Updated: Jun 24, 2020
| This is the 466th story of Our Life Logs |
South Carolina, my home state, is known for many things—sweet tea, unmistakable accents, Charleston. But it is also known for being smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, where children say “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir,” and in most stereotypes, these children get shooed outside to play with a mess of siblings and cousins, because if South Carolinians are good at anything, it’s procreating.
I came into this world in December 1989, the second child of my parents, with one older sister. I remained the youngest child until the summer of 1999, which apparently set off some kind of baby fever in my parents, because when my brother, Nick, was born that year, he was followed by our sister, Melody, in 2000, and yet another girl, Kayla, in 2001, who completed our family. Once my mother jumped on the procreation bandwagon, it became a family joke of how many kids my older sister and I would have, because we must be a fertile bunch if my mother, in her mid-30’s, could produce three healthy children.
As I began my teenage years, my parents filed for bankruptcy, and my mother had no choice but to go back to work. Because school wasn’t my favorite place at the time, I was more than happy to accept the offer of being homeschooled and watching my siblings for a few hours a day while my mother worked. I was about thirteen when I started watching. They were probably around four, three, and two, give or take.
I took to caring for them like it was my calling. I changed diapers, I fed them, I did my schoolwork, I bathed them at night and put them to bed so my mom could rest. I didn’t miss public school or being around people my own age, because these little children warmed my heart so much that they became the only human beings I really wanted to interact with. They didn’t judge, or complain—well, unless I didn’t want to make pancakes.
I settled into my new role with ease. Maybe everyone was right with their comments and jokes about the girls in my family being the “motherly” types. Maybe that’s what I was supposed to do with my life. I was meant to be a mother!
In the summer of 2006, I was 16. My older sister was 21, already married and in her own house. Nick was seven, Melody was six, and Kayla was five. They were in school, so my days as a babysitter were over, although I was still being homeschooled. I couldn’t bear going back to school and dealing with the bullying, the name-calling, the way kids called me “Tuna” instead of “Tina.” Mostly I couldn’t stand looking at and listening to the girls that had hit puberty like normal teenage girls. I had never even had a period. My mom and my older sister had both started theirs between the ages of 11 and 14. What is wrong with me?
I started having horrible cramps once a month, as though my ovaries and my uterus thought they were going to throw my body into puberty and have a menstrual cycle like a normal person. The pain would be so bad that I could barely get out of bed. But nothing ever happened. No bleeding, no waking up to noticing my boobs were growing. Just pain.
After several months like this, my mom made an appointment for me to have a physical. The doctor didn’t seem too concerned at the time, assuring us that everyone was different when it came to development. He put me on medication to jump-start my cycle. Indeed, it did, causing me to bleed so badly and for so long that I became anemic, which led to more doctors, and more tests, and after an ultrasound and pints and pints of blood drawn, we were called into a room where we would supposedly, finally, get answers.
I remember shivering while I sat on the table in the doctor’s office with my mom sitting in a chair next to me. The only warmth I felt was her hand in mine. The doctor entered the room and let me know in a flat voice that I suffered from ovarian cysts, and it could be Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Endomentriosis or a number of things. They were going to put me on birth control to basically force my body to go into the natural, monthly cycle it was supposed to. I remember wondering silently, and finally asking out loud, if I would ever be able to have kids.
“It’s not that you won’t ever get pregnant, but if you do, it’s extremely unlikely that you would ever be able to carry a child past the first trimester. I wouldn’t try to conceive, because it would probably end in a miscarriage every time,” he said flatly, never batting an eye, never offering a single word of sympathy. He could’ve been talking about the weather in the Ukraine or a pair of sandals, not telling a girl with dreams and plans and fantasies about a family someday that she would never have one. I was devastated.
In those moments I went from thinking that I was just different to finding out that I was…damaged. Broken. Barely a woman at all. I would never be a mom to anyone except those short months with my siblings. I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I was meant to be an overweight, defective, ugly teenager that was going to end up as the creepy, spinster cat lady that yelled at people from my porch and refused to return the frisbees and footballs that landed in my yard.
I mean, I knew that I was young, but what girl ever wants to hear that she’ll never get to hear a little voice tell her how much they love her, or feel tiny arms wrap around her in a hug? It was brutally unfair.
There wasn’t much I could do with the news but try not to dwell on it. I focused on God and school and work, keeping in mind that as long as I had my faith, I could overcome anything. So what if I never had kids? I was almost 17 and had never even spoken more than 10 words to a guy. I was still homeschooled, so I was only around people my own age at church and at work, and nobody was trying to sweep me off my feet at either place, and I just kept my head down and spoke as little as possible, usually scribbling in a notebook or something. I just didn’t fit in anywhere. I didn’t have friends. I had my family and God, and that became more than enough, to the point where I didn’t even let myself worry about what I considered a terrible loss.
Life went on.
I’m not going to say that being homeschooled made me extremely awkward, but…well, it greatly contributed to my social ineptitude. I didn’t know how to socialize with people, especially boys. So in 2007 when a tall, broad, blue-eyed masterpiece started flirting with me at work, bringing me flowers, scribbling notes, having his friends tell me how much he liked me…well, I thought it was a joke. Who is this guy? I kept a safe distance, not wanting the bullying I experienced in school to spill over here, where there was more than enough drama as it was.
But…it wasn’t some massive joke at my expense. It wasn’t some workplace crush. We connected. In ways I had never connected with another person before, or had even wanted to. We would sit in his car and talk for hours. We wrote letters to each other. I told him about never being able to have children, and the only thing I saw in his eyes was sympathy. Not disgust. He still loved me. He was still planning a future with me. That’s when I knew that this was it. He was the one.
Fast forward six years, to Father’s Day, 2012. I was with the same guy, but we had yet to be married. I had a terrible toothache, and since it was a Sunday, we found ourselves in the emergency room. I was waiting for a prescription of antibiotics. The doctor had informed me that they would do a routine pregnancy test, but I was not giving it a second thought. I was just ready to get discharged and go home. When the doctor returned to the room, there was no prescription is his hand.
“Your pregnancy test came back positive,” he informed me.
My boyfriend and I exchanged stunned looks. We left the hospital that day with a lot more than some antibiotics. Within two days, I was in yet another doctor’s office, this time an OB/GYN, having an ultrasound. My eyes were squeezed shut. I was terrified that the doctor I had seen as a teenager would be right, that while I may be pregnant, it was with a child that I would never hold in my arms. Or that it was a mistake, a cosmic joke of sorts. Or it was an ectopic pregnancy. I had gone over every negative thought possible, when I heard the doctor make a sound in his throat. Not a sound that meant bad news, but a sound of surprise.
“You had no idea you were pregnant?” The doctor asked.
I opened my eyes and looked at him.
“Well, honey, that’s a whole baby in there. I would say you are at least 24 weeks along. It’s a little girl.”
I let out a shriek. 24 weeks! That was six months! We would have a daughter in three months! I was stunned. I honestly never had a clue that I was pregnant. Even after all the medications to give me a normal cycle, I was lucky to have one a year. It had never crossed my mind to even get a test!
The next few weeks were a blur of buying baby supplies, a baby shower, and my boyfriend and I getting married in a courthouse in North Carolina while on vacation. Everything needed to be perfect for this miracle baby!
While it appeared that we had made it through what doctors thought was impossible, very quickly the complications started. Within weeks, my blood pressure was out of control. I was put on bed rest. I had appointments twice a week, then every week, to monitor my blood pressure.
On October 3, 2012, the pain started, and I stopped feeling the baby move. We rushed to the doctor. My blood pressure was sky-rocketing. I was dizzy and couldn’t stand. Our baby’s heart rate was over 200. They sent me straight to labor and delivery and put me on oxygen. After what seemed like hours but was probably 30 minutes, the doctor came into the room with the news: there was no time for natural delivery. It would have to be an emergency C-section.
While I was being taken to the operating room, I could hear the doctors prepping my husband, my mother, and my sister that there might end up being a choice to be made: my life or the baby’s. They found it very unlikely that both of us would survive. I told my family that if something happened, choose Harmony. She deserved the chance to live. I started to pray. At 6:59pm, the first cut was made. At 7:08pm, I heard the cry of my daughter.
“Hi, Harmony,” I whispered.
She was perfect, with clear blue eyes and dark curls. She was healthy. And I was meant to be a mother, after all.
For my God, the impossible becomes possible. Harmony was fearfully and wonderfully made, and we defeated the odds, the impossible. She turned seven a month ago, and last year I gave birth to her brother, also fearfully and wonderfully made by the God I serve, a God that is still in the business of miracles. I tuck mine into bed every night.
For those who are going through a hard phase in life, who are being disheartened by the words “unlikely” and “impossible,” I want to tell you, miracles do exist, as long as we hold onto hope, and with hope, a fearless, fulfilled life.
This is the story of Tina Sayward
Tina Sayward lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children. Coming from a big family and having had early experiences of babysitting her younger siblings, Tina was drawn to motherhood and always dreamed of having a family of her own someday, until she was told the devastating news that she could never conceive. She resided in her faith as she moved on with her life. Years later, God worked miracles as Tina got pregnant and successfully delivered a baby girl. In 2018, she was blessed with another child. Tina loves to write, read, and spend time with her family. She loves God and dedicates her life to Him, knowing that her children are nothing short of gifts from Heaven. She hopes to one day visit Greece with her family and sit on the docks in Santorini and write.
This story first touched our hearts on November 5, 2019.
| Writer: Tina Sayward | Editor: Kristen Petronio, MJ |