[Third installment  – Here’s the 1st and 2nd – of my 8 months pregnant with 2 broken legs journey as chronicled in my book Say Bump and Take a Left, How I Birthed a Baby and a Business after a Huge Bump in the Road.  And the fun continues…]

I was originally unemployed and pregnant, because in April 2001, I was laid off from my commission only Executive Recruiting job in High Tech.  I was one of those Head Hunters finding jobs for techies during the last few months of the dot com explosion.  I had also lost my previous management job early in the year 2000 to a merger between the second and third largest staffing firms in the U.S. at that time.  All in all, the 21st century was beginning with the worst year emotionally in my adult life . . . until my second son was born of course!  I thought my luck had finally changed when this innovative, barrier-breaking President of Blue Ribbon Personnel hired a 7 months pregnant woman to start the Executive Recruiting branch of her 20+ year old staffing firm.  Not only did this amazing woman hire me, but she put me on salary, AND allowed me to work part-time occasionally from home!  Going from unemployment, to commission only, to this was like winning the employment lottery, and I have remembered her treatment of me to create my own unique environment in my company!  How could I let her and the company down on my first meeting after only a month?!

Well, gravity let me down, so there you go.

Forget emotionally, 2001 was also becoming my worst year financially, because at the time, I was the main financial support for my family.  Since my first son was born in 1998, Duane and I shared the joys of raising him.  Duane was home Monday through Thursday, and I was home Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I have met very few couples who have taken the Mr. Mom path, and I wonder if Romeo would have?  Being Italian, I doubt it – I know, I am one.  We had used our savings during my two previous job changes, and now I was out of work again with a baby due very soon.  Disability certainly didn’t cover my mortgage (which was thankfully lower than the California average) but at least it covered the groceries.  The only logical option:  Husband works Full Time while I sit healing my bones and finishing my baking.  I kept thinking that there was some message I was missing with all the bad luck I was having with jobs, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was – I guess I was a little slow . . . again.

This amazing new employer of mine didn’t even consider firing me, thank God, they simply said I could come back as soon as I liked after I delivered the baby and my newly healed legs.  My newborn son and I both attended the company Christmas party three months later.  If you can believe it, I actually found clothing in my closet that not only fit, but coordinated beautifully with my black “walking boot”!
In hindsight, my boss’ response to my phone call canceling that first meeting was my first taste of the sweet lemonade I had all around me in this sour situation, but at the time all I could feel was fear and depression.

The rest of that fateful evening of September 5th went by in a blur.  I was clearly in shock, and still deluding myself into believing I had just sprained my left ankle and stepped on a rock with my right foot.  I came crashing back to reality as if slapped in the face, however when the Emergency Room Doctor came into my room with my X-Rays and said in a bored voice, “Well, you did it good.  You broke them both.”  I actually think my husband still thought I was overreacting until those words were spoken.

The Doctor proceeded to tell me that I had fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my right foot and shattered, YES SHATTERED, the lower fibula as it goes into my left ankle joint.  I had to be reminded of these details the next day (or actually later that same day since it was already midnight), because all I really heard were the phrases, “casts on both legs up to the knee,” and “6 – 10 weeks,” and “possible surgery.”
That last one woke me up.

“What?” I yelled in surprise.  “I’m sorry, Doctor,  but I don’t think you understand that this big bump is really a baby!”

He said something about surgery being possible when, “one is pregnant,” to which I replied “Go #@%& yourself!”, or something somewhat cleaner since my son was present.  I asked him, “Why would I accept any risks to my unborn child by consenting to surgery without a life threatening, or at least permanently disabling situation?!”   Dr. Boredom just shrugged his shoulders.  My husband quickly agreed, when he saw the look on my face, that we would talk about it tomorrow with the Orthopedic Doctor.

A technician proceeded to fit me with temporary casts and we made an appointment to return for the real things later that morning, at our first of many return trips to the hospital during the next three months.  Evan, was a real trooper!  He never fussed once, and stayed awake even in the shocked silence of the 45 minute car ride home around 1 a.m.  He will make his future wife very happy if he continues to be so intuitive to the women in his life.   She better thank me!

My first question for the Orthopedic Doctor later that morning was, “How could this happen?!  All I did was step out a front door!”

His response made total sense, but I had never heard of it having these consequences.  Apparently, there is a hormone called Relaxin that is released toward the end of the third trimester of pregnancy that is designed to soften and loosen the pelvic ligaments and cervix to prepare for labor and delivery.  This hormone is supposed to allow your pelvis to expand and stretch without breaking as the baby travels down the birth canal.

Unfortunately, this hormone circulates throughout a pregnant woman’s entire system and softens ALL ligaments.  As if to add injury to the insult of my clumsiness, when I took that step out my neighbor’s front door, my ligaments were too drunk with this hormone to do their job, and the weakest bones broke without the support of the ligaments staying tight around them.  Since I had already gained about 30 pounds during the previous 8 months, those drunk ligaments had even more weight to try and reign in.

Why did I give in to those Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream cravings?!

The Orthopedic doctor suggested that we x-ray my left ankle again after the baby was delivered to see if the bones were healing properly, and decide then if surgery would be needed.  (Fortunately, surgery was not necessary.)  I chose pink and blue for the colors of my casts since we were still on that “road less traveled” by not finding out the sex of the baby.  At home later that morning after the permanent casts were fitted, I lay in bed still in shock.  I kept staring at these stumps covered in neon, with these 10 sausages pretending to be toes sticking out of them, and thought blithely, “Well, at least I just got my toes done.”  I couldn’t hold it in much longer.  When I was sure that my husband and son were safely on their way to the park, I let go, and cried like I haven’t cried since the first time I saw the movie Beaches.  My feeling of depression was more overwhelming than I could possibly describe.

“I can’t do this!” I kept crying in anguish.

I was angry with myself.

I felt sorry for myself.

I had literally stumbled into this horrible situation.

Isn’t that always the way the journey begins?!

~Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom