Please welcome Jeremy Shaffer to #BeREALationships.
“What are we gonna do?” she said, choking back some of the flood of tears streaking her face with worry. I was grinning from ear to ear. Did we plan this? No we did not. Were we careful when we made love? Most of the time, and she was even on birth control! In the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcom
“Life will find a way!” And so once again, young and only five years into parenthood for the first time, we began that journey once again. After the initial shock wore off (and during for me) we were elated. We both love children, especially when we’ve made them and this one would be a perfect addition to our little family. Our first child was old enough that when the new baby got here she would be in awe and want to be very helpful! We even came up with a clever way to share our news with our parents. We visited them each respectively and our oldest daughter was wearing a t-shirt that read “Big Sister” on the front. When they caught on their reactions were as mixed as ours, but quickly everyone was on board. We were having another baby!
I had started a new job just a few months prior, one that promised in exchange for back breaking, mind numbing labor I would earn enough money to support my (now growing) family. The warehouse through which I was employed serviced a grocery store chain that was based out of the town in which we lived. The chain had spread through out the state of Pennsylvania and had just recently begun to expand into new territory. The punch line is there was plenty of work to go around, and my timing in obtaining this new and far more gainful employment was flawless.
We enjoyed several weeks of excitement over the new baby and it was wonderful. One night (because of course I was stuck working night shift) I got a call while at work. My wife was very upset and told me,
“I’m bleeding and cramping we have to go to the hospital!” It’s funny how there are moments in life that one can pin point and say to themselves,
There! That was it! That was the moment everything changed!
Spoiler alert, it was that phone call. I rushed off to my supervisor, explained the situation and tore out of the building like it was on fire. We dropped our oldest daughter with her grandparents and headed to the emergency room for the baby and mom to be checked over. After an over extended period of waiting they ran their tests, and a very grave looking doctor came in. Her face was sharp and serious, which insulted her sun kissed complexion and all around pleasing features. Her dark hair was pulled back into a quick pony tail, just professional enough to keep her boss off of her but clearly a symptom of not having the time to style it well. The sleeves of her white doctor’s uniform were crossed in front of her as she began to give us the news. By her estimation our pregnancy was in the Fallopian tube, ectopic as she called it. This would have resulted in an abortion, which we were both heavily against. Our minds were racing, attempting to cross the finish line before our hearts which were dead on their heels.
We were devastated by the news. Yes the baby was unexpected and frankly inconvenient but we were beyond that worry and we were blissful! Coming to grips with that type of a decision is impossible, and thankfully we were rescued from it by this doctor’s superior. She explained that this first individual was somewhat new and misinterpreted the results of the tests. This bleeding was actually quite normal and while mom should take it easy for a few days everyone was just fine. Our relief was as immense as it was overwhelming. Little did we know at this point that the stress of this evening was only the beginning of events yet to transpire.
A few weeks flew by without a trace, time as it often does racing forward and waiting for no one. Another late night emergency room trip followed by several more subsequent trips. Occasionally my wife would make up her mind that she needed to go before I would go into work and then I would just simply call off. In a more perfect world her parents or my mother, who is my only surviving parent, would take her to the hospital and I would await the news and complete my shift. This is not such a world and we are not so blessed to have this kind of support I am sorry to say. After multiple hospital visits, they have discovered that she is manufacturing kidney stones at an alarming rate. Please allow that to sink in for a moment before continuing. My wife is creating multiple kidney stones on an extremely regular basis. This is a condition that puts most people down and out for days and most people have only one or never experience it at all.
The pain was unbearable for her, and she almost always waited until she reached a 7 on the 1-10 pain scale. 7 is where you can’t think straight because your pain level is so high. I didn’t know that Morphine is technically safe for a fetus as the mother’s body metabolizes it so quickly the baby receives almost none at all. They explained this to us before they dosed her for the first time to try and control her pain level. The diagnosis was frightening when it finally came down from on high. Kidney stones are most often measured in millimeters, because that’s simply how small they are. My wife was in such excruciating pain because she was host to a 1.5 centimeter stone lodged within her ureter. Her kidney was no longer able to transfer its contents into the bladder and her bladder was unable to void in its entirety. This lead to indescribable pain and the repeated ER visits. They talked of a stent, which wasn’t an option because it was in her genes to reject that sort of treatment. Her father had this very same disease and they tried a titanium stent, which his body promptly crushed. They couldn’t extract the stone due to the baby, and so we were left with one option. My 28 year old wife underwent surgery to have a tube place into her kidney that lead to a collection bag for her urine. Nephrostomy tube they called it. They gave me a crash course in how to flush it with saline and to keep her site clean.
“Take great care and we will see you in two months” We were in the ER within two weeks, and her pain was at an 8 out of 10. Hours and multiple tests later and we learned that my wife was manufacturing stones at such an alarming rate that her body had crystallized the tube from the inside. Her surgeon referred to her as a “Cement mixer” but said it with the utmost respect and intention of humor. I was never allowed in the surgical room for clear and obvious reason. When she told me the surgeon had to climb up on the bed and place his knee on her back to break the tube free from her body cavity I was thankful that I wasn’t back there for I am unsure if I would have been able to control myself from inflicting violence upon his person. The new direction was weekly surgery in order to ensure we never wound up in this scenario again. Weekly surgery to change her tube and a standing prescription of Oxycodone was just what the doctor ordered to try and keep her as healthy as possible. This too was apparently less harmful than the stress the baby was under due to the pain mom was experiencing. We had approximately six months before the baby was due, and she was slated for one surgery per week until that time and then likely much more.
She was mortified of her situation, though logically she could conceive that there was no reason to be embarrassed all the same it’s how she felt. The woman I loved was living constantly in pain and her mild case of anxiety was growing closer to full blown with each passing day. She was unmotivated to do housework, to play with our daughter and who could blame her? I would not have been able to withstand the torture she lived with daily. It wasn’t long before the fevers came and she wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. They did warn us that this was a possibility, and we watched closely for the red flags. More missed work, and we were off to the hospital but not for a “normal” sort of visit this time. This time, my wife didn’t come home. The infection in her blood stream was so severe they admitted her for several days, and administered a P.I.C.C line. Peripherally Installed Central Catheter, a surgical tube that enters the left bicep and goes directly into the heart. This was needed to pump the antibiotics into her blood stream; the consequences of not doing so would have resulted in death. And she was given one of these catheters on three separate occasions due to returning infection caused in part by her nephrostomy tube. By this time my 28 year old, vibrant, loving, exceptional culinary artist of a wife was borderline agoraphobic. I do not use this terminology lightly, she refused to leave the house save to go to the hospital which she frequently put off for so long that her doctors would literally yell at her for the poor choice.
It had been months since I worked a full 40 hour week, and we began to feel it. Bills were piling up more so than ever before, and we were running out of food consistently. With my working night shift I rarely saw my daughter, and so one day I told her that I would go around the corner and pick up burger king for lunch for the both of us before I went to work. She was so excited that through the turmoil that we were facing her and daddy would get to spend some time together! I didn’t know until it was too late that I didn’t have enough money to purchase her a kid’s meal, let alone enough for both of us to eat. I lied to my child that day, which is something I swore I would never do. I looked my beautiful angel in the eye and told her the restaurant ran out of food because I couldn’t bear to tell her that I simply couldn’t afford it. She was devastated and began to cry with a soul crushing intensity. I told her how sorry I was, kissed her cheek and left the house. Any time I’m searching for the inspiration to push myself harder professionally, I remember that day and my heart feels torn from my chest all over again.
My wife was deathly ill, agoraphobic, we were incredibly broke and to top it all off for the first time in my life I fell into a depression. I had no idea what it was because I’d never felt that way before but looking back it’s unmistakable. One of the most gut wrenching realizations was what began to happen with our “friends” as she became more and more ill. The people who swore to always be there for us, and said “If you ever need anything just ask” faded away completely. So many nights I would just hold her while she writhed in pain, or sit across the room from her during one of her many stays to the facility and just try to tell her everything was going to be ok. Our friends though, were almost collectively no where to be found. I lost my best friend in part due to this trial as well. At a time that I was under the most financial pressure of my life and coping with the fact that my wife may die with our unborn child still gestating within her, my best friend and roommate left the house and our lives with seemingly no remorse what so ever.
Through every single blow, every time the electricity was turned off and the internet shut off, and every time our cell service was interrupted or we had to eat cereal for dinner if I reached out my hand hers was there to find. Despite her discomfort she insisted that we continue to make love, and swore that it was because she still wanted to.
Eventually on October 20th our gorgeous little girl came into the world, and while she was premature by a small margin she was overall healthy and at the time of my writing this will be turning 3 years old in just a few short months. As for the monster kidney stone, it was seemingly crushed while my unfathomably strong wife birthed our daughter vaginally. This woman had a surgically implanted tube sticking out of her back and gave birth! We still haven’t entirely recovered, including my wife’s health, but our relationship has never been stronger. I attribute much of our perseverance to God and our shared belief in him. We’ve endured more hardship in our 10 years of time spent together than some people will experience in a lifetime and we are very far from “out of the woods.” She is my biggest fan as an author and stage performer, my strongest supporter in all my endeavors and a fiercely loyal lover and friend. Her compassion and love as a mother is unparalleled and at times is like watching art unfold before my eyes. This relationship has taught me more about patience, perseverance, and what love can truly be than any other source I’ve encountered in my short time on this earth.
Jeremy is a family man who is setting the example to follow one’s dreams for his three beloved children. He’s been published previously including having two of his plays produced in a local theater. Follow Jeremy on twitter ~ (@RemyxZer0): https://twitter.com/RemyxZer0?s=09