My Husband, the Unexpected Family Man

When I met my husband, Mike, he was a single man. Divorced for a few years without children, it was just two Senegal parrots, two old cats and Mike in a three-bedroom house. Although he wasn’t unhappy, he yearned to have a family some day. Have you heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for”? Well, this advice certainly turned out to be true for Mike—in a BIG way! After meeting me on a blind date, I’m sure he had no premonition that he would soon grow from a household of one adult to a family of six (with two more cats thrown into the mix)!

Yes, it happened quickly, but it wasn’t quite as simple as it seems…. The first two children were easy. Products of my previous marriage, they were eleven and fourteen when I married Mike. I had raised them as a single mother almost all of their lives, so after being unmarried for such a long time, I figured my family was complete. Although I was open to having more children some day if the situation were right, I had begun to console myself with the knowledge that I already had two healthy boys, and I had been blessed enough. When I got to know Mike, I found out there were further barriers to having more children, so my fate seemed sealed.

You see, my husband has a genetic condition where part of one chromosome is translocated to another chromosome. Because all of my husband’s genetic material is present (just rearranged), he has no disability, but since a man only contributes half of his DNA to a baby (the mother contributes the other half), Mike had a fifty-percent chance of contributing genetically defective material to a child, who would most likely die. Indeed, my husband’s former wife had suffered several miscarriages because of his condition, two heartbreakingly in the fifth month of pregnancy.

Therefore, my husband and I didn’t have any expectations for adding to our family. My children called him “Dad,” and our family was considered complete. We weren’t trying to have more children and continued to use birth control. So imagine our shock when we found out that I was pregnant!

When we got the news, we were excited—but scared. After all, there was a good chance the baby would die, and a smaller chance that it would survive, but with severe disabilities. We were also both of “advanced maternal age” (nearing forty), which meant that the chance for genetic problems was higher.

We showed up at our first ultrasound appointment with alternating feelings of exhilaration and terror. It seemed to take the doctor an awfully long time to take the baby’s measurements. In our state of heightened paranoia, we were growing concerned that there was a problem. Finally, the doctor turned the screen toward us and announced, “Well, as you can see, we have two sacs.” Two sacs? Our minds raced. What did that mean . . . our baby had two sacs? So, there was a problem, after all . . . But it wasn’t a “problem”; it was another baby! “It’s twins!” the doctor added. I stared in disbelief. “You’re kidding us, right?” I asked. He shook his head. I think my husband and I caught a few flies that day when our mouths flew open in shock. TWINS! We kept repeating the word all the way home. “Twins! Oh, my God, did he say ‘twins’?”

After we’d had some time to absorb the news, we really didn’t know what to think. The good news was, we told ourselves, maybe that meant more of a chance that at least one baby would survive. The bad news was, of course, it also seemed likely to us that at least one of them would NOT survive. Or even both. The odds seemed too long that we would be fortunate enough to have two healthy children at the same time considering the circumstances.

Like many mothers expecting twins, my pregnancy was classified as “high risk,” and I was monitored closely. Monthly sonograms were a source of agony as we worried each time that some problem would be found. The perinatalogist told us that we could have an amniocentesis to examine the babies’ genes, but we declined. If a defect were found, there was nothing they could do to fix it. And we didn’t like the chance that the procedure could cause a miscarriage—especially risky considering there were two babies. We knew we would never abort regardless of the results, so we took a wait-and-see approach.

In my fifth month of pregnancy, I started bleeding. Because my husband’s two previous children had been lost in the fifth month, we were convinced it was happening again. A middle-of-the-night call to the doctor somewhat reassured us that this could be normal, but we were still scared to death and prayed like we had never prayed before! To our great relief, the bleeding stopped a few long days later and was merely the result of an irritated cervix. The babies were fine.

Nevertheless, we continued to worry. The doctors warned us that multiples tend to come early and told us about the scary signs to look for that indicate premature labor. I was almost afraid to sneeze for fear of dislodging the babies! At one point, one twin showed a lack of movement on the fetal monitor. Again, everything was okay: The baby had just slept through the procedure that day!

Finally, the twins’ “birth day” arrived—a day we had both looked forward to, yet feared, as we would soon find out if our babies were healthy. At thirty-nine weeks, I ambled into the doctor’s office. Amazingly, I was still on my feet and driving myself around. Other than hugely swollen legs, I was in good health. But that day, my blood pressure was slightly elevated, and the doctor said, “Today’s the day. Go home and pack your bags. Meet me at the hospital.”

I drove home, raced into the house as quickly as my chubby legs could carry my huge belly, called my husband to come home from work and headed to the hospital. Labor was induced, and several hours later I gave birth to Austen Joseph, six pounds, nine ounces, and Caleb Dwight, seven pounds, thirteen ounces. We held our breaths until they announced that both boys were in excellent health—no neonatal intensive care required—and they went home with me two days later. Two beautiful boys.

As I sit here on the computer writing this story, Caleb is whining for my attention, and Austen is practicing his spitting techniques all over his toys. When my husband comes home from the office, they’ll run up to him with their arms out in front of them, and my normally serious-minded husband will break out in a big smile. (Our two older boys will briefly look up from their homework and say, “Hi, Dad!”) At times when the twins are both being particularly naughty, Mike and I will catch each other’s eyes and say simultaneously, “Twins!” And we are still amazed at our good fortune. Four boys later, my husband is now the family man he always dreamed he would be.

Originally published in Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons, compiled and edited by Susan M. Heim in conjunction with TWINS Magazine.

 

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.