83: Serendipity

83: Serendipity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!


Being a mother means that your heart is no longer yours; it wanders wherever your children do.

~Author Unknown

I sat on the rolled out white paper, my bare legs swinging off the edge of the examining table. While I waited, I examined the patterned wallpaper — green embryo-shaped swirls on a cream background.

“Apropos,” I mumbled.

An abrupt knock caused me to jump. The door opened quickly as Dr. Graham stepped into the office, his kind smile reassuring.

“Hiya, Jen,” he began. “So, we got the results back…” (Was it me or was that smile looking a little more forced?) “I’m afraid you’re infertile.”

Well. That was blunt. Wham, bam, you’re sterile, Ma’am.

His expression remained calm and kind. How could he be so composed? So unaffected? Where was the back rubbing? And why did he have embryos adorning his examining room walls? That was just cruel.

And so it began.

The drive home was a blur of blind driving, loud wailing, and a heartbroken apology to the baby I couldn’t have. My car was on autopilot as my newfound identity steered me home and into despair so deep that my whole body ached.

As time passed my husband and I began to entertain the possibility of adoption, but it was all too overwhelming. Instead, I pushed through the days, facing each monthly cycle with weepiness, anger, wine… or all of the above.

Then one day I decided I needed a puppy. I’d always loved dogs and had a couple growing up, so this made sense to me. My focus subtly shifted; I desperately needed something to give my love to, to fill the void. Unfortunately, I faced another obstacle. We’d signed a lease that forbade pets.

My husband, however, was on a mission. Unabashedly he pulled the “Infertile Card” and convinced our landlord to make an exception to his own rules: once he did, a fissure appeared in the dark clouds that surrounded me. I had something to look forward to! A puppy would never take the place of a baby, but I needed a home for the stash of love I’d built up for my unborn child.

The first thing I did was call my mother with the news.

She lived nearby and had helplessly shared in my burden of infertility as only a mother could. My news brought her relief and happiness; she was pleased to hear that my husband and I would be starting our search for a puppy the following weekend.

That plan, however, went out the window the next morning. Waiting another four days to begin our search required far too much discipline, so I took a day off from work and set out on my mission, alone. The Connecticut Humane Society was located in a nearby town, which also happened to be the same town where my mother lived. I knew it unlikely that I’d find an available puppy my first time looking, but I had to try. Off I went without a word to my husband, my mother or anyone.

Walking down the aisle alongside the cages was heartbreaking. I tried not to look into the eyes of any of the sad, precious creatures so desperate to be loved. I felt a kinship with them and a terrible betrayal within myself for bypassing them, but I needed a puppy. A baby of another kind…

He was in the third stall. As soon as he saw me he wagged his tail shyly and then sat up on his hind legs, reaching his paws through the bars of the cage and wrapping them around my hand. It was love at first sight. A young girl and her mother were behind me, approaching the cage moments after me. The child was telling her mother that she wanted this same puppy. I ignored them as they lingered, hoping, no doubt, that I would walk away.

I wouldn’t move. I waited until one of the attendants came out to check on us and then told her that I’d be taking this dog. A twinge of guilt struck me as I put my needs before the little girl, but this was my dog. I was smitten.

They took us into a room where I completed the necessary paperwork. I pulled out my checkbook to pay, the final step before I could bring my sweet puppy home.

“I’m sorry, we don’t take checks, Ma’am,” the attendant said flatly.

This was the 1980s — we didn’t have debit cards and at that point I only had one credit card, which I rarely carried. No problem: I’d run into town and take the money out of the bank.

“I’m sorry, we don’t hold the animals for anyone,” she added.

I looked through the window and saw the puppy stalkers still wandering around. I couldn’t leave — they would get my puppy as soon as I left! Trying not to panic I asked if I could use their phone, as this was pre–cell phones. I called my mother, who lived only a few miles away, but there was no answer. I tried my girlfriend. Same result. I began to feel desperate and was fighting back tears when I heard her….


That voice that I loved and knew so well came from behind me. I turned to see my beautiful mother standing in the doorway, smiling and looking surprised.


Relief flowed in the form of tears. I couldn’t believe that she was there — at the Humane Society of all places — and that she’d arrived just in time. She was on her way to the grocery store, she explained, and for “some reason” wound up taking a turn that brought her completely out of her way… and right past the Humane Society. It was then that she noticed what she thought was my car. Fortunately, she’d decided to come in and check.

My mother paid the attendant in cash and we walked out side-by-side, with my puppy in my arms. I’ve often thought about that day and how my mother appeared like an angel out of nowhere, a gift of divine intervention. Because of her and my sweet pup, Clancy, I was able to find hope again, which helped me through some difficult days. And Clancy wound up being a wonderful “sibling” to his baby sister, Erin, to whom I gave birth the following year!

~M.J. Shea

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