I remember when I found out I was pregnant with you. I accidentally woke up your Daddy at 5:30 in the morning by hysterically sobbing on the bathroom floor clutching a pee stick. Your Father practically lept out of bed in boyish (albeit groggy) glee. It was beautiful and terrifying.
I remember when your Daddy was working in another city three hours away while I worked 50 hour weeks so we could provide you with a wonderful life and safe and stable future. It was so hard. Mommy had to get in the car and drive her own ass to Walmart to get her pregnancy cravings at 1 in the morning. Usually it was cocoa puffs or cocoa pebbles courtesy of the cocoa shea butter I was rubbing all over my belly in an effort to reduce stretchmarks. It sometimes felt like Mommy was all alone.
I remember when our dog, Kali, had puppies. Here mommy was, super pregnant with a full time job, two dogs, and 10 puppies. I was really afraid to be a mommy, but Kali made me feel like I could do it. The love from all those puppies helped mommy get through all the lonely times without Daddy.
I remember when Daddy was given the opportunity to move to Yuma and took it. It was so terrifying. Mommy left her job and her friends and family to go live in the armpit of Arizona in the middle of her pregnancy. My pregnant self took solace in the fact that there would be wonderful salsa there.
I remember when I met my midwife, Annette, and never felt such trust and compassion in a health provider. She made Mommy feel empowered as a woman. We talked about our birth plan. I wanted to do a natural birth- it was unlikely that I could have an epidural due to the curvature of my spine from scoliosis. I wanted to feel the power flow through my body as I birthed you. I wanted to hear your cries as they placed you upon my chest. I wanted it to be you, with just me and daddy- our little nuclear family.
I remember when I drove to my 30 week appointment to check on you. The sun was shinning, and I had the radio blaring. I told Daddy he didn't have to come, since it would just be a routine check up. But then it happened. They took Mommy back and began to check her vitals. One, two, three times they checked her blood pressure. Something was wrong. Mommy saw it in the furrow of the nurses brow as she fumbled with the blood pressure cuff. She said the machine might be wrong and my midwife would be with me shortly and would be checking it again.
I remember when my midwife came in and said the word, "preeclampsia." Mommy already knew that word and a sense of dread welled up in her stomach. She barely registered what the nurses and the midwife were saying to her. Preeclampsia, a silent killer.
I remember they told me to go to the hospital right then, that it could not wait. I vaguely remember going into shock. Daddy was coming to pick us up so Mommy wouldn't have to go to the hospital alone. Did you know Mommy had never been in a hospital before? She hadn't registered yet, or done the tour. Everything was wrong- this was not the plan. Mommy was suppose to go to the social security office today because she still hadn't changed her maiden name. Mommy has commitment issues.
I remember them telling me that they would hold me overnight so they could get test results. Did you know it only takes 300 mg of protein in your urine to be diagnosed with preeclampsia? Mommy had 6,000. Her kidneys were dumping it. The doctors were worried because my symptoms came out of nowhere. My pregnancy had been a beautiful, textbook pregnancy and at the snap of two fingers things became critical.
I remember when they released me the next day. They told me that since they caught it in time, they should be able to get us safely to full term with monitoring and blood pressure medication. Mommy would have to go to two specialist visits a week to take stress tests to make sure you were doing okay.
I remember the next day I had a stress test and you were measuring several weeks smaller than you should have been. You were measuring about 28 weeks when you should have been 30+weeks. They also discovered that Mommy was having contractions 3 minutes apart and was in the throes of preterm labor. Then they decided to readmit me. They wanted to put me on the magnesium drip in case you decided to come early to help give you a fighting chance for survival- it would help reduce brain bleeding, they said. The mag drip also helped stop the contractions. They still said not to worry, that they should be able to get us to 36 weeks.
I remember how sick the medication made me. The Magnesium drip was absolutely awful. It felt like I had the flu and menopause hot flashes. My eyes felt they were steaming and my nurses covered me in ice packs and fans to make things more comfortable. I still was sweating in spite of their interventions. Nausea overwhelmed me. I was too ill to move and so I had a catheter, which simulated the experience of a UTI. It was painful and miserable, but I hoped it would keep you safe in your little haven.
I remember when they let us go again. They gave me two steroid shots to help increase your lung capacity "just in case" you tried to come early. Mommy knew you were going to come early, she could feel it. She could feel the general unease in the medical providers and she knew things were more grave than they were trying to let on.
I remember I went back to Triage the next the night because we hadn't felt you move in 24 hours. It was a false alarm- all the medicines that made Mommy feel sick made you feel sleepy. Mommy and Daddy went home. We didn't tell anyone we had been at the hospital. It had been such an emotional ride the last week, in and out of the hospital that we decided against telling family.
I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning on Monday and I felt wrong. I couldn't breathe. I could tell by how I felt that my blood pressure was going to be high. I tested my blood pressure which had spiked to 173/110. I felt terrible for calling my midwife at 5:30 in the morning. She told me to go to the hospital as soon as possible. Jon was sleeping. I felt numb. I think I knew you would be joining us that day, sweet Calvin. Every fiber of my being emanated dread. I took a long, long hot shower. It was mainly to let your daddy sleep. I felt guilt that his whole world had been in such upheaval. We were finally headed to the hospital at 7:30am.
I remember when I got to the hospital for what seemed like my millionth time. There was a different nurse in triage that day that I had not seen before. She treated me with the disdain of someone who thinks all pregnant women are fakers who don't know what a real emergency is. All I know is that her smug little attitude was wiped off her face when she tested my blood pressure and it had risen to 180/115- she literally ran for the doctor. I was put on a magnesium drip again, this time to prevent me from having a seizure or a stroke.
I remember how my health started to decline rapidly and a NICU specialist came and talked to about the risk factors if our baby were to be born at 31 weeks of gestation. Shortly after, the perinatologist came to speak to me. He diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia and told me that I was destabilizing at an alarming rate and didn't think I would make it through the night. As he was talking to me, my vision began to blur and we began to talk about our options. Daddy was half an hour away and he was racing back to the hospital; Mommy wasn't sure if he was going to make it in time.
I remember Mommy and Daddy had a really tough decision to make. We were offered the option to induce labor and attempt to deliver, even though it would be traumatic for our little Squish. The medical staff thought I might hemorrhage and stroke on the operating table. There was high risk for me in having a c-section despite it being better for our baby. At this point in time, it was almost 9pm and I was no longer in condition to labor. I was exhausted, sick from the magnesium, and my body was swelling at an alarming rate to the point my eyes were almost swollen shut. They took all these factors into consideration and it looked like an emergency cesarean was inevitable. We decided we didn't want anything to happen to you, sweet Calvin.
I remember when I went into the OR to get the spinal block. I had my midwife blast the Taylor Swift Pandora station. The first song that came on was Maroon 5's 'Harder to Breathe,' which was perfect considering I was gasping for air mid panic attack. The swelling on my body made it difficult to move and even harder for the anesthesiologist to find the spaces between my vertebrae. One. Two. Three times he attempted. I screamed- he hit a nerve. My midwife pulled me closer to her and just held me as I sobbed. I whispered "I am so scared." over and over. They finally got the needle in.
I remember feeling so disoriented. I knew that I was in shock. I didn't know what the operating room looked like because I had to keep my eyes closed since they couldn't control my blood pressure and the bright lights were making it spike. Keeping my eyes closed just furthered the emotionally removed feeling that settled over me- Was I in my body? I felt so far away, like I had tumbled down a deep, dark hole. Mommy thought that she was going to die, but she hoped that it would at least save you.
I remember using humor to help me hold on to my sanity as they prepped for surgery. I told the nurses to look at my beautiful belly that was stretchmark free. I wanted them to admire how perfect it was before it was forever marred with a c-section scar. I had the lamest jokes. Mommy's therapist says that humor is one of the strongest coping mechanisms. I guess Mommy is really dysfunctional because she has always been hilarious.
I remember having a bad reaction to the anesthesia. I threw up on my poor midwife- she's the best. I was dry-heaving throughout the surgery. The nausea coupled with my anxiety made me feel like I was going to choke to death on my own vomit, strapped to the operating table.
I remember when I heard Dr. Lokareddy say, "this is the test cut, can you feel anything?" I felt nothing as they cut through 7 layers of dermis, fat, and muscle tissue. The oxygen they had me on wicked away the moisture in my mouth- it made me feel like I was suffocating. I began to hyperventilate. The operating table had straps that held my arms out like a crucifix. I began to have flashbacks of when I was raped. I managed to free my left hand and rip the oxygen mask off. Once my mask was off, I felt more calm, I didn't feel so claustrophobic.
I remember Annette had left the Pandora station on for me. I felt when they took you out of Mommy. It seemed like an eternity as I waited for your cries, to know if you were okay. Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" was playing in the background as I waited. Finally I heard your soft cries. I felt relief wash over me. "....Now We've got problems, and I don't think we can solve 'em." It's like Taylor Swift knows me.
I remember at 9:22 pm on Monday, 7/13/2015, Calvin John Kirkland came into this world.
I remember Daddy left the OR with you when the medical team rushed you to the NICU. I heard that the surfactant lung injection was hard to watch. Mommy wishes she could have been there. Because the abrupt nature of the end of our pregnancy, my hormones crashed hard and my body was thrown into violent spasms. My hands trembled uncontrollably as shakes consumed me and my jaws clacked together. Tears streamed down my checks. Somewhere in this hospital was my little baby in a world that was too loud, too bright, and too painful for him. I was useless. I was broken. I was waiting to die. I asked the male nurse if I could hold his hand while I cried and shook. The anesthesiologist took my other hand. I did not see their faces, I did not know the faces of the angles who comforted me while I felt alone in that Godforsaken room.
I remember there was chaos and pain. My body continued to be wracked with violent tremors as the spinal block wore off. They injected me with morphine and fire raced through my veins. Unfortunately for me, it would appear I am immune to it. It took hours to find something that worked. With every spasm my abdominal muscles would tense and my fresh incision threatened to end me. I wished for death. The pain and the emotional desperation I found myself in knows no bounds. I feel that our society does not fully grasp the horror of the cesarean section. I feel the fact that it is so commonplace somehow downplays the fact that it is significant surgery. The c-section is, in one word, excruciating.
I remember when I visited you for the first time in the NICU.
I remember the first time I touched you. I was so afraid. I felt overwhelmed by all the wires on your fragile little body.
I remember how I could hear the other mommas in labor and delivery. I could hear the babies cry. I cried with them, you know. I cried because you were taken from me and I was alone. I cried because I thought of you alone, taken from me too soon. It was the 7th circle of Dante's Hell. My arms ached for my child while a chorus of babes could be heard through the walls. Mommy would have given anything to be with you.
I remember the bitterness I felt as I watched you through the glass in your isolette. I felt that the artificial womb mocked me. We were a team and I had failed you. I died inside every time you cried; every time they hurt you. With every prick, I felt my guilt overwhelm me. What kind of mother was I? I had given you to the world in all her wretchedness far too early.
I remember waiting by your incubator, waiting and just watching. Mommy could only hold you for 45 minutes a day at first. Your precious little body couldn't regulate it's own heat or handle the stress of being handled.
I remember how my body swelled from gaining 30 pounds of water weight in a week and a half. I could barely bend my knees. I remember a nurse helping me undress and get in the shower at one point. My body felt turgid and slow. I was beyond humiliation at that point. I was lost in my emotional fog and the sickness and pain.
I remember when Mommy accidentally walked in on you getting your PICC line. I was still in the hospital because they could not manage my blood pressure. I came to drop off some breastmilk and see you. I wasn't expecting to see you heavily sedated in the middle of a surgical procedure. I froze and panic set in. I couldn't handle seeing you like that, so I left after 10 minutes. I felt guilt that I abandoned you, but I was breaking inside. I think I could have stayed and been strong for you if I had not been alone that day. I hope you know that Mommy loves you and she is so sorry for everything.
I remember suffering from postpartum depression that enveloped everything. I felt guilt, shame, sadness, anger, betrayal, abandonment, and fear. I remember struggling to keep my head above water while people who professed to care about me smothered me with their own agenda. I developed severe PTSD. I began to have extreme social anxiety.
I remember struggling because the movies didn't show motherhood this way. No one spoke of the NICU and the Smegal babies that lived there. The mommy blogs I read were bursting at the seams with goodness and over excessively bubbly- like a live-action pintrest. How was I such a failure?
I remember wanting to die because I didn't think I was the Mommy you deserved.
I remember when I started to get better and my gray clouds began to part. I began to feel again. People would tell me how strong I was. I never thought I was strong. However, I never gave up and while I never truly vanquished my demons, I never let them overtake me and I realized that was strength. Strength does not mean it comes easily or naturally or that if you just grit your teeth you can accomplish it. Strength means that you have persevered against all odds and pushed through every limit you once thought bound you. Sweet Calvin, you are my strength. You are the reason I was able to put one foot in front of the other.
I remember when the NICU became our perverse kind of normal. When Mommy moved to Yuma, she didn't know many people here. She spent hours upon hours in the hospital with your nurses and they became her first friends. They are extended family. Mommy never felt jealous of the nurses who watched over you because she was just grateful that such beautiful women (and Martin) were there for you when Mommy couldn't be. I watched the tenderness in which they held you, and I knew they loved you too.
I remember when Mommy was checked out of the hospital but you had to stay. We shared the same roof for 7 days and when I left, I thought I would die. I left my heart in the NICU. Of course Mommy would come back everyday, but she would have to leave everyday too, and she thought her soul would break.
I remember how small you were. You were my little three pound miracle. You dropped down to 2 pounds, 14 ounces at one point. I was terrified to touch you, to hold you. I didn't even know how to hold a normal baby. I think the NICU nurses were sent to teach me how to be a Mommy.
I remember the long hours of holding you to my chest with Kangaroo care. It was my favorite. Mommy felt so distraught all the time until she was holding you. I'd like to think it was your favorite, too. Daddy did skin to skin bonding with you also. I hope you know that you are your Daddy's entire world.
I remember how the scary cords eventually lost their shock value. Mommy began to find her rhythm.
I remember that it took you a long time to learn the suck, swallow, breathe reflex. Because you struggled with eating, you stayed in the NICU for a long time. We were there for 49 days. There were times that Mommy felt discouraged; especially when one of your neighbors went home. Those days were especially hard.
I remember how far you have come. You are a survivor. You are a warrior. You are a fighter. You are the most beautiful human I have ever met and your strength showed before you could even open your eyes. Mommy is so proud of you.
I remember when we finally got to take you home. Mommy had mixed feelings because the NICU had been her home for 7 weeks. She was afraid to take you home where there would be no monitors, no nurses to help, no one to turn to if she had a question. Mommy was also sad to leave the nurses because she had spent so much time with them and very few people could understand things like they could. However, it was okay. We took you home and it was like we didn't even realize we had been holding our breath for 7 weeks. We were finally able to relax. I was your mother, but I finally felt like your Mommy. I think before I took you home, I didn't quite know how to be your mom, I only knew how to be your nurse. Our family began to heal when we were finally able to take you home.
I remember what life was like before you graced us with your presence, but only barely. It seems so dim compared to the light that you bring into our lives. I was afraid to be a mother. I was afraid of the responsibility; I was afraid of failure. You have been a salve to my soul. You have given me a peace that I think I have been searching for all my life. Mommy and Daddy love you, unconditionally.
I will remember this birth- this Frankenstein birth from hell. It was unnatural, it was horrifying, it was painful- but I got you. It doesn't really matter that I didn't get the birth I wanted. We are still alive. It doesn't matter that our bonding didn't happen in the way that I envisioned it, because I know we love each other and we are bonded. It doesn't matter that I did end up with PPD and PTSD, because I fight those battles, and we have good days. Each morning you wake up with a smile and I know that the things I worry about are trivial. You are happy, healthy, and loved. I work each day to be worthy of being your mom.
I remember when I sent Hobbs to live in the NICU with you. It was a way I felt that I could make sure you didn't feel alone at night. He was so big that he had to sit on top of your isolette. Look at you then in the NICU verses at home at 6 months. Look how big you are. Sweet Calvin, remember that no matter how big you get, you will always be my little Squish.