Girls’ Night Out Story #14: Denise Dolan

Finding Humor in His Decisions

August 1, 1981. St. Gabriel's Church
August 1, 1981. St. Gabriel’s Church

I met my husband in 1980 when I was working at the service desk at Target and he came in to cash his check. We were married a year later and settled into life as a teacher and construction engineer. Wanting to be settled, we waited to start our family for a couple of years.

After finding it difficult to get pregnant at first, we gave birth to our first daughter in 1985. Molly had hypoplastic left heart syndrome and passed away.


If you asked me what experience in my life changed me–it would be losing a child. Although young and naive, I look back now and know that the experience of burying your child can make you grow in ways you can’t even fathom. Your outlook on life changes. The little things no longer carry much weight, your faith becomes something you cling to for support, you feel the need to hold the people in your world a bit closer, you see beauty in everything, and you realize everyone has a story and you look for it -instead of critiquing it.

Molly was born before her time, as today they are saving babies with this condition. I think about her often and wonder what she would be like. But this is not what this story is about!

In 1986, with a little help from the doctors, we gave birth to Bridget (who is now a civil engineer and living life). To say I was scared is an understatement, but we moved on and enjoyed life as a family of three.


When it was time to welcome another child, we went back to the doctors, but this time I had a tubal pregnancy. That was also difficult to handle, but I healed and we moved on.

Then with a little more help from medical science, we welcomed Erin into our family in 1991. She is a teacher and living life as well.


After that, and I quote, the doctor proceeded to tell me that it is ‘virtually impossible’ for you to get pregnant again. So with a little discerning, we came to accept the fact that we would be a family of four, happily moving about our lives enjoying all that comes with raising two young girls. But that is not what this story is about, either!

“It would be virtually impossible for you to get pregnant again.”

I was a teacher and always had a hankering to get my music degree so in 2000, at the age of 40, I quit teaching and went back to college full time. Which is an experience within itself; sitting in class with a bunch of 18 year-olds!

Then right there…..two years into my quest for a coveted degree….I began to feel really tired…..I just didn’t feel right…..I was moody…..I was going to the bathroom more than usual… periods stopped.

I was 43 at this time and thought, “Menopause…..I’m starting to go through menopause.” But there, in the back of mind, was a voice saying ‘you better check this out’. So, I actually went and bought a pregnancy test. Yes, the Walgreens cashier gave me a funny look.

It sat in the cabinet for two weeks until one Saturday morning, I went for it. And low and behold, there were two purple lines showing -and many tears a-flowing.

Of course, I woke sleeping hubby up and gave him the shock of a lifetime. We spent the next several weeks not speaking to each other and working through the shock of it all. You see, we had arrived… we didn’t need a babysitter! We had that cherished taste of freedom that comes with middle school and high school-aged children. We were in one of the best parental seasons!

Now this is what the story is about…..finding humor in your lot in life. Needless to say, our preteen and teenager were not amused by the fact that their friends will know their parents well… explanation needed. Let’s just say in their world it was gonna be embarrassing explaining this to their friends…..their exact words were…..”Ewwwww!”

And in 2003 at the age of 44, I gave birth to Maureen.


My life is full of oxymorons and unparalleled contradictions which bring out a comedy routine that could rival Joan Rivers. My AARP card came while I was still nursing. A run to Walgreens included a purchase of diapers, tampons and Depends. I could go to Denny’s and feed us off of the kid’s menu and the senior’s menu. Sitting at your oldest daughter’s high school graduation changing a diaper on your youngest. Dropping one daughter off for her first day of college and the next day taking one to preschool.

My AARP card came while I was still nursing.

I remember dropping off Maureen at preschool and meeting all the moms. There was a Tiffany, a Stephanie, a Brittany, a Jessica not a Ruth or a Mary. I was like ‘crap they were all born in the 80’s’! Maureen’s friends’ parents were only a few years older than Bridget!


One day, I took Maureen to a 10th birthday party for a schoolmate and the grandparents were there talking about their upcoming fiftieth birthday. I was 54. And I quit counting how many times I have been called ‘grandma’. Or how many times Maureen has responded with, “That’s not my grandma-that’s my mom”.  It is fun watching their faces. One day I am at the theater watching Magic Mike with the big girls and the next day I am watching Tangled with the little one.

One of my favorites, was when Maureen came home from school and was telling me about her social studies class in which they were talking about music and history and the song ‘American Pie’ came up in the conversation. She was appalled because none of her friends knew the song. I guess there are advantages to having older parents–good taste in music. Matter of fact, when she talks about some things in history class, I tell her I remember that day!

I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Maureen has truly brought a new dynamic to our family and finding the humor in it all makes it even more blessed.


Now that I think about it, probably none of her friends parents even know Joan Rivers.

Even so, when the day comes and I am standing in front of the Good Lord, I have two questions…..’Molly-why?” And Maureen-what were you thinking?”.

That ‘slightly older’ Room Mom (and historical eye-witness),

e0af2-screen2bshot2b2014-10-252bat2b3-07-022bpmI was born in Perryville, MO and grew up in St. Louis.  I’ve been married for thirty-four years to my best friend, and have been teaching music for thirty-three years. I’m Mom to three remarkable girls.

Click HERE to return to the landing page for Girls’ Night Out: Stories

2 thoughts on “Girls’ Night Out Story #14: Denise Dolan

  1. Linda Gurney October 19, 2015 / 8:21 am

    I really enjoyed your story, Denise! I’m so sorry you had to go through losing a child. I love what you said about realizing “everyone has a story, and you look for it.” I praise God for giving you and your husband those beautiful girls!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s