It was the best of times, It was the worst of times…
You often don’t realize it in the moment, but what seems like the worst time in your life may actually be the best time.
BEFORE YOU CLICK AWAY…
I know this sounds cliché, but please give me a chance to explain. I’ve been through some pretty crazy shit. I recognize some people have been through worse, some people have no idea. BUT I do want to share my experience in hopes in can shed a little bit of light to you and your woes.
I Never Saw This One Coming
Flashback to one year ago. I knew I was getting sicker. Something was wrong, and things were happening that weren’t normal. I was getting short of breath, sweating profusely while at work, and was more swollen than when I was pregnant. If I were a typical, healthy person I would have gone straight to the emergency room.
However, this wasn’t the first time I had been met with these symptoms, and have had some inconclusive diagnosis. I did know this wasn’t my baseline, so I reached out to several of my doctors to explain my new symptoms. You already know how this goes, everything was normal. I kept moving on pushing through long days at work, desperately pumping every ounce of milk my tired body could make, and spending every awake minute I could at the NICU with my daughter Renee.
We had just received the best news ever! Renee was finally big enough and stable enough to get her pacemaker. Renee was born with congenital heart block, which you can read more about here. This was the biggest, most defining moment of her life. We could finally rest our heads at night (or so we thought), and start to look towards a long term future.
I was feeling worse and worse, but kept pushing forward to be there for Renee. Finally, I realized something was really wrong. A few days after her surgery, I was walking down the hospital hall to meet Chance for lunch. I got incredibly dizzy, and could barely make it out the door before I felt like I was going to pass out. This should have been my sign, but as I always say with chronic illness you never know how sick is too sick. I had no appetite and I wasn’t feeling any better. I called my dad to pick me up from the hospital that day, because I wasn’t feeling well enough to drive home.
A Major Hurricane Was Hours Away From Landfall
I coughed the whole way home, and COVID was lurking in the back of my mind. Let’s take a pause here for an important message…
A category 4 hurricane was headed straight to New Orleans, Hurricane Ida. My dad was picking me up in rainy weather and crazy traffic, so I can get to their house. We were leaving in the morning to evacuate to Pensacola, Fl. Chance was going to stay with Renee in the hospital, because how can you possibly leave her? We had flashbacks of Katrina, and could not possibly leave her alone. Chance is a hurricane hunter at heart, so he had no problem staying behind.
Back to the story, we ALL ended up staying behind. I got to my parent’s house, and my mom immediately said I’m bringing you to the emergency room. I pleaded that I was fine, still coughing, still not able to eat anything. Then I finally gave in. Long story short, I ended up being diagnosed with a blood clot in my lung and lucky to be alive.
We got the news that I was going to be admitted, and we were all riding out the storm in the hospital. My mom, Chance, Renee, and Me. Better to be under one roof right? There is so much emotion built into this one week, I don’t even know how I can describe it.
Imagine this scenario – I’m in the hospital on 4L of oxygen, unable to get out of the bed by myself. It is my daughter’s original due date, and I am admitted on the mother/baby floor because the medsurg room I was originally in was overcome with fumes from the generator. My husband frantically barges into the room in tears, and I immediately think the worst. Something must be wrong with Renee. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. He comes in to tell me the huge tree in our backyard fell on our house during the hurricane. Apparently the damage was so bad, no one wanted to send us pictures.
We are thankful for our lives, but obviously now in crisis. I’m barely hanging on, and within a few hours of this news, I ended up in the ICU. Renee is on her own struggle bus, poor baby, still recovering from surgery. We just lost our house. The hospital is being run on generators. I am an emotional wreck, because I am in the exact place I was originally meant to be on my due date.
Things were rough to say the least. It was so exhausting and overwhelming, I still don’t have the energy to type out the emotional toll this week, and the months following brought to us.
I recorded nearly every day of Renee’s life on her dedicated Facebook page. You can view my post about surviving the storm and the following days by clicking her cute little face below:
I thought the world as we knew it was over then. That is until more bad stuff happened….
The Hurricane Aftermath
However, I look back at these terrible months following our tragedy and I realize, those were the best months of my life. The chaos was before the storm, and the calm is what actually followed. How could that possibly be?
Because Renee was thriving! We had patiently waited so long for her to be ready to get to this point. She loved her new pacemaker, was reaching new goals every hour, and was growing exponentially. She was finally, as I like to say it, a baby! Not just a little chicken wing in an incubator cooking away. She was beautiful. We could finally pick her up out of a CRIB and HOLD HER so freely.
The bad part was, I could no longer drive myself to the hospital. I was in no condition to return to work. I just learned I had a rare disease that required open heart surgery as the cure. We were living with my in-laws with what salvageable furniture and clothing was saved from our house literally everywhere. I wore the same 5 outfits week after week. Chance was dealing with the stress of insurance claims, adjusters, and working full time. Plus dealing with what was going on with my health, and what that meant for our future. We were in the dark, in the deep end.
Renee was our LIGHT. Some days after letting the tears fall and being so overwhelmed, we would drop everything and go to Renee. Being with her was our cure, our happiness. Our life outside of the hospital was a burning dumpster fire. But inside that hospital room, nothing else mattered.
I would give ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING to go through all of that all over again. The stress, tears, the fights, the pain, all of it. To relive those days all over again. I would give up everything I own, and move into the hospital room with Renee if it meant I could spent those priceless minutes with her again.
We were the saddest we had ever been, but also the happiest at the same time.
I can’t explain what those days meant to me looking back at them now. It was literally everything a new parent gets to experience, we were finally, after 3 months experiencing. We dressed her for the first time, tucked her in a crib, held her so freely. Kissed her for the first time, yes after 3 months.
Knowing What I Know Now…
Looking back now those never ending days were the worst of times, but also the best of times. We had life before the hurricane, and life after the hurricane. Our future was once again blurry, but somehow everything was slowly falling into place. With the gracious help of family, friends, and strangers, we were slowly able to find our footing again.
We live in a world that moves so quickly around us. Everything needs to be now and instant. I was always looking for the next step, the next opportunity. I never slowed down to see what was right in front of me. That all of my dreams and prayers have been answered.
I know life is hard, challenging, and demanding. Just take a step back, take a deep breath. Put yourself first, and put your family first. Celebrate every little milestone. Your child will only be 10 once. You’ll only be able to tuck them in for so many years. Call your parents, and spend time with them. The world keeps moving, but not everyone gets to move with it. One day looking back, you will appreciate those memories that you made and those moments you took time to create – no matter how small.