|December 1998 - getting ready to leave the hospital
As the weeks passed, and the reality of single parenting set in, I began looking toward the birth of my fourth child. I was in the final stages of my doctoral dissertation, with deadlines fast approaching, but with the events of the past many weeks, I knew that I would not finish on time. Thankfully, deadlines were extended because of my personal situation, and I was able to focus on my pregnancy. I began preparing myself to give birth yet a fourth time.
The thought of giving birth alone was terrifying to me. I never dreamed that I would be in this situation, alone and pregnant. I was nauseated beyond belief, which was typical for me during pregnancy. And I was hanging on by a thread in so many areas of my life. I tended to get overwhelmed on a daily or even hourly basis.
Life seemed so complicated. I would have days where I would have to go to the bank or insurance company and close out accounts, or set up new accounts, or talk to agents, or figure out medical bills, or change my bill pay status. I was amazed at how long it took to change some of the financial details in my life. I would think that my old bank account was “closed,” only to receive an overdraft notice telling me that my life insurance company had tried to “debit” from that account just that week, even after I had submitted paperwork to have it all changed to a new account the month previous. I spent hours on the phone, talking to agents, and managers, and customer service representatives. After several months, to my relief, the financial notices and phone calls finally died down.
As those weeks passed, I became more excited for this baby on the one hand, and more fearful on the other. How would I do this? How could I take care of four children myself? How would I pay my bills? Should I work full-time? I had eight piano students at the time, and was planning on teaching some more, but with everything going on, and because I was pregnant, I decided to add a little bit at a time.
As I thought about the upcoming birth and my overwhelming life, it gave me pause every single day. Though I wasn’t worried about the physical part of caring for a newborn, I was fearful about the mental, emotional, and spiritual part of raising a family on my own. Being the near sole provider, caregiver, nurturer, and teacher to my children presented a daunting task to say the least. I did love being my children’s mother! I loved them with a passion and depth that cannot even be put into words. But I was scared….
Through all of this, I knew I would have help, a lot of help. I lived in my parents’ basement apartment, which was actually the size of a modest home. We had two huge bedrooms, a kitchen, a wonderfully large living area where I taught piano, a family room, and we shared the laundry room. My parents were constantly there for me in so many ways. My mom was always willing take my children to school and other activities. She was the driver for our part of Spencer’s kindergarten carpool. My dad was an amazing support to all three children and loved to go to my boys’ activities and sports games. Many friends and neighbors were so helpful all the time. I was continually in awe of the goodness of the people in my life.
And yet, I still felt lonely, and excruciatingly off balance. It is interesting how even though so many friends and family came to my rescue, I could still feel profound loneliness. The feeling seemed to come over me more in the evening hours, when the energy and activities of the day finally settled down. I would feel that aloneness after we read and sang together. After we prayed together. After we hugged each other. After we cried together. Nighttime was definitely the difficult time of the day. And each night, when it was finally quiet, in the darkness I would begin to weep, often for hours, in the refuge of my bedroom. This was my pattern night after night for many weeks.
When it was time to have an ultrasound, I was determined to find out the gender of the baby. Were we having a boy or a girl? Earlier in the pregnancy, I thought it would have been fun, for at least one birth, to be surprised in the birthing room. We knew the gender of each of the other children at that 4-month ultrasound, and it certainly was great fun to find out, but I had always wanted to be surprised in the delivery room. With my desperate personal situation, however, I felt a need to be prepared for my future, and I decided that I would once again, find out if I was having a girl or a boy. So, I began looking forward to the joyful news, and in early September, to my delight, I was told that I would be having a boy! My children and I were thrilled! And of course, that brought a lot of anticipation to each of us for this impending birth. Our household began buzzing with talk of clothes, and shoes, and toys for our soon-to-be little baby boy.
The weeks and months passed, with so many experiences and stories that will be told at a later date. As the holidays approached, we were so blessed with many miracles. Christmas turned out to be happy and joyful, with family and friends so concerned about us, and giving to us in so many ways. I felt an urgency to be organized as Christmas Day concluded. Rather than let wrapping paper, and boxes, and such, sit around the house, I began cleaning up as I let my precious children play with each other and enjoy the wonder and sacredness of that special day.
The following morning, as I was getting ready for the day, I began praying mightily to Heavenly Father. We had family in town for Christmas, and though I wasn’t due for three weeks, I felt to ask for a small miracle. “Please Heavenly Father, could I have this baby today?” I realized that was probably a lot to ask, but I asked anyway, as I wanted some of my family to be with me during the birth. And lo and behold, within an hour of that prayer, I felt my first labor pains. I couldn’t believe it! I actually didn’t expect an answer that quickly. But there I was, already dressed for the day, with hair and makeup done. I was actually ready! My house was clean and organized (not always a common occurrence), and now I was in labor! I immediately invited my sister, Vickie, who was visiting, and also my mom, to be in the birthing room with me. During two of my previous births, Ben was born after one hour of labor, and Rebecca had been born with just two hours of labor, so I was frantic! Knowing my body as I did, I quickly packed my bag, and we were promptly on our way to the hospital.
At my request, I was given an epidural block. I knew I didn’t have the energy to tough out the pain of giving birth without relief. When Ben was born, there wasn’t time for an epidural, so he was my one natural birth. My previous epidural with Rebecca’s birth was as perfect as it could have been, taking just a little edge off the extreme pain during late stage labor. But this time, to my disappointment, the dosage was a bit much and my lower body went completely numb. I didn’t feel anything at all, not even one bit of pain. It almost became an out of body experience. I continued to progress though, and the nurses gently told me when to push and bear down. Things went okay, and after two and a half hours of labor, with Vickie and Mom holding my hands, my beautiful baby boy came into this world at 11:02 a.m. on December 26th.
Preston was a gorgeous baby, weighing 8 lbs. 11 oz., and measuring 21 inches. He was my biggest baby of the four, by one ounce! They whisked him away to do the usual tests, and then to clean and bathe him, and within minutes when they brought him back to me, I was in shock at the full head of hair on his cute little head. I immediately fell in love with his adorable little face. Mom and Vickie were ecstatic and Dad and my brother, Mark, soon came into the room to see him. Someone went home to get Spencer, Ben and Rebecca and they were thrilled to see their new baby brother! There was so much joy and excitement in the room, with everyone taking turns holding him. I let the boys choose his name. We had considered naming him Matthew Preston Allred, however, Spencer and Ben loved the name “Preston,” and that was that! So, we quickly changed his name to Preston Matthew Allred. We all fell in love with him at first sight. He truly was the complete joy of our lives from that moment on.
After awhile, as my family took my children home to feed them, and do other necessary activities, I was left to myself. I had my first feeding with Preston, and being very tired, and still completely numb from the epidural, I asked that the nurses take my beautiful baby back to the hospital nursery so I could rest and let the epidural run its course.
It seemed to take a long time, at least a few hours, and with everyone gone from my room, as I was lying on the bed, I began to feel that loneliness once again. The lights were low in the room, and as I contemplated my situation, and thought about my four children, one of them a beautiful baby boy, I was overwhelmed once again. I felt an extreme isolation that went to the depth of my soul. Exhausted and cold, I kept dozing off, and then would wake up, hoping to get some feeling back in my lower body. I cried, and slept, and wondered about my future. There was so much uncertainty and I was weary in body and spirit.
I finally began to pray, and thanked Heavenly Father for my precious little boy. As the epidural began to wear off, the feeling in my body began to return. I can still feel it to this day. And yet it seems like a dream, a far-away memory. I kept praying, and with the epidural continuing to fade away, I felt a newness of life springing up inside my soul, and I began to have hope once again. I remembered the many answers to prayer in the past few months. I remembered the many miracles that my little family had received. Somehow, our beautiful little boy began to show us the joy and love of families, and the hope of God’s plan for each of us. I didn’t know how or what the future held for us. I didn’t now how we were going to make it. But I did know that we would make it.
To this day, I know that Preston was sent to our family to bring joy during a time of intense sorrow and difficulty. I watched Spencer, and Ben, and Rebecca, as they became the older siblings to adorable little Preston. They loved him and doted on him. They hugged him and kissed him. They held him and played with him. He was the center of our universe for years. He was our bundle of joy. He was, and still is, our precious gift from heaven.
|My beautiful baby, Preston Matthew Allred!
|Spencer, Ben, and Rebecca meet their little baby brother!
|And now there are four! Enjoying time with Uncle Mark!
|Spencer is so tender with baby Preston!
|Ben is captivated with his little brother!
|Rebecca loves holding her little brother!
|Our little family is now complete!