This hauntingly beautiful post is from my brave friend Natalie Romero of TalesFromMummyLand. Her words are written with such visceral honesty, it’s an incredible pleasure to share her story here. Her experience is what the #ShowMeYourBrave project is all about: connection.
It started in the pit of my stomach. A dull ache that vibrated throughout my entire body. It spread from my very core causing my heart to flutter and my fingers to tingle.
The ache had become a part of me; its presence felt since the moment the two pink lines first appeared.
Maybe it was mother’s intuition that told me something wasn’t quite right my entire pregnancy. My heart knew that something was wrong even though everyone tried to tell me differently.
When he was born, he didn’t cry right away. They took him out of me and whisked him away so quickly that I had to ask if he was a boy or a girl. I knew he was boy.
My next question was “Why isn’t he crying?” Right then he let out a tiny cry as if in response to my question. Although it wasn’t the type of cry I had expected. It wasn’t the type of cry I had seen in movies; a red faced baby screeching, demanding to be put back in only to settle once placed on their mother’s chest. His cry sounded more mouse than man. It sounded strained and pained. He was telling me.
It was a few hours later when he began to choke. The look on the nurse’s face told me that this wasn’t normal and she sounded the alarm. I stared from my bed in shock, the epidural preventing my legs from running. I heard the codes echoing through the hospital hallways and it took a while for me to register that the code was being called for us, the doctors and nurses were running towards our room.
They took him away.
I spent the night taking tiny steps between my room and the NICU, pumping my milk so that my body didn’t forget what it was supposed to do.
The next morning the doctors diagnosed my son with TEF. “Call Sick Kids, tell them we need a bed” they said when they found it.
A few days later we found ourselves sitting on the second floor of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in the surgical waiting room. I had walked holding onto to his NICU bassinet all the way to the doors of the surgery then his nurse turned to me and said “This is as far as you go. Say your goodbyes.”
My knees gave out.
We spent the next six weeks visiting our baby in the hospital. He went from NICU, to surgical ward and eventually was transferred back to a level 2 hospital until he was well enough to go home.
He did get stronger. The day the doctor walked into our room and happily announced “Let’s get you out of here folks!” was one of the happiest days of life.
It wasn’t over though.
My internal battle was just beginning. That dull ached in the pit of my stomach took over my life. It made me feel as though I was going to vomit all the time. When I fell asleep at night it turned into nightmares and made me sweat. The ache caused me to wake up screaming in the middle of night, thrashing my arms and legs, hitting my husband who slept his own fitful sleep beside me. He tried his best to soothe me in my tears.
I knew we were lucky but I couldn’t shake it. I felt ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t let it go. I felt weak. So I didn’t talk about it. I continued to attend the play groups, baby aqua fit and mom and baby yoga. We went to visit family, and took out new books from the library every week. I tried my best to pretend that life was normal even though it was anything but. I tried my best to pretend I didn’t feel the judgment from people in my life who weren’t comfortable with my pain.
One night I sat down at my computer and started a blog. I wrote well into the night, stopping every few minutes to wipe the tears from my eyes. With each word that poured out of me the fear loosened its grip. I couldn’t see the judgment in the eyes of the person standing in front of me. For the first time in a long time I felt at peace.
By the next morning I had emails and messages from people all over the world thanking me for my words. Telling me their stories.
This was what was going to save me.
So I talked and I talked and I talked. I continue to talk about it to this day. It’s been eight years and I don’t break down in tears every single time I re-tell the story. I meet with other parents who have experienced similar circumstances with their children and we understand each other. At times, we cry together.
I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m not embarrassed by my anxiety and the depression I suffered after our experience. In fact I’m proud of myself for overcoming it and for being open about my experience.
My brave was hiding in my own words and I’m so glad I finally let her out.
The #ShowMeYourBrave Project asks people, “What’s the bravest, scariest, or most intimidating thing you’ve ever done?”. The idea of the project is to share stories of everyday bravery and human resilience to bring us closer together. In sharing, we not only find our voices, but we find support, allies, and others who have faced similar challenges. If you would like to submit your story, we would love to feature your bravery here.