It’s a boy!
It had all been so incredibly easy, pregnancy, labor and delivery. As I held my newborn son I counted ten toes and ten fingers. I ran my fingers gently through thick brown hair and caressed his eight pound three ounce, twenty-one inch body. Apgar scores were normal, heart rate good, breathing steady. Whew!
I had married my high school sweetheart a few years earlier. He was the captain of the football team, I was a cheerleader…it seemed the right thing to do! We had only been married a little more than a year when a draft notice interrupted our honeymoon.
After completing basic training he received orders for Vietnam. He was on his way to Ft. Polk, Louisiana for Advanced Infantry Training when we discovered I was pregnant. So, even though I was in my final semester at Cal State Long Beach, studying Fine Art, I dropped out to be with him. Having been to more than fifteen military funerals of boys we had gone to high school with, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend the time with him.
We packed what we could in our ’67 VW bug and headed for Louisiana. We found ourselves in a land with critters and bugs we’d never seen growing up in Southern California! We saw evidence of segregation that shocked and bewildered us. The tobacco-chewing, rifle-toting landlord we spoke with told us there was no housing available and we would have to live in on-post temporary housing for a few months while we waited for our ten by twenty trailer, nestled in the pines of Leesville, to become available.
We moved in to our little trailer just before I went into labor. It was August 27, 1971. I had studied Bradley’s Natural Childbirth method to prepare for natural childbirth. The army would have nothing to do with it! I was in the delivery room with a young doctor who was paying more attention to the pretty nurse assisting him than he was to me! He was getting out of the army the next day and excitedly sharing his plans for civilian life. I was strapped to the bed and my husband was not allowed in the room! I was only 22, 3,000 miles from home and very scared. I could see daylight through the floorboards of the delivery room at Fort Polk, Army Hospital.
Delivery was uncomplicated and I was soon back in my room where my husband and son joined me. My excitement and euphoria dissipated by late evening. My attempts to breastfeed were failing. Our son had a seizure. The doctors were unsure as to why, and began a battery of tests to discover the cause. Christopher was placed in Neonatal Intensive Care, which at Fort Polk Army Hospital was simply a bassinette separate from the other two children in the room and a dedicated nurse who watched closely from a rocking chair. Tests were inconclusive. Christopher came home ten days later on Phenobarbital and Dilantin to control his seizures.
Home at last!
A few months later we came home to California and started the journey to discover why Christopher was not progressing. Even with the best medical experts, from Scripts Institute in San Diego to UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, no answers were found. By eighteen months, Christopher was less precocious than a newborn, just before he turned two he passed away from complications of pneumonia.
We were devastated. In shock, we didn’t know where to turn in our grief. Very much alone in our grief we simply resolved…we were young…we would try again.
A year later I had a first trimester miscarriage. Another year later I was pregnant with our third child. Our daughter was born on August 4, 1976. Again, no complications or complaints during pregnancy, labor or childbirth. Julie was a beautiful eight pound three ounce baby girl! We held our breath for the first six weeks then our worst fears became reality. Julie began to manifest the same symptoms as Christopher. Like Christopher, there were no answers, the disease progressed and Julie died just before her second birthday.
We were overwhelmed with grief. We felt alone, alienated from friends and family…even from God. We didn’t know where to turn. No one knew what to say to us so they stayed silent. Unresolved grief eventually took its toll on our marriage. My attempts to heal from grief included retail therapy. My closet was full of outfits I thought would make me feel better. They didn’t.
Unfortunately, my husband’s attempts to deal with grief included infidelity and violence. We separated, we reconciled, again and again. During a season of stability, we adopted our son David. Things went well for about eighteen months then the violence and infidelity began again. It wasn’t until my husband raised his hand in a rage against our young son that I filed for divorce and never looked back.
An unplanned journey
It was a bitter divorce. In his rage he violated every legal agreement. After an eighteen-month battle I gave him what he demanded and walked away with the only thing I wanted, my son. I began a journey as a single mom. I felt exhausted and hopeless; nothing I turned to filled the empty space in my heart.
Life as a single mom was the toughest job I’ve ever had. Like many women I didn’t have the benefit of a former spouse who held to a regular visitation schedule. My sisters and mom were far away and busy with their own lives. They were disappointed and a little disgusted by me. Their comments were often critical and condemning. I pretended it didn’t hurt me. My in-laws felt obligated to uphold their loyalty to my ex-husband. I was very much alone.
I entered into a season that included one too many cocktails and far to many boyfriends. Nothing satisfied the anguish I felt to the depth of my being.
A turning point
One day a friend invited me to church. I had tried everything else. I asked myself, why not try this?
The people I met at church were friendly, even welcoming. A tiny seed of faith began to grow when I read in Hebrews 11:1, “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I clung to that promise and started attending church and studying the Bible on a regular basis.
As my faith grew I recognized that I was living with one foot in the Word, and one in the world. I began to see that sin was separating me from God. Finally, I fully committed my life to the Lord. The transformation was remarkable! The healing and hope found in a relationship with Jesus were now real in my life.
I served in ministry, I started seminary and eventually became a licensed minister at Saddleback Church, serving as Minister of Counseling for twelve years.
A story redeemed
Today, I have a Doctorate in Ministry and continue to encourage and equip believers to go the distance serving in ministry through speaking, writing and teaching. I experience God’s protection, provision and purpose. I know true joy, hope and healing.
I’m sometimes asked how is it that I was I able to overcome so much loss. There is only one answer…Jesus. It is Jesus whose mark is indelible on my life. It is Jesus who gave me the ability to turn mourning into joy (Jeremiah 31:13c). In him I am a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). My weakness is perfected in his power, and his grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can do ALL things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Pastor Buddy Owens often reminds us, “When you’re going through hell…just keep going.” Knowing that I can trust God’s faithfulness keeps me moving forward, even when I don’t feel like it, even when all the odds are stacked against me. He is worthy of my trust. He is worthy of yours.
Kathy Ann Camarillo, D. Min. is a Biblical Counselor and founder of Hope Connection. For more information to invite Kathy to speak to your organization and information on her Biblical Counseling services you can connect with her at email@example.com.