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At the Risk of Sounding Like one of those "Don't Almost Give" Commercials...

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sometimes I think about the people that might have been. Not so much about someone not living up to their potential...but about just how close you came to not existing period.

Emmitt wasn't planned. In fact, he was one heck of a surprise. Had it been up to our timing, it would have been another egg, another sperm and another child altogether. My mother had a miscarriage before I was born. If that pregnancy had lasted, would she have had me?

How many of you have children that weren't planned...but that you now can't imagine life without. How many have lost a child that might have been?

Now I don't usually get all touchy-feely-preachy here, but I was reading an article today about my Grandfather and his time on Iwo Jima during WWII and I was reminded of just how many times he should have stopped existing. (And since my dad was born after the war, you can follow the logic to just how close I came to not existing.)

The article touches on one story (the foxhole) but doesn't really give the details. It leaves out two other near death experiences as well.

1.) The Foxhole - Grandpa was a machine gunner on Iwo Jima. He traveled with a tiny little Filipino national who lay under the rifle and fed the string of bullets in. Grandpa said they could get off two to three bursts of fire before they had to move, because it generally only took that long for the Japanese to zero in on their location. He said the first mortar always went long or short, the second one got a little closer and the third one nailed you.

On this day, they'd gotten two rounds off and Grandpa was ready to move. His partner swore they could get one more burst off if they did it quickly. Grandpa agreed and says that as he pulled the trigger, the world just went dark.

He woke up on the ground outside the fox hole covered in blood. They never did find his loader.

2.) The Landing Craft - Grandpa went on shore on one of those landing crafts like you see in every war movie where they storm a beach. When they got to shore, the front went down and they were all supposed to run out and start making their way up the beach to the cliffs.

The problem was, no one would move. (Can you blame them? I've seen Saving Private Ryan, no way would I want to get out of that boat.) Grandpa says the officer with them ordered them to leave the boat and still...no one moved. Finally the officer pulled out his side arm and said "you either go and risk getting shot by the Japanese, or you stay and risk getting shot by me." Folks still weren't moving and grandpa was standing pretty close to that side arm, so he climbed the side of the boat (they had open tops) and went over the side.

As he was falling toward the water, he heard this huge explosion. A mortar had landed right in the middle of the boat he'd just jumped out of.

3.) Sniper Fire - When Grandpa was on Iwo Jima, the tanks weren't as well equipped as they are now. In fact, the tank drivers really couldn't see out enough to see where they were going. That meant that someone had to walk behind the tank with a walkie talkie, telling them which way to go.

The problem was, the Japanese knew what these soldiers/marines were doing and that made them a prime target for snipers. Because of that, the average life span for one of these guys was about 10 minutes. At one point while he was on the island, Grandpa got assigned to this gig. Half an hour later, he was still alive. One of the officers, who liked grandpa saw him down there and ordered that he be switched out. Somehow, the message never made it down and 15 minutes later, he was still there. The officer saw him again and went and switched him out himself.

The next guy only lasted about 2 or 3 minutes.

Grandpa always said that he never did anything special over there. He was just a kid trying to get home to his family in one piece. Getting out alive reminded him that he needed to spend the rest of his life making an impact.

If you've ever seen Saving Private Ryan, you'll remember the scene where the old man breaks down, wondering if he'd lived a life that was "worth it" after having come home safe and sound.

When you think about it from that perspective...it kind of makes you want to go out and do something to leave your mark on the world, doesn't it? What have you done lately to make sure your life has an impact? It doesn't have to be something major that will get you in the history books. Just something that has a positive impact on someone else's life.

Make it a point this week to say thanks for the simple fact that you exist...that your kids exist...by giving a little something.


  1. Blogger Renata | 7:55 PM |  

    Great post. A good reminder for me too.
    When I was pregnant with my first child, so many people I knew had complications with their pregnancies. Two of them had late miscarriages. It made me not take any of my uncomplicated pregnancies and births for granted. Nonetheless, in the daily grind of raising my kids, I can easily forget that they might not have been here, or that I am not guaranteed tomorrow with them.
    My father in law also had many close calls in Vietnam, so I can relate to what you said about your grandfather.
    Thanks for refreshing my perspective.
    Grace to you :-)

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:23 AM |  

    Your story sounds familiar! Our daughter wasn't planned, either. Our beloved cat had died, and my period came early in January 2006. The next time I ovulated, we conceived. We adopted two cats after our cat died, and I remember someone telling me that would mean I'd get pregnant. I distinctly remember laughing that off. I guess they got the last laugh.

    My paternal Grandpa was in the Phillipines in WWII but doesn't talk much about what he did there. I know he was trained as an interpreter. He already spoke Russian (his parents were immigrants), and they trained him in German. Why then they sent him to Asia, I don't know. My paternal Grandma also had a couple of miscarriages. My Dad shouldn't have been born. My Mom grew up in a family of 16 kids, she was the 10th. My Mom desperately wanted out of her parents' house so she got pregnant while dating my Dad. They were 18. I was born when they were 19. But I shouldn't have survived, either. My Mom had a severe hemorrhage and I was born by an emergency c-section. For that matter, my sister shouldn't have survived, either. She was born at 23 weeks of gestation.

    We're all here for a purpose. I have to believe that. When you think about the chances of everything lining up to produce YOU, you have to believe that you were meant to be and that you have a purpose here. Having been diagnosed with depression, I often have trouble believing that I do have a purpose in this life. But having my daughter has made dealing with my illness easier, if you can believe that.

    Besides us each having a purpose, I believe we were each blessed with gifts. Being able to be a milk donor is something I would have never known I could do, were it not for our little "accident". There is a purpose to everything!

  3. Anonymous Mary Jo | 6:38 AM |  

    Jennifer, you're making me cry! (Ok, the pregnancy hormones help.) I've been thinking a lot about things like that lately, since my current pregnancy would not be happening if not for the loss we had in April.

    But then you started talking about your Grandpa. My Grandpa was one of two guys doing his job for his group in WWII on D-Day. He and the other guy flipped a coin to decide who went in the first wave and who went in the second. Grandpa went second. The other guy never came home.

    You just never know what it's taken to get all the right people together so you could exist - or what your children will do someday that other's will be extremely grateful for. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today!

  4. Blogger Azhira | 11:02 AM |  

    I had an early miscarriage. Three months later, I conceived my son on the first try. I miss the first baby...but wouldn't have my little boy now if I'd carried to term with the first.

    Both pregnancies were planned... :)

  5. Blogger Tuan's Princess | 11:09 AM |  

    Thank you for this post. It comes the day after my best friend died at age 25 in a tragic car accident. They didn't have any children but were planning for a family.

    Thank you for reminding us all to make our lives worth it.

  6. Blogger The Lactivist | 11:16 AM |  

    Oh wow, Tuan's Princess. I'm so sorry to hear it. :(

    Life is fleeting. Sometimes we forget that.

  7. Blogger Cagey | 12:39 PM |  

    When I was growing up, I was a little haunted by the many ways that I could have came to "not be". My dad is also a Vietnam vet and then his first marriage fell apart because of it. Then, my mother (his 2nd wife) had a miscarriage before I was born.

    On a lighthearted note, the other night my husband I used a condom. The very same one that had we been able to locate it the night of 10/16/06, my daughter wouldn't be here now (in December, I found the condom skulking in a drawer). She is 5 weeks old now. No, not quite an accident because we knew were rolling the reproductive dice, but she was very much not planned.

    Still, she was very much wanted and I am ever so grateful we couldn't locate that condom.

  8. Blogger Darlene | 6:03 PM |  

    Beautiful, Jennifer. How very special of you to tell his story in your space. It's good for each of us to think about the many times that, but for the grace of God, our lives could change beyond recognition...in either direction. Several of your readers say their children weren't planned and I can't help but think "oh YES they were!" Maybe not by mom and dad, but definately planned. lol

    Kinda makes me think of the country song "There Goes My Life".
    That one makes me cry every time.

  9. Blogger mommymichael | 6:33 AM |  


    I descended from this family...I always heard stories when I was growing up, about the Golden Haired Elizabeth and the massacre that happened and how her eldest son escaped to his uncle's home...

    Had that one boy not escaped to his unlce's, my great odd grandfather... wouldn't be a father, grandfather.. just wouldn't be at all. And I wouldn't be.

    Also.. my mom had a placenta previa with me, and 2 weeks past due started hemmorraging pretty badly. My grandmother was so freaked out she couldn't drive and my mom had to drive herself *hitting a deer along the way* She arrived at the hospital and as soon as she got from the car to the wheel chair she started bleeding heavily again. She believes that having to drive herself put pressure on the uterus and the bleeding enough to make it slow considerably. The hospital was an hour away. An emergency c-section later and Here I Am. =)

    OOOH Also... When I was 4 years old, I was playing with the goats and cut my hand severely on some metal flashing on the goat house and was bleeding heavily. My dad had been in his work shed with the table saw on, and he turned it off just in time to hear me say "daaaaddy" in that familiar "i'm hurt!!" tone. Then I passed out. My dad is a paramedic and rushed over, picked me up over the fence, dressed my wound and drove me to the same hospital I was born at. *it's an excellent child trauma center* 4 hours of microsurgery on all 4 little fingers, and the hand I cut is the hand I write with. =) Ya just have to think. what if he continued to have the table saw on... would I have ever been noticed?

  10. Blogger Ahmie | 7:09 AM |  

    if you've never seen it, I highly recommend the movie "Sliding Doors" - a movie about the simple idea of "what if she missed the subway that day".

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