #BCDempsey
- You can order Betty’s Child on Amazon
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Thank you Donald for sharing your life-changing moment, when your son was born. I found it so moving when you said,
“My son was going to change my life. He was going to prove to the world that I was worth something. He was going to be everything I felt I was never given the chance to be. Everyone would see.”
After reading this, I realized how much you wanted to give your son everything you did not have as a child, but then I thought about the pressure on your son to become your “reason for living.” Also to get “the best grades” and how you “accepted nothing less.” I love the way you ended with “The poor kid.”
(Donald Dempsey is on a blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing. I requested he write a “My Gutsy Story®” which he accepted.)
Be Inspired to ‘Bring Out the Gutsy in You’
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