The Creation of the UnHusband

I find myself wrapped in thoughts tonight. Outside my window, the snow is falling, snowflakes cascading down from the heavens. The yard is blanketed in a pillowy white covering…..a welcome sight compared to the mud that it replaced from a dreadful downpour of rain this morning. The vision is a sight to behold, erasing all the muck and mire that is burrowed just beneath it’s surface. Forgotten is the sloppy, muddy dishevel that my driveway was not long ago; it’s buried. I tell you all of this because this is symbolic. Today, I stand before you a snowflake, freed from the heavens, but just a few years ago, I was the aftermath of a rain shower. I was stained, I still am, but today it just isn’t as apparent. If you were to dig your hands into my snow blanketed soul, you would lift them with soiled gloves. In order to grow, to transform, I must always remember where I came from.

If you peek out the glass window panes, if you squint through the blizzard, you will see, a man. Scotty, after a long day of working in the cold, wet snow, there he stands in the ditch, he is helping a family that has slid off the road. I am thankful that this family wound up in this yard, at this particular time, otherwise the woman and her kids probably would’ve spent hours awaiting rescue. Ever the rescuer, there he is, still dressed in his saturated work hoodie and his now soggy boots, billows of cold air coming in puffs from his lips. I know he is cold, I know he is tired, but he carries on. Doing what it takes to see that these strangers find their way home, safe and sound, so typical Scotty. I can’t help but smile to myself, at his compassion, he hides his heart well, but it is times like these, I am so proud he is the father of my children. He is a man of few words, his smile is not one you find often upon his lips, but if you take a moment, if you search a bit harder, under the harshness he exudes; you will find a softness unsurpassed by none. He does everything hard, he loves hard, he fights hard, and even in his most desperate hours, he never lets it show. He is the epitome of strength, perseverance, and a true man’s man.

I watch admirably at his endurance. He patiently shovels piles of snow from the road. Then when his attempts are unsuccessful he scrapes the ice from the four wheel drive and returns to pull them out. The metaphor is not lost on me this night, no, too easily I transcend back in time. You see, I was that car. Out in the storms of life, sliding out of control to land in a ditch. Most would have cut their journey short, or chosen a less treacherous path. Not me, I continued on that slippery slope, finding myself in a ditch, or rut, more times than I can count. I cannot remember the number of times that he pulled me from my wreckage. Every time he pulled me back onto my track, I managed to end up back where I started, and eventually, I quit accepting his help. His damsel in distress refused to allow herself to be saved.

I think back to all the times I shoved him away. I had nothing left to offer, nothing left to give. I often wonder how it must have felt to be married to the UnMother. The woman so alone in her grief that she couldn’t see past it, she couldn’t breathe, and she was incapable of emotion. She was just a suit of armor I was forced to wear, this doppleganger version of myself. She was a farce, a much needed escape, but she was robotic in her expression. Then, I am reminded of how tough that must have been to witness my transition.

Scotty had married a completely different woman……actually still a young lady. I was full of life, laughter, and love as boundless as the oceans. I was enchanted with everything about this man I loved so dearly. I always laid his clothes out for work, I made his plate for supper, and I relished in spending my time in his presence. If you saw that young version of me, you would have loved her. She was so easy going, so full of life and wonder, so eager to love, and most importantly, so very happy! Her face lit up when he came into a room. Like a moth to fire she was drawn to him. She valued his opinion above all others, and they spent nights lying awake just talking about everything under the sun. She would listen as his voice spoke to her. Sometimes she would forget to hear what he was saying, instead allowing herself to enjoy the way her name sounded upon his lips. His touch was something that she hungered for, the feel of his hand upon her’s, the way he caressed her face when she was resting her head on his shoulder, and the way he wrapped her up in his beautiful, strong arms, that was the thing that kept her world on it’s axis. She was smitten with this man who had swept her off her feet.

The day I walked down the aisle, I had one soul purpose; to love this man more than anyone in the world. I didn’t realize that I would soon grow to love someone that didn’t exist. Or how I would yearn for the presence of another, more than I ached to be held in his arms. My wedding dress was beautiful, flowy, romantic and elegant. I chose it with great care, to represent all that I hoped our marriage would be. I knew him better than he knew himself. He was drawn to me because I was what he needed, softness to smooth out his rough edges, a constant smile for the days he couldn’t find one, and light in a world that was once dark. I vowed that day to be all of those things, because I needed him just as much. I needed his strength when I was vulnerable, his wisdom when I was careless, and his guidance when I so often lost my way. We were a team……until the miscarriages.

I no longer craved his touch, or his hug; my body was too accustomed to needles and tortuous testing; one more touch would send me spiraling. I didn’t wait by the door for him to come home; I was too often at another failed doctor’s appointment. The once talkative me, now fell silent. Her voice seemingly lost forever. Conversations that lasted long into the night were replaced with short responses to only necessary questions. We spoke of nothing of importance. We had become “that” couple: the couple who merely lived together but no longer knew each other. I was no longer the girl with an easy smile; my face was one of stoic determination.

I reluctantly allow myself to look back upon that time, and conjure up the effect that my isolation caused him. Without my softness, he became harsh, closed off, and withdrawn. He too, had gone into his secret holding cell, a place void of emotions. Without my sense of humor to brighten his somber moods, his smile faded….the smile that I once sought above all things. The tiny gift of that grin could set all things right in the world, but I no longer sought it. How could I summons a smile to his face when I had lost my own? Without the light that I used to access his heart, darkness enveloped him. I wonder how he felt? I have never asked him. I am sure he felt deserted, abandoned, neglected, and lost, just like I did. If we had only leaned on each other instead of hiding in our fortresses of steel, perhaps we could have shared our pain and found our way….but the person I was during my despair was not the one locked away inside her own prison.

I can see him, the UnHusband. That is what he had become. His purpose had always been to love me, to receive my love, to embrace my weaknesses, to fix me when I was broken…..but I was unfixable, incapable of allowing love in, and too consumed with all my weaknesses to be embraced. Just as his purpose had always been to be my husband, my purpose had shifted to being a mother. He wasn’t as driven as I was for the need for a child; he wanted his wife back, and his wife wanted a baby. For the first time in our relationship, we found ourselves on opposing teams, fighting two different battles; his to save me, and mine to save my unborn children….which in the end rendered me beyond saving.

In hind sight, I see the two miserable people we had become. Our mourning, and pain were for different reasons. I lost my babies, and my identity, but in return he lost his wife. His countenance changed, he no longer attempted to hug me after a long day at work, (I had shunned his embrace too often), so he lost himself in a project in the garage. Our conversations, once light hearted, tender, and full of fun banter, now was non-existent. The only words we spoke were out of necessity, and laughter had dissipated our once happy home. I knew, even then, I should stop this madness, reach for him, kiss his lips, speak the words that he needed to hear, and close the distance that separated us by continents. But, in order for the UnMother to guard me from the pain, she had to shield me from all emotions…..even love. I could not speak the words he longed for, I could not tell him that I was okay to simply be his wife, and abandon my dream of being a mom.

So, they lived together, in the depths of their own Hells, the wounded UnHusband and the broken UnMother. Their escape was futile as each of them were driven by different desires. I remember hating him for not being a part of my need. I am sure he hated that I had morphed into this unrecognizable version of the woman he loved. Two Hells, two hearts broken, and we stood divided as our world crumbled. He found comfort in drinking and endless nights spent with his friends. I found no comfort, only one thing could set my world right….a baby. My anger was only fueled by his absence, and I lashed out at him, and he in return drifted further away. An endless cycle, a battle that could not be won, and two people who once loved each other beyond measure, became enemies. We were strangers. Forgotten were the loving words, the beauty of the sound of one another’s laughter, and when we were once each other’s world……now we were worlds apart. How our love story had become.

The UnHusband, he looked so shattered. His once dominate stature, now was one of defeat and his shoulders slumped against the weight of the burden he carried. The beautiful, rare smile, was replaced with a grimace, a scowl, a hardness from the loneliness he felt. His hazel eyes that used to light up had fallen dull, the golden flecks that used to ignite when I walked in the room had fled into the darkness that lurked behind them. His eyes were haunting, reflections of his darkened soul. As I swam out to an ocean without a shore in sight, my husband had swam out to rescue me……and I had drowned the man I loved. When we emerged on the shores, we were different people. Our old selves died in that ocean, and on the sands of a shaky seaside two new entities were born: the UnHusband and the UnMother. Only time would tell  if we could find our way back to our former selves.

I will say that the journey would be long and treacherous, and some things would forever change them. This isn’t the story of a flawless love, it is indeed that is flawed beyond measure. That part of our lives, was one that would force us to evolve or to cut our losses. I will soon share more of our love story, as tragic as it is, but right now my heart cannot allow anymore emotion in. To be continued…..

The UnMother and The Mommy

I wish my present self could have spoken to the broken me. I wish the me I am today could tell the me of yesteryear…..it truly will be ok. You will make it. The journey will hurt but you will come out on the other side. Yet I know that, the person I was during my losses wouldn’t listen to the woman I am today. I was bitter then, soured by life, and I wore my pain securely affixed to my heart. No words could have calmed me, they would have just angered me. I was like a caged animal, so full of rage, and I seethed with anger at the world. The world was such an ugly place back during those days. It offered no comfort, no solace, no peace of mind….just endless amounts of pain that it poured upon me in suffocating doses.

I look back on the “UnMother” as I refer to the person who claimed me when I was struggling to accept my losses. She was the only thing that kept me sane, yet she was the side of me that is the very definition of insanity. She only allowed me to feel the pain that I could tolerate before snapping in two. I often felt like a branch on an old tree, right after a snowstorm, weighted from the ice….thinking just one more snowflake of disappointment would split me in half. Yet, the UnMother, she raged on. Fearless, she was! Yet scared of everything, allowing no one in. If I were to explain to you who the UnMother was, you might think her ugly. She was…..but she sprung from a source that left her no option…..she was emotionally void. You can’t grow a garden on unfertilized soil. Just as I could not grow a baby in a barren womb….so she was the result of the emptiness that consumed me.

I had almost forgotten her existence, she is now dormant in my being. A strange thing happened, I read my journal from seven years ago. I barely recognized my words upon the paper. I think I was too overwhelmed with heartache that I couldn’t see the changes in my personality. I say all these things, not to bring you sadness…..but to offer you hope. I lost 8 babies, and with them, I very nearly lost myself. The words scratched upon the now yellowed paper, were hardly legible, and were filled with hate. I read them and they sounded like the ramblings of someone who had lost her mind. I suppose, at that time, I had. No one can understand the depth of your sadness until they have felt it.

If your eyes are the window to your soul, then I would say those of the UnMother would be something you wouldn’t want to peer into. You would see the pits of hell there, so black and lifeless that even shadows fled. Nothing laid in the depth of those eyes; only unending void. If you looked into their midst, you would see no kindness…..pain cannot afford kindness. Empty were those eyes, as empty as her fruitless womb.

If you looked at her arms, you might mistaken the UnMother as a drug addict. Her arms bared scars from needles…not from drug use, but the tireless prying of testing her blood. Poked and stuck so many times that all her veins were hardened….almost as hard as her heart. Lab work was a weekly part of her life and even the poignant stick of a sharp needle seemed painless, when compared to the hurt she bore. For what she craved was something to hold in her arms, and to achieve that she was subjected to blood draws. They tested for everything, genetics, clotting disorders, thyroid issues, lupus and chromosomal defects. She was a defect, she accepted that, for if she pretended to be anything more, or to even hope for more, would have been her demise.

I compare each woman’s heart to a garden. It is supposed to be beautiful, a dwelling that grows and ripens with love. I dare myself to remember the garden that belonged to the Unmother. It was such a wretched place, it sprung from sadness, not love. It was hideous to behold. Weeds crept up from the cracked earth, thorns and briars branched from every crevice. You didn’t dare trek upon the murk and mire, some areas were dried, crumbling earth; then there were places you didn’t dare cross for fear that it would swallow you up. Those sinkholes would swallow you up, those were the parts where the UnMother went to shed her tears. Tears fell so abundantly from her eyes that the earth couldn’t absorb them all, leaving behind a sunken place, that threatened to drag those who treaded there, straight to the hell in which she was trapped.

If you are reading these words, and you are not repulsed by the ugliness….it is because you have felt the agony. Maybe some grief brought you to this sad, lost place…..or perhaps, you are an “UnMother.”  I feel sorrow when thinking about that part of me, however, I do not deny that this piece of me was at one point VERY real. This was my survival, my coping mechanism, and for that I am grateful for the “unmother.” Why? The soft, fragile person I was could not have adapted to the harsh, cold reality that I had to face. The loving part of me would have crumbled, instead the “UnMother” encased me with her strength, she blinded my eyes to keep them from witnessing the visions I would see, she stilled my shaking hands so I could endure the tedious habit of signing medical consent, and she would build a fortress around my heart so that it would one day be capable to love. She was the tiny thread that tethered me to the living, breathing population but she had replaced me with a shadow self. She wore my face, but she hid me inside her fortress until I was ready to come out and face the world! Today, I give thanks, to the unmother. Because of her, I feel the heat of my pain but am not burned by it. I carry the hurt but am not encompassed by it. She saved me from myself! Thanks to the UnMother, I will allow you to see through the veil as to who I am today!

The day that my daughter was born, the UnMother smiled before disappearing into the recesses of my treacherous past. She could not co-exist in the light, so she scampered away to the shadows of my heart….she lives there on the fringes, along with my 8 miscarriages.

My eyes are once more, my own. The first vision they saw with renewed eyes was a tiny, perfect gift from the heavens. A miracle that had been created from a million whispered prayers sent to Heaven, and had fluttered down from the clouds to me. Had the “UnMother” not shielded my eyes, how could I have viewed the innocence, the beauty, and love that was in front of me? It would have been lost from me, and for that, I am so happy I could see her with untarnished eyes, my vision was kept from being blurred by the “UnMother.” If I could just allow the reclusive, “UnMother,” to peer into my eyes, into the windows of my soul; it delights me to what she would find. In the windows of my soul, she would see, two blonde little girls, filling the rooms of my heart with laughter.

My once scarred arms, were soon forgotten, when my daughter filled them. The “UnMother” had bore the endless needle pricks! For her sacrifice, I was able to enjoy the warmth of her weight in my arms, without being tainted by the memories of the IVs and lab work. I thank her for that….

I won’t share my daughter’s birth….not today, that is for another day. But I will share with you, my gratitude to the “UnMother” that saved me the full amount of the grief, which surely would have broken me. The one who stood in the gap, while I hid in mourning. She faced the daily dealings she had to, and for that I was incapable of doing at the time. I regret that she cannot share the person I have blossomed into, a person full of light, and I owe a part of that to her. So, to the “UnMother,” who hides in the shadows of my heart; I would welcome you into my garden, “UnMother,” for a moment of rest. I know she lurks just beyond my surface, and i like to think she gets a glimpse of what she helped me create with her tenacity. I like to think that she should be granted access to the fruits of her labor.

When I became a mother, I went and tended her garden. I pulled the weeds from it. Replacing them with lilies and wildflowers of every shade. I removed the black and white that she was casted into, in it’s place I put colors of every vibrant shade. The thorns were replaced with plush moss, ferns, and an oak tree that my girls can climb. I would like to sit under it with a cup of tea, and see her heart at peace, I smile at the symbolism because she is a part of me. Each time I tend that garden, I know she is there with me…..for as much as I want to deny the ugly part of it, she is still a part of me. I embrace her, and when I look upon the faces of my children. I wish she could relish in the joys of the children she sought with her every breath. She is here, she is me, but she has served her purpose, lurking to the shadows to ensure I can bask in the joyous new title I hold…..The day my daughter was born, so was I, no longer was I the “UnMother” I was born so was my favorite part of myself….simply the “Mommy.” Perhaps, the UnMother just merged with me, once again. Yes, I prefer to think of it like that. She carried my heartache and when I became a Mommy, I pray she shed the UnMother title and joined me on this journey passed infertility, into the glorious light of motherhood!

The Caterpillar Who Never Became a Butterfly (miscarriage #3)

This will be, by far, the hardest blog I have yet to put on paper. I must share it, must purge it from my soul, allow myself to feel the grief. After seven years it is still so raw, so fresh, buried just beneath the surface. Each loss has scarred me, I wear them with honor……these scars on my heart are all that I have left of them. I will not forget them, for that would be far more tragic than not sharing the memory of their brief existence.

After the eight week mark after miscarriage number 2……we were given the green light to try again. We decided not to actively try, we would just let it happen if it was meant to be. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically spent from the grief of two losses and I was afraid. I prayed without ceasing…….this was only a coincidence and the next pregnancy would be normal! I prayed the outcome would be at the end of nine months a beautiful baby to hold. A baby to ease the pain of the losses I had endured. I was in no hurry this time, just trying to come to terms with the second loss of a dream, a hope, a baby.

I had become the crazy pregnancy test lady. The same person that at 21 had never contemplated I could be pregnant, now I was obsessed. Only now they were terrifying, pregnancy meant once again losing a piece of me. I had ten on hand at all times……I tucked them away. Preferred to simply give my soul and body rest for a short time. However, that was not to be……

Merely, three months after my second loss…….I found myself once again, digging out my stash of tests. I unwrapped one, anxiety, fear, excitement, anticipation roared within me. I ripped the package, yanking the contents out, I followed the instructions that I now knew by heart…….and I didn’t even lay the test down before seeing those 2 scary, beautiful pink lines staring back at me. I held that test in my hands, begging it to not disappear, to stay with me, to let me be a mother, to let me hold a baby instead of a test this time. I sat in the restroom, crying tears, bitter that I could not even enjoy this moment due to the fear that gripped me, it gnawed at me, clawed at my heart, it almost begged me to fall victim to hope…..I had told myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to become attached to this baby. I couldn’t take the hurt if these two pretty pink lines shared the same fate as the last two. Yet, there I was staring at this test, and I could not stop myself. I was totally and utterly lost in this baby. I thought that by sheer determination I would carry this child and see it born. Against my own will, I loved this child. Stopping myself from doing so, would be as impossible as trying to staying alive without breathing. The love engulfed me, how could two little lines on a plastic test hold my whole existence, my sanity, my need, and my greatest desire in it? “I need this, God! Give me this baby! Please don’t take it from me!” I pleaded to the heavens. I collected myself, stood on shaky legs, managed to call my sister. I needed her voice to guide me back to a place where I could face this terrifying excitement.

I heard her voice transcend through the air as I pressed the phone to my ear, “Hey beautiful.” “Sissy, I am pregnant again!” I didn’t even recognize my own voice, it sounded weak, it shook like the leaves of the last remaining leaves on a tree before the winter breeze swept them away. I could feel my pulse in my neck, willing it to pump life to this tiny being that I was carrying. Then her voice reeled me back to earth, “REALLY????? Oh my gosh, I am so excited! I cannot wait. When do you go to the doctor? How far do you think you are?” That is one of the many things I love about my sister, her optimism was contagious, and I found myself just being an expectant mother, not a pregnant woman expecting her baby to die. She didn’t voice negativity, she didn’t give voice to all the fears raging in my mind…..and that is exactly what I needed! My sister, my savior in this nightmare I had conjured up……her voice chased that all away. For that, there are no words for my gratitude and my love for her had cured me. We chatted about names, appointments, gender, nurseries, baby clothes and all the things a mother to be should be able to discuss…a conversation that I had been robbed of. She quieted my fears, she gave me the hope. That hope, that glimmer of hope, was like throwing a life raft to me as I was drowning in my own uncertainty.

I hung up the phone and drove to Wal-Mart to grab a few things for dinner, feeling suddenly lightened, my burden lifted. I strolled through the grocery aisle but couldn’t stop the urge, this pull that kept dragging me to the baby section. I decided I would allow myself this luxury. I lingered there touching the tiny garments, and I was drawn to the pink clothing. Scotty and I wanted a girl. I told myself I would love either gender, as it wouldn’t matter if I could only get this baby here. Deep in my heart, as certain as one could be about anything; I knew. This baby, this one tucked softly beneath my heart, this child was a girl. My heart fluttered, and jumped and I smiled from the tips of my toes all the way up to find it’s way to my lips. If I could’ve looked in the mirror, I am sure I would’ve seen someone I wouldn’t recognize. My pale blue eyes were surely dancing with light and laughter…..and hope! I touched a tiny pair of butterfly shoes, they were so tiny, I thought there surely were no feet small enough to adore them. They were soft, fuzzy, and impulsively I lovingly picked them up, allowing my fingers to linger on the soft material. I thought of how they would warm my daughter’s feet, how they would feel against her brand new skin. I bought them, they were a symbol, these shoes. A symbol of the hopelessly, hopeful me.

I came home to share my secret with Scotty. I cooked supper while he showered, I made our plate, and the centerpiece of our table were those tiny pink and purple butterfly shoes. He came to the table, he saw the precious shoes sitting there, and his eyes searched mine. He was gaging me for a reaction, he knew what I had been through, he was concerned how much more I could possibly endure. Oh no, he was going to voice the things I was not ready to hear, he was going to reason with me that we had to at least acknowledge what we might be faced with. I didn’t allow him to, I crossed the room, clung to him like an anchor to keep my dream from floating away with his words. “It is going to be a girl, and her name will be Braelyn!” I said. I felt my eyes soften and sharpen at the same time, challenging him to give me this moment, to not rob me of this one small treasure, and I knew if he didn’t I would surely crash from the clouds from which I had been dreaming. His hazel eyes, searched mine, and in them he found what I needed him to find…..I needed this moment. I watched as his eyes turned into to orbs of love, flickering in their depths, love leapt from every fleck of gold and danced in the green irises that stared back at me! “It better be a girl,” he said as his lips slid into a slow smile….I loved his smile, it was always genuine and rare, and each time he shared one with me I felt like I was receiving a gift. We both lost ourselves in the moment, allowed it to fill us up, the happiness over running until our giddy laughter echoed through the room, bouncing from the walls and falling into my ears like the sweetest music I had ever heard!

My doctor appointment went well, they saw the baby but since the tech was swamped we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat but there was a tiny little dot, nestled inside that circle. Joy abounded in my heart…and spontaneity sent me pulling into the nearest lowes. I picked up paint, then made my way to walmart for some colorful acrylic paints. I was going to paint this baby a mural on her wall. Without hesitation, I went to the soon to be nursery, I wanted something beautiful to surround her. I wanted to cover it with all things soft and lovely. I pulled the soft, fuzzy shoes out for inspiration. Slowly, with precision I began sketching butterflies across the wall, kissing them with the paintbrush to add delicacy to their wings. I stood back and admired my work. Just like my writing, my art comes from a source of emotion and I felt the joy leap from my brush onto the walls. Something was missing….what was it? My journey to get here, to getting her here, it needed to be symbolized.

The greatest joy comes from the deepest pain, just as my losses had made this pregnancy all the more poignant. I stared at the butterflies, and then it occurred to me. Beautiful butterflies only get their wings after they transform. After they go through being a caterpillar, they earn their wings. Me and this baby had earned our wings, but I had to signify the importance of the journey. I painted a brightly colored caterpillar, it was climbing up, over and around her door facing. It’s face was smiling as if it had faced adversity and came out more vibrant on the other side…exactly how I felt! Then with painstaking accuracy I wrote her name, Braelyn upon her walls with tender, elegant strokes…..she was real, she had a name!

I was due for another checkup in less than a month. I was closing in on eleven weeks, not much longer before I was out of the first trimester. Every mother who has lost a baby waits on bated breath for that first trimester to pass, so that the chance of loss decreases. I recognized it was nearing, and allowed myself to just enjoy every second of pregnancy. My once flat stomach was already swelling to expand for the life growing there. I hadn’t gained any weight, but my tummy was rounding and I found it so beautiful. I had already bought my first pair of maternity pants and wore them like a soldier wears a well earned metal. I spoke to her, telling her about my days, telling her about her daddy and how she would woo him, about an aunt that would dote on her, and a nanny who would surely swoon in her presence. I told her we only had to make it to March 15th, her due date and my mother’s birthday. I couldn’t have picked a more fitting day for her to be born, on the same day as the mother I loved so much. The irony that on the day my mother was born, she would be born, and I would be born as a mother. I relished in knowing I was never alone, I spoke softer, angered slower, forgave more quickly……she had already changed me. What a lovely soul she must be to change me from the inside out! I loved her with a love that words could not describe. I slept with her shoes beside my bed, a reminder that soon her small feet would fill them, and the thought warmed me as I fell into sleep each night.

I got up the morning of my doctor’s appointment, showered and slipped on my beloved maternity pants. I applied my makeup, but the glow from my spirit shone through. My stepson was over and I was awaiting his grandpa to pick him up. I tousled his curly locks, wondering if my baby would share her brothers curls. He was playing a video game, and looked up with a smile before continuing on. I went to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and was doubled over with a pain unlike any I have ever felt. I grabbed the phone screaming for my mother to get to my house….the pain was coming in waves, every few minutes they ripped my insides literally bringing me to my knees. I couldn’t even think, the agony was blinding. I told him that his poppa would be here soon, and to not wait for me.  I halfway remember calling my father in law to pick up my stepson. I didn’t want to scare him, my sweet boy, I had to put on a brave face. It wasn’t until I shut the door behind me did I allow the pain to cease me…..I slid to the floor, and crawled to the bathtub. I got in the tub letting the hot water wash over me and tried to breathe through the pain. I was so thankful for that pain, it kept my mind from thinking about what this meant. I don’t know how long I laid there, weak, broken, defeated and convulsing as the pain shattered me over and over.

Then my mom was there, and Faith who had grown to be like a sister to me. I was naked, exposed, but my mind didn’t register it. I vaguely remember being dressed, as silent agonizing moans escaped my lips as the pain raked through every bone in my body, ravishing every muscle with it’s viciousness. I was sitting on the side of the tub, and I heard voices that sounded far away. Faith, a nurse by occupation, her voice sounded foreign, and scared, “Ruth, she has lost a lot of blood….we got to get her to the hospital now.” It was only then I allowed my eyes to look into the bathtub, and was bewildered that I was still alive. They helped me to the car, I was weak, the contractions were violent and intense. The thirty minute drive seemed like eternity, I clung to the pain allowing it to mute my thoughts.

I tuned everything out, I was taken back to the Emergency Room, examined and then sent upstairs to the ob’s office. My sister, Mary Ann, my safe haven, my strength during weakness was there with me as I walked into this office. Only then did I allow myself to recall the words the doctor had told me, “hemorrhaging”  “we don’t see a heartbeat” “you need to discuss the next step with your physician” and then the tears came. This pain was by far worse than the physical pain. All around me sat pregnant women, bellies rounded, smiles on their faces, and others with newborn babies surely there for their follow up after birth….something I wouldn’t be getting. I watched as one lady lifted her fussy daughter, I caught a glimpse of a shock of brown hair, adorned with a beautiful bow, a frilly little dress, and upon her feet……MY daughter’s shoes. I felt so robbed, I felt like my sanity was leaking out of me, and how dare them send me to this place. Forced to watch something so beautiful as a mother comforting her child, and knowing that at that moment my baby was dead. Her baby was feeding from her breast, while my heart was being ripped from mine.

Some infinite amount of time passed before I finally was released from the hell of that office and ushered back into the room where the doctor awaited. “I recommend a D&C,” she said with all her medical, scientific words.

“A D&C???? You want to dilate my cervix and rip the baby out?” I asked, swallowing the desire to spit in her face. I wasn’t angry at her, I was insane with grief. She was just doing her job, but I was going through a slow, twisted death. I listened as she voiced the reasons that it should be performed, “loss of blood” “the baby was stuck against my uterus which means it would not be expelled and was causing excessive contractions” “need to do it as soon as possible”…..I smiled to myself a sadistic smile, even in death, my daughter was trying to stay with me. “Fine, schedule me for the morning, for this procedure.” I spat, hatred filling my heart.

“April, we should act now, waiting is dangerous, if you hemorrage again…..” she began, and I could see her concern, trying to explain to me without adding to my misery.

I waved my hand at her, “I am aware of the risk. I am aware my baby is dead. I am aware I am not going to be a mother. But I am not ready to do it. I am not ready to be “unpregnant.” I am not ready to let her go, you can take that from me in the morning…I have lost enough today!” She silenced, nodded a sad nod, and scheduled me for 5 am the next morning.

It wasn’t until the ride home, that I realized I hadn’t told Scotty…..I hadn’t given him the chance to be there, I didn’t want him to see the wreck that was now his wife. When I walked inside our home, he was watching tv, laughing at whatever was on the screen. One look at me and he was on his feet, he sought to hug me but I pulled away, “She is gone! Mom will take me in the morning for surgery.” My voice was defeated, hard, flat, emotionless and I didn’t recognize it as my own. I knew I was being selfish, shutting him out, but I couldn’t share this, it would break me in two. I couldn’t feel his anguish on top of mine, nor could I give him my burden. I had to hold onto every ounce of the pain, it was all I had left. I resigned myself to the nursery and cried ugly, bitter, hate filled tears. I crumbled into the floor, glaring at the caterpillar for it’s false hope of a butterfly. I touched my stomach, “We have tonight, one more night.”

The next morning I checked in for my “procedure” feeling as if I was attending my own funeral, a funeral for my heart. They wheeled me back, sobs echoed through the room until they silenced me with sedative, and I welcomed it……the sweet oblivion. I awoke too soon, and with a scary realization, I had almost hoped I wouldn’t wake. What awaited me now? An empty nursery, an endless nightmare, a pair of butterfly shoes that would never grace her feet.

For nights on end I slept in the nursery which was once a guest room. Scotty was attentive, checking on me, but I was lost in a place that even he couldn’t pull me from. The morning peaked through the window and glared upon the caterpillar, and the butterflies that I had painted. I grabbed some interior paint, and viciously covered them each detailed piece of art. Angry strokes of my paint brush, blotting them out just like my baby had been blotted from existence. I cried, and screamed, then cried some more.

It wouldn’t be until many years later, when the maddening grief had subsided would I see with different eyes. I would realize that my caterpillar hadn’t turned to a butterfly, she had gained her wings though, her angel wings had lifted her to the heavens and carried her away from me.

Miscarriage #2

Reflection is like purging the soul. It wrings the spirit clean from the emotions that plague you, especially pain. So today, I decided to purge a bit more of my infertility journey. These blogs are emotionally taxing for me, the raw hurt never stops. Writing about it, feels like picking a scab off a fresh wound, but sometimes to heal we have to let them bleed. I hope this post finds someone facing the struggle I did, because perhaps, all the pain I experienced will offer up hope to someone who feels hopeless.

It was shortly after our wedding that I found myself once again pregnant. If you read the first blog about my miscarriage, you will know this was my second pregnancy. I was 24, and after discussing the miscarriage with my physician, she saw no reason it should happen again. She explained all the statistics, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriages, usually the pregnancy is lost before knowing it existed, and that the sensitive tests offered now just detected them very early on. She also told me that once they heard a heartbeat the chances of miscarriages dropped drastically, and then almost went to single digits after hitting the second trimester.

The day I found out I was expecting, I quickly called and scheduled an appointment. From my calculations I was only 6 weeks along, so she scheduled me for 2 weeks later in hopes we could hear the heartbeat. I took it easy, I didn’t lift, I didn’t do strenuous activity……and I worried myself sick. I kept this pregnancy to myself besides a few very close friends and immediate family. I am glad I did, because I didn’t make it to my two week appointment…..eight days after discovering I was expecting I began the spotting. Off to the doctor I went. The ultrasound showed a small sac with nothing in it…..again I heard all the words, “missed miscarriage” “chemical pregnancy” “these things happen, keep trying” etc…..I remember feeling a desperation. The first time could’ve been a blip, a tragic one time thing……but a second time, surely that wasn’t coincidence.

I felt it deep in my soul, something was wrong. My body had turned against me, something in me was broken, and it wasn’t just my heart. “Shouldn’t we do some sort of testing, to see what is causing this to happen?” I heard a meek voice ask, a voice that didn’t even sound like my own. Only to be assured this was no reason for concern, and the testing only began after three recurrent miscarriages. I left the doctor’s office, I felt Scotty’s hand in mine, and I sent a prayer to the heavens that this was the last loss I would experience.

I am not one to be an observer, I am proactive. I don’t take anyone’s word for anything. So, my obsession with research began. I read every book on infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy, conception, birth, and complications that cause miscarriage; you name it, I READ IT! I decided if no one would listen to me, I would learn what was happening to my body. I would learn the terminology the doctors tossed around like a young boy tosses a football through the air on a warm, summer day. I refused to be a football, my losses were real to me, these pregnancies weren’t some fleeting daily event, they were a part of me, a part of my love for my husband. How dare anyone with a medical degree discuss them like one might conversate about the weather.

I became studied, it was the only thing I knew to do. I didn’t know how to deal with this grief. How could I share the pain with someone/anyone? To everyone but me these were just pregnancies, but to me they were babies. They were lost hope, lost dreams, lullabies that I would never sing, books I would never read, and tiny hands I would never hold. I was so utterly alone in my mourning. I could talk all day to whoever would listen, but the fact still stood, to the world these losses weren’t theirs to bare. I had to carry the loss alone, just as I had carried each pregnancy, tucked right inside my heart.

I found myself in one of the darkest places I have ever discovered. So, I dove into books, educating myself on how to advocate for myself, the babies I lost and the future babies that I would carry. I would not be a victim, I would not be a bystander, I would not allow my losses to fade into oblivion, not when their existence was a scar I would be branded with for eternity. No one else had to feel it, but I would be sure that they didn’t deny my right to.

Silently, I hoped I would never have to pull from these resources of knowledge I had gathered. I prayed the next time I became pregnant, it would be uneventful……and the end result would be a baby in my arms. I would find that not only would that knowledge be vital to my future, but I would learn more than I ever hoped to know about the subject. For this loss, and the one before it, were only the first of many.

Brynlee Third Birthday

Today 3 years ago at around 5 am my gorgeous little girl was born! Brynlee Jean Mangrum weighing in at a whooping 5 lbs 9 oz! It would be 3 days before I would be able to hold her in my arms……longest 3 days of my life! I have made up for lost time with lots of cuddles every since because she is definitely Mommy’s snuggle bug! She is my bit of sass, touch of sweetness, prettiest smile, plain mischievous and the most loving little girl! This day 3 years ago was my second baby….the second child the doctors said I would never had! After 8 miscarriages and a little guardian angel, my sweet Braelyn…I carried her and she is the perfect fit for this family! Cannot imagine a day without her! She is that hug when your heart is aching, the kiss for no reason, my little nasty nice, girly girl, and baby doll wagger! She is such a proud little sister and loves her sister more than anything! She has her heart! And though she may be small she is fierce…so much personality and the biggest heart is bottled up in her tinsy little self! Thank you, God for giving me the gift of motherhood to this beautiful little girl and her big sister! God gifted me today with a second daughter and gave Braelyn a sister….which is the greatest gift that I ever got as a little girl! I waited a LONG time, shed a LOT of tears and hit my knees in prayer and God answered!!!!!!! He handcrafted these babies for me…I know this because their heartbeat matches my own, they fit perfectly in my arms and flood my heart with love each and everyday! PRAISE GOD for gifting me with the best babies ever!!!!!! Happy birthday, my lovely, my precious, my dinky do, my sweet Brynlee Jean…MOMMY ADORES YOU!

Missing the Child You Have Yet to Meet

Did you ever miss someone you haven’t met? Ever longed for something you’ve never had? I couldn’t explain this emotion, I couldn’t comprehend what was that I was feeling; it was this tangible feeling of unrelenting need…nothing could feel this void. I became a miserable person, I shied away from new moms when I once was the first to take a peek at the new bundle of happiness, I found myself..envious. When once I was the first to congratulate am expectant mommy and admire their protruding bellies; I would feel tears sting my eyes, bitter tears for “why can’t that be me?” When I would normally flock to children and find wonderment in their fun filled innocence; I avoided places I knew children would be…why? It was a reminder of all I ever wanted and didn’t have….seven long years, seven years of hopes and then loss, seven years of hopes that I would know the joy I witnessed as a new parent gazed at their miracles…then something happened, God gave me peace, reminded me that envy and jealousy were tools of the devil. I began praying not just for my gift of a child but also for those around me, for their new miracles to be healthy and safe…and THEN God blessed me. The day I met Braelyn every single piece of my broken heart fell back together! I can’t explain it but I missed her even before she was born! I felt such contentment, and joy. This, I thought to myself is what I’d been missing! And just because God blesses us beyond our wildest dreams he then gave me Brynlee! Just magical, enchantment when I gazed upon their perfection! I go back to each of those days, the days of their births, I still feel like I’m dreaming! It’s been nearly six years since I first earned the title as mom and I finally feel complete! I was missing their hugs around my neck, their sticky kisses when I was sad, the sound of their giggles, the way it felt to hear “mommy” and know for the first time it was me the sweet voice was referring to…many people take for granted the gift of being a parent…but even on the worst days… I NEVER take it for granted! I remember the deafening silence before them, the spotless house was so empty, I slept in every weekend but my heart was never at rest. Now, I wear bags from lack of sleep, my house is only spotless while they sleep, but my life has never been so full. I’m a little late but this year, that’s what I’m thankful for most of all, the noise, the mess, the million questions, the thousands of calls for “mommy”…I am grateful for all that because it means I’m a mom!

Two Little Lines (miscarriage #1)

I was just about to turn twenty one. I had the life in the palm of my hands. The world was my oyster, and I was the pearl. I felt like I had it all. I was young, the possibilities were limitless. I was in college, but most importantly, I was in love. His name was Scotty; this man who had my heart. His love both terrified and equally thrilled me. We loved with the wild abandon that young lovers do. There were times it was earth-shattering, this emotion that burst from places in my heart I had never known existed. He awakened in me both the happiest places and the darkest shadows. He challenged me to question my perspective, he willed me to think outside my boundaries, and he was a force to be reckoned with. That is one of the things I loved the most about him; his strength. At times it was infuriating, this man who had my heart but also brought out the best and worst of me, and then forced me to face it. Loving him was freeing in a way, I never imagined I would be free. For once in my life I didn’t overthink it, I simply felt.

It was a weekend and he was off at work. We were nearing our second anniversary as a couple, and many years of friendship. I decided to pass my time with my best friends, Jean and Jessi. They had been my friends for as long as I was capable of friendship….beginning at the age of 8 and still going strong! I began my drive to my familiar stomping grounds, down an old back road, the music was rolling from my speakers, I danced happily. Then it hit me…..the wave of nausea, this was the second time today. My mind was reeling, could I possibly be pregnant? I had never been pregnant, but for some reason the thought didn’t scare me. I shook my head, “I will stop and get a test, just to be sure.” Ten dollars later, I walked from the store, two tests in my hand, I slung them in the seat beside me, and resumed my trek to Jean’s. I almost forgot them upon my arrival, as we all caught up on one another’s life. Then I told them about my suspicions.

With a little convincing, I walked to my car and grabbed the tiny object that would tell me the fate of my future. I took the test as the two of them sat in the living room, waiting. I began washing my hands, looked at my phone and decided I would wait a few minutes. My eyes glimpsed the test….two lines, two VERY real lines! I couldn’t talk, I just ran out of the restroom holding this test for my friends to see. As they looked at it, then back at me, searching me for my reaction. Jean, always the realist, “It will be ok. You will be ok.” The craziest part of it was I was already ok, I was surprised that this sweet baby whose only proof of existence was those two pink lines, was the single most ok moment I had ever felt. The timing wasn’t ideal as we hadn’t married yet, but the certainty that I would always be with him chased away any fear I had. I am not sure what the rest of the conversation was, not sure I ever really vocalized anything, or if I just thought all the responses in my head….but I headed for home.

I opened the door, looking at the very tidy house we rented. I loved that place, relished in keeping it clean, orderly and filled with serenity. I could hear the shower running, smell the scent of his body wash…instinctively, I cleared the living room and walked into the place where he was. Only then, was I afraid….Scotty, already had two kids at a very young age, he wasn’t planning on more in the near future. What if he didn’t want this? And I stood frozen as realization that I would leave him for these two tiny pink lines. Somehow, I already loved these lines unconditionally, and as much as I loved Scotty, he couldn’t take that away from me. I am not sure how long I stood there, just willing my mouth to open, then snapping it shut. What i was about to say out loud would alter our lives forever. The shower had stopped and suddenly he was there beside me, talking about his day, then he looked at me concern flooding him. “I’m…I’m pregnant,” I whispered. The gold flecks in his green eyes flashed a thousand emotions, fear, terror, uncertainty, panic, but under all of those there was love. My heart began to beat again, I felt my chest rise and fall, I had forgotten to breathe as all this transpired in front of me. He never said a word, just closed the distance between us and wrapped me in his big, strong arms, assuring me that everything would be ok. I was at peace in his embrace, my inner dialogue went silent, and I was just me, the woman who was so in love with this man, and those two pink lines.

I snuggled up to Scotty, and a new untapped love flooded my heart. A piece of him was growing inside me, how strangely all-consuming that thought was. “It will be alright, baby, don’t worry.” He whispered into my ear, I wanted to tell him all I was feeling inside. I wanted to tell him I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t scared, I was completely content by his side, and more than alright with this tiny fleeting little life we had made, but the words couldn’t find their way to my lips. I thought about these two lines, how something so small could be so life altering…….and I listened to his reassuring words find their way to my ears, and then I listened to his breath come in and out the way it did when he drifted off to sleep. I think the words he was speaking to me was more for himself.

I stared at his face, even in his sleep, I could tell he was conflicted, he was scared, but he was there and he would always be there. I knew he feared this but not in the way a man fears being a father, he had not had a positive experience being a dad so early in life. I wanted to let him know, this time was different, this was me, this was us. “It will be ok, Scotty. This baby will love you. It will love you as much as me, and we will be together. There is no fear of this child being born into an already broken home. I’m here to stay, you don’t have to be afraid.” I whispered into the night, into the chest of my sleeping man. I could never say this to him when he was awake. He would never admit this fear that was harvested in his heart. He was never “afraid” of anything, he was fearless. This was different, he knew that but the past crept out the hiding place in his heart. I had never been so proud to be loved by this man. The man who would stare in the face of fear to save me from worry. He wouldn’t run, he wouldn’t hide, instead he would courageously stand by my side. I felt this new depth of love as I looked at him, how could I possibly love him more? It didn’t seem possible, but there in the darkness with the sound of his heart beating under my ear, I suddenly did love him more……he was the father of this child, he was a piece of me, he was the giver of this gift that I hadn’t even known I was ready for.

I dressed for class, and left early so I could have my tires replaced. It was a cold day, I left the top up on my convertible. I wished it were warm so I could let the breeze blow through my hair and clear my mind. It had been a week since I had found out. A week of me falling in love with this baby, and I caught Scotty staring at me in a new way when he looked at me. He looked inquisitive, intrigued even by the thought of our baby, he watched me closely, a little more protective. I liked this look on him, this tenderness on his face under his brave exterior. I tried not to worry him, so I hadn’t mentioned the strange cramping I had been feeling. I was scheduled for next week to see the doctor. Everyone told me it was normal to cramp, so I tried to push the worry aside. I wouldn’t think about the cramping, I wouldn’t let it steal a moment from my happiness. I sat outside the tire shop until they had finished with my car. I remember thinking I would be trading my beloved Sebring in for a more kid friendly vehicle, but I would enjoy it while I still could.

I slid behind the wheel, turned the music up, and tried to lose myself for a minute. I had been consumed with constant thoughts since finding out about my sweet two pink lines. Everything from the gender, what would he/she look like, how would I keep them safe, could I be the mom I wanted to be? Thousands of little thoughts, worries about a baby, who a week ago i hadn’t known existed…I smiled, touched my still flat tummy, willing myself to stop worrying…..just then a pain shot through me, almost crippling me! I whipped my car into the closest parking lot, which happened to be a pharmacy. I sat there for a few minutes as the pain ripped through my stomach and then fell away. I sat there trying to wait for the pains to stop coming, but every time they would subside they would resurface, racking my body with these pains. I had to get to the hospital. I didn’t call anyone, couldn’t vocalize my fears, because that would make this whole terrifying experience real. The emergency room was empty, the nurse got me to a room quickly, and i was thankful. I needed a moment to wrap my mind around this. She brought me in a cup and asked me to fill it with urine, so I found my way to the bathroom, I was operating on autopilot. I did as instructed and went to put the lid on the contents only to realize I was bleeding, I couldn’t breathe, my lungs wouldn’t work. The rest was a blur, the nurse came in, then the doctor, they were saying words but I couldn’t grasp them…..”threatened miscarriage” “levels were low” “you might lose this pregnancy” all the things that didn’t look good for me and my two pink lines. I managed to drive home, tears blurring the lines on the road, I had to lay down, the doctor said bedrest and I was going to fight to keep this baby. I had hope, sometimes these things happen and the pregnancy continued fine. But this voice in my head told me what my heart didn’t want to believe….it was too late, my two little pink lines wouldn’t ever be here, I would never hold, never kiss, never snuggle, but most painful i would never see this baby’s face. I knew this child would never be more than two pink lines, and that wrecked my heart in new ways.

I waited two days, hoping for improvement, but to no avail. I walked to my car and found the other test tucked under my seat. I had to know, I needed to know! I took the test, refusing to look at it for a full 4 minutes to be sure it had plenty of time to do it’s job. During that time, i prayed for the sight I wanted more than anything, two pretty pink lines…..but there was only one singular line staring back at me. The tears slid down my face, I screamed I threw the test in the trash and would then go grab it, willing it to change! It didn’t change, but I did. My two pink lines had evaporated like a dream does when you awake…two pink lines that had changed my entire world in a week, and now they were gone. I lay in the floor as the sobs escaped my lips, and I grieved for that baby, that baby that would only ever be two pink lines to the world, but it had been the world to me.