We knew you would be born early.
The doctor prepared my body and yours
as much as science allowed in 2001.
Our placenta was blocking your exit, due to scarring
from your brother’s doctor’s scraping gloved fingers.
You came at 32 weeks, a “32-Weeker.”
You were 4.5 pounds.
You fit inside your dad’s hand like a football.
You needed to be buffered from sound,
since you were supposed to be in the protective womb
for 8 more weeks.
I memorized facts like that.
After my discharge, we visited you in the hospital for 16 days.
I tried to pump milk for you, but the faucet wasn't working.
This happens with women
who were sexually abused as girls.
I’d pump every two hours through the night
but still only bring a few ounces each morning.
There was a turning point.
I was doing okay, I was healing.
We were sleeping in our home 2 towns over, and
you were in your cubicle in the NICU alone,
under the liver lights.
My C-section scar was healing. I felt stronger.
I was engaged. I was aware.
I took pictures of you and you with each of us.
We were a family of four in your curtained cubicle.
On the second to last day, I was holding you;
Dad took your brother to the park.
It was quiet and you were so lovely.
The radiologist said he had never seen a more beautiful baby.
Maybe he said that to every mom,
but I believed him.
You were stunning.
I was in peace and ease, rocking and holding you, in your magical bubble.
The nurse came with some papers and protocols.
She was in her left frontal brain of words and checklists and the job.
Which is fine, someone has to do the job
so I can be in the bubble with my new baby girl.
She said, we are concerned that you are not bonding with your baby.
Time slowed way down.
I said, what?
She repeated the same words.
Very quickly, I snapped out of Peaceful, Amazing Bubble.
I could not have described it if she'd asked me
(What’s happening with you?)
But she didn’t ask. She just watched as my brain exploded.
The panic cocktail was sent into my body.
And all the thoughts came really fast, tumbling over each other.
What does she mean??
Am I NOT bonding with my baby??
(Then a quieter: Wait, isn’t that what I was doing?)
Then a snap decision was made:
she knows more than I do. If she says I’m not bonding, it must be true.
Oh, god, please, I’m screwing it up.
It’s been two weeks and I’m already messing her up.
And then the explosive thoughts, like A + B = C:
I’m just like my mother +
I’m hurting my baby =
She’d be better without me.
After all, at 16, I had actually been better
without my birth mother.
So if I was like my mother,
Then my baby girl would be better without me.
All of that happened, in that chair.
Nothing in the room had changed, except I’d stopped rocking.
I was not grounded in that room anymore.
I was not connected to my body, or to your teeny body in my arms.
The nurse was watching.
I don’t know what I said.
I think I dismissed it, then dismissed her.
Did you feel a difference as I held you?
Did you feel me disconnect from you, and everything else?
When Dad got back, I said, We need to go.
I can still see the concern on his face. But he did what I asked.
When we got in the car, I insisted that we hit a drive-thru
to get a Diet Pepsi.
It was my first diet pop since getting pregnant.
I was buffering my feelings, to ease my state of alarm.
On the way home, we stopped at the store and got two 12-packs.
From that day on, I had at least 6 cans a day.
It didn’t help to have the pop. In fact,
I’m pretty sure the aspartame influenced my hormones,
made my depression worse,
increased cravings for sugar.
Helped cause PCOS.
Which led to pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease over 15 years.
The temporary dopamine hits were like candle flickers in the dark.
Diet pop is an acceptable vice in Mormonism.
Coffee, tea and alcohol are not.
Pop was religiously legal.
For your 6-week post-hospital check-up, I managed to
get out of bed and shower.
Your dad got you ready for the car,
and I got me ready for the car.
When the male doctor checked in your diaper,
he found a tiny dot of green poop in your pee area.
He looked at me with care for you,
and judgment for me.
I felt shame on top of numb.
I didn’t try to explain that my husband had changed the diaper.
Because I was incapable.
I watched as he trained me
how to wipe around your folds and ensure the area was clean.
When I got home, exhausted, I talked to Dad about cleaning you.
He was vulnerable, explaining he had been reluctant to touch your “parts.”
Oh, Mormonism. Oh, porn. Oh, culture.
You did get a urinary tract infection.
They scanned your tiny torso with this giant machine.
You were given really strong antibiotics.
Today's Deep Breath: here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.
Life looks like this for many people.
Someone says or does something.
Our mind has drama about it, based on past memories.
Then we react to the inner drama,
not at all responding to the action of others with reason or clarity.
We haven't learned how to watch our mind and not react to it.
Not believe it.
I do know how to manage my thoughts and feelings now.
But back then, a tiny baby needed attachment,
soul to soul connection,
to feel bonded to her mother.
And I was doing it. I was on that path.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t get help sooner.
I’m sorry that I had not practiced communicating with authority figures,
or my husband,
or my doctor.
Or listening to my own quiet voice inside.
I think this affected you in a few ways.
You were unable to sleep without someone next to you.
You preferred to eat if someone else was eating with you.
Only weeks old, you took your cues from outside of yourself.
And I wasn’t there for a while.
For weeks, I imagined that I would die
and Dad and you and brother would be better off without me.
Then one day, I imagined throwing both me and you down the stairs.
And it was like the record just SCRAPED.
I went to a new doctor
feeling very naked and cold,
and said the words,
I NEED HELP.
That was brave.
Crying is brave.
They had a team who saw me as a multi-sided person.
They asked and listened.
They did acupuncture.
Yes, I was given medicine, but also
supplements to help with dropping hormones.
Today, I am grateful all day long
that you are figuring out your life.
You are learning to process feelings and handle your own trauma responses.
You are supremely introspective and wise.
It was my privilege to bring you here.
And I am sorry.
I really did do the best I could.
Last night, on one of our amazing phone calls together,
I told you that I was writing this.
In all your wisdom,
you had compassion for me,
and expressed your gratitude.
You offered that my apology is not only for you,
but for myself.
I know myself much better now. I recognize when I feel unsafe.
I can regulate my feelings, and have COMPASSION.
that I didn’t know
how to do this 20 years ago.
I’m so grateful that we are both learning it now.
As we move forward, imagine what else is possible
without carrying all of that with us.
I love you,