Before I share my experience, allow me to clarify something very important. This is a story, not an opinion piece. I would never try to convince anyone that they need my experience. Every person’s walk in this life is different. I could never say to another woman that she needs to quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom. Who am I? My husband and I can only try to make the best decisions for ourselves and for our family, not anyone else.
This story really begins with the birth of the most energetic, loving, and hilarious person I know. My son, Samuel, was born September 2014. When my midwife placed him on my chest immediately following his first breath of air, the only word that could describe my emotions was peace. Overwhelming, satisfying peace. I didn’t cry like some women do (my husband cried) because I felt so peaceful. I was finally stepping into something I had known I was made to do my whole life. Everything just felt right.
I used to say this to Samuel when he was a baby, “You are a joy. You are a blessing. You are a gift from God.” Every day I spoke this over him. I believed it, I felt it. He was my precious, valuable, irreplaceable prize. I sobbed the first day I left him at daycare, he was only 6 weeks old. I knew I was leaving him in the capable hands of a friend, but something in me felt so disturbed by the idea that I would not be the one caring for my own son through the majority of his infancy.
Fast forward about a year, I was still teaching in a public high school. I loved my job and I was good at it. It was my fourth year teaching and I finally didn’t feel like a clueless newbie. There was pep in my step and motivation in my heart. I loved my students and co-workers. I looked forward to going to work every day! This was a huge contrast to my first year teaching in which I regularly went home in tears. I’m not over exaggerating, there were many tears shed that year.
To say I was busy was an understatement though. Not only was I teaching, but I was an advisor for a club, a freshman focus teacher/advisor, and the director for our high school pageant. That doesn’t even include all the other nitty-gritty responsibilities a public high school teacher has: discipline, special needs accommodations, mentoring, etc. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! I took work home with me every night and on the weekends. But I wasn’t complaining. I was high off the busy-ness. It made me feel important and successful. I said “yes” to everything and continued to pile the responsibilities on my plate. I even volunteered to throw a baby shower for a friend at church. But what people tend to forget, is that for every “yes” you say, you have to say “no” somewhere else. And I had begun the disastrous downward spiral of saying “no” to my family.
At the time, my husband, Evan, was only working part-time at his now full-time job. He was also delivering pizza to help make ends meet. In comparison to my full-time job, which I was highly qualified for by my degree and experience, his daily work seemed useless and unimportant to me. So, I strutted around our home with a bloated ego, reminding him that my paycheck was bigger and my job was more important. What I didn’t understand though is how crippling that circumstance is to a man. Women need love, but men need respect. I was severely disrespecting him and dismantling any amount of confidence he attempted to muster. So, he, unsurprisingly, distanced himself from me. Our marriage was in shambles.
My husband wasn’t the only person I started saying “no” to. I had begun to say “no” to my precious, valuable, irreplaceable one-year-old son. I still cringe now writing these words, because it has taken me a year to overcome the shame and guilt I held for abandoning my son. Yes, I used the word “abandon” and yes, I write truthfully. Allow me to give you an average day in that season of our lives.
I would be the first one awake every morning at 5AM, my husband was able to sleep in. (This was something I held over him in criticism then, but that he chooses to mercifully NOT hold over me now that I’m a stay-at-home mom. God bless him.) I would get myself ready, then get Samuel ready. I’d peck my sleeping husband on the cheek and head out the door at 6AM. I would drop Samuel off at daycare without missing a beat and make it to work at 7AM. The first class started at 7:35AM and BAM I was off. I glided around my classroom in my high heels like I owned a million dollar business. I adored my students, especially my class of all girls. We learned, we talked, we joked, we created.
The school day ended at 2:25PM and teachers could leave campus as soon as 3PM. Most of you would lunge at the opportunity to leave work at 3PM, right? Not me. I stayed as late as 5PM most days, there was always work to do. And I was a hard worker. Even on a Friday, I wasn’t sad to find my car all alone in the parking lot when I left, I was proud.
Don’t misunderstand, I have always loved Samuel. When I picked him up from daycare, I was always happy to see him. His excited squeal at the sight of me filled me with joy. But I started to enter into an unhealthy behavior at home. When we would get home I would wait anxiously, impatiently for my husband to come home. I didn’t want to be left alone with Samuel. I didn’t have a motherly desire to care for him. Of course I fed him and changed his diapers, but it was all begrudgingly. Taking care of him felt like a nuisance. I would think to myself, I have work to do! I can’t take care of Samuel right now! When does Evan get home?
When my husband would come home I would basically thrust Samuel at him and disappear somewhere to grade papers or create lesson plans. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to be married to my husband, because if I was married to any other man, our son might have been neglected completely. Evan fed him, held him, diapered him, bathed him, played with him, and put him to bed. Tirelessly. Days would pass when I wouldn’t even change a diaper. I ritually justified it with my job and how important it was, how much work I had to get done, or how tired I was. I would remind my husband that I had to get up early. I had a full-time job. I was busy. I was completely unaware of how twisted my thoughts had become until my whole world came crashing down on me in one traumatic experience.
The busiest time of the school year for me was during the pageant preparations. I have never been so overworked in my entire life as I was during that pageant. Caffeine and prayers to God were the only thing that kept me going those days. I stubbornly did everything by myself and rarely reached out to other teachers for help. Then, Veterans Day 2015, just 2 days before the pageant, I found out I was pregnant.
Now don’t for a second think that I was disappointed about being pregnant. We were thrilled! But we were also terrified. Our marriage was a mess, we were too busy to even breathe, and we were financially screwed. We had to borrow money left and right, despite my full-time job and Evan’s part-time jobs. One day I will write about our financial story, but not today.
Well, the pageant was a HUGE success, the most successful that school had seen in years. I was so proud of my students. I collapsed at home that night and thought, WHEW. I can rest now. We soon announced our new pregnancy to family and close friends. Thanksgiving came and went.
Then I woke up the morning of December 2nd, 2015 bleeding heavily.
I am not going to go into much detail about my miscarriage experience. It was traumatic. The hospital staff were careless and indifferent in the emergency room, adding insult to injury. The sounds that came out of me sitting in my car afterwards, clinging to my husband, can only be compared to the cries of a wounded animal. Gasping for air amid senseless screaming. I was advised to go home and rest in the hopes of avoiding a D&C, which I did.
I stayed home from work for the entirety of December. I even took leave without pay. I was depressed. Hopeless. Tormented. Then I realized an even greater tragedy. Not only did I lose a child in my womb, I was losing a child sitting right in front of me. Up until that point I had been blind to the breakdown of my relationship with Samuel. I sat there with him in the living room of our own home, watching him play, and I realized the horrible truth. I did not know my own son.
At first I thought my traumatized emotions were playing tricks on me, making me see things hysterically instead of sensibly. So, I started paying close attention. He didn’t look at me. He didn’t respond when I called to him. He never clung to me. I painfully observed how much trust he placed in my husband. When he got hurt, he ran to Evan. When he wanted something, he went to Evan. When he was tired, he wanted Evan to hold him. Sometimes, he would actually push me away. This wasn’t some weird jealousy I had or a phase on his part. He was placing his trust rightly in his primary caretaker, my husband!
I was embarrassed. I timidly shared my thoughts about all this with my husband. He received them gracefully, but didn’t hesitate to agree. He had already thought I had neglected our son and abandoned my responsibility as his mother. I had severely wounded our family.
Well, I had my “come to Jesus” moment and it was repentance time! I was not going to take another step further in the wrong direction. Some might have told me I need only reprioritize my life and things would get better. But I know myself, I needed radical change or no change at all. So, I began thinking about quitting my job.
I pitched my idea to Evan. If I quit my job, I wouldn’t have to pay for childcare or gas, right? I could work odd jobs and the money would figure itself out, right? He was skeptical and didn’t see how it could work. I felt defeated. I knew this was something I needed to do, and Evan agreed with me, but the numbers just didn’t add up. But we kept thinking and we kept praying and we kept hoping.
Christmas came and went that year. My family was loving, but no one really knew what to say to me. I didn’t really want to talk about the miscarriage either. I decided I had to go back to work and at least finish the semester. There were two more weeks of class and my students needed help preparing for their exams. I tearfully explained to each class that I had lost my baby. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, to tell a group of teenagers, mostly girls, that the baby they joyfully tracked the size of on my white board did not make it. They mourned with me.
Then, Evan was given some of the best news we had heard in awhile. His boss messaged him on New Year’s Eve, a Thursday, that he had something exciting to tell him at work on Monday. See, my husband works for a small business owner. Owning a small business is hard. Evan had been with them for a couple years and all the employees were either part-time or contract employees. Well, when Evan went into work that day, he was offered a full-time position with a pay increase.
We couldn’t believe that our circumstances were changing in this way, at this time, so perfectly. I was excited, but nervous. This was a huge decision. I turned to prayer. “God is this even what You want? Should I quit my job to stay home with Samuel?” You can believe what you want about God and about prayer, but I know I felt the soft voice of God respond, “Yes, it is time.”
Looking back on it, I’m tempted to laugh. The choice seems so obvious now. Our marriage isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s no longer on the brink of destruction. Samuel and I butt heads on a regular basis, but we have a legitimate relationship now. I know my son. And we now have a beautiful daughter too! I get to stay home with my precious children and work part-time for the same business my husband works for. I do miss my students and the people I worked with, but I have my family back.
I can’t wait to see my beautiful, lost child on the other side of the horizon one day. My little angel’s short life on this earth had such a huge impact on me and changed my very perspective on what is important. God bless.