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My real life story of becoming a mother of a special needs child and overcoming the odds! View table of contents...


Chapters:

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Submitted:Sep 17, 2013    Reads: 42    Comments: 0    Likes: 1   


The Beginning

As Jenny stood on the bridge, she just knew the rest of her life would be perfect. She stood there wearing dress pants and a blue tank top and her hair was shimmering with glitter in a pony tail. Mark's mom was crying her eyes out, as they knew she would, and as the preacher spoke, the world seemed to just stand still. Mark's whole life was within this moment. He held his soon-to-be wife's hands while listening to the preacher speak, but just couldn't take his eyes off of her face. Her beautiful big brown eyes were the most comforting he had ever seen. Family and friends stood gathered around watching the ceremony. Less than 20 people attended and most were Mark's family. Thrown together last minute, this wedding was very casual and obviously impromptu. Their friends laughed and even made bets on how soon they would divorce, but they just knew their love would last forever.

The two 17-year-olds began their new life together as husband and wife in a small 2-bedroom public housing apartment filled with hand me down furniture and rummage sale picture frames. Mark worked full time at a pizza place for a little more than minimum wage and Jenny took on her new role as a homemaker. Although they were both now legal adults, Mark and Jenny were still just kids. Fights about absolutely nothing became a regular occasion throughout their first year. Several fights were because Jenny had a much stronger sex drive than he did. She tried everything to get her husband's attention; lotions, lingerie, and even toys.

Unfortunately, Mark was still very much into his video games, and it seemed to Jenny that the only way she'd get any intimacy from her man, was if she wore a helmet like the characters from Halo™ and painted an x-box controller on her chest.

Jenny came home after running errands one day to find a truck backed up to her home. "What the hell is going on?" she thought, confused. She got out of her car to see several boxes and furniture in the back of the truck. Mark was letting his friend Jared move in with them, but he had failed to talk with his wife about the decision beforehand. Jenny was furious, but she held it in, the best she could at least. They had an extra bedroom, but space was not what bothered Jenny about their new houseguest's arrival. Mark was only thinking of himself and his friend, but had neglected to think of his wife's feelings. As time went on, it became obvious by her short and angry comments, that she was still unhappy about his making such a big decision without her consultation. Mark, Jenny, and Jared learned to get along eventually. Together they threw parties, played games, and watched movies.

Mark decided he wasn't making enough money at the pizza place so he began selling weed from home. Jenny hated it and argued with him so much before she finally gave up on reasoning with her husband. It was bad enough, to her, that he even smoked it, brought it into her home, and now he was selling it. All she could think about was that he would get busted and she would end up in jail as an accomplice even though she never smoked the stuff. Mark even did cocaine about the same time with his ex-girlfriend and her friend. The more drugs that he came into contact with, the more pissed off Jenny became.

It was a cool autumn night when the housemates decided to drink. They played board games late into the night, but Mark had to be up for work early, so after swallowing a few pills he bought from his friends, he went on to bed leaving Jared and Jenny drinking together in the living room. Jared encouraged Jenny to keep drinking, as he made comments that she couldn't keep up with him. Jenny accepted the "challenge" as she saw it and drank as much as she could before she passed out on the couch. Jenny awoke the next morning in Jared's bed with her chest burning. She looked down and saw a cigarette burn. Confused; she got up to investigate what the hell was going on. As she stood, her pants fell to the ground and she began to remember bits and pieces of the night before.

Mark was still in bed when she awoke; he had to be up in an hour for work. She saw Jared sitting in the living room talking to his underage girlfriend as if nothing weird was going on. Woozy and scared, she walked across the hall into her bedroom. She laid in bed beside her husband as fuzzy and unorganized visuals from the drunken evening before came to her mind slowly. She remembered being carried off the couch, at the time she assumed it was her loving husband taking her to bed, but she now knew that wasn't the case. At one point, while Jenny was passed out she had a brief moment of sobriety. She opened her eyes to see Jared above her on the bed, but she passed out again and unable to comprehend the situation. Jenny had been raped in her own home by her husband's friend.

The Past

Jenny was no stranger to rape. She had a troubling childhood that few people knew about. At 14, Jenny and her family moved to a small village just south of their hometown. Jenny had to make all new friends, who were unfortunately her downfall. Jenny's sister, Missy, was sent to prison at 16 for armed robbery and was serving a 3-year sentence at Dwight Maximum-security prison for women. Missy's situation made things harder for the whole family. Jenny's mom, Mary, had gotten a new boyfriend, and it seemed like he would be around a while. Mary's boyfriend, Bill, was a good guy, but he and Mary got into fistfights regularly, which had a very bad effect on Jenny and her, little sister, Mandy.

Mary, in an attempt to keep the past from repeating itself, became convinced Jenny was doing the same things Missy was at her age. Mary insisted Jenny was doing dugs, drinking, and having sex, although none of that was true. The fact that her mother was constantly telling her how bad she was and the things that she thought Jenny was doing, made her want to rebel more than ever before. Jenny made friends with "the lake kids", the boys that lived in her neighborhood by the lake. Her sister, Mandy hadn't made any friends yet, and was upset that Jenny wouldn't let her hang out with her friends too. Sometimes Mandy would just sit outside playing in the dirt as she watched her older sister joke and cut-up with her friends. Jenny felt horrible when she noticed, but when she tried to involve her sister, all Mandy did was complain because they were listening to music too loud, or because someone was smoking. One of the boys, Brandon, broke into an abandoned trailer and invited all the kids to come there to hang out. Mary heard gossip about this trailer and called the police, which resulted in Jenny having a juvenile record. Jenny was now a 14-year-old juvenile delinquent. She was put on probation and had to do community service for 18 months.

In those 18 months, Jenny became a "cutter". She self-injured in an attempt to remind herself not to make the same mistakes twice. It was something she did to relieve the pain and anger she felt boiling up inside of her. She began wearing hooded sweaters all of the time to cover the marks she left on her arms. After her mom realized Jenny was cutting, she phoned her probation officer and the school. Jenny had to be checked for fresh cuts on a regular basis at her probation officer's office. She would be ordered to wear only tank tops to her meetings and explain any new scratches. She also had to start seeing a special counselor at school each day for 30 minutes to help her deal with her emotions better.

"Wrong With Me
What is it that I do
To make it all go away
What I do hurts me too
But in a different way
So what can I do
To keep the pain at bay
It gets me dirty looks from you
But there's nothing you will say
Well, what do I do
To get myself free
You never even knew
There was something wrong with me"


Mary moved the kids into town, away from "the lake kids". Jenny was determined to change her life, she made new friends, well, and actually, she only made one friend. Deanna and Jenny were instantly inseparable. Deanna's mom, Brenda, was like a second mom to Jenny. She loved her so much for showing her that different is okay and Brenda was there to listen to Jenny even when everyone else just blew her off as a rebelling teenager. Jenny had a secret crush on Danielle & Deanna's brother, Derek, but she didn't even try for him, he seemed uninterested. Little did she know, "Mom Brenda" had been trying since they moved there to get her and Derek together, but he refused because she was what he called a "freak". She wore dark clothing that didn't show off her body and black nail polish.

Jenny met some of Deanna's friends; one in particular caught her eye, Scotty. Although Scotty and Jenny didn't date, they were friends and he introduced her to his aunt, Becky, who lived in the same small town. Becky had two little girls and offered to pay Jenny to baby-sit on occasion. Jenny and Mary became more like enemies than mother and daughter. During one of their regular arguments, Mary screamed, "Just get the screw out and don't ever come back!" Jenny took the hint and went to Becky's house. Jenny was more like a live-in babysitter than anything while she lived there. She was left almost every day with the two girls, cooking, cleaning, and watching two kids, not what a normal 15 year old would be doing. On top of all that, Jenny was still on probation, doing community service, as well as counseling. Becky was not as responsible as Jenny had thought. She let Jenny drink, smoke, take pills, and have sex.

Jenny and Becky's nephew, Scotty, had finally gotten together. She was in love for the first time. She wrote him letters and poems almost on a daily basis when they couldn't spend time together. When Mary found out about their relationship she refused to allow them to be together because he was 18, and even threatened to call the police. Eventually this caused enough arguments between Mary and Scotty's family that they were forced to break up.

In the midst of all the drama, Becky invited over her boyfriend and his 19-year-old son, Frankie. Becky pushed the two teenagers together as much as she could, and Jenny ended up dating Frankie for a couple days until he raped her. She kept refusing to have unprotected sex with him, but he had no condoms and wasn't willing to listen. He took her shirt off, the shirt Scotty had given her, held her down and raped her. Becky had gone back to her boyfriend's house for the night, and left Jenny alone with Frankie, who was drunk and on pills. She laid in the bed, terrified, grasping tightly to the blankets, and trying not to cry to loud and awake her assailant. When Mary showed up the next week, Becky mentioned to her that Jenny claimed she was raped. Mary asked Jenny if it was true, and when she said yes, all Mary did was hug her daughter and tell her it was going to be okay.

"Forsaken

Trapped
In pain
Abused
Unclean
Fighting harder
makes it worse
screaming louder
doesn't work
Vicious
like a rabid dog
knocked around
thrown and thrashed
holds me down
strips me bare
I'm alone
and no one cares
I give up
too tired to fight
play dead- he'll go away
I just want to live through the night
he doesn't leave
but when he's done
wipes me off
lays beside me
covers himself up
then whispers he loves me
and into sleep drifts off
I lie still
try not to make a noise
cold and bare
mom warned me about boys
afraid to move
afraid to breathe
in my dreams only way to leave
wakes me up
ready for another round
grabs my hair
pushes me down
I'm choking
cant breathe
so afraid
save me
save me please"


Jenny moved in with a friend of the family, Cindy, and continued her probation, community service, and counseling and her grades got better. She turned 16 while she lived there. She went to see her friend, Tom, who she met through Becky, on her birthday. Tom's girlfriend, Samantha, picked her up from Cindy's house and they went to her and Tom's house. He showed her the cake he and his girlfriend baked for her. Then he laid her on the bed and raped her while his girlfriend watched. Jenny spent half of her 16th birthday in in-school detention for missing so much school when she lived with Becky, and the other half of it being raped.

"Forsaken Part Two

Here we go once again
How could he
I thought he was my friend
First so innocent
Joking, flirting
Touching, hugging
Ok stop
Kissing, licking
I said stop
Kicking, hitting
Yell again
Stop it now
I have to go
Grabbing, holding
No more
Pushing, shoving
Holds me down
Jeans come off
Pushes me down
Face in the bed
Very little air
I just want to be dead
A different guy
No different story
I want to die
But how could he?
Licking, sucking
Twice my age
So disgusting
Twice my strength
Grab the sheets
Block out the pain
Grabs my feet
Turns me over
Pushes aside me head
His girl's passed out
Beside the bed
Block it out
Ignore the pain
Pushes hard
No, no more
Doesn't care
Bites my breast
Covers my mouth
Pushes harder
Takes it out
But tries another
Doesn't fit
Please no
Stop it
Crying so hard
Can't breathe
Stops
Throws me to the side
Flings a towel
And my clothes
Says get dressed
And into the kitchen he goes
His girl now gets up
She goes with him
Wraps my birthday cake up
To take home with me
I get dressed
And get off the bed
He says it was the best
And then he said
Happy sixteenth birthday
As he tucks money for smokes
Into my pocket
Real sweet"

Beneath The Stars

It was apparent that Jenny did not have anywhere to go where she would be controlled and taken care of. Because she was still on probation, the lawyers and attorneys were talking about making her a ward of the court and sending her into foster care. They said that she would not be allowed contact with any friends or family while in the court's custody but Jenny didn't want that, so she decided she might give her father a call. She didn't know much about him except what her mother said over the years, which was all very bad. Mary told her kids that their father had molested both Missy and Mandy when they were young, and that was why they didn't know him. Mary moved so many times throughout the years and never told Eddie where they were in hopes of protecting them from him. In 12 years, her family had lived in 6 different cities and dozens of different apartments and trailers.

The few memories Jenny had of her father were short and fuzzy. She remembered dancing with him when she was still in diapers. Her little sister, Mandy, was a newborn, and sat in the car seat near the couch as their mother and father danced with Jenny around the living room listening to Tommy Roe's song, 'Dizzy'. After their mom and dad split up, Jenny remembered her father coming to visit. He brought her a paint set knowing how much she loved art. She also remembered that she felt hatred for her father back then because of all her mother told her about him so she threw the paint set down and ran back to her bedroom until he left. Looking back, Jenny felt horrendous for acting in such an ungrateful way and wished she could go back and fix the situation.

Jenny had 2 weeks before she would be moving in with her father over 2 hours from all she had ever known as home and she spent the time staying with her older sister, Missy. It was Herrinfesta time, a weekend long fair held every year to celebrate the town's Italian heritage. Jenny couldn't miss that! One day, Missy sent Jenny across the street to get snow cones at Tropical Sno. As she walked across the street, she recognized someone. As she got closer she could see plain as day, it was Mark Shore! She got her snow cone and walked toward him. Once he realized it was Jenny he headed toward her with arms outstretched, but wasn't greeted with a hug. Instead, Jenny playfully threw some of her snow cone right onto his neck and as he started to complain about it, Jenny walked up to him and licked it off! They laughed, hugged, and started catching up. Over the next 2 weeks, Mark and Jenny were constantly by each other's side. Since the young love birds were practically inseparable, they decided to try a long distance relationship once she moved to her dad's. Jenny and Mark talked on the phone and internet for hours every day. His parents came to pick her up every other weekend to stay with them. Jenny had fallen deeply in love.

"Beneath the Stars"

"Meet me beneath the stars tonight
Although you're far away
In my dreams I'll hold you tight
As I wish I could everyday
Escape to my thoughts
Run away from here
In my dreams I am lost
Just wishing you were near
But keep in mind
As you sleep
We'll be spending time
And your love, I'll keep
Beneath the stars, in our dreams."


Jenny and her father got along pretty good aside from his constant lecturing. The one thing that bothered Jenny was that he hugged her and touched her shoulder sometimes. Although he meant nothing by it, Jenny still wasn't dealing very well with the rapes or with the stories about her father's past. Her main problem while living there was with her step mom, whom she loved dearly, but they just didn't communicate very well. Once again, the courts stepped in and said that if Jenny didn't work it out with her father she would go into foster care, in which she would not be allowed to communicate with her friends or family until she turned 18. Jenny and Mark were already talking about marriage anyway, so when this came up, they decided it was right. He gave Jenny her birthday present, an engagement ring. It was gold with an orange stone, Jenny's favorite color. She was so excited that she showed off her ring as often as she could. Mark came up for Jenny's junior prom. Jenny felt horrible; she had come down with a bad cold the day before her prom, which was on Valentine's Day. As they sat at the dance, Mark slid a candy heart over to Jenny. It said "Marry Me". Jenny laughed it off, until he said, "Really, will you?" It was official, they were getting married.

Jenny showed off her engagement ring everywhere she could. She told all her friends at school, showing off her ring and photos. She grinned ear to ear whenever anyone asked about her approaching wedding day. She joked that since they had no money, the wedding reception would be held at McDonald's and everyone could order off of the dollar menu! She didn't invite any friends and only invited immediate family. She couldn't afford a dress and Mark couldn't afford a tuxedo, so they planned to make do with the dressiest clothes they had.

Silhouette

Jenny told her husband what happened with Jared, expecting him to kick his "friend" out immediately and hold her as she cried, but that didn't happen. Mark said he would talk to Jared about it when the time was right, but he didn't want to cause a big scene about it. Jenny was furious that her husband wouldn't take up for her, so she left.

Jenny left for her Aunt Molly's house an hour away, where her mom was already staying. Jenny and Mary, as well as Mary's other daughters, were always welcomed with open arms. "Family takes care of Family" was the motto. Jenny and her younger cousin, Sabrina, spent hours a day walking around town and talking. She hadn't been around her cousins in years and it took her a little while to realize her cousins grew up, just like she did. Her other cousin, Shain, spent a lot of time trying to comfort her about her husband back home. He may have never been married, but a lot of what he said was strangely insightful. Aunt Molly was like a second mother to Jenny, and had even helped raise her and her sisters when they were younger. Good ole Uncle Vic was always around somewhere, and couldn't get over how grown up Jenny was then.

More than a month after Jenny went to her aunt's house, her husband finally has Jared move out, but Mark was still friends with him! Jenny couldn't believe it, but she just held in her frustration and moved on with her life. Mark and Jenny had been intimate with no protection for 9 months, but had yet to see a positive pregnancy test. Jenny desperately wanted a baby. Deep inside she wanted a child to make up for the attention Mark would not give her. Many times Jenny would start crying at the sight of a baby on TV. This was around the same time Jenny's older sister, Missy, who already had one little boy, was pregnant with her second. Missy invited Jenny over to see the baby's room, and all Jenny could do was cry when she walked in. She felt horrible for ruining her sister's special occasion, but she just could not hold it in. Now that Mark and Jenny had a goal, they were intimate much more often, and that in turn made the fights occur less often. Late at night on November 5th, Jenny received a frantic phone call from Missy telling her to get to the hospital. It was time. As Jenny peered into the nursery, once again she couldn't hold in the tears. Many of those tears were from jealousy. "How could one person, no better or worse than me, have not one, but two babies and here I am, with none?"

The Fight

Jenny's little sister, Mandy, was now a teenager, almost an adult, but there were times that she still needed her bigger sister to help her out. One night, Mandy went with Jenny, Mark, and some friends to play pool at the local bowling alley. Roxy, Mark's ex-girlfriend, didn't like Jenny at all. According to Mandy, she had said that she thought she should've been the one to marry Mark and that Jenny was too much of a whore to be with him. Roxy showed up at the bowling alley and stood outside talking to her friends. As Jenny and Mark went home, Roxy and her friends went inside and Mandy said they began harassing her. Jenny was irate when she got the phone call from her baby sister, crying her little eyes out, telling her that Roxy and her friends tried to jump her as soon as they left. Jenny threw her shoes and jacket on, and went straight out of the door.

Mark was running behind her telling her to calm down because he didn't have the money to bail her out of jail. Jenny kept telling her husband that she had no intention to start a fight, but that she simply wanted to end the argument between Roxy and Mandy. Steve was one of Mark and Jenny's best friends, but he was also a friend of Roxy's. Jenny sent him down the block to Roxy's apartment and had him ask her to come outside and talk to her. She really did just want to talk. She wanted to calmly discuss what all the arguing was about and find out why she had a problem with Mandy.

As Roxy walked out, she had all of her friends surround Jenny. "What's going on with you and Mandy? What's the problem?" Jenny asked calmly. "You're just a fucking whore, you dirty skank!" Roxy belted out. Confused, Jenny asked her question again only to be answered with the same type of derogatory comment completely unrelated to the subject at hand. "I know you're cheating on him and I hope he comes home one day and finds you in bed with another guy, you stupid slut!" she screeched to Jenny. At this point, it's assumed that no one has the same story as to what happened. Someone mixed up in this whole mess wasn't telling the whole truth, and now, everyone was mad about things that might not have even been true.

"Okay, me and Mark have nothing to do with this; all I'm here to talk about is Mandy." Replied Jenny, a little more irritated than before. Roxy retorted with another pointless insult to which Jenny said, "You know what, you're just a jealous bitch, so back off and find your own damn man!" "I don't need your man, I got my own man!" Roxy yelled back. "Whatever, you're just a jealous, bitch!" Jenny yelled. At that point Roxy pushed Jenny to the ground, grabbed her jacket hood, and began to punch her repeatedly in the back of the neck. Jenny couldn't even feel her punches at this point; her anger had numbed her completely. Because of the way Roxy was holding her hood, Jenny couldn't raise her right arm. So, Jenny got her footing, held Roxy's necklace, and punched her in the face as hard as she could. Then Mark pulled her off of Roxy and walked her back home as they heard the sirens heading their way.

When the cops arrived, Jenny was being reprimanded by them, but she didn't understand why. She hadn't gone there to fight, she simply wanted to talk, but they said that because Roxy was underage, and Jenny went to her apartment, it was her fault. "And from the looks of her face, and looking at you, you don't seem to be hurt at all, while she's sitting down there with a busted up face." said one cop. Jenny got a little smile, but stopped it when she saw the looks on the cops' faces. It must have been Jenny's wedding ring that caused most of the damage.

Later that evening, someone came to the door saying that Trenton was outside and wanted to talk to Mark. Mark and Steve were in the other room listening to music, so Jenny threw her shoes back on and went straight out the door again. No one was going to mess with her man and that's all there was to it. Missy and Mandy were there to check on Jenny, so when Jenny ran out of the door, they ran to tell Mark what was happening. As Jenny ran out of the door, she was met halfway through the yard with a group of around 15 underage boys with makeshift weapons. She hadn't noticed at first, though, so her first instinct was to take out the person in front of the group with a "ball twist". As her hand headed in the direction, she planned her impact she saw the pipe in the air. She quickly drew her arm back and stood in front of them.

"You have no reason to be here, now get out of my yard now" Jenny stated firmly. The group began yelling obscenities in general and backed her up to her front door. Mark had finally appeared at the door behind her and he came outside and stood behind his wife, who stood in front of the mass of armed pre-teen boys. One boy began hitting Jenny with his crutch, but she just looked down at him and laughed. Trenton, who stood directly in front of Jenny, raised a pipe in the air and swung it toward Mark, behind Jenny. She grabbed the pipe mid-air and told him "Get the hell away from my husband before I beat the living hell out of you, boy!" Mark got nervous and finally realized he should get his wife to safety. As he turned his back to let Jenny inside the house, Jenny heard glass shatter and saw small dark pieces of…something…flying around her.

Someone slammed the door shut and Mark ran to the bathroom. Jenny still wasn't sure what had just happened, but instinctively grabbed a metal bat, and headed out the door again. Luckily, Mandy jumped in front of her and blocked her from going back out there. Mark emerged from the bathroom with a washcloth on his head and blood dripping down his face. He was on the phone with the cops requesting an ambulance and officers to come. It was a beer bottle that had busted against Mark's head when he turned his back. Jenny just thought that if Mark had only stayed inside and let her handle it, none of this would've happened. One person said that someone was telling the group of guys that Mark was the one that messed Roxy's face up, so they wanted revenge, but later down the road, word came that Mark was attacked because he threatened one of the guys. After everything calmed down, Mandy graduated high school and never had to be around Roxy again. Trenton and his family are to this day paying restitution fees for Mark's medical bills from getting 3 staples in his head.

The Test

Still without child, Mark and Jenny had given up most, but not all hope. They often had Missy's boys over to stay the night, but of course, it was not the same as having one of their own. Jenny became convinced it was impossible for them to conceive a child together. She mostly blamed it on Mark's constant marijuana usage, which causes low sperm counts. Jenny charted and researched all that she could to no avail in creating life, or so she thought.

A week before Valentine's Day, Jenny became violently sick. She couldn't eat or drink anything without getting sick to her stomach. She screamed that she was going to die from food poisoning. On their way to Missy's for a movie night, Mark and Jenny stopped off at the grocery store for some popcorn. With Jenny still sick, they decided to go ahead and buy yet another pregnancy test, assuming it would be negative, but praying just once it would read positive. Missy and her husband Ronnie popped the popcorn, Mark put the movie in, and Jenny went to take her test. She bought some dill pickle flavor chips at the store and had yet to put them down since they walked out of the grocery store. Jenny placed the test on the kitchen table, and sat down with her chips to watch the movie.

Mark stood up and eagerly awaited the test result. In some part of his mind, he somehow knew this test would be different. As Jenny munched on her chips, Mark said, "Honey, come here". "Why?" she asked. He urged her to get up and come to the table, maybe it was the hormones or her stubbornness, but she refused, she was comfortable and nothing was going to get her off that couch! "Honey, you're pregnant!" Mark belted out. A chip fell out of Jenny's mouth as she went into some form of shock. "What?!" Mark sat down next to his pregnant wife and just held her hand. Missy had to break the stunned silence and make fun of Jenny's choice in chip flavor!

They both sat there with the same thought running through their minds, simply:

"We're having a baby!".

The Pregnancy

The first doctor visit was unbelievable. They could finally see evidence of something they thought impossible, a child of their own. Their eyes watered up as they listened to their baby's heartbeat, but they both grinned from ear to ear when they saw the tiny little being on the ultrasound monitor. Jenny was pregnant for almost 2 months before she even knew it. She had apparently conceived in the week between her 18th birthday and Christmas. "The most wonderful gift I could ever ask for", she thought.

Mark and Jenny went in for the ultrasound in which they were going to find out their baby's gender. Mark had to be out of the room at first, but when he came back in, the nurse was able to tell them. She let them try to guess before she told them and they guessed it was a girl, but were wrong. They were having a baby boy! The young couple needed to decide on a name for this wonderful baby boy. Jenny grabbed a phone book, and together they went through looking at all the names, writing down the ones they liked. They ended up with a list of about 15 names. The baby's middle name had already been decided, Randell, after Mark's favorite uncle. Now the next task was to pair it with a first name. Zachary, perfect. Zachary, to be remembered by God in Hebrew.

The pregnancy was fine, everything according to schedule until she hit 8 months. On a regular visit, Jenny's doctor said that the baby hadn't been growing and that she was becoming worried. Therefore, the doctor sent Jenny over for an ultrasound to check all the baby's measurements.

Mark was at work that day, so his mom, Sharon, had come with her. Jenny asked Sharon to please call Mark and tell him something was wrong and he needed to leave work to be there with her. As the nurse did the ultrasound, no one was allowed to come into the room. Jenny was terrified that her baby was dead, and she had no one in the room to calm and comfort her. Mark had arrived and was waiting with his mother in the waiting room. He was so irritated that no one would allow him to enter the room where his wife was, he had already gotten into a verbal argument with at least one doctor by the time Jenny emerged from the ultrasound room. She walked over to her husband and handed him the ultrasound photos as she hugged him tightly.

The baby, Zachary, was fine; he was just small for his gestational age. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only odd thing. Apparently, Jenny's water was leaking out slowly, and her water was at 4.5 instead of 5. This had the doctors immensely worried. Jenny's doctor ordered her to come back to the hospital at 8 am the next morning for a follow up ultrasound and non-stress test. Mark and Jenny returned home to begin making plans. Jenny was in hysterics, terrified she would lose her precious child.

Mark did everything imaginable to make things easier on his wife. He made the phone calls to their immediate families to report the news. Jenny's older sister, Missy, made all of the phone calls to cancel the baby shower. Everyone that was invited became very frightened by that and called to check on Jenny, and although she appreciated everyone's concern, it was making things worse for her. Every time the phone rang, Jenny started crying before picking up, knowing they would remind her of how terrifying the situation was. That night, Mark took Jenny out to play pool. They both needed a break and needed to take their minds off the baby.

The Birth

Jenny wrote out everything about Zachary's birth as a keepsake. It read:

"We went to the Hospital to do another sonogram and another non-stress test. During the sonogram, the tech was very quiet and seemed worried. She called in another tech to verify something, but wouldn't tell us what. She walked me up to the room for the non-stress test. We got into the room and started the non-stress test. We saw that his heart rate was dropping way too much and way too fast. In came a bunch of doctors and nurses and the person that gives you the spinal.

They made me put on an oxygen mask and swallow some nasty medicine. They Got the IV ready and made me sign a paper for something. I wasn't really sure what was going on. I was Scared! It still makes me cry to think about his birth. They threw some scrubs at Mark, told him to get them on and fast. Then they pushed me out of the room and just left Mark- As they rushed me to the operating room. I don't think I have ever been so terrified in my entire life. My entire existence was within this moment.

They told me as all this was happening that I had no amniotic fluid left, and that Zach's heart rate was dropping too much and he was in fetal distress. They had to do an emergency C-section right then or he would die. They had tried to airlift me to St. Louis to deliver, but the weather there was too bad and they didn't want to wait for an ambulance. They put me on the operating table, made me sit straight up and bend my head down, with my shoulders straight so they could do the spinal. Mark still wasn't there.

I started crying so hard, begging for Mark. "I want my husband, please, where's my husband?" They said he could not be in there until I was prepped for surgery. They stuck a needle in my spine- numbing almost my whole body- chest and down. They strapped my arms down to the table and put a curtain in front of me. Mark finally came in. I looked at him and asked, "What are they doing to me?" He said, "I can't tell you that, baby. It's going to be okay." That's when I started shaking even more than I had been since all the doctors bombarded me in the room.

As soon as Zach came out, the entire room fell deadly silent. I didn't notice at first, I was concentrating on why I didn't hear my son crying. He finally made a little whimper, not even a real cry. I looked at Mark, he looked at me, and of course, I cried! My baby is alive! I'm crying now, as I write this! The doctor finally came over to my side of that damn sheet.

He asked us, "Did you know about the problems?" One doctor answered," No, we didn't know anything." My world kind of just stopped. Like God hit the pause button. He continued to tell us what was wrong, "Your son was born with cleft lip and palate, and he is missing his right arm." --so I am thinking…"Okay- cleft lip- that's no big, they have those cute little kids on Montel all the time!... what.. wait.. huh? No right arm? Is that for real? I don't get it.. how could it.. but why... Is this real? I feel like I'm in a lifetime movie…" Then they wrapped Zachary in a blanket, brought him over to Mark. They showed Mark what he looked like, and let him leave just that second to go with Zach to the nursery.

I didn't get to see him or touch him. That hurts so bad, you have no idea. I don't think I'll ever get over that.

Next, I was wheeled into the recovery room- Mark came in periodically to tell me how cute our little boy was, that he was okay, and what family had came to see him. The clergy guy came in.. I have no idea what he was saying to me, I wasn't listening. I was so cold, they had to keep bringing in tons of blankets from the dryer to wrap all around me.

By the time Mark came back down again, he said I looked like an Eskimo! Finally, when I could wiggle my toes, they wheeled me upstairs- right past the nursery where my baby was. Right past it. I got to my room- The first to come in was my older sister, Missy. I'll never forget that. She came in and her first words were.. "Hi, Honey, Do you want me to call Montel?" She made me smile, and I love her so much- she probably doesn't even remember that! But, I do. I started to laugh, but it hurt so badly.

Next came everyone else, my mom, my little sister, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. But not my son. My entire family saw my son- touched my son and took pictures of my son, before I got to do any of that. I am his mother. And I was the last one to see or touch him. You don't get to re-do your child's birth. 5 hours after he was born, they brought him in to see me. Only for about half of a minute before they drove him by ambulance to St. Louis.

Just before they took him from me, my little sister, Mandy, grabbed a disposable camera out of my purse. It only had one picture left on it, and she took a picture of me and my son. She'll never know how much that means to me! I couldn't do anything but cry while I held my tiny baby. They took him away and took him to St. Louis. Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

Mark and I stayed in the hospital for 2 extra days to make sure I had no complications from the C-section. I just couldn't stop myself from constantly telling Mark how much I truly loved him. Over and over, it's all I could say. I couldn't bear to say that I'm afraid our son will die, or that I'm scared to raise a baby with so many problems. Mark got mad at me for it. He told me that "I love you" was getting on his nerves and asked me to please stop it. What happened to my husband? I wish I knew where exactly things changed.

My baby boy was born 5 weeks premature, weighing 3 lbs. 12.5 oz., measuring 18 in. long, with a severe complete bilateral cleft lip and palate, congenital absence of the right arm, and a heart murmur. After he went to St. Louis, I was bombarded with program directors for special needs kids.

There I was lying in a hospital bed, doped up on morphine and in horrendous pain, and people were trying to have serious conversations with me! I couldn't tell you who any of them were, what programs they represented, or what the hell I said to them, but it all worked out I guess."

New Life

Tiny Zachary stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardinal Glennon for the first 2 weeks of his life. His mommy and daddy were at his side as often as the nurses let them be, but mommy held him for every moment she could. Mark and Jenny got a kind of 'crash course' on pediatrics once they got to St. Louis. They spent half an hour every 3 hours learning how to feed their special baby boy. Jenny changed every single diaper, every outfit her little boy spit up on, and even pumped her breast milk every 3 hours so she could bottle feed Zach her breast milk.

After many CT scans, blood tests, and puke baths, the brand new family faced another hurdle. At almost 2 weeks old the doctors diagnosed Zachary with hydrocephalus, which is when spinal fluid accumulates and builds pressure against the brain. Jenny's 3 pound baby boy was sent in for his first brain surgery at 2 weeks old. The doctors explained what they were going to do using pictures and books about the temporary VP shunt they were going to put inside her baby's head. Mark stood against the wall and sobbed so loud that all the nurses on the floor looked to see what was going on. They had hoped their newborn would be going home that week, but instead he was going to have brain surgery.

After they placed the tube in his head, the hospital sent Zachary home with his parents. Mark and Jenny were home for almost 2 weeks when they finally got out of the house. Jenny was terrified to be away from her son, but she knew she needed time away, so she let his grandma baby sit. The new parents went to see the concert for Solovus' CD release party where they sang Jenny's favorite song, "That's Okay", and even dedicated it to her and her new family.

After the show, Mark and Jenny went to pick up Zachary. As Jenny leaned down to put his shirt on him, she saw that Zachary had liquid coming from the stitches in his head. "Mom, he's leaking!" Jenny yelled to her mother-in-law. "No, he just peed all over the place, it's probably just pee." she answered. "No, mom, it's coming out of his head right now! The stitches are leaking spinal fluid!" Jenny was frantic. Mark did as she asked and called Cardinal Glennon to ask what to do. After 5 minutes, the whole family, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and Zach, were back on the road.

Once they got to the emergency room in St. Louis, Zach went in for another CT scan. The attending neurosurgeon stitched his head back up and told the parents to wait until morning to talk to his doctor. The next morning Zachary was sent in for a second brain surgery. This time he was one month old and the VP shunt would be permanent, going from his head and coiling in his stomach lining.

One day Mark and Jenny got a letter in the mail from the hospital. The genetics team of doctors had found something in Zach's blood and requested that they have blood drawn and tested as well. Once the results came back, they knew that all 3 of them had a form of MTHFR. It was a DNA gene mutation that had something to do with folic acid. Mark was the carrier of the gene, having 1 copy of a mutation, Jenny had 2 copies of a different mutation, and Zach had one of each.

Jenny and Zachary both began taking vitamin supplements every day to avoid any of the adverse effects the disorder could cause, including stroke, heart problems, and blood clots. Mark's form of the disorder had no effect on his health, but his doctor told him it is still a good idea to take aspirin once a day any way.

Changes

Tiny Zachary stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardinal Glennon for the first 2 weeks of his life. His mommy and daddy were at his side as often as the nurses let them be, but mommy held him for every moment she could. Mark and Jenny got a kind of 'crash course' on pediatrics once they got to St. Louis. They spent half an hour every 3 hours learning how to feed their special baby boy. Jenny changed every single diaper, every outfit her little boy spit up on, and even pumped her breast milk every 3 hours so she could bottle feed Zach her breast milk.

After many CT scans, blood tests, and puke baths, the brand new family faced another hurdle. At almost 2 weeks old the doctors diagnosed Zachary with hydrocephalus, which is when spinal fluid accumulates and builds pressure against the brain. Jenny's 3 pound baby boy was sent in for his first brain surgery at 2 weeks old. The doctors explained what they were going to do using pictures and books about the temporary VP shunt they were going to put inside her baby's head. Mark stood against the wall and sobbed so loud that all the nurses on the floor looked to see what was going on. They had hoped their newborn would be going home that week, but instead he was going to have brain surgery.

After they placed the tube in his head, the hospital sent Zachary home with his parents. Mark and Jenny were home for almost 2 weeks when they finally got out of the house. Jenny was terrified to be away from her son, but she knew she needed time away, so she let his grandma baby sit. The new parents went to see the concert for Solovus' CD release party where they sang Jenny's favorite song, "That's Okay", and even dedicated it to her and her new family.

After the show, Mark and Jenny went to pick up Zachary. As Jenny leaned down to put his shirt on him, she saw that Zachary had liquid coming from the stitches in his head. "Mom, he's leaking!" Jenny yelled to her mother-in-law. "No, he just peed all over the place, it's probably just pee." she answered. "No, mom, it's coming out of his head right now! The stitches are leaking spinal fluid!" Jenny was frantic. Mark did as she asked and called Cardinal Glennon to ask what to do. After 5 minutes, the whole family, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and Zach, were back on the road.

Once they got to the emergency room in St. Louis, Zach went in for another CT scan. The attending neurosurgeon stitched his head back up and told the parents to wait until morning to talk to his doctor. The next morning Zachary was sent in for a second brain surgery. This time he was one month old and the VP shunt would be permanent, going from his head and coiling in his stomach lining.

One day Mark and Jenny got a letter in the mail from the hospital. The genetics team of doctors had found something in Zach's blood and requested that they have blood drawn and tested as well. Once the results came back, they knew that all 3 of them had a form of MTHFR. It was a DNA gene mutation that had something to do with folic acid. Mark was the carrier of the gene, having 1 copy of a mutation, Jenny had 2 copies of a different mutation, and Zach had one of each.

Jenny and Zachary both began taking vitamin supplements every day to avoid any of the adverse effects the disorder could cause, including stroke, heart problems, and blood clots. Mark's form of the disorder had no effect on his health, but his doctor told him it is still a good idea to take aspirin once a day any way.

Aunt Sandy

Jenny's Aunt Sandy always made her family's thanksgiving. Jenny looked forward to it every year when Aunt Sandy would hide away a piece of pumpkin pie just to make sure she would get some. It was about that time again, and Jenny couldn't wait to see everyone. None of her family from out of town had seen Zachary yet, so Jenny couldn't wait to show off her special baby boy.

She knew her Aunt Sandy would have a special place in her heart for her baby boy. She just knew they would be best friends as he got older and she couldn't wait for him to get to know her and love her as much as Jenny did. Just before thanksgiving, Jenny got a phone call. Aunt Sandy was sick again. She had a breast removed before when she won her battle with cancer. Jenny dreaded those phone calls, nothing good ever followed them. She took her son, husband, mom, and sisters to the hospital to see Aunt Sandy. She was barely able to breathe without the oxygen mask, but she still managed to ask if they were all coming down for thanksgiving. Her Aunt Sandy was too sick to have visitors for extended periods of time, so Jenny wasn't able to take Zachary in to meet her. Jenny put some photos of her son in the room, and closed the door so she could rest.

Almost exactly a week later, Jenny got another phone call. "Mom's dead. Mom's dead." Jenny's cousin Shelly sobbed on the phone before quickly hanging up. Jenny didn't cry. She refused. She had to be strong. Mark looked at her, saw the look, and knew. The same look she had on her face just 6 months ago. She got the same phone call from her Aunt Sandy about her Pa-Pa. Mark knew, but he didn't know what to do. He tried to hold her and let her cry, but she couldn't. She had to make the phone calls. She had to be strong and hold it together.

"Mom?" Jenny asked on the phone. "Yeah, baby, what's going on?" Mary asked assuming Jenny just wanted to chat. "Mom, Aunt Sandy's gone, mom" Jenny tried not to cry, but she couldn't hold it in once she heard her mother break into tears. Jenny made the other 2 calls she had to make to her sisters before she laid back into bed and cried herself back to sleep. Jenny let the wake and funeral become a blur. Her husband took the wheel of her life and handled everything for her. Jenny hated God with every part of her soul. He was torturing her.

Turmoil

Jenny got a job with her sister, Missy, doing janitorial work. She absolutely loved her job. Her boss was unbelievable! Sherri was so understanding and sweet, but still firm and dominant. Jenny got pretty good pay and was able to adjust her work schedule to work around Zachary's doctor schedule. She asked her boss to consider hiring her husband, Mark, and he got the job. Mark only worked there for about a month before he was shown on camera skimping on his work duties. When confronted, Mark blew up. He stormed into the office screaming at Sherri, but left before the cops arrived. Jenny wasn't scheduled for work at all after that.

Several months later, Jenny got a job witnessing a local burger joint. She was nervous; anxiety isn't a good thing to have when you're going to be around people every minute of the day. Once again, she suggested to her boss to give her husband a chance, but after his very first day, he was fired. The boss said that he was too cocky. He made comments about being able to run the whole restaurant by himself.

Jenny was terrified her precious little boy would get sick if she took him out into the weather too often, so she didn't take him out very often until it started warming up. She got her first glimpse into the deep dark side of the human heart. At the mall one day a little girl walked by Jenny and Zachary. She looked at the special little boy and in disgust remarked, "Ewww, Mommy look at that!" Jenny was devastated. How could she subject her child to hearing such cruel things just by going shopping?

Later that day in the food court, a woman stared at her son again. The woman knew the difference between right and wrong, unlike the little girl. The woman stared at Zachary as she passed and without even thinking about the fact that his mother stood right there, she gasped and walked away faster. How could people be so cold hearted?

On June 4th the phone rang again. Another death in Jenny's family. Her cousin, Johnny and his fiancé, Suprene were expecting a baby boy, but he was stillborn at 7 months. Jenny believed that this baby was going to bring the family back together since Aunt Sandy was gone, but now there wasn't a chance for that. Once again, the family got in the car and went to Rose Hill Cemetery to put another family member in the ground. Jenny and Mark barely knew each other at this point. He was gone all night every night getting high with his friends as Jenny sat at home with the baby. She began to resent him for it, for everything.

Eventually, Jenny sat down with her husband for a talk. She explained to him that when the day came that they got a divorce she wanted things to end smoothly. Mark agreed and together they made decisions on how to handle a divorce. Now that they had a plan for the worst, Jenny wanted to make a plan for the better. She talked with Mark as often as she could about anything at all. She didn't complain about him being out with his friends and she even tried to learn how to play his x-box.

Zachary's first cleft surgery was in May. Mark held their son as they walked 2 blocks from the Ronald McDonald House to Cardinal Glennon. Little Zach looked up at the huge hospital as if he knew what was going to happen. Mark took their things to the hospital room as Jenny took Zach to be checked in. The nurse weighed and measured him. As she started to take his blood pressure, she stopped and asked to do it on his other arm. As she reached for Zach's right arm, Jenny said "He doesn't have one" in a chuckle.

The nurse was obviously embarrassed, but Jenny assured her it was okay and she even thought it was funny. Jenny was terrified and her only thought was that they were going to take away her baby's beautiful special smile. She loved his smile and wasn't ready for such a big change, but knew that they had to do it. As she put his favorite heartbeat bear in his hospital crib she began to tear up, but held it in. "There's no reason to cry. It has to be done. Be strong." She repeated to herself.

The waiting game began. Mark, Jenny, and Mark's parents sat in the Same Day Surgery Waiting Room with the other parents for hours. Constantly looking at the clock, trying to get a nap, or running down to the gift shop to buy him toys for when he would feel better. Jenny sat staring at the clock for the first couple hours and then laid her head on the table and just begged God to let the surgery go smoothly.

The pager went off alerting them to meet the surgeon at the operating room doors for an update. Jenny ran as fast as she could down the halls. The doctor told them that the surgery went wonderfully and their baby would be out of the recovery room and into their arms within an hour. They all breathed a sigh of relief they had been holding in for hours. As they wheeled Zachary out of the operating room. Jenny held in the tears. She saw her child lying in the crib with blood dripping out of his swollen and bruised mouth. He looked up at her in confusion. Jenny didn't cry until they got to the hospital room and she picked up her son. He let out a cry of pain as she moved him and as soon as she heard it, she let out her cries as well. She sat in a rocking chair with her son and bawled like a baby.


Zachary was turning one year old August 24th and Jenny couldn't wait! She began making plans for his party months in advance and invited every single family member from both sides of their family. She wanted every thing to be perfect. Just a month before his birthday, she got a letter from the hospital. Zachary's second cleft surgery was scheduled just one week before his first birthday. Jenny was upset, but she knew she could adapt to the situation and move on. So, Jenny moved his party up 2 weeks so that her son could enjoy his birthday cake at his party like he should. She had been getting more and more irritated with Mark's mom, Sheila, every day by then.

One day at the cleft clinic at the hospital, a commercial came on the TV advertising action toys that fought and shot guns. "Our baby isn't going to play with those kinds of toys." Sheila said casually. Jenny was irritated at the fact that Sheila seemed to think that she had given birth instead of Jenny. Later on that day, a cartoon came on that had monsters and a grim reaper on it. "Zachary isn't allowed to watch this show; it's not good for him." Sheila mentioned firmly. "He happens to like this show and he watches it at home." Jenny retorted. "Well, not at my house he won't." Zachary's 1st birthday party went well for the most part, until Sheila stepped in and gave him his birthday cake without telling Jenny.

Jenny was furious! "How dare she let him have his cake before I could sing him happy birthday!" Jenny fumed. She went behind a wall and sobbed. This was Zachary's one and only 1st birthday and she felt like it was ruined. Sheila and Jenny were mad at each other through the entire rest of the birthday party and Jenny decided to not talk about the party ever again.

The second cleft surgery went well, with the exception that Zachary was in much more pain than the first time. This surgery the doctor had done work on all of his mouth and nose. Every time little Zach moved his face even the tiniest bit, he screamed in pain. Jenny wished she could take the pain away, but the best she could do was give him Tylenol with codeine.

After the scabs began to come off, Mark and Jenny finally got a glimpse of what their little boy was going to look like. Jenny stopped feeling so bad about the changes and decided she should be excited about it. She hung up new pictures of her son right next to the older ones and smiled.

Mark was still selling weed out of their home after Zachary was born and Jenny couldn't take it anymore so she refused to allow it any longer. Of course, this didn't stop him and she found bags of it hidden around the house on several occasions. They still fought in a regular basis about his drug use because he claimed that marijuana was not a drug, it was a plant. Jenny still thought that was a cheap excuse to use drugs.

Brenda

It was October when she lost another family member. Mark woke Jenny up that morning and told her it was important and she needed to get out of bed right then. "Not again. Someone died" she thought. Jenny was right. "Momma Brenda passed away this morning, honey." Mark told his wife. He didn't want to tell her. Even he was starting to lose count of how many people had died in Jenny's life. "What? Momma's gone?" Jenny asked with tears in her eyes.

As she looked to Mark her eyes looked like a child's eyes, she was crushed, and Mark couldn't do anything about it. All Jenny could do was think about the past couple of weeks. Jenny had been taking Zachary to see Brenda every day.

Momma Brenda loved watching Zach, so Danielle and Jenny found reasons to get out and go somewhere, mainly so they could have fun, but so that Momma could have her alone time with her grandbabies. "You're so strong, and baby girl, I admire you for it." Momma said to Jenny as she held Zachary close to her chest. "I love you sweetie, you're like a daughter to me, and no matter what you need, I'm here, just ask." Momma knew how hard it was to go through countless surgeries and to endure the heartache that you could not take the pain away from your precious baby boy. In the end, she just knew. Momma always knew everything.

Mom Brenda was gone, and Jenny wasn't sure if it was her place to intrude on the family during their grieving process. Jenny made dinner for her dear sister, Deanna, and took it to her. As she walked into the yard, she could see the whole family outside consoling each other. She walked to Derek and just held him as he cried in her arms. She kissed him on his forehead and told him she loved him before she walked over to Danielle. The baby of the family was doing better than Derek was, but she was still hurting very badly. As Jenny hugged and kissed her sisters and Derek, she began the mom duties. She cleaned the house, gave everyone dinner, and changed and fed the baby. Once she got home that night she let it out. She laid on her bed once again and cried herself to sleep.

Frail Marriage

Jenny periodically cleaned out files on their computer. Clearing out old files, deleting broken links, and cleaning out the favorites list. She stumbled across his chat logs and became furious. As she read the conversations between her husband and several underage girls, she couldn't believe it was the same man. "What happened to the man I married?" she thought.

Was she not enough to satisfy him? Why would he go without having sex with her, but look at the smut she found on their computer? Her mind was going in circles trying to understand, but in the end, she just couldn't understand.

When Jenny brought it up to Mark, she tried to stay very calm and understanding. She talked with him about it and he claimed to be addicted to internet porn, chatting with young girls, and cyber-sex. Jenny tried to convince her husband to see a specialist about it, but he refused and promised to never do it again. Mark kept his word, for a while.

The next time she caught him "misbehaving" on the internet, she wasn't as calm as she was before. "If you want them and not me, then go for it, get out and go!" she cried out at her husband. She kept blaming herself. She thought, "I could've lost weight faster." or "I should've played more video games with him.", but deep down she knew she wasn't to blame. She had done her best, but it wasn't working.

She entered into a radio contest. The prize was a $3,500 gift certificate for the local plastic surgeon that could be used for anything. Jenny desperately wanted to feel beautiful again. Her husband hadn't made her feel attractive in so long that she couldn't even recall the last time he told her she looked good. Jenny won the contest, but she still believes it was just because they felt bad for her disabled baby, not because she deserved it. Either way, Jenny was excited. She began getting regular facial treatments for her occasional acne and started down the road to being happy with herself again.





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