Inspired by a family of robins outside her window, a bride sets her sights on motherhood.
By Bernice “Bee” Fohl, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
As appeared in
The big oak tree outside our apartment window was impossible to ignore. It was early spring, when the winds in Pittsburgh can really blow. In weather like that, the tree’s branches beat like drumsticks against the window.
I was home alone. Leo, my husband, was at work. I must have been a little bored, because I went to the window to look at the tree. It was just beginning to sprout tiny green leaves. I was surprised to see a robin balancing on the branch closest to our window.
The little bird seemed hard at work. It carried something in its beak. It’s a vine of some sort, I thought, as the robin nudged it into a fork between two branches. And then I realized: She’s building a nest. She’s preparing to have a baby.
My heart ached. For months now, I’d dreamed of having a baby. Leo and I had been married almost a year, and we both felt it was time. But there was a problem.
Many years earlier, when I was just 12, I fell off a rope swing while playing in a neighbor’s yard. The fall wasn’t far, but I landed on a stone wall, on my back. It put me in a wheelchair.
Before Leo and I married, we went to two different doctors. They both told us the same thing. “Don’t let this stop you from marrying. But Bee won’t be able to bear children.”
I was devastated. For years I had doted on my nephews and nieces, imagining how it would be when I had kids of my own someday.
I daydreamed about birthdays and Christmases and holidays with them. I imagined the cold winter days our family would spend together, sipping hot chocolate in the kitchen, laughing and talking. But I kept all that to myself. I didn’t want Leo to sense the emptiness I felt.
I needn’t have worried. Leo took the news better than me. Pushing my wheelchair out of the second doctor’s office, he said, “My legs will always be strong enough for both of us.”
We married, and it was wonderful. We were very much in love. Leo and I moved into our apartment—a small, one-room efficiency. “Our love nest,” Leo called it. I managed to push the thought of children aside. Until the day the robin appeared.
Each day I watched her. She’d alight on the fork between the branches, a twig or leaf in her mouth that she’d tamp into place. Then she’d fly off again for more building material. Progress on her home was painstakingly slow. Hours stretched to days, days became weeks.
“Her persistence and her care just amaze me,” I told Leo over dinner one night. “It is as if every part of her nest has to be just so.”
For days, as the nest neared completion, a second robin circled the tree. When at last it was finished, he joined her. They settled in. One day, three pale blue eggs appeared in the nest.
By then, Leo had begun to watch the robins too. “Our little family,” we called them. The weather remained raw and blustery, and we marveled how the mother allowed nothing to interfere with her care of the eggs.
“When the wind picks up, she just ruffles her feathers and protects them even more,” Leo said. Always, we noted, her mate circled nearby.
It was glorious, the day the three chicks at last appeared, their big, yellow bills opened wide. “Look at the proud parents,” I said. The robins fluttered to and fro, fetching food to feed their young.
Watching them, it was impossible for me not to dream once again of having my own children. Is it really out of the question? I wondered. Doesn’t God look after those who believe? Doesn’t he promise to provide when we’re in need?
My thoughts went back to my wedding night, when Leo and I had clasped our hands together in heartfelt prayers. Mine had been to be a mother. Lord, I prayed now, I’m asking you again.
I didn’t share my thoughts with Leo right away. Finally, one quiet night at home I mustered the courage. “I want to have children,” I said. “I’m willing to take the chance.”
Leo was overjoyed but cautious about my health. Our prayer together was simple. If it was God’s will, then we would have no fear.
Three months later, our baby was on its way. The doctor remained skeptical as to its chances—and mine. But there were no complications, and two weeks before our second wedding anniversary we were blessed with a beautiful, healthy son. We named him Lee. Ten years later, we had a second son, Mark.
Today Mark is 50, Lee 60. They are good men who have made us proud. I’m still in my wheelchair, living the life of my dreams. Whenever I hear a robin sing, I hark back to those lovebirds in the nest outside my window and think, That’s us.