Chapter 3 ~ Hurricane's and Parenthood...

Over the course if the next several weeks, I will be publishing my story, as wife, mother, sister and daughter. This is the evolution of how a little girl can change the course of her mother's story, can change the course of her heart. If your new to this blog, please begin here. 

the famous "welcome to the navy" butt!
Chapter 3 ~ Hurricane's and Parenthood

We had a Cinderella wedding on August 6, 1988 at the US Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, MD.  It was my Princess Di moment. There were actual tourists taking our picture as I was WHACKED on the butt with a sword from Jerry’s friend. Gotta love Navy Tradition.

We flew out from Maryland late on Sunday night and made our way to Perdido Key in Pensacola, Florida for Jerry to finish up his first phase of Naval Flight training. He was sharing a townhouse with two friends. Both would be moving out in the next week so a few days in a frat house didn't bother me. I was very excited to live on the beach and be a Navy wife.

Little did I know.

Monday afternoon Jerry came home and blithely informed that a tropical storm was coming and all the students were flying with the the airplanes to Memphis in three hours.  I asked him what I was supposed to do and he said, “Don’t worry sweetie, my friends are here, they’ll take care of you.”

“That would be your beer drinking, football watching classmates? Aren't they flying out with the planes?”

“Some will, some won't, ” he grinned, “No worries, our house is on stilts.”

Stilts? LIke that was a good thing?

So off he went as the wind blew….and blew... and blew some more. I actually saw the Gulf of Mexico coming under our little townhouse on Perdido Key.

Holy Crap...what was I supposed to do? 

 Call my mother for comfort, of course.

“MOM, I want to come home, I didn’t sign up for this”

“Sorry, sweetheart, welcome to the Navy…improvise, adapt and overcome.”

GEE, thanks for the support Mom.  Not her finest moment in parenting history. 

I cowered in the corner all night long while the wind howled and the rain pelted the windows outside. There was one point where I felt the house sway and thought I was a goner.

Married for 24 hours and I was dead. A tragic story at best. 

But the house didn’t blow away, Jerry came home safe and sound and a few weeks later we were off  to California for him to finish his training.  We had made it through the first six weeks of marriage.

In January I went off the pill and we began to try for a child.  Having been on the pill for so long, my doctor assured me it would take six or eight months to get pregnant. I was nervous and scared. I didn't want to go through another miscarriage. I still carried that baby with me in my heart.

Jerry took it in stride belying the strong and silent motto that he had owned since entering the Naval Academy. We had time for lots of practice.

We were blessed to become pregnant two months later.

It was the day Jerry was awarded his Wings of Gold and his parents were in town for the ceremony. The doctor called with the test results and I was beaming. I couldn't wait to tell Jerry.

His reaction said more about who he was as a husband and soon to be father than I realized at the time.

"Excuse me? What did you say?"

"I'm pregnant we're going to have a Thanksgiving Baby."

"Holy Shit! How are we going to pay for his college education!"

Yes, I married a romantic.

I puked my way back across the United States as we traveled to Jacksonville, FL a week later for further training. Then I puked my way up the East Coast heading for our first duty station at NAS BRunswick, Maine with VP-11. Their motto: "Lovin Eleven: Anytime, Anywhere."

Yep, we were in the Navy now.

I had an extremely difficult pregnancy-gaining almost 100 pounds over the course of those nine months. I found out at eight months along, that I was having an allergic reaction to the amount of testosterone the baby was releasing which was causing me to hold extra fluid leading to preeclampsia.

Ha! I was allergic to boys. Who knew??

After a 36 hour labor filled with lots of stops and starts, our son Jonathan Douglas Lenaburg, was born the week of Thanksgiving 1989. I was so happy to be a mom. Having been the older sister and master babysitter for most of my young life I knew what to do with children. It was handling the wife part that confused me.

Jonathan was all boy, climbing on anything that stayed still long enough, constantly moving through this great adventure called LIFE. It was full and busy.

Deployments came and went and our marriage weathered many a storm. I was having difficulty with the isolation of a small town and being so far away from family. I took to shopping too much and eating even more.

We were 20 and 23 when we got married and both of us were discovering the world of adulthood carried with it many expectations, most of which we were not meeting for one another.

Homecoming - December 1990
Jerry was gone so much that it felt like every time he came home we pushed the re-start button. I was independent and only responsible for my son and myself one day then he would come home and I was once more responsible for meeting someone else’s needs who was quiet and rarely let me know what they were other than cooking and cleaning for him.

I had gained and lost over a 100 pounds those first two years. Food was my enemy and my comfort. If I wasn’t baking I was shopping. I was consumed with keeping up with the Jones and our checkbook was taking the hit. After his first deployment Jerry came home and I was forced to own up to my shortcomings revealing our debt to him.

It was a scary time for our marriage. I had replaced seeking his love with pursuit of things.

 I entered into therapy for the next six months and life got better. It took another year and a half to clear that debt but we did it. We re-committed ourselves to each other and to making our marriage work.

When Jonathan was two we decided we were ready for another child. We got pregnant pretty quickly but we miscarried once more.

This one was even harder than the first because we had Jonathan and knew the joy of being parents. Seeing that little peanut on the screen not growing as he/she should reminded me of our loss five years before.

Now I had two little ones that would never take a breath here on earth.

Jerry walked with me the whole time, reassuring me that we would have another child. His parents were so gracious to us that weekend. It was so very hard. This time I would need intervention to remove my dead child. Devastated we vowed to try again. So, after recovering from my D and C, we did.

The weekend of Jonathan's second birthday we found out I was pregnant. We were so happy. At least I thought we were. We were building our family, we were together. There would be another Little Lenaburg.

Jerry started talking to me about what we would do after this child was born. He thought I should get my tubes tied to avoid more children. It would be easier than taking the Pill. That would interfere with my nursing and the side affects were taking a toll on my body.

He was not raised Catholic and from a very small family. He did not picture himself the father of six or more children. This was something we had never agreed upon in our marriage to date, but after Jonathan’s difficult pregnancy and birth, two miscarriages and now a new pregnancy, he began to press for an answer.

I was afraid it would be a deal breaker and he would leave. I was always afraid he would say "That's it lady, you are too much" and just go. He had all the power, at least I thought so. I was desperate to keep our family together and I did not want to rock the boat.

I didn’t say no.

I worked very hard to follow the doctors instructions this time round but I still had a few issues while pregnant with Courtney. She created too much adrenalin so my heart would race from time to time and I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Apparently I was not going to be one of those woman blessed with easy pregnancies. I gained only 25 pounds and things were mostly under control with diet and exercise.

When I was about seven months along, Jerry was away on deployment. Summer was in full swing and our child was due to arrive in eight weeks.

One evening my Mom called to check in on us. Jonathan was sound asleep gearing up for another day of Legos, dirt and lots of trains and trucks. We had found out the day before that we were going to have a little girl. I was beside myself, looking forward to baby dolls, Barbies and lots of pink clothing.

I had called Jerry and had teased him about the future filled with boys and dating.

I was sharing all of these details with my Mom, when she stopped me for a moment. Dad had something to tell me. I waited while she handed him the phone.

“Hey Daddy.”

“Hey sweetheart. Umm. Not sure how to say this so…Mar I have cancer. It’s stage 3 non-hodgkins lymphoma. I will start chemo in a week or so. I’m not sure how this will go, but I’m going to fight with everything I’ve got. Don’t worry about me. You just take care of Jonathan and that new miracle God is blessing you with.” heart skipped a beat or two. My father has always been blunt and rarely wasted words.

“What? What are you talking about Dad? This is crazy. How long have you known? What did the doctor say, exactly?” I continued asking a myriad of questions for the next ten minutes.

I couldn’t believe my Irish warrior of a father had cancer. This happened to other people. Not to my family. Finally it was time to say goodbye.

“I love you Daddy.”

‘I love you too.”

I fought to control my emotions calmly saying goodnight to my Mom. I hung up and I started to hyperventilate. Grabbing the stair rail, I sat down with a thump. My daughter leapt in my womb reminding me that I had someone on board that needed me to get a grip. I held my belly and wept for a very long time. Pain and fear rolled over me like a tidal wave taking any sense of peace I had with it. The world I knew was gone.

Cancer had stolen it in the night.

An hour or so later I called Jerry and caught him between flights. I told him what I knew and we both wept. Jerry loved my Dad as much as I did.

I was positive Daddy was going to die and I was not ready to let him go. I prayed that night harder than I ever had in the past. It was the first of many nights spent railing at God about his path for my family.

Life just kept going after that devastating phone call even though all I wanted to do was go home and be with my Dad. But there was a baby to consider and her very busy older brother who was on the cusp of turning three.

Courtney and her big brother Jonathan, August 1992
Jerry made it home from deployment a few days before our daughter came into the world.

On August 18, 1992, after five hours of intense drug-free labor, Courtney Elizabeth Lenaburg made her grand entrance.  She was long and lean at 8lbs, 21 ½ “. Her Apgar scores were 9 and 10.

She was absolutely perfect in every way.

Jerry cried the first time he held her. His baby girl had him wrapped around her little finger from day one.

***if you wish to read here...thank you***

Copyright 2011 - Mary E. Lenaburg

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