I've been trying to tell our story for 3 years. It comes out in bits and pieces and occasionally these bits form sentences, perhaps even paragraphs on paper. Rarely, these paragraphs turn into blogposts; snapshots of the full story. It's a painful process, dredging up memories and feelings that are far from pleasant. But what I've realized over the last couple of weeks is that it is far more painful keeping them in.
A few weeks ago I learned of an opportunity to audition for a live-event that shares stories about mothers and/or motherhood. I decided this would be a good opportunity to share my journey with an audience unfamiliar with me or my tale. Attempting to succinctly describe the interconnected events was a challenge. It's a big story and it is hard for me to balance the emotional upheaval and the medical trauma. But try I did . I wrote and shared a piece I am proud of. It is far from exact or perfect. Unfortunately I wasn't chosen to be a part of this particular event, but I still feel as if I achieved something and wanted to share it with you.
Here it is:
Revising a Vision
By Christy Landefeld
I had visions of motherhood long before I became a mother. Plans and expectations of pregnancy, child-birth, and what kind of mother I’d be. I envisioned being a perfect combination of character traits in mothers I admired. I had visions of multiple children, relatively close in age, so they could experience the joys and agonies of having siblings. I envisioned sleepless nights and lots of diapers. I’d keep teaching, finding a way to balance my career, my family, and myself. Lofty goals? Perhaps. But these were all aspects of how I envisioned motherhood.
That’s the thing about visions. They’re not reality. They’re hopes, ideas, and plans for the best case scenario. And as my husband and I quickly discovered, when we decided to forgo the birth control and start our family, they constantly need to be revised.
In reality I’ve been a mother for less time than I spent activity trying to become one. It took 5 years and cost thousands and thousands of dollars in tests and infertility treatments for us to finally conceive. Once pregnant, scared and weary as we were, my husband and I relished in our dream come true and once again began envisioning the future and looking forward to the birth of our child.
Once again however, our reality became something we never could have seen coming. In reality my 8th month I began having symptoms of preeclampsia. My blood pressure fluctuated between too high and way too high and was placed on partial bed rest. The idea was the bed rest would allow the baby to reach 38 weeks at which point labor would be induced. Envisioning the moment when we’d finally know the gender of our child and get to hold our little scientific miracle in our arms I was ready to sacrifice my own desires for a natural childbirth for the best interest of the health of our child and myself. Nothing else really mattered.
In reality, I have no memory of my daughter’s arrival. She was born at 37 ½ weeks 4 days before my scheduled induction. I had developed pancreatitis and suffered a placental abrupt ion forcing an emergency cesarean to take place. Due to the severity of my condition my husband was not allowed in the operating room, and I wasn't present when he learned we had a baby girl but she was considered to be in critical condition after being non-responsive for almost 20 minutes. Rather than snuggling as a family in a mother-baby unit, the complications from the delivery led to me waking up in ICU, alone, critically ill and unable to see. Yes, I literally lost my vision during childbirth. Selecting a name from our carefully narrowed down list, based on who she looked like or the little personality we’d glean from our first few moments together was no longer an option. I needed to focus on surviving the weekend. Over the next 36 hours, while doctors and nurses were trying to figure out exactly what had happened and treat my very sick self, I put every ounce of energy I had left into fighting to be the mother I had envisioned – trying to pump in hopes that I’d eventually be able to nurse, asking incessant questions about her continued improvement, encouraging my husband to name her, worrying about being separated from this being I had been waiting for, for so long.
On Saturday, May 29th, 2010 almost 2 full days since her birth, the nurses in ICU & NICU, agree to let my daughter come visit me, I am still not sure if this breach in protocol was so I could say good-bye or to encourage me to fight. I was finally able to hold her. Sicker than I’d ever been and unable to properly discern her tiny newborn features, I knew that she was worth everything that we had gone through. Realizing that I would need to adjust my vision of motherhood yet again, I knew that I would have to continue to fight. And fight I did.