Graceful Surprises Build a Family


Twenty-six years ago today, I gave birth to our first born. Amazing how those years slipped by so quickly. Now he’s a grown man with hopes and dreams of his own, and I feel privileged at being able to witness how they unfold.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with him. I’d gone to my doctor to be tested because over-the-counter test kits weren’t common in those days — at least not in my circle. Not only that, but, in the case I might actually have conceived, I wanted it to be somehow official, unmistakable. And, I needed solid proof.

The doctor ordered the test, the nurse took it to the back room, and they sent me on to the waiting room to await the results. I stood in the entrance a second, sizing up seating arrangements and trying to decide which chair was the right one in which to be seated when they called my name. I chose the reddish-orange one in the center of the back row, but I never made it there.

As I passed the receptionist’s desk, she called out, “Are you Margaret?”

 “Ye-es,” I stammered and inched closer to the counter.

 “I’ve got the results,” she blurted matter-of-factly. “You’re pregnant.”

 I was so happy-excited, so overwhelmed and delighted, that I shouted out a (mild) explicative. (A remnant from my most-humble beginnings, I’m afraid. Mea culpa…) The entire waiting room full of people dropped into silence. A nurse peeked out the exam room door, tightly gripping the chart she held in her hands. The old lady in the corner dropped her magazine and the young mom covered her pre-schooler’s ears in case more was coming. I was shaking, quaking, from head to toe. My stomach was turning flip-flops, and it’s wasn’t morning sickness.

 Sheepishly, I moved closer to the reception desk. The poor receptionist, eyebrows raised and jaw hanging open, had sat back in her chair in utter shock. She sat there for a second, staring at me and then caught her breath.

 “That’s okay, right? I mean, are you happy about this?” I think she almost didn’t want me to answer.

 “Happy?! Are you serious? Of course I’m happy!” I exclaimed, a bit quieter this time.

 Her shoulders fell and a look of relief settled on her face. The nurse disappeared back into the examining room and the old lady picked up her magazine. The young mom wasn’t too sure, yet, so she held tight to her little girl.

 “Um, well, you should make a follow-up appointment,” she offered cautiously.

 “No, no! I’ve no time for that!” I shot out. “I’ll call you tomorrow! I’ve got to go! I’ve got to go tell my husband!”

As I whisked through the waiting room, I noticed folks gently leaning away from me (can’t get too close – it might be contagious), eyes still wide and focused on what I might do next.

 When I got to the entrance, I turned quickly and called out, “I’m so happy! Have a great day, everyone!” Surely, they were happy, too. Happy that I was leaving.

 Driving home, I could think of only one thing — the tiny life inside of me, an itty-bitty person that I couldn’t wait to meet. And, I was in absolute awe of God’s goodness. All of my life, I’d been told that I would never be able to have children. When I was eighteen, a well-meaning, but misinformed gynecologist recommended that I have a hysterectomy, since I “wouldn’t be using it anyway.” Thanks be to God I had an exceptional spiritual director-papa who warned me against that ludicrous advice! Mark and I married believing we’d never be biological parents, but determined to form a family through adoption and foster parenting.

That wasn’t God’s will for us. The adoption and fostering never worked out, but our Gracious Father granted us four more children — two more sons and a daughter. We lost a child to miscarriage, and sensing it was a girl, we named her Elizabeth and still celebrate her “birthday” each year on June 6. My husband and I are truly blessed. Our lives may not have been easy, and we certainly haven’t been perfect parents, but we have never once regretted conceiving, birthing, or raising this marvelous bunch of individuals created in God’s omnipotent mercy and wisdom.

I often stop and chuckle to myself as I watch all of our kids unfold their hopes and dreams. And, I cry a little, too. For me, each one is a miracle, not only because of my prior belief that I’d never be able to have children, but because I’m privileged to observe God’s grace at work in them. Hopefully, they’ve been able to observe the same in me.

[©2011 Marge Fenelon]


About Author

Marge is a CatholicLane columnist.