I have been meaning to capture Eliza’s birth story before the tiny details escape me, but there is a slightly larger story to tell and one that I have been both afraid to share and covetous of sharing. It has been such a deeply personal series of moments that have brought me great pain and greater comfort and I hesitate to be that exposed. But if I am to tell the story of how she came to be born, then I feel I must tell it from the beginning.
It is not easy to go through a pregnancy and terminate a marriage simultaneously. In fact, at times it feels emotionally impossible. The night Eliza was born, I sat in my hospital bed holding her, nursing her, while editing the Memorandum of Understanding which executes my separation and precedes my divorce. The dichotomy of being filled with so much love and so much anguish concurrently is a space I hope to never feel again.
The Spirit Guide
About halfway through my pregnancy I felt heavy. My soul felt heavy. I worried about what this energy would do to the baby, how it was affecting her. So I began seeing a woman for Reiki with the goal of clearing out some of the darkness. I only managed to go twice in nine months. Taking care of myself isn’t something I have a lot of time for, but the sessions were powerful.
During the first session, Eliza didn’t stop moving, wriggling, writhing. It was like the movement of the energy was giving her new life. I woke up from the session with an unstoppable force of tears rolling down my face. If you know me, you know that I don’t cry. I just don’t cry. This release was so necessary and so important. The healer who performed the session hugged me hard when it was over. I joke now, that I paid $80 for a hug. Ill-timed jokes are my thing when I am maxed out or vulnerable. In truth, it was the best $80 I had spent all year. It was also the first hug I’d had all year.
I walked away feeling lighter, but not clearer.
Session two came nearly a month later, I drifted into that space between awake and asleep and felt the baby move and felt my fears rise and felt my breathing slow down, almost stop. I was literally drowning in the fear, I could feel myself holding onto it, worrying how I was going to do this all and do this all on my own. And that’s when I felt something or someone hold my hand. It was warm and it squeezed my hand and I knew that I would find the strength to make it through, I knew that I would be okay.
The Dark Night of the Soul
On September 24, we received the first offer on our house. It was $70,000 below asking price. It was an offer we could never take, as doing so would mean I didn’t even have enough money to start over again, to put a roof over my babies’ heads. We were deep in the thick of our separation and feelings were everywhere. The offer ignited fear in both Joe and I, and manifested into how we each process that feeling of being afraid. It was a new low. I felt like this would never be over, we would never come out of it, I would never survive. And what came after between us took me to a place where I lost all hope.
After putting my babies down for bed, choking back tears, I slid into the bathtub where I cried. I cried so hard I vomited all over myself several times. I cried until the water went cold and then I cried long after it had gotten cold. And I prayed for death. I acknowledged that I didn’t have the strength to survive, and I had lost the will. I acknowledged that the fear and sadness had consumed me. And I prayed for the end of it all. I prayed that god would just take me and let me leave the pain of this world and this body, but that someone would find me in time to save the baby. I asked god to send me a sign that everything would be okay or to just take my life, let me go, just save her.
That’s when I felt something reach through me and embrace me. I felt something holding me up. I felt something comforting me. This force held me until I caught my breath. And, again, I knew that I would find the strength to make it through.
September 25, 2014
At nearly 37 weeks pregnant everything felt like effort. That Thursday was no different. All three kids had school, I had deadlines to meet for work, life wasn’t stopping or even pretending to slow down.
The kids were zoo-y and Ryan’s bus was late, making the girls late for school and me late for a conference call. I fought with Reese. I felt numb. After making it through what felt like the longest morning and afternoon in history, I got to 4 p.m. only to find out that Joe was stuck at work and, of course, I hadn’t gone to the grocery store. There was nothing in the house to make for dinner and I was feeling too spent to attempt shopping with all three in tow.
Joe got home at 6:30 which is when we normally have dinner on the table, and we left to go to a restaurant nearby. One that we had never been to. The kids were still sideways and shouting and fighting and vying for attention. The adults were exhausted and trying to discuss the offer on the house, the day before, trying to pick up pieces and make them fit. We walked into the restaurant around 7:15 and were seated and then promptly ignored. And when the third drink got knocked over, after the fifth tantrum had started and the fourth toy was thrown in anger, we got up and left. And now it was 7:45 — just fifteen minutes before bedtime — and our kids still weren’t fed, or bathed, or even home.
I called a local pizza place that has a sit down restaurant and placed a dine-in order over the phone. I explained that we had three overtired kids and we would drive around for 15 minutes before coming inside, to avoid pre-meal meltdowns. While trying to place the order my phone dropped the call four times. It seemed as though every part of life was trying to test me. When it rains it pours.
We sat down at the booth and the food came out shortly after sitting. Perhaps the only good thing about feeding our brood two hours later than normal was that they were hungry and it was finally quiet. There was so much to talk about in the quiet space, but all we could do was sit expressionless and be thankful that we were almost at the end of another day. We likely looked as hollow as we felt.
The waitress came to our table and asked us if we needed anything else, and I told her, “just the check.”
To which she replied, “it’s taken care of.”
“That lady sitting over there bought you all dinner, she’s almost done with her meal. I thought you’d want to know before she left.”
I walked over to her table, exhausted, leading with a 9 month belly that surely had tomato sauce underneath in the places you stop being able to see after a while. She was sitting with a near-empty pint of beer, middle-aged, unassuming, married (wearing a ring), but eating alone. I warned her that I was a hugger and that the pregnancy was making me emotional. She said to me, “then let me stand so I can be hugged.”
She hugged me tightly.
I said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been a hard day, a hard few days, and it’s not about money, but thank you.”
She said, “I know. I love you.” I pulled back slightly off-guard. “I love you,” she said again. She pulled me back in, tighter this time, and said, “It’s okay. I love you.”
We hugged in the middle of the restaurant for minutes, me crying and her whispering, putting me back together. Then she walked over to the table and said hello to my children who were happily and quietly eating the meal she had just provided us. They chatted with her for a few minutes, she learned all of their names and they told her the random stories that toddlers tell. Then she reached down and squeezed my hand before leaving.
After she walked out Reese looked at me and said, “Mommy that lady was really cool.”