The Story of Emily
For years now, I have wanted to write down all the thoughts and feelings I had about the pregnancy and birth of our oldest daughter. For one, I wanted to have a written account I can look back on when my memory begins to fade. For another, I wanted to foster understanding by sharing our story. As Emily approaches her ninth birthday, I decided that there was no time like the present to get the words on paper. This is a story of a little grief, a good dose of fear, and a whole lot of hope. There always has to be hope.
Chapter 1: The Back Story
Mark and I celebrated our first anniversary on December 21, 1999. We had just bought our first home in North Carolina and he had recently begun a job with his current employer. We only had one vehicle at the time and since he drove over 160 miles round trip every day and was gone for 16 hours a day, I became a housewife by default. However, I was a registered substitute teacher with our county school system. The local elementary/middle school was only a mile from our home so I started subbing there as much as they needed me. I could easily walk to work. These walks most likely contributed to me becoming more fit than I had ever been in my adult life.
May arrived and while owning our own home was nice, things were tight in the pocket book. This was especially true with Mark having to pay for all that gas to and from work and with me not being needed every day at the school. I needed full-time employment, or at the very least consistent employment. But because we lived in a very small town, walking-distance jobs were scarce. We talked things over with my Father-in-law and he agreed to loan us one of his seldom used vehicles, an older model Ford Bronco. Now that we each had something to drive, I could begin my job search in a broader radius.
I thought, at that time, that I might want to be a teacher someday. I had gone to college with the intent to become a high school English teacher. I had made it through my first semester of my sophomore year when I quit school in Texas to move to North Carolina to be with Mark (but that’s a story for another time). Before I had moved to NC, I had mostly worked in an office setting. I could have gone in search of another office job, but I thought I should look for a job that would enhance my teaching goal. In other words, I wanted to work with kids, preferably high school or middle school age.
I decided to drive twenty to thirty minutes from our house in every direction. Surely, I would find something out there. I knew without a college degree I couldn’t be an actual teacher, but maybe I could find a job as an aide or something. I have some trouble with my exact religious beliefs these days, but what I am about to share makes me believe, without a doubt, in a higher being. As I started my first twenty minute foray, I prayed to God. I asked Him to lead me to a job that I needed. Needed. I think that’s the key word. I didn’t ask for a job that I wanted, but one that I needed. Months later, I would realize that He knew exactly what He was doing.
My first stop was a little, private Christian school. I knew by the marquee that it was a school for kids in kindergarten through twelfth grade. I went in and talked to the very nice secretary. I had a nice chat with her, but I realized that this was not the right environment for me when she mentioned that all females in the school had to wear dresses or skirts every day. Anyone that knows me knows dresses and skirts are special occasion only clothes for me. They are meant for weddings, funerals or a nice date with my husband. They are not every day wear. I politely excused myself and got back in my car to try my luck someplace else.
Just a little further down the same road, a sign caught my eye. It said, The Special Children’s School, and it had silhouettes of young kids on it—one was in a wheelchair. My curiosity had me turning into the drive of the school. I had always held a special place in my heart for those with disabilities. More, working with kids that happened to have disabilities was in my blood. My mom, dad, grandparents, various aunts and friends of the family had all at one time or another worked for a particular facility that took care of people with disabilities. I was raised all my life to treat all people the same. I was never disturbed, or worse grossed-out, by those that were “different”. Looking at the school on that sunny day in mid-May, I knew I had found the place I was meant to be.
I went in, filled out an application and had an interview within days. At first all they could offer me was a van monitor job from 7:30-9AM and from 2:30-4PM. It would mean traveling to and from the school twice a day, but at least it was steady work. I also signed on to be a substitute, figuring I could fill in the gap some days with more work. I was fascinated with the school. It was for children with special needs, ages birth through pre-K. They also had a wonderful inclusion program which means having “typical” kids learn side-by-side with the kids with special needs. At the time “typical” kids could start at around 18 months. The infant rooms were totally dedicated to those with disabilities. On site, the school also provided occupational, physical and speech therapy by full-time therapist. There was at least one nurse there at all times and meals were planned by a nutritionist. As far as quality goes, this school got an A+. Every lead teacher in each classroom had a bachelor degree in early childhood development and all of the other staff were well trained. I learned so much working there. Soon, I was offered a position working as a part-time floater. I came in at 12:30 and left at 5:30 when the school closed for the day. My job was to help out wherever I was needed. This afforded me the opportunity to work (and learn) throughout the school.
Chapter 2: Surprise!