In 1998, I gave birth to my two beautiful children.
A difficult pregnancy culminated into a difficult birth, and I became the mother of preemie twins, living in the NICU. They were extremely early, extremely underweight, and clinging to life. To make things a million times better, my first husband, their biological father, walked out on me when I was approximately ten weeks pregnant. It was, by far, the most scary, painful, difficult time of my life, to date.
Time went on, life moved forward. The children became well, and managed to leave the hospital. I became well with my life and managed to move, get a job, and buy a house. I managed to very neatly put that part of my life in that secret place in my head where I just couldn’t go. I told myself that everything was okay now, and there was no reason to deal with it any longer.
In truth? I had never dealt with it at all.
In 2002, I joined an online message board called The Knot because I was happily planning a wedding with Jason. Over time, I met a group of women who became my close friends. One of the women and I became especially close. Eventually, a group of about twenty of us formed our own MSN board.
When my friend, Angie, announced her pregnancy, I was thrilled for her. A lot of the reason I was thrilled for her, was because she was left pregnant at the age of 19 and never got to have the experience that all women want…the cooing daddy holding your purse and looking at the ultrasound with you, the decorating the babies room, the laying in bed at night and thinking about the baby together, planning the future. Angie has a great husband, Jeff, who loves her son Kyle as though he was his own flesh and blood.
I wanted her to have the whole “pregnancy” experience, though. I wanted that and I wanted that for her. I remember telling her that I had a strong feeling her baby was little girl. I remember the name games on the board: Seth or Casey. I started referring to her baby as Casey. Casey was due on August 10th, 2005.
In early June, I went to work as usual and then to my chemistry class after work. I was a little bit early for class, so I went into the computer lab so I could check my email and log into my MSN board and see what everyone was up to that day.
I saw a post, on that board, and my heart stopped beating for a moment.
Casey June. Born. June 3rd, 2005.
(Typing this? Now? Today? Almost 2 years later? I still have chills all over my arms.)
Before I could open the post, I was sobbing. The floodgates burst open and I felt every single emotion that I had never allowed myself to feel. I began to say to myself, out loud, “I can’t believe this. I can’t BELIEVE THIS!” Some of my classmates crowded around me to make sure I was okay.
And then? I saw her.
And my heart stopped again.
Immediately, I was overwhelmed with a sense of absolute love for that child. I have never met her, I have never met her mother (although she and I share a bond of two women who have been friends forever). But I loved Casey. I immediately loved Casey and I immediately began to pray to God that Casey would live and Casey would grow and that Casey would be okay.
I went to my class and sat in a fog…a daze. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think about Chemistry. All I could think about was my friend, and her baby, hundreds of miles away from me. All I wanted to do was grab Angie and hug her and hold her and tell her that everything would be okay.
And it hit me, a little while later, as to why.
No one ever told me, it will be okay.
No one ever told me, you are not alone.
No one ever told me, it’s not your fault.
There aren’t books for this crap, you know? No one tells you, hey, when you come into the hospital and you have your baby and then you get to leave and your baby doesn’t? It sucks. No one tells you that. No one tells you how it feels to go in pregnant and have to leave with no baby. There aren’t books and magazine with pictures of scrawny, sickly babies on the covers.
I was the first person in my family to have twins. I was the first person in my family to have premature babies (both of my sisters produced big, strapping children). No one knew how to act and no one knew what to say. So many people wanted to find a reason for what happened. They wanted to explain it away or tell me what I should have done that would have made everything better. That didn’t help. I didn’t want that for Angie. I wanted to help her, to be there for her, to be her shoulder.
But as it turns out, as it often does, she helped me far, far more than I ever helped her.
This woman? She’s a rock. She is an absolute rock. She had her head on straight. She attacked this challenge like I have seen her attack every single challenge she’s been faced with: immediately, without fear, and with all the love her huge heart can hold. She was amazing.
I’m sure she had moments that she wept. I’m sure she had moments when she questioned God. I’m sure she had moments when she thought, “I can’t do this anymore.”
But she put on her game face, she woman’ed up, and she faced this enormous challenge like it was a blessing.
She posted pictures of this child, this tiny little infant, smaller than a loaf of bread. I forced myself to look at this child’s pictures. I had some hospital pictures of my twins which I promptly put into a photo storage box and never looked at again. But I looked at Casey. And I discovered something amazing.
She was beautiful.
She was not scary.
I was not afraid of her.
I took the pictures of my twins out of the photo storage box. I looked at them. I got a big frame, you know, like the ones that hold about 20 pictures? I put some of them in the frame. I put other pictures in too, pictures that showed them healthy and happy and strong. I hung it on my wall in a place I knew I would look at it every single day.
I look at it every single day.
Without Angie, and her bravery, and her courage, I would have never looked at those pictures again.
Other friends had babies, and I would go to the hospital, and actually hold their babies. They were little, but they were not fragile or scary. It was okay. I hadn’t been able to do that before.
Because of Angie, and her bravery, I could.
Because of Angie and Casey, I forced myself to talk to a therapist about what I was feeling and how I had never dealt with it, and how scary it was. It was like something shifted within me and everything from ten years of drama and stress and pain exploded inside of my guts. But it was necessary. I needed it. I wasn’t really living my life, I was just going through the motions.
One day, I looked at my husband and I decided, “I want to have a baby with this man.” When I met him, I could never imagine having a child with him, or anyone. It wasn’t him, it was the having a child part. In my mind, having a child equaled being left alone. I couldn’t risk being left alone. But now it was okay.
I found out in time that I’m suffering from secondary infertility, a devastating blow.
And who was right by my side, helping me get through it, listening to me vent, being my rock?
You guessed it.
These days, Casey is a beautiful, vibrant, happy almost two-year-old. Angie tells me she kisses my picture and says, “Pretty.” On my fridge are pictures of her, from when she was a tiny little infant, and those from now. I kiss my fingers and touch her pictures too.
Someday I will meet them, and it will be like meeting an old friend.
And I will thank them, both of them, for saving my life.