“Every storm runs out of rain.” I heard this quote in a song on the radio while driving home from the gym this morning, and for some reason it inspired me to sit down and finally write this post. After almost four years, Joe and I have decided to end this little blog. What started out as a way for me to pass the time and document my triplet pregnancy morphed into this incredible….experience? I’m not even sure how to accurately describe this blog. Through our darkest days this blog and you, our readers, brought us peace, joy, comfort, support and so much more. But now, thankfully, that our storm seems to have run out of rain (knock on wood, fingers crossed, etc. etc.) and our lives have become blissfully normal we feel like it’s the best time to wrap up our blog and close this chapter in our lives.
Looking back to the start of this blog, it’s almost hard to believe how different our lives are now. Four years ago we were ordinary. Joe and I both held full-time jobs and owned a house. We got up in the morning and went to work, went to the gym (well one of us went to the gym, lol), came home and made dinner, relaxed in front of the TV. Normal. Then we decided we wanted to have a baby, and everything changed. Or fell apart. Getting pregnant proved was not the easy process that movies and television and led us to believe and we had to turn to fertility treatments. After almost a year of expensive and emotionally draining fertility treatments we finally got pregnant in January 2009 with our third attempt at IVF. Pregnant with triplets. Pregnant with the most complicated triplet pregnancy in the history of the world. (Okay, probably not, but maybe close.) I started having dramatic bleeding episodes when I was just 6 weeks along. Nine weeks into the pregnancy my ovary somehow twisted around my fallopian tube, causing me 11 solid hours of the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life (I was literally begging the doctor to kill me…not my finest moment) before having surgery to remove the ruined organs. At 18 weeks I was put on bed rest for a shortening cervix, and at 21 weeks I was informed by my doctor that bed rest wasn’t helping and the babies would most likely be born, and die, within 2 weeks. Being completely unwilling to accept this fate for the babies we so desperately wanted, we found a doctor who performed cerclages, an operation that would stitch my cervix closed and hopefully keep the babies in. I know in my heart of hearts that this procedure saved the lives of our babies, and for this I will eternally be grateful to the amazing Dr. Houlihan at St. Peter’s University Hospital for doing what my original doctors had refused to do.
Anyhow, the cerclage kept the babies in but also gave me a horrific intestinal infection that put me in the hospital for 8 days. I recovered and was sent home for a whopping day and a half, before my water suddenly broke at 24 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, St. Peter’s came to the rescue again and labor was held off for 9 days before Charlie, Annaleigh and Lily made their appearance, each weighing less than 2 lbs and barely clinging to life. What followed was the most wonderful and awful three months of our lives. Our children were miracles and we loved them more than words could express. But life in the NICU is terrifying – every day brings the chance for something else to go wrong and you spend every second on the edge of panic, no matter how great things are looking. And things started to look pretty great by August, and we started preparing to take our babies home. But as always, the universe had other plans and our beautiful Annaleigh developed NEC and passed away in our arms when she was just 8 weeks old. Thankfully, Charlie and Lily continued to thrive and after 95 and 99 days in the NICU our surviving babies came home to us.
(It’s here that I would be completely remiss if I didn’t once again mention the love and extreme gratitude we have for the amazing doctors and nurses in the St. Peter’s NICU. They loved our babies, cared for our babies like they were their own, cheered with us when Charlie and Lily went home, cried with us when Annaleigh died, and made a scary place like the NICU feel like home. Charlie and Lily are alive because of them, and we will never, ever forget any one of the people who made that possible.)
But jumping ahead, looking at Charlie and Lily today you would never know the way their life began. They are happy (really, really happy,) and healthy. They have (at this time, anyway) no long-term complications from their prematurity. They go to preschool, Lily goes to dance class, they ride their bikes, finger paint, play pretend, and sing their little hearts out on a daily basis. They bring me and Joe so much joy that we can only say that every painful second of 2009 was worth it. As for me and Joe, we are no longer the people that we used to be, and that’s not really a bad thing. Personally, our experiences have taught me not to sweat the small stuff – it truly doesn’t matter. Life will knock you down over and over again, and things will never go as you planned, but it can always be worse. It always IS worse for someone, so I’ve learned to buck up, brush off and move forward. I smile more, relax more and appreciate everything I have. I can say with 100% certainty that I am a much better mother than I ever would have been if our experience had been easier. I appreciate my children in a way that I know I would not have in other circumstances. I understand that every moment is precious and I enjoy them all. I believe that Charlie and Lily deserve to be happy and I will do anything to make that happen. So my inner neat freak has taken a backseat and we spread Play-Doh all over the house. The kids crack the eggs and mix the batter and dump sprinkles all over the kitchen when we bake and I don’t flinch. I’ve given up the thought of a career in order to remain a stay-at-home mom as long as possible – something I never thought I’d want to do but now adore beyond words.
Now I want to wrap this up with a huge thank you. Thank you to our amazing family. You always know that your family loves you, but you don’t really KNOW until you need them and they are there for you. They are there in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe them all, but we appreciate each and every one. Our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles…we would be lost without you. Truly. We love you all so much. Our friends – holy hell do we have amazing friends. Amazing. The support we receive from them over and over is overwhelming and humbling and we are so, so lucky to have you in our lives. Our mystery benefactor, who continues to send us anonymous monetary gifts on a regular basis…we have no idea who you are, but your anonymous kindness touches our hearts and we are so thankful for your generosity. And finally, our blog readers. Honestly, all of you helped get us through some of the worst times in our lives. Knowing you were out there pulling for us, praying for our children, smiling with us, crying with us meant the world. When Annaleigh died, the love we felt from all of you really made things bearable. We read each and every comment you made and even printed them all out and had them buried with Annaleigh so she would never forget how loved she was, even though she never left the hospital. You made us feel like her life and death had made an impact on the world, and there are no words to describe how much that meant to us. We will never forget you.
And now I’m sitting here crying, so I think I’ve reached the end. Please keep up with us at www.loveannaleigh.org as we work to support the St. Peter’s NICU and PICU and better the lives of babies, children and families in need. Until we meet again, friends.
My memory is pretty terrible. I know that everyone says that, but I think in my case it's particularly true. I forget names of students that I've had in class for a year (I know rely on "hon" for girls and "bub" for boys). I forget facts that I've known all my life (I used to have an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, poetry, and 80's trivia; now... not so much). There is a standing rule with Brooke that says that I can remember a shopping list of three items, but if she adds a forth thing, it must be written down (and I'm considering asking to lower that number to two...). In short, I think my brain is lacking something it once had.
And to me, that is what makes this blog so special. It is a window to another time and another life, one in which we had no idea from one minute to the next what was happening and things were so confused and so terrifying. And it is a window into a terrible place that we both never want to forget. And it is a window that shows a slow but real journey from that terrible place to somewhere we doubted we'd ever get to be: somewhere filled with happiness, and laughter, and lots and lots of love.
Before the kids were born and Brooke was in the hospital, it became my job to update this blog, which, at the time, was with the sole intent of keeping our family and immediate friends informed of what's going on. We knew that we'd have a difficult time keeping those to whom we were close "in the loop" once the babies arrived, and this blog was our means of doing so. But as Brooke had more and more complications and the babies came so early, the part of human nature that draws people to tragedy took over and we found ourselves with a readership that grew well beyond that small circle to one that extended across the world. I had no idea that people whom we'd never met would care about us, but it because apparent pretty early on that so many complete strangers did care and did feel a connection to our little family.
I have vague memories of spending our days at St. Peters with the tiny versions of our babies, only to come home exhausted and drained and emotional, and then sitting down for another hour or so to write a blog post and upload pictures, knowing that if I didn't we'd get so many messages of worry.
We were so committed to this blog that we updated it less than an hour after Annaleigh died. Even my terrible memory hasn't forgotten that day. We said goodbye to her, called our parents, and then went back to the little room at the hospital to write a blog post. To me, it was almost not real until that we'd written that update.
More than anything else, what I remember feeling was the support given to us by our readers when that happened. The hundreds of messages we received, the random donations people sent to help pay for the funeral expenses, and the general out-pouring of love... to say that those things have stayed with us in the three-and-a-half years since doesn't do justice to how amazing it was.
When Charlie and Lily came home and got stronger and healthier, my role as blog-updater lessened (and eventually ended), but that doesn't mean that it stopped mattering to me. Quite the opposite, actually. I found myself going back, almost every day, to older posts, posts from the year before, just to see what we were doing and what was in our heads. Charlie and Lily were growing and excelling and it became very easy to "forget" what they'd been through-- not because it wasn't traumatic, but because they were becoming "normal." And this normalcy is what we'd craved for them since the beginning.
With the way my memory has shut down, I take so much comfort in knowing that I will have these blog posts to go back to for the rest of my life. The chronicle of those days is one that is filled with love and fear and hope and frustration and sorrow and joy and... every emotion a person can experience. Not too many people can say that there exists such a detailed record of the best and worst days of their lives. The shock of those first days in the NICU, the monotony of the days, the heartbreak of losing our Annaleigh, the joy of Charlie's and Lily's homecomings, the amazement of watching them grow... it's all here for us. So as the busy days go by and the world moves on, this record becomes more and more important, for it is a small but powerful window into our past.
I feel almost hypocritical writing a "goodbye" blog post when it has been so long since I've written anything for this blog. The right to say "goodbye" should be Brooke's and Brooke's alone, because she is the one who has continued it for the last three years; she's the one who is responsible for this awesome history of our family, this thing that we will have forever to remember the details of our lives long after the details are forgotten. And for that (and for many, many other things), I am eternally grateful to her.
|Thanks for the memories.|