Disclaimer: This story contains details of miscarriage which may be upsetting to some.
“I’m really not quite sure how 14 years have gone by. Fourteen years ago I became a mom, and it has forever changed me. I am so proud of who you are at 14, Justice Jeremiah. If I’m honest, the teen years have always scared me. I was lost and had no joy or hope at this age, while Justice has so much joy and passion. He is smart, funny, and kind. I’ve never shared his story, and I think now is the time. I want to give a warning to say my story includes miscarriage, so if this is too sensitive for you right now, you may want to stop reading, but it’s also a story of hope.
When I got pregnant the first time, I was 21 years old. I was shocked, because yes I was married, but honestly unhappy and certainly not thinking of having children. I hadn’t put much thought into becoming a mom; I had been in a cycle of trauma for the previous decade, with a happy childhood that turned into an unfortunate series of events in adolescence. My parents were not together, and my increasingly strained relationship with my father became a nonexistent one. A move from the city to the suburbs – a well-intentioned one on the part of my single mother who proudly purchased her first home in a ‘better’ school district – but proved devastating to my middle school self-esteem. A silver lining of my teenage years came at the entrance of my stepfather.
I was reluctant to accept a man into my life, but his caring heart and thick Boston accent won. He treated my mom like a queen and was a stabilizing force in our lives. My mom and John were quickly engaged and we moved from our humble Bungalow off the main road to a big house in a newer development in the nicer part of town. A visit to the doctor turned our lives upside down after we found out the raspy Boston accent wasn’t the result of being a hockey coach, but instead, Mesothelioma, which had spread silently from his lungs to his throat. Years as a longshoreman shoveling asbestos at The Boston Harbor came back to haunt him: This type of Cancer is quickly traced back to asbestos exposure. After a few couple years of battling, radiation, chemotherapy, and remission, the cancer came back as stage four. It had spread to his hip and lymph nodes. It was a quick decline including feeding tubes, hospital stays, and final goodbyes.
You see, they never had the wedding. They waited until he got better, which he never did. Unmarried status allowed his adult children to take everything: our house, cars, and most of our belongings in his name or found on his credit card statements. I dropped out of the high school I never fit in to shortly after my great-grandma died – a final blow to my devastated heart. I couldn’t bear moving back to the house we left behind when John came into our lives, so I unconsciously surrendered to the older man who saw my brokenness as an opportunity. We ended up getting married when I was eighteen, as I nodded yes in a daze of grief, leaving me lifeless. I finished hair school–something my grandmother prayerfully pushed me to do after dropping out also meant dropping out of the Vo-tech Cosmetology program.
I graduated by the skin of my teeth and got my first salon job, where I met my best friend who would invite me to church. I quickly reaffirmed the faith I had lost as a child. As I grew closer in my relationship with God, the realization of my marriage hit me like a ton of bricks. How do I reconcile my newfound belief in marriage with the depressing marriage I found myself in? It was not long before I realized, in disbelief, I was pregnant. My birth control failed, and I found myself shocked in the realization I was now really trapped. I felt horrible for feeling this way and very quickly came around to see the little life growing inside me was pure and innocent, and I fell in love with who I lovingly named ‘Tadpole’ after reading he was the size of a tadpole. I was sure he was a boy.
A couple months later, something wasn’t right, so I went to the ER. They did some tests and, coupled with my symptoms, the prognosis was I was miscarrying. Much of the rest of the story was a blur, but I blamed myself, I blamed the toxic marriage, and I asked God why. I decided I did want to be a mom, and the hope for the life inside me was a feeling I had not felt in years. I still couldn’t make sense of my situation, but tried to do what I thought God would want from me; to try my best to make it work, and break the legacy of broken families. Two months later, I was pregnant again. Around the same time as the first time, I started experiencing similar symptoms, and again they told me based on my symptoms and their findings I was miscarrying. I was told there was nothing they could do because it was so early. ‘Come back in a week if the baby doesn’t pass on its own.’ The doctor left the room and I cried, asking God why.
All of the sudden something inside me said, ‘No.’ A janitor was walking by and I asked him to go get the doctor. He looked taken off guard, but did what I asked. The doctor came back and I said, ‘My baby is not going to die.’ (He had been referring to him – to JUSTICE – as ‘the fetus.’) He was nice, but looked at me like I was a little crazy and repeated the prognosis. I told him, ‘Thank you, but I don’t accept it.’ I asked if bed rest would help, he said no. I decided I would try. Family and friends were praying for me, and my best friend. My best friend at the time, the one who led me back to Jesus after years of walking away from my faith, prayed for me over the phone every day. She would pray many things over my health and the health of the baby, but what she would pray the most was his heart would be strong.
I remember the very first day on self-assigned bedrest, as I went to pray, I felt the Holy Spirit’s peace wash over me in what I could only describe as a wave of peace. I had a clear understanding it was the manifestation of other people’s prayers, and I needed only to rest. It is hard to explain when I say I felt God telling me I did not have to pray, but my best understanding of it was my faith in the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ were enough for my faint heart, and I knew at this moment my baby would survive. As the week went on, my symptoms disappeared more and more each day. By the end of the week, all of my symptoms were resolved and I went back to have the procedure to ‘remove the fetus.’ It is protocol to do an ultrasound first, and I waited for minutes (which felt like hours) until the ultrasound technician stopped her silent search, and excused herself to go get the doctor.
When the doctor came in, he informed me the baby’s heartbeat was 125 BPM–a perfect heartbeat. He asked me about my symptoms. He listened as I explained to him the symptoms had resolved. We prayed so hard for the baby to stay in, he was two full weeks ‘late,’ and at my last prenatal appointment my regular doctor was delivering a baby, so I had to see a different provider. While we went over my history, he was looking at me pretty weirdly and then interrupted and asked if I was in the emergency room early on in the pregnancy and he almost chuckled in disbelief when I said yes. And he said, ‘You told the doctor your baby wasn’t going to die; everyone was talking about you.’ He pointed to my belly and said, ‘This is the baby?’ And I said yes.
I named him Justice Jeremiah… ‘Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you…’ –Jeremiah 1:5
I ended up having two more beautiful children in the same marriage–proof He can bring beauty from ashes, and turn graves into gardens. I have since left the abusive marriage, though it cost me almost everything. I married a man John would be proud of, and who I believe sees from heaven the man who came into our lives much like he did; a stabilizing force of strength and love. We have had two more children, and live a happy crazy life in Upstate, NY, with God still showing up in miraculous ways.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Franco of Upstate NY. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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