81. Waiting for Kira

81. Waiting for Kira

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Waiting for Kira

Hope is the companion of power, and the mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.

~Samuel Smiles

“I dreamt of the baby again,” I told Mike, my husband. “She was beautiful.” It was a muggy day, and we were outside on the stone patio of our cozy home in Atlanta. It looked like it might rain. We were enjoying the last drops of our morning tea (and possibly the last of the day’s dry weather) when I remembered a detail. “She had your green eyes. Oh Mike, she looked just like you!” Mike looked at me for a moment, uncharacteristically at a loss for words, and then rolled away in his wheelchair. I rolled inside after him.

Mike’s accident left him a paraplegic, but he has use of his strong upper body. I was not as lucky when I fell off a horse in my twenties. Most people think of Christopher Reeve when they hear the words quadriplegic, but my injury is known as a C-567 injury. I have limited mobility in my hands and arms and some feelings below my waist. Like Mike, I am able to get around in a wheelchair. A retrofitted steering wheel allows me to drive a van. For the most part, we lead fairly normal lives.

That didn’t mean we could easily get pregnant. We would need to go through in vitro fertilization. We would also need a gestational surrogate . . . . and perhaps, a miracle.

Our lives up to that point were peppered with miracles, so Mike worried that it was a little greedy to ask for yet another one. It was miracle enough we were at this point: married and living together.

When Mike and I met at a wheelchair race in Florida, we had been living on different continents: He lived in England; I lived in South Carolina. Somehow, we persevered beyond our injuries and beyond our long-distance relationship. Years later, here we were, married and not afraid of a challenge. Which was what I told Mike on that warm July day. “Why not try for another miracle?”

Mike did not need convincing. “You are right. Why don’t we call that doctor you read about?” he said.

I had read about a doctor who had helped other women with spinal cord injuries. I had studied his picture on the website. Dr. Toledo had salt-and-pepper hair and kind looking blue eyes. Before I could change my mind, I dialed the number and made an appointment.

In person, Dr. Toledo did not disappoint. Where other doctors had been discouraging, he offered us hope. “Shannon, I would not advise you to try and carry the pregnancy. There are wonderful options available for surrogacy should you . . .” We interrupted him. “Don’t worry, Dr. Toledo,” we told him. “We have a surrogate in mind.”

Mike’s sister Julie had offered to carry the baby — a generous offer considering she lived in England. Plans fell into place.

We started the process in high spirits, but over time, our hopes and dreams began to evaporate, one failed IVF after the other. Eventually we ran out of time. Julie returned to England, dejected. We were back in limbo.

Only this time limbo felt more like an abyss. For the first time in my life, I fell into a deep depression, unlike anything I experienced when I was first injured. That had been devastating, but this felt all together more primal: utter desolation.

I had always imagined myself as a mother. Beyond my own worries, I felt awful for Mike. This had been his biggest fear. “Shannon, the only time I cried after my accident was when the doctor told me I would never be a father,” he had told me when we met. I talked to God: Lord, he is such a loving man. Why would You deny him the opportunity to be a dad?

For months, I fell asleep praying. I turned over the details like a puzzle to be solved, hitting the same walls and obstacles every time. Our biggest concern at that point was the toll on Julie, who had left her life in England, camped out at our home for months and allowed herself to be subjected to more needles than a pincushion. How could we ask her to do that again?

One night, an idea germinated. The doctor never said I was unable to carry a baby. They only advised against it. What if, instead of Julie, I was the one to carry the embryos?

I prayed. “All you have to conquer is your fear,” I heard in my head. That morning, I woke up and started researching. I spent the day on Google. The more I read about the success rate for other women with similar injuries, the more I believed it might be okay.

Dr. Toledo, by this point, had become a trusted friend. He was at a Falcons game when I reached him. “Can I carry our baby?” I yelled over the din, not thinking as to how that might have sounded on the other end. Over the noise of the crowd, I heard him hesitate, only for a second, before he answered. “Of course, but let’s give some consideration to the risks — come in and see me.”

Having been given a cautionary yellow light by Dr. Toledo, I moved forward with green light determination. “I’m going to carry our baby,” I announced to Mike. Used to my occasional flair for the dramatic, Mike looked at me a second before responding. “Are you serious?” I excitedly told him what I had been thinking, the research I had done. We discussed the pros and cons, and in the end, we both decided to try it at least once.

“All you have to do is conquer your fears.”

Weeks later, the phone rang. The caller ID indicated it was the clinic. “Shannon?” “Yes?” I answered breathlessly and put the phone on speaker so Mike could hear. “Mike is here too,” I said to Dr. Toledo. I could tell by his tone the news was going to be good. His happiness radiated over the phone. “You are going to be parents!” he said. The tears streamed down our faces.

The pregnancy went forth without any complications and the months went by quickly. The delivery room was like a party — my family was there. Mike’s family had flown in from England. There was a team of doctors on hand. All around the room, I saw smiling faces. Our child would be welcomed into this world with an overabundance of love.

At 11:30 p.m., Kira Francklin came into this world. I examined my newborn baby from head to toe and all I saw was her uncanny resemblance to her dad. I thought back to that dream, the sleepless nights and that moment when peace had come over, telling me not to be afraid.

God had provided His best miracle yet.

~Shannon Francklin

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