When life gives you lemons… (Part 2)

When life gives you lemons… (Part 2)

Disclaimer: This is my real-life personal story. Read it if you will. Learn from it what you can. Read Part 1 if you really want it to make sense. But this is part of my own personal healing, and not about being perfect or having you read it. It’s about me telling my story to anyone who will listen with an open heart, and me solidifying the fact that my story, and my voice, is worth being heard/read. 

So, I did get help. Help from my wonderful stake president, who truly became a friend and confidant. Help from a lovely therapist, who helped me realize that the shame I felt from coming home early and not being able to just push through everything was NOT the feeling that Heavenly Father would want me to have.

And slowly but surely, I began to climb the mountain.

I started throwing myself back into the rhythm of serving, learning, reading, and hoping in the gospel. It didn’t take away the pain, or the confusion and hurt I was left with, but it sure helped a lot. I spent a lot of time with the missionaries, with my grandparents, with my scriptures and conference talks, with everything possible that would at least momentarily get me out of the rut I was in. After about a month of this, I realized my prayers had changed. Instead of pleading for Heavenly Father to make me well again so I could go back to Vegas and finish my mission, I asked Him to help me make decisions according to His will. And I started to feel a little more… centered.

Simultaneously, I realized that a door was closed. Though not everyone close to me agrees with that, I knew by the end of February that I wasn’t going back to Las Vegas. I guess I never really came to terms with that, but I am certain now that Heavenly Father had other plans for me, and that there were things I needed to learn that couldn’t be learned in a ‘normal’ missionary environment.

And so I returned to school that summer, unfortunately on less-than-perfect terms with my family, who shared my pain in a major disappointment. Looking back, I realize now that they were trying to love me, but in the moment? I was positively sure that there was nothing I could do to live up to their expectations, so I gave up trying. At least, I thought I did. What I didn’t realize, though, was how much I was pulling away from my family, simply because I was terrified that I wouldn’t ever be ‘enough’ for them, because I certainly felt like I wouldn’t ever be ‘enough’ for myself.

All things considered, the next year and a half went by rather quickly, even rushed. I met and started dating another BYU student that promised to love me despite my brokenness, but who in all actuality took advantage of my weak mind. I was still trying to cling to that image of who I had wanted to be, although this really made me just a shell of myself, trying to keep my pieces together despite the fact that this meant I was also still holding onto the shame that the adversary wanted me to feel. I pulled away from my friends, and certainly distanced myself even further from my family, who were seeing all sorts of red flags that I wasn’t ready to see. There was a lot of loneliness in this time, so it made it easier to have someone that I believed would love and protect me, even if the ‘love’ he showed made me feel uncomfortable and worse, almost unclean. I guess I just kept telling myself it was normal, and it was a lot easier to just insist that my parents were wrong, that my parents were the problem.

Obviously, I had a lot of growing up to do.

During this time there were good moments, too. Like how the VERY FIRST SUNDAY I was in my new ward in Provo, the bishopric member who interviewed me turned out to be a doctor familiar with POTS and its causes and effects on the body. Though every other specialist took 3-4 months to even get an appointment with, he got me in within 2 weeks, had me tested for a G.I. condition, had OFF THE CHARTS positive results, and got me started on a treatment and special diet, all within the span of 2 months. My own personal miracle! I will always be grateful for him.

And the ward I was in! Oh man, I loved that YSA ward to pieces. I was rooming with a former freshman roommate who I ADORED, and got to participate as a teacher, and then a counselor in our Relief Society. It was amazing, and certainly a much needed respite from the rest of the drama in my life.

The story I kept telling myself was still rather shaky, though. The guy I was dating started talking about marriage the week we even started dating, and as a ‘good Mormon girl’, I hadn’t really done a lot of exclusive dating before anyways, so I didn’t really know how a relationship was supposed to work. I didn’t realize that I had the right to set boundaries that meant something, and that my companion had an equal responsibility to make sure those boundaries were kept, whatever they were concerning.

This is the moment where I step aside for awhile, onto my personal and VERY IMPORTANT soapbox!

SISTERS!!!! And young ladies all around the world. YOU have the right AND the responsibility to your future family, and more importantly to yourself and your own well-being to SET BOUNDARIES THAT ARE NOT CROSSED! Forgiveness and charity and love need to come second to securing your own physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. It is not your responsibility to give a young man the right to do what he wants with your body or your spirit! And ANY BOY (because real men will not do this) who doesn’t listen to the word ‘no’ in whatever capacity, or who really DOESN’T CARE about how uncomfortable something makes you feel, cannot love you. You know this. Your heart knows this. That’s why you feel dazed and confused, and ashamed. That is why you pull away from your family, your friends, and don’t know what to say when they ask you about your relationships.

In case you didn’t realize? This is a bad sign.

If he doesn’t respect your boundaries, he doesn’t – and will not – respect you. This lays the perfect groundwork for abuse, misery, depression, and ultimate pain. Don’t allow yourself to be put in a situation where your opinion, or desires, or needs don’t matter.

Ok done.

Well, long story short? I learned much, much later that when you pray about a decision? You should not pray along the lines of, “I guess I’m choosing this, it seems like a good thing to do, so please stop me if it’s not right.” Because by that point? You’ve already chosen, and Heavenly Father will not infringe on your right to choose.

So, convinced my family would never love me because I never ‘finished’ my mission, and convinced that no one would want to marry a chronically sick person, but that maybe I had just lucked out on someone who didn’t mind, and convinced (by a certain someone) that if we waited even a few more months, we’d “mess up”, and convinced that any two people who were committed to making a marriage work would be able to make it work, especially if covenants were made in the temple, I got married.

I really did think it was the right thing to do, and even now I don’t think I would have gone back to change my decision, but like basically ALL things that happen in my life, this didn’t go according to plan either. I did get an answer from Heavenly Father that by taking this course, everything would work out alright, but only now do I realize that He is not restricted by our time or our plans, and you know what? It is alright now.

Anyways, I basically eloped to the D.C. temple. My heart broke again to have my parents refuse to come and support me. I loved, and still love, everyone who made my choice possible and important to them. Needless to say, though, this really wasn’t the wedding of my dreams. Which doesn’t matter too much, because let’s be real here – the wedding is not what makes the marriage. But unfortunately mine was a type and a shadow of what my marriage would be like.

I never actually made the role of “most important person” in my husband’s life. My life was lonely, and stressful, and for the first few months I could ignore it. I claimed to be happy, and tried to be. I put every effort into my marriage, and keeping up the pretense. But it was too hard to keep it up with those who had been closest and most important to me from before. There were so many dear friends I longed to write, to talk to, to congratulate for finishing their own missions, or marrying their own eternal companions. But somehow, my inner voice had been silenced. I guess by this point I had betrayed my every dream, my every goal and righteous desire in life outside of being the best dang wife and mother I possibly could be. So I tried to focus on that.

It was hard to not communicate with my parents. It was hard to look forward to a future of bending over backwards to please my husband and his family and know that my parents didn’t want any part of it.

And it was hard to feel like I had to compete with pornography.

I had known about his addiction while we were dating. Well, not really. I literally knew nothing about pornography except it involved bad pictures and was something we’ve been warned against, and his disclosure was more of an “I’ve had this problem in the past that you should know about, but it’s not a problem anymore and it will certainly not be a problem when we’re married and can have sex” kind of thing. You know, the Big Fat Lie kind of thing.

P.S. I am really proud of myself for coming out and sharing my feelings about a ‘delicate’ topic that really needs to be brought to light. So gasp if you want to, but I have every right to FEEL and EXPRESS, the same as everyone else.

I tried for a long time to pretend like I didn’t notice. I blamed myself for failing as a wife, and tried to do what I could as a newlywed to make my husband actually notice me. It was really hard. And really soul-crushing. Especially when I saw that he hardly touched me or talked to me or even sat near me when we were with his family. I was so confused. Where was that guy who told me he loved me so much he couldn’t keep his hands off? I had never felt so rejected, ugly, unwanted in my life. Then, a month after we got married I had an ovarian cyst rupture. A month later, (again, because of bad medical advice with birth control) I was pregnant. And things changed a little.

I always felt so bad for him. He had a broken wife who couldn’t even go to the doctor without him, and I really struggled to handle my full courseload and two part-time jobs as I got sicker and sicker. It must be so hard to be saddled with someone like me. So I tried to make it as easy on him as I could. Maybe I didn’t do a good enough job of not caring about things, but you could hardly blame me. I wanted to be loved, and I had been promised a loving, righteous marriage.

And oh, how he loved me when I was pregnant. He was sweeter, more attentive, willing to get up at midnight and make me quesadillas because I was so hungry, and so sick I couldn’t move or eat basically anything else without having it come right back up. Willing to spend time with me he hadn’t spent before. And he was so gentle.

As a pregnant woman, I realized how important my family was to me, and finally got in contact with them again. We rebuilt some broken bridges, and were willing to move forward. What a blessing! What a miracle!

Finally, I got so sick I couldn’t move because of pain. Four days of intense pain, no sleep, nausea, dr’s visits, and various tests resulted in a male OB prescribing me antibiotics and telling me that if I just finished the bottle I should be fine, that I’d probably just have to deal with the pain until it subsided.

I finished the bottle.

Three days later, I called my mom. I was bleeding, and scared, and still sick. I laid down and took a nap, feeling guilty for following her orders to stay horizontal when I had told my husband I would bring him lunch.

(CAUTION: This may be too much info… but I have NEVER had ‘light’ period cramps. They’ve always been pretty terrible, often debilitating.)

I woke up with the worst cramps I’d ever had.

The rest of the day was like a dream.

4:30. I called the OB clinic. Left a message.

5 o’clock. They called back. Told me to go to Labor and Delivery. “Ok, where is that?” “In the hospital. The Labor and Delivery of the hospital.” “Oh.” My heart simultaneously sank and started racing.

We somehow got to the hospital, with my CNM on call, at the hospital with the best NICU around. Seriously. Blessings.

6 o’clock. I put on a hospital gown, expecting to be there for only a few hours. The nurse tells me it’ll be at least a few days. My husband starts making calls, he thinks he might be late to work the next day.

6:30. I go to pee in a cup. My cervix is dilated, and Baby Girl is pushing down on her waterbag. I freak out. Ohmygosh I do NOT want to have a baby in a toilet! Somehow in the next hour, I am flipped nearly upside down on the hospital bed, hooked to an IV, given a shot of something to help Baby’s lungs, given something to stop the contractions. He his calling his family.

7 o’clock. Doctors file into my room. I don’t understand why everyone looks so sad and keeps apologizing. An ultrasound registers the dilation and we find out that the water bag and umbilical cord are not in the right place. We also find out that 22-week old Baby Girl is still really small. A doctor gives me bad news that I don’t understand.

7:30. We finally get ahold of my parents. My mom is unsure if she can come the next morning. She tells me it will be okay, hangs up to buy her ticket. I think it’s because my parents still don’t forgive me. Despair is really hard to fight. By this point, we know Baby’s coming in the next few days. He calls work, home teachers, all of his family members. All I want is someone to hold my hand, but I have to stay calm and be the one to keep pulling him off his phone to answer questions asked by the nurses. They’re getting annoyed. I’m getting anxious. I keep apologizing, like I’m a robot with a broken record as a speaker. I still don’t understand the sad faces and “I’m so sorry’s”. I’m so used to saying It’s Okay, It’s Fine, that I can’t help it, though I realize the words are horribly, despairingly empty.

8 o’clock. Doctors and nurses rush in when I freak out again – that was a big contraction. Someone’s already explained that I can’t have her naturally. She’s breach, she’s tiny, and the umbilical cord is in the wrong place. It’s emergency C-section or super-possibly-fatal-to-both-of-us emergency C-section. We can’t wait any longer. I still just want someone to hold my hand.

8:30. They start the process. I’m so terrified, my whole body is shaking, even after I can’t feel it move. I hope and pray desperately that I will pass out until it’s over. I don’t.

9 o’clock. I’m trying to pretend this isn’t happening. I beg him to just hold my hand – which he does during the whole operation – and to just center me with his eyes, the color of the scrubs he has to wear, matching all of the doctors and nurses. I don’t realize I can’t actually talk.

9:30. I have a baby. And morphine. Lots of morphine. He agrees to my name for her, a name he hated until this experience, a name I received in a dream when I still thought she might be a boy. They whisk her away to machines that can help her, while I lay there like a human quilt, to be stitched up and pulled back together. I focus on her. I have to.

12:30. After hours of watching him sleep across the room and trying to move my legs, the nurse on duty keeps her promise and cleans me up enough to wheel me to the NICU. She goes 100 miles an hour through the hospital hallways. I’m still on morphine. The walls look funny. The NICU seems to be on the other side of Orem, let alone the hospital.

A few minutes later, I’m sitting next to a box with an inhabitant I can’t see, but can feel. I know she’s there. I know she’s mine. I know she’s perfect. I have to see. My nurse helps me stand, if only for a few moments. She takes my breath away. She’s perfect! I know she’s tiny, and underdeveloped, and so very, very sick, but she’s still perfect and wonderful and beautiful and she MOVES!

I reach my hand into the box and hold her tiny hand, her tiny feet, so afraid I’m going to break her. She’s covered in medical things but I don’t care. Ever so gently I squeeze her perfectly miniature hands, and she squeezes back, ever so faintly. I feel as if I’m going to die of happiness. She moves! I revel in every movement, every reflex. I marvel in her perfection. She brings me so much peace. Or maybe that’s the morphine.

I can’t stand any longer. I squeeze again, just slightly between my index finger and thumb, and she squeezes and won’t let go. I know I’m going to pass out, but I don’t care. She needs me. I stand for a minute longer, and my legs begin to shake. I finally bring myself to leave, but only after the nurse promises I can come back whenever I want, and reminds me that I need to rest so I can be with her. I sit back in my chair and immediately apologize; I didn’t realize I was dripping blood on the floor.

I am taken to a different room. I don’t remember falling asleep, but somehow I was awake the next morning.

I was a mom.

And there was nothing broken and everything beautiful in that.