Fall

WARNING: This content might make you blush if you are part of my family or I am part of yours … or if Christian Grey makes you blush in NOT a good way.

A November Night

I peered into a bassinet and saw a full-term baby. My baby was a girl, and she resembled Rowan. Through a translucent, heavenly membrane—only a dream can produce—I saw Rowan with her father. Rowan was as she is now—a spunky, beautiful toddler. These two were in their own little world—separate from mine. I was occupied in my world with my full-term Rowan-resembling baby girl. I had nothing to offer them, over there, in that moment. Rowan was happy, healthy, and well taken care of by her daddy. Within those moments, my new baby consumed me—that world was hers and mine.

*Nine.

I placed my new baby upon my breast, and she latched on perfectly. I felt that pull on my breast and the sweet relief of my milk releasing. Following those moments, I placed my new baby upon my second breast.

All was perfect and easy and heart-warming. She was not pale or discolored; she was ripe and beautiful. There was no darkness, no syringes, no chaos. We were not in Room 14; we were in Heaven. My new baby was a healthy, precious, six-pound baby; she was not just 1.5 pounds.

And when I awoke, my heart did not hurt; I did not wish to fall back to sleep. My heart was at peace, and I felt happy. I felt grateful for this beautiful gift I was given in my sleep.

I was grateful to find healing. I need much more healing, as I’ve neglected my heart for too long.

Flashback to October

She lost herself. Somewhere between the inability to conceive a child, the money she didn’t have to conceive a child; somewhere between the shots, the egg retrievals, the lack of control over her own body and happiness. She lost herself somewhere between her very first, ill-fated pregnancy and the blood that poured out of her while tears streamed down her face. She was lost and did not understand who she was when she realized her babies could not be conceived by her. Pieces of her died when the happiest months of her life were taken too soon as her body proved unable to fulfill the needs of her babies in her womb. Her heart migrated from numb to shattered to bitter because her baby died that morning. And she was not her anymore.

She put one foot in front of the other. Saggy, unflattering leggings. Unattractive, over-sized t-shirts with milk stains. The frizzy buns. With her shoulders slumped, with her broken heart, living in fear and desperation, she just put one fucking foot in front of the other and gave the universe her middle finger for torturing her in such harsh, hellish ways.

730 days of this was too long to endure this grief. But what will “talking” to someone do? Could there possibly be any medication that could help? Was she depressed, or was her happiness doomed because her baby died? I mean, how does one carry on, and who really cares anyway? Of course her heart was hardened; of course she wanted to hurt those closest to her; of course she didn’t need anyone. She was dead inside. But—this girl carried a fire with her, a fire she always had. Deep down inside, there was a desire to burn bright. Her heart was numb; the next best thing was a drug.

The feeling he gave her was intoxicating. His kindness and flattery—she took the bait. With each **encounter, her fire burned a little brighter. What a sick drug; so addictive that she turned her back on her family—on her husband.

She’d hit the bottom. Absolutely rock bottom.

He craved her body, and she craved those feelings. A woman’s body can be so convincing, and she was that woman. A Queen. She was so heavily desired—until she wasn’t worth it anymore, because he loved someone else. Of course he did; he loved someone who was so unlike her. She was no longer worth the effort. What a stupid girl. What a stupid girl for being so smart but falling for a player. The hard crash and withdrawal from this drug left her feeling used, rejected, broken. How cruel of her to break her own heart—to betray the one who loved her the deepest and the hardest. She betrayed the man who touched her body in all the right ways and gave her more pleasure than anyone ever could, finding secret places with his body and making her cry out of pleasure. She left the man who studied her—inside and out—and cherished every ounce of her.

Present Day

I finally surrendered.

I’ve been seeing a counselor for about six weeks now, and it is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. In addition, my medication has been adjusted, and I feel grateful for what I have versus angry for what I don’t have. My heart carries hope and has softened. I feel the depths of my emotions—the overwhelming, romantic love I have for my husband. My counselor has encouraged me to look at him differently; to feel him differently. She’s encouraged me to study my daughter’s beautiful face and embrace her touch when she hugs me or even rests her little arm on mine.

My counselor has advised me to live in fun. To have fun and be silly—live in my baby girl’s world for a bit each day. I asked her how I should heal my marriage. She knows our foundation is strong; she smiled and said, “Start with fun. Go have fun with your husband.”

We have spoiled our marriage rotten! Expensive dates; words of affection and admiration. Gifts and obsession and “I miss yous” … and—the best sex of my life.

Our bed hosts our dirtiness, our filth. Oh, if our walls could talk. The pleasure; the vulnerability. His body; his eyes. He yearns for me and takes my breath away. I’m obsessed with his sex; it builds my confidence and heals pieces of my heart. He is smitten with me and lights my fire.

I am happy today, and I will work hard every day of my life to maintain this spirit. I am grateful to have finally hit the bottom—for there is nowhere else to go but up.

*I was born and she died on the ninth—a day that belongs to her and me.

**Sexting; a single make-out session with some heavy petting.

Everything

I’m in a bit of a dark hole.

I am thankful for a brand new year. I’ve actually made resolutions for this year, as last year I decided I ought to just “survive”.

But I am struggling, and I have been for some now time. I find that I prefer to be at work (work!) or hidden away in my bed with dim light and a book. I prefer to be distracted.

Her bright smile on that little, perfect face—I bottle it up and allow my heart to flutter and beam with light for a brief moment.

“She is my sunshine, my only sunshine. She makes me happy when skies are g r e y …”

But I’m stuck in this place I hate being stuck in. There’s a weight on my heart and in my gut.

Part of me feels ashamed for struggling like this. To me, I have *everything. To others, whom I know are still fighting for their babies, I have little right to be sad.

I told Rowan the other day, “Mommy isn’t allowed to be sad. I have you! I promise you don’t make Mommy sad, but—sometimes—Mommy is just sad.” Her Daddy says to me, “No, you’re allowed to be sad.”

I mean, I’m still “surviving”. Getting out of bed sucks, but that’s primarily because it’s still dark outside at 7 a.m.

Rowan doesn’t quite sleep through the entire night yet. (And, no, I really don’t care, and I’m not concerned.) She needs little intermissions throughout the night. They are brief—a bottle or a pacifier—but, still, it does interrupt my rest, so I find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning sometimes.

But—I still maintain my promise to myself to run four days per week. I owe it to myself to rest, and I owe it to myself to run.

My work is fine, and my home is picked up.

Rowan endures a million kisses each day and has so much fun with her friends while Mommy and Daddy go to work. Rowan and I enjoy mornings together. I pump and enjoy my morning coffee while she plays her favorite game of throwing all her toys “overboard” her crib. I change her diaper and pick out the perfect outfit for the day—if only it’s just a Monday. Her hair either remains with that beautiful curl on top, or I comb her hair into an adorable miniature ponytail.

Her Daddy says to me, “She’s obsessed with you.” My heart melts; part of me hopes it’s true, but most of me knows it’s true. My beautiful baby is my whole, entire world.

Rowan doesn’t take my tone very seriously. I use the word “no” and tell her what to do—as opposed to ask her. She offers me her huge, Mary-like smile, and it’s all over from there. I suppose I just don’t have the right tone. I will have to work on that. Most importantly, I want my Rowan to know that—while Mommy is the “boss”—Mommy is also her confidant, her biggest fan, a space of unconditional love.

I offer her “oohs” and “awws” when I change her diaper and discover a “big-girl poop”. This child has ruined me.

Here I write as a therapeutic method to deal with my feelings, depression, etc., and—yet—she is my favorite topic! She and her poop!

*No, not literally everything. I have suffered great losses … $40,000+ and the bills continue; three separate moments of pregnancy; two heart beats; two birth certificates; one death certificate; and one child—don’t quite add up. But for the sake of my sisters still fighting, I have everything, and I know it.

Youth

Do you ever walk away and then think about what you should have said? You get frustrated with yourself because—man—I now know what the perfect thing to say would have been, but I froze. I froze!

Well, I have had many of those experiences.

But today.

No, not today my friends.

Today, I responded pointedly and confidently. It was a redeeming experience, this little encounter. Good for me; I actually stuck up for myself.

I’m slowly realizing that instead of working hard, having a good attitude, being gracious and professional toward my coworkers—I have to stick up for myself. Age discrimination is a real thing, and it sucks.

Because of my age, I am not taken seriously. People with more experience take one look at me and immediately think I’m naïve … just a kid.

I am naïve, and I am still learning. But, I saw what you did there; I know you thought it would go right over my head, but it didn’t. Of course, I have to ask for back-up to address it with you because you won’t take me seriously.

I don’t know. I abide by the philosophy that if you work extremely hard, you might be rewarded. I knew that I had to work hard and build a solid rapport with my supervisors because, when the time came for doctor appointments and egg retrievals and embryo transfers, I didn’t want to be that girl. I wanted them to know I was legit. “Yes, I have a lot of health issues, but I will get the job done, and now you know it.” In my opinion, this is how you build trust, this is how you receive privileges, this is how you earn more  m o n e y.

In addition, I just feel like working hard is very rewarding, and if I can’t be with my baby, I don’t want to spend 40 hours of my week being mediocre. No one deserves that. My family doesn’t deserve that, my coworkers don’t deserve that, the company that fuels my income doesn’t deserve that.

Apparently not everyone abides by this philosophy.

So, when you’re “so young” but are given a lot of responsibility, people only further recognize how young you are. But am I even that young, or do I just look it?

It sucks! Don’t more mature generations know that my generation does have something to offer? At least I do, and I’ve proven it, so why do you question me?

Well, the way some people treat me, underestimate me, dismiss me, try to fool me, and speak to me has been breaking me down lately …

Z is for Zoloft

My OB won’t re-prescribe me Zoloft. I should have re-arranged the situation throughout the last year and found a doctor through my secondary insurance who would keep the Zoloft coming. I plan to drop my primary insurance and stick with my husband’s when the new year arrives.

I sought care from this particular OB through my secondary insurance because I preferred their practice during my pregnancy. Prior to experiencing the most blissful, most nauseating six months of my life, I was on Lexapro—prescribed to me from my primary insurance.

I chose to stop taking my antidepressant during my pregnancy but was prepared to re-start a medication after giving birth. It was a logistical fail because instead of coordinating with my primary doctor to re-start medication, my OB sat on my hospital bed and wrote me a script for Zoloft the day after my baby died.

Having double insurance coverage has been a bit of a shit show for me.

I have two pills left, and now I have to find a new doctor, take time away from work to visit the doctor, and basically just waste more of my time because my OB won’t re-prescribe this medication.

This is the stuff that irritates me. I hate wasting time … I already know what needs to be done. I just need my Zoloft. Give me my Zoloft.

I know there are processes and procedures to be followed, and I can appreciate that. But sometimes, I don’t need counsel or help—sometimes I just need my Zoloft.

One year ago, I was living life as a NICU mom. I’d awake and do my work for the day. My work included exercising and any chores I’d committed myself to for the day. I’d *get ready for the NICU and be on my way. Somewhere in between taking a shower and driving to the hospital, I received calls from a social worker. Her job was to make sure I was okay.

“Do you think you’re suffering from post-partum depression?”

“Well, my baby died two weeks ago, and my other baby is in the NICU. I’m taking an antidepressant; I’ll figure it out.”

My goal was to get off the phone as soon as possible.

So—Zoloft—let’s make this quick and easy. Find doctor. Make appointment. Drive to doctor office. Sit in waiting room. Get vitals checked, **which never goes well. Talk to doctor. Get prescription. Go to pharmacy.

My biggest fear is that this process is going to waste too much of my time. But I have to do it because I need my Zoloft.

*Bathe. Hair looks like a bees’ nest. No make-up. Old leggings. Major Ugg-boot sag. Holey shirt with leaky boob stains.

**I wish the nurses would take my blood pressure under my direction or just not at all. There’s always this rush to slap the cuff on and get a reading. My readings are always appalling under these circumstances, and then it becomes “a thing”. I have to excuse my blood pressure’s bad behavior and convince the doctor—and myself—that I’m actually okay because I check it obsessively.

September

She grins from ear to ear when her eyes meet mine. She is sunshine, and she is perfect.

I am preparing for a very difficult season. I can’t believe my Emmanuelle is so far away from me; I can’t believe it has almost been a year. How dare time pass so quickly. How dare she be a distant memory. She is not distant to me.

How very quickly we forget.

We prepare for celebration. We strategize and contemplate the logistics and decorations and food of an event to celebrate a person’s first birthday.

Damn straight.

This occasion will not be remembered by Her Majesty – THE babe-turned-one-year-old whom we celebrate.

“It’s really for the parents.”

Rowan has put my heart back together. I look at photos of her and wish I could tell her that I did not realize how truly broken-hearted I was before I had her. I mean, I walked around with a shattered heart, but I live now. I live.

I shower my baby with kisses and affection. I shower her with constant affirmations and speak often of her beauty. This child would have an ego one size too big if she could comprehend my words.

How do I raise a young girl who knows her self-worth, yet does not inhabit an entitled attitude? I hope to serve as a role model; I know she will see me as the definition of “woman”. I want that definition to contain words like “compassionate; gracious; hard-working; independent; polite.”

I know how to love this child, but how do I raise her?

That’s all for now I suppose. More later, hopefully…

The Latest Happenings

We’ve used our carpet cleaner several times this week.

This week has been a struggle—just everyday life challenges; nothing emotionally difficult (thank Jesus).

It’s all about perspective.

Well … my emotions have been a bit on edge this week. I cannot lie. Our darling Rowan has an ear infection and mild wheezing. Save for the word “infection” that has plagued by beautiful munchkin, the wheezing is what really scares the heck out of me. My head understands what my preemie mother heart can’t understand: She. will. be. okay. I’ve been sleeping in her room on a “bed” made of couch cushions. My neck and shoulders feel tight, but hearing her breathe wheeze-free helps my heart understand the reality of the situation—that she is a sick booboo who is being treated and will get better.

Sarabi has been a little sick too. So, the carpet cleaner has encountered vomit of differing varieties—and has encountered “the vom” on a daily basis.

Oh, and ants have been haunting my mental stability and attacking my kitchen!

I am very thankful—though—that if these “issues” were destined to occur, 1. my husband’s business trip occurred last week, and 2. I no longer have to spend 40 hours every week dealing with this.

Instead, I have my companion enduring this week with me, and a boss who’s let me leave work early, work from home—even pour my heart out to him about how terrifying Rowan’s sickness is for my heart given my family’s “history”.

Do you know what I like about this boss? Some of the first words he said to me when I began my transition back to work were: “I’m sorry to hear about the loss of Rowan’s sister.” When I reference how small Rowan is, he matter-of-factly says: “Well, she’s a twin. Twins are small and sometimes need more time.” I mean—yea—her body is that of a six month-old, but the point is that he recognizes Emmanuelle’s existence, and he’s sincere.

The culture in this particular part of our blessed country can be a bit … harsh. Often times, people just don’t give a shit. Sometimes it seems like there’s only one thing on everyone’s mind: the money. It’s nice when we can act like humans and talk about and recognize what really matters.

I can believe that Rowan is nine months old. I can’t believe I’m starting to plan her first birthday party, though.

Rowan is nine months and 15 days old. She weighs a whopping 14 pounds and 10 ounces. She is healthy, and she is growing. We are all different shapes and sizes, and I pray my next statement does not hurt any mothers—especially mommies with preemies. But I must admit that I think her percentiles on the infant growth chart are absolutely precious. Her pediatrician tracks her chronological versus adjusted age, and here are my princess’ stats: 5th percentile for weight; 5-10th percentile for head circumference; and 2nd percentile for height. I’ll tell ya what: Her beautifully shaped head is BIG (for her body), though she’s growing into it. And her petite-ness is just so fitting; I am 5’0”, and Mary is 5’3”.

Rowan is tiny, but she is strong. Her spirit is strong, and—physically—she’s got some power!

Rowan’s birthday is on a Thursday. I have begun brainstorming ideas for her birthday party, and there are several dilemmas.

Though I would like to host a birthday party for her on October 8, I don’t know how many people would be able to attend. And the point is for people to be there. I owe it to Rowan to plan this special event on not-a-Thursday.

Friday is a better day than a Thursday. But Friday is … Friday. In my heart, I don’t believe Emmanuelle will be dishonored. As Emmanuelle’s mother, the idea of celebrating Rowan does not dishonor my angel. In fact, a dear family friend made a very profound statement to my mom and me a few weeks ago regarding October 9. You may know that October 9 is my birthday; I do not care that Emmanuelle went to heaven on my birthday. What I care about is that Emmanuelle went to heaven when she was 20 hours old—and that she’s in heaven and not with me. More than anything, I thought it was just “mean” of God. I don’t care because I don’t; my mama says, “Well, I care.” A mother is a mother is a mother; God bless our tender hearts. Our friend shared something beautiful with us, though. She said that perhaps God gave Emmanuelle and me that day to be ours. October 9 is our special day—for just us two. And it holds a lot. It holds a whole lot.

Secondarily, October 9 is the birthday of one of our nephews whom we intend to invite and hope will attend—along with his family. He and his family will likely want to spend the day celebrating his birthday. 🙂

So, Friday just won’t do.

Next we have Saturday and Sunday. I have a *friend whose first dose of motherhood has been heartbreakingly, nearly identical to mine, and Saturday nor Sunday are the best days. I will extend the invitation to them, but I don’t think they will be able to attend.

You see: dilemmas.

I have a social life now. I have friends whom I spend fun, quality time with. My weekends are packed. I was lonely for a long, long time. I literally did not have friends to “hang out with”. But now I do.

I have a social life because my babies were born at 28 weeks gestation.

My friends are beautiful people—inside and out. They are becoming some of my best friends—these NICU nurses and *mothers.

I don’t always understand God’s plan. This journey He’s given me sure does have some low lows. It often times seem very unfair and unjustified.

But He does give. I try to hold onto that as best as I can.

When daughters die and health is compromised; when families unravel and people are hurtful—I have to hold onto the good, good things.

I have my baby.

And now I have friends. I have some really good friends.

Another Spring Has Sprung

How is a girl supposed to get through the in-between day?

The day after beta number one; the day before beta number two.

One year ago, I had two [4 week + 6 days] embryos nestled in my womb.

One year ago, I had Emmanuelle.

What a crazy ride. From then, when I was begging God for something—anything. To now—I reflect on my dreams finally having come true, and it’s already been a year.

Fear consumed me one year ago. My husband told me I didn’t even seem happy as he searched the iPhone app store for pregnancy- and daddy-related apps.

I was happy. I was terrified.

I had to protect my heart. The body does what it does, and it was supposed to absorb a significant [additional] amount of HCG from the day before to the next day.

I remember driving to work the next day after my second beta blood draw. I got a flat tire.

I decided not to tell my husband because who cared anyway? It was beta day number two. It needed to rise by 66 percent. IT ABSOLUTELY HAD TO RISE OR ELSE …

“2,081!”

“… Oh, and I got a flat tire!”

I don’t know why I reflect on these things, but I do.

Rowan is everything and more than I could have ever imagined. She’s impeccable. She brings me so much joy. I love her, my darling Rowie.

There’s someone missing. And I had her a year ago.

Those were my happiest days. I cherished every moment, not knowing my pregnancy would end so soon and abruptly.

When you know this is your one and only season, you cherish every moment—uncomfortable or not. And I was preeeeetty uncomfortable. the. entire. time.

No matter how many times I say it, write it, or think it, “I miss her,” just doesn’t do it.

But we will celebrate her and Rowan in two days—at the March for Babies!

Rowan met Dr. Levens, Nurse Mary, and my donor egg nurse, Pam, last week.

With a bit of muted excitement, Nurse Mary asked if there were any more embryos waiting for us.

“No, my two girls were my only ones.”

We admired beautiful Rowan, posed for pictures, enjoyed each other’s company. We hugged, and I told them I loved them.

And just as he’d told me many, many times before, Dr. Levens made his exit with this statement:

“Well, we’re not going anywhere …”

At Night

It’s passed midnight, and I have obligations.

Some beautiful obligations.

Some insignificant obligations.

I remember one year ago today, I waited for his phone call. He always called before noon with news of my cellular babies’ statuses. But he didn’t rush to call me that morning.

“I know you’re busy. I know you have other patients. But, I just … I just …

I’m calling to ask about my embryos.”

The sweet relief I felt when things were different this time. Among four, there was a 12-cell and a perfect – let me repeat, perfect – 8-cell.

“That 8-cell will definitely be one we transfer.” Was she Rowan? Was she Emmanuelle?

I live a secret life. A life in the late hours when I just need time. I just need space to myself. I need to be imperfect for myself.

What the hell did I do during those three months when she wasn’t home with me? I guess I stewed in fear.

But now – when everyone sleeps – I just. need. space.

Good heavens, it takes a village to care for this child.

I work Monday through Friday amongst an environment that … is lifeless. It’s a job. My joy is arriving at the last metro stop on the Silver Line after a 45-minute nap. My joy is preparing breast milk-filled bottles for her. My joy is reclaiming my status as her caretaker as her grandmothers forfeit it … everyday. Monday through Friday.

Tomorrow, there is my boss. There are customers. There are deliverables.

Tomorrow is her six-month appointment with the pediatrician.

I’m supposed to exercise in the morning. Somehow.

Somehow, I’m supposed to burn some calories; take time for myself; take care of myself. But time may not permit.

… because it’s passed midnight, and I should be resting.

But instead I stir.

This season of spring brings back memories. I remember their presence at first. I remember the refreshingly chilly mornings when I walked with my babies – my four-week old embryos – in my womb.

One of my babies is gone.

One of my babies finally rests in my husband’s arms as I take time.

Life.

It’s an adventure. Is it not?

The gratitude I have for the existence of her is overwhelming.

But – sometimes – I just need time to be imperfect.

Not the perfect wife. Not the perfect worker.

Damn, I don’t care if I fail at times in those areas; it’s all about perspective.

I am learning to give myself a break. But she deserves more. She will always deserve more.

I find myself reaching into my bucket in the early hours of the morning … being selfish.

I won’t ever “get over it”. I will let time do its thing, though.

And I will ride the waves of this grief. I don’t know how else to do it. Forgive me.

Please. Forgive me.