Motherhood wisdom (warning long post): I am learning as I go…being a mom is a never ending process of learning! There are days, chaos consumes my house, the noise level often breaks the sound barrier, and meltdowns happen more frequently than I prefer…the truth is there are so many days I literally pray for bedtime….I count the hours until I can retreat into peace, tranquility, work on art, or like tonight I get the urge to write! This post is mostly for me but maybe it will resignate with some others. I write on here to keep a timeline of tidbits of the days, moments, so I can reflect and one day recall these days that I just cannot wait for the days to be over….I am guilty of that. Often I rush bedtime, a quick prayer, a kiss and hug before sighing and breathing a sigh of relief as I close their bedroom doors…relief that I made it through one more day. There are nights my girls refuse to go to bed and it tests my patience but usually they go to bed quietly. Tonight after placing my youngest darling to bed a half hour later she was still awake…….I went into check on her and she had redressed herself into a princess sleeper. I told her it was bedtime and mommy was tired. She is a sensitive soul and wise beyond her years…she said, “You tired, Mommy?” I nod. “You can sleep with me…” I explain I cannot fit (at least not comfortably in her bed). So she tells me she will hold me and lays my head into her lap and plays with my hair. It is such a tender moment my eyes mist over, “You sad, Mommy.” I shake my head no, she says, “when I am sad i need my mommy…do you need your mommy?” I decide to tap into this moment to connect and listen, “I always need’ my mommy.” Her eyes soften and replies, “You Mommy not here she don’t live here, I be your mommy tonight!” I linger in the moment, the feel of her tiny hands in my hair, her soft hair falling in my face as she rests her head on mine. Then she welcomes me into her world, a world of princesses, stories, a glimpse into childhood. I love hearing her stories they are filled with beautiful things. Softly she whispers, “mommy, you get your glasses at walmart?” (I wear my glasses at night instead of contacts) she says, “I can’t see walmart mommy so I need glasses like you!” I chuckle then she raises my glasses up says, “Mommy, your eyes are pretty!” I smile all the way from my heart…then she asks me to shut my eyes and asks me if I got makeup on and that she wants to wear my makeup. I respond that she is beautiful and she doesn’t need makeup to be pretty and Mommy does. She places one tiny hand on each cheek (my favorite thing ever) and looks me in my eyes before breathlessly whispering, “But Mommy YOU are SO pretty!” There was such sincerity, adoration, and truth in her voice that I let the tears fall, never fell more loved than the love from my girls! I am so grateful I took the few minutes to kneel by her bed and just be with her. Slow down, the most precious moments come in the most unexpected times, moments that can’t be rushed, that could be missed if I had rushed her off to bed. Tonight I go to sleep knowing a love that only a child and mother can share….thankful for the quiet moments where these precious beings allow me into their souls, moments of connection…….for it is those moments that make all the tough ones worthwhile! Oh, I so love my girls and their beautiful hearts!
True love is giving up your last piece of bacon! My girls fight like any other siblings but when it comes down to it, their love for one another is the sweetest thing I have ever witnessed. Braelyn and Brynlee LOVE bacon (one of few things I can get them to eat) So I fixed them a plate of bacon this morning and they got down to the last 2 pieces. Brynlee took one piece, Braelyn looked at the plate, noting there was one piece left. She waited for her sister to eat her piece, (I could tell Braelyn wanted the bacon) after brynlee finished eating her piece, my sweet Brae looked at her, handing her the last piece, and says, “Here Dinky Do, you can have the last piece. You is little and you need to grow big. If you still hungry you eat it!” Brynlee said her belly was full and I told Brae that she could eat it and I could make more. Sweetest gesture ever. Just when I wonder if I am doing everything right as a parent, they do something like that and I know I am either doing something right or I just have the best kids in the world!
Absolutely nothing hurts worse than to see your child struggle, to see her try her very best, to see her work so hard and things that come so easily to other children…And then to see that she still can’t master the things she’s working so hard to accomplish….It makes me feel like I’m failing her, it makes me feel like I’m not enough, it however does not make me less proud of her!!! It takes true adversity, true strength, to try, try and try some more…she doesn’t give up, she doesn’t admit defeat, and that is what matters more to me than any struggle she faces. Braelyn, my beautiful girl, I know that you don’t understand all the new things you are learning but mommy promises that together we will conquer whatever needs conquered….It hurts to hear your child falls in the special needs category, it rips at the seams of my heart, but I know we must face whatever hardships you have and we will!!! I refuse to let you be categorized, or put limitations on because I know you will overcome whatever lies ahead…there is nothing you can’t do, and together you will be the very best at whatever you choose to do. I wouldn’t change a single thing about you, you are perfect, you are resilient, you are special, and you are different which is what makes you who you are!! I hate that you have to try harder, study more, try to understand things that you cannot comprehend…but God gave you courage, determination and a stubborn streak a mile long….so just know mommy will be here every step of the way and I’m so thankful that He gave you teachers that want to see you succeed, teachers who see the inner and outer beauty I see, teachers who love you…but then again, I don’t know anyone who can see your smile, hear your contagious laugh and not fall in love with you. This is a part of you, but it doesn’t define you…as tears roll down my face watching you play, I know God has a plan for you (his plan for me was to be your mommy) and I just want to say to the little girl sitting on the couch eating a popsicle I’ve NEVER been more proud of you
Walking down the hall with my tiny Braelyn, she’s dragging her iv pole with her, smiling at everyone she meets, we pass an old man who looks disheartened and before I knew what she was doing she softly pats him on the shoulder, “I hope you won’t be sad.” The old man was sitting outside a room and I didn’t ask his story but he patted Braelyn on the head and responded, “you are a wise little one, life is too short to be sad.” He smiled a weary smile and his eyes went some place I couldn’t see…then she stopped to hand a fussy infant a toy she dropped from her stroller, she holds a door for a lady as we walk through…on the elevator a very sick elderly patient seems to struggle to stand…I look at Braelyn as she has a tendency to say whatever comes to mind which makes me nervous, then she reaches over and touches the ladies hand, it was old, fragile, wrinkled from years of which I know nothing about, her nails even in her frail state are long and manicured with a beautiful shade of red…then the words…”your hands are beautiful, you are beautiful!” The lady looks up tears rimming her already cloudy eyes, “what a sweet girl you are, and you are beautiful!” At this point I feel tears roll silently down my cheeks. As we step off the elevator I watch the lady make her way towards her empty room but before she leaves she touches Braelyn’s hair, “you made this old lady’s night!” She looked at me and I impulsively hug the lady, she hugged me back like a thirsty man drinks water. No words were exchanged between us but as I sit here watching braelyn sleep, I think of that old man who may have lost or may be facing losing a loved one, with a single gesture she comforted him, the toddler who had dropped her toy and Braelyn simply extended a helping hand, but the one that sticks out the most is the lady…mostly her hands…hands that adults would see as weathered…but my sweet girl saw beauty…those hands had undoubtedly rocked a sick baby, nursed a boo boo, cooked and cleaned after little ones much like I do now, and yet her room was empty (we walked by) everyone needs love, comfort, encouragement, and compliments…and my child is a gift, a terrific gift that sees things the way God sees us…I’m still choked up, thank you, God for Braelyn…She’s exceptional, extraordinary, special….I wouldn’t change a thing about her, but God if you get a chance could you let me see things through Braelyns eyes
I had retreated into my quietest of places…..a hidden place. It was free there, no thoughts to elude me, no memories to break me, no heartache could penetrate the depth of my hiding. I didn’t dare let the world in, nor did I let Scotty in. This was a place I couldn’t share with anyone….It wasn’t fair; I realize that now. It was selfish to not allow access to my burden, not even to those I hold dearest! I felt all my emotions splitting me open like the earth splits after an earthquake. There were cracks so deep that if I opened, even the tiniest entrance, I would crumble. I didn’t recognize myself, or my heart or the things that my mind conjured up. I was broken! I was a fixer by nature, always have been. Imagine my pain when I concluded the thing that needed fixed this time, was irreparable and the hardest part was knowing I was what needed fixed.
As a child, I had many dreams. I wanted to be a doctor. The irony? I wanted to be an OB, I wanted to witness birth; the greatest miracle. Only later would I realize that I sought a future in a field where no doctor could offer solutions. Throughout my childhood, my dreams shifted. I dreamt some times of being a teacher, or a child therapist…..all the careers that included kids. I loved children, the way they saw things through new eyes, how their imagination took them to faraway places, and the innocence they held. My dreams came in various shapes, shifting at times to a new destination, but the one job that I always wanted that never changed……..I wanted to be a mother.
Even as a very small girl, when memories fade, when they are hard to summons, the days when my young mind was too young to hold onto all of the tidbits of my days……I remember one deep desire. I remember holding my baby dolls, rocking them, snuggling them, and I took this child’s play very seriously. I saw the way my mom did those behind the scenes things that often go unnoticed. I noticed, I saw the way she tended a boo boo with more care than any physician, the way she listened to me better than any therapist could, she taught me things that no teaching degree could ever help me to learn. Mother…even as a child this word, this title was above all others. It was sleep deprivations, skinned knees, and later in life, broken hearts. Perhaps, I was swayed because my mother was so exceptional. I don’t remember a time that she ever tired of listening to my ramblings about whatever I fancied talking about that day. She read me my favorite book at least a million times, never asking me to pick a new one. With clarity, I recall sitting upon her lap, smiling up at her as she retold the story I had heard so many times but never tired of. I loved her so much, my little heart threatened to burst at the seams when I gazed upon her face. She was beautiful in a way no one else ever was. Her blue eyes were filled with this endless love for me, her arms were my sanctuary when a nightmare woke me, her voice was that of an angel never failing to encourage me, and her smile, well her smile, could brighten the blackest nights. I loved her, and I wanted to be a mom just like her. I wanted my child to love me the way I loved her.
After craving this title my entire life……imagine my betrayal when my own body refused to grant me this one simple wish. I needed a baby, I wanted it more than I had wanted anything. Amaze my dismay when my body rejected the very thing that I longed for my whole existence. I sought out a cure. A cure for my body, a body I had grown to despise. A body that continued to rob me of the one plight in life I had always wanted; a baby! My treacherous body, oh how I loathed it. My heart burning for something, and yet my body expelled it. It was designed to nurture, to carry, to bring forth life….yet it was utterly and completely broken.
I had reached my third miscarriage at this point, and this magic “3” was confirmation for the doctors to decide the thing I had already known….I was broken. That was the diagnosis to me, but the medical world had to find what was causing the reason why I couldn’t do the thing I was made to do; be a mommy. So, began the testing….I was poked, prodded, exposed to needles, and referred to leading physicians in the field of the dreaded category in which I now fell…”infertility.” I hated that word and all it’s implications. My primary obstetrician sent me on a two hour journey to another doctor in Nashville, one who could offer me her expertise. I arrived at her office, my mom and Scotty accompanying me. The normal me would have been comforted with their presence, the familiarity that they were on this journey with me, but the abnormal me (the one that I had resided to), well she shut them out. I embraced the sterile environment, the smell of lysol, the stark whiteness of each doctor’s office, they were my new normal.
I had spent my trek to the appointment scribbling questions. I hadn’t wanted to forget the things I needed to know. My research had taught me the right things to ask. “What are the leading causes for recurrent miscarriage?” “What treatments are offered?” “What are my options?” With renewed determination I followed the voice that summons me to the back room. I was only vaguely aware that my mom and husband were with me, they spoke in hushed tones, which only heightened my irritation. I could hear them, I picked up on their concerns as they escorted me through this journey, and the worried looks on their face only added to my heavy heart. They didn’t have to say a word, I could see the concern etched on their faces. Even then, in my insanity, I could see they feared what this doctor would tell me. Fear that the person they loved before these tragedies may be lost and just a few words could send me spiraling over the brink that I tethered tightly to; a cure.
I willed my heart to be still, to shut everything out, and just await the doctor. I was surprised to find myself taken back to a plush office, with chairs built for comfort and a window meant for viewing the world. I didn’t give a damn about that office, I hated it. Where was the cold, dank room with the white walls? Where was the bed that I had grown accustomed to, the one that stripped me of my clothes, my dignity, as I sat in wait wearing a gown that was more like a large paper towel. I was used to that…the uncomfortable feel of being exposed, it gave me purpose that perhaps the next physician would see the physical cause of what was internally broken. This office? This office was where one come when there were no answers. I silently filed it away to the place where dreams were lost. I felt like I was in a consultation room, right before a doctor came in to tell you that someone you love had died. I sat there, ignoring my surroundings, this was my mission……the childless mother in waiting.
She walked in, but she didn’t have the look most of the doctors had, the pity was absent from her eyes. I appreciated that, I hated the pity, I had no time for that. I instantly hated her, the look on her face told me she was going to be the one that sent me plummeting from the last glimmer of hope I clung to. “Mrs. Mangrum, I have reviewed your charts. I see that you have lost three pregnancies.” She was so matter of fact, I wanted to scream that they weren’t pregnancies they were babies but I refrained simply nodding instead. “It appears that your thyroid is normal, and you tested negative for lupus…those are the two top causes for repeat miscarriage.”
“I am aware of this. I have spoke in length with my doctor about that. What else could be causing this?” I spat venomously as I forced a polite smile upon my face.
“I reviewed the labs you had a few days ago. It appears that you have a blood clotting issue. In cases such as this, your blood clots and essentially causes the loss of your pregnancy. I usually recommend shots in your stomach, twice a day during gestation. However, it appears you are miscarrying far earlier than is typical, which makes this concerning.” I registered all these words, my blood, the blood that coursed through my veins was killing my babies! I wanted to have all of it pumped out, and replenished with blood that knew that it’s job. “The only conclusion I can come to is that, when you conceive your body sees the embryo as a foreign object and destroys it.” She watched me closely as I digested her words…but most disconcerting was the way my family was looking at me. I felt their hands find mine but I shook them off, I couldn’t bare their worries, I could barely hold onto reality.
“You can try the shots, the next time you become impregnated but I have little hope they will work. It seems that you are expelling the babies before they can take shape.” She rose from her chair and extended her hand for me to shake, I couldn’t accept her hand. I instead nodded in her general direction, dropped my head, my eyes couldn’t find their way to her’s it would mean I was admitting defeat.
“That is all you got? I need shots to save my future babies, but I can’t carry them long enough to allow the medicine to work? Well, thank you for your time, and the waste of mine!” Anger had replaced all my other senses, tears shot to my eyes and I cursed myself for not holding it together. Before I allowed them to spill onto the unworthy floor of that plush office of forgotten dreams, I spun on my heel and made a beeline for the exit. I could hear the muffled apologies that Scotty and my mom offered, “She’s been through a lot” “She isn’t usually like this.” I wanted to silence them, if I had wanted to apologize, I had lips to do so. This woman didn’t deserve my apologies for me being ill mannered! But right before I reached the other side of the door, I heard her reply.
“She is entitled to feel angry. She is entitled to feel, however she wants. I chose this occupation to help people, to bring their dreams to life, but along with those things, I found I can’t always offer the answers they want to hear. April, will need you now, just be there……she will find her way, in her own way and at her own pace.” I stepped through the doors, and sprinted to the elevator. I needed out of this hospital, away from the voice of reason the doctor offered. I wanted to hate her, why did I have to be the one she couldn’t save?
I remember the ride home, often they tried to engage me in conversation. Then I pretended to sleep my back to them, offering no answers, and listened as they spoke back and forth. “I just don’t want her to go through any more of this.” “She isn’t ready to give up.” “Not sure how much more she can handle.” “I know she wants a baby but I just want her to be alright.” I loved them more than anything. How selfish I was for shutting them out when they wanted to comfort me. I didn’t want to be loved, I didn’t want to feel, I didn’t want their sympathy or worry! I just wanted to scream, “I AM BROKEN! HOW THE HELL DO YOU EXPECT ME TO BE OKAY WITH THAT?”
I kept silent, feeling the burn of the tears as they splat onto the car seat, I was certain that I would have scars from the fiery water that fell from my eyes. They needed me to be okay, and usually I was the first to set my feelings aside to help my loved ones. I was not capable of that, not this time. They wanted me to be the old me, the one who smiled easily, laughed light heartedly, and faced life head on. I needed a baby, a baby that seemed an impossible miracle, and I was scared that I would no more be able to help them find the April they had lost than I would be able to bring my lost babies back to life. I was gone, I was shattered, and I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb to the pain, I replaced it with anger. I hated this person I was becoming. I had been a guinea pig, a failed experiment, an exposed patient, and to no avail. All for nothing? I wouldn’t give up. I may have lost myself through all of this, but it wouldn’t be for nothing. I needed this, at all costs, and I wasn’t turning back. This would be my mission in life, no matter what I had to lose to find it. I would be a mother, if I had to die from a broken heart to have a baby……that is just what I would do. I would keep trying, keep losing these babies, keep dying inside. I would not go quietly into the night. No I would go kicking and screaming, trying no matter how much it hurt at what I faced losing, because giving up wouldn’t have saved me the pain. Giving up would allow only for me to be emotionally dead, so I would face the pain head on. Pain meant I was alive, and I couldn’t live my life as a childless mother, even if I died from a broken heart….it beat dying from allowing the mother in me to die! Little did I know at that very moment life had once again began forming in my womb…..but I would discover it soon enough.
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.
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.
Last night, my slumber was interrupted, not once, not twice but at least a dozen times. All by things that simply could not wait until the morning, things that demanded my attention, things that only Mom, aka, I could do. One needed to go potty, and needed my company to the bathroom, the other needed a drink, and I dutifully carried out these tasks. I made the trek back to my neglected bed, to close my exhausted eyes, only to hear, “Mom, I need __” and so my tired body somehow managed to get up to meet the requests of my two very needy daughters. In the back of my sleep-deprived mind I thought, “Sleep, please, I just need sleep.” I drifted off around three a.m. to be awakened at 6:30 to a very awake six year old shouting orders for breakfast. I ask myself, who was really captain of this ship? Obviously, they are, and they don’t mean to be bossy, they are just still dependent on me for their needs. The back of my mind wonders when the day will come when I can go to my bed and not be beckoned from it, when will I not be required to assist every need, and then a sadness filters through my exhaustion……..that day will come all too soon.
Oh, as much as parenting two small children wears me out, the thought of the day they no longer need me is torturous. My mind constantly reminds me, “Hold tight to this moment, they are fleeting!” There are days I want to shush that voice, and just be tired and cranky. But I pull strength from some deep place, put a smile on my face, and chipperly ask, “What would you like for breakfast!” Of course, they always want something different, and usually I compromise and they get a pop-tart (don’t judge, I am not a morning person, and it is a task to just stumble to the kitchen). So, the day begins, a list of demands, to dos, sibling rivalry will ensue, channels to change, cartoons to watch, counters to scrub, questions to answer, laundry to launder, dishes to wash, meals to cook, and somehow fit in time to simply enjoy my kids……it seems an impossible feat. The same feat that I face every single day. Do all that needs done, and still find time to be a good mom that does more than just chores. It is a daunting task, one that I face with determination, and usually end the day feeling like either I failed to get the house clean but the kids got attention or my house is tidy and my kids didn’t get the time I planned on giving to them. Either way, there simply is not enough of me to do it all!
I want to the mom who has it all together, a tidy house, happy children, and her sanity. I have resigned myself if I can at least make it through the day with two out of three of these tasks then I have accomplished enough! As mothers, we put these crazy demands on ourselves. I am here to admit it, I am here to say it outloud…..I DO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER! There I said it. That was hard, even to type. I am an overachiever by nature, but I am not superwoman….if you are struggling to hold it all together; IT IS OK! We will fair this day, none the less for the fret and worry and shortcomings. To the moms who have it all together, good for you, I would like to give you a high five….right in the face!
To that mom who says with all her motherly wisdom, just enjoy it, it goes so fast, you will want these days back…..SHUT UP! I already know, that is the cause for all this pressure I feel to cherish each second of every day. But, that is as impossible to do; just as impossible as matching all the socks in my sock basket, because let’s face it we all have a sock basket. It contains tons and tons of tiny socks, varying in size and color, and never, I repeat, NEVER will ALL the socks have a mate. Who knows what happened to the other sock that it originally was paired with, who has time to worry about it? Not me, there are tons more of tiny socks to wash, and tiny feet to put the socks on….and you got me, there are days my children’s socks don’t match….GASP, oh the tragedy!
To that mother who keeps her house spotless, I envy her, mine once was the definition of tidiness…and I still work to maintain order, and cleanliness but it usually involves me staying up after bed to accomplish it. So, if you are that mom who manages to keep her house spic and span, and you have two kids under the age of seven, then truly, I gravel at your feet! I have no idea how she does it, this mom with the spotless house. I scrub grime off cabinets, crayons off walls, and just when I think I can relax, there is a spill to clean up or worse. The OCD side of me wants to hold my children hostage in their room all day, so I can keep my house pristine (I am only half joking). But if they spent their childhood captive in their room, what kind of person would they grow up to be. Nah, I will let them play. I will allow them to scatter their toys across my living room, and I will even keep myself from following behind them to pick them up. They need to build their imagination, need to play, and this is all part of the messy experience. I do make them clean up before bed, but there is almost always a stray toy splayed out on one of my floors…..and I am just going to have to be okay with that. So, if you come to my house at noon, I can’t guarantee you will not see a bevy of various toys speckling my house. You have been warned. Children live here, and children, well, children are messy! I will continue the never-ending challenge of keeping it orderly, some days I am more successful than others.
I have two little girls, which is exactly what I always wanted. Along with these two little girls, I also will confess, I have an obsession with clothes. They have boutique clothes, you know the ones you have to hang dry? Yeah, those clothes….as if I don’t face an insurmountable hurdle of keeping up with clothes with regular washing requirements….If you see my children out you will undoubtedly see, two beautiful little blondes with adorable frilly outfits, perfectly styled hair….and then you will see me, frazzled, hair bobby pinned, and unpressed clothing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fashion, and dressing up, but if I have an errand, there are only so many hours to get us both dressed and usually that is them. Just like their laundry, it always gets hung to avoid wrinkles, my everyday wear usually gets shoved wherever the heck it will fit!
To those mothers who strive for perfection…….look in your childrens’ eyes….there you will find it! If you think that you have accomplished all the feats of motherhood, you might want to inspect your children….through the hustle and bustle, did you stop and play with them awhile? Did you enjoy their company? Appearances are important but my joy comes from seeing my girls smile. Now, I have a game of baby dolls to play with two important people, and then maybe, just maybe, if time allows I will get the sink emptied of dishes, the laundry switched out, and all the toys put away….but if not, there is always tomorrow for those things, today I choose my kids first!
Motherhood Prayer…I pray for a day when no person goes hungry, no child is abused, no child is without loving parents, bullies don’t exist, violence becomes peace, anger becomes compassion, lies become the truth, hurt becomes joy, heartache turns to peace, childhood illness like cancer is cured, I pray for this everyday….but as I pray this I also pray that if that change doesn’t evolve in my lifetime that my girls will be a part of that change. I pray they never lose their softness, their sweet innocence, their want to help those in need, their willingness to accept others despite their shortcomings, the way they simply love…..even me when I am not lovable….God keep their hearts pure, soft and kind, never allow the hardships in life to harden them…instead help it to enlighten them, a way to deepen their understanding and desire to love regardless of a person qualities….I pray this and as I do that, just for a moment I hold these precious babies in my arms. Today, I am their protector; today they are untouched by hurtful words, unmarred by actions of others, no pain has scarred them…..as long as I breathe I will pray this prayer about a better world because of my girls I am a little better, the world is a better place because they are in it…..TODAY I will hold two blonde haired innocent babies, and hold tight so that I can protect them from the ugliness…..TODAY I am the determiner of their happiness and I want them to fill my love engulf and smother out all of the sadness in this world! Thankful for them everyday! Thank you, Lord….I may not have changed the world single handedly but with these babies the world is changed!