If I could, I’d like to share one of the most significant moments in my life with you. August 7th, 2004 seems so distant now. It was a life-altering night, to say the least. But…
I can remember it like it was yesterday, even when it was actually nearly seven years ago. I was sitting on the edge of an emergency room table, in a hospital gown, alone, crying my eyes out. I had just been informed that the pains I had been experiencing a few hours before were not cramps, or failing kidneys, but labor pains. Apparently, I was 6 months pregnant. I was only 16, with grandeur dreams of being a homicide detective, forensic science technician or medical examiner. And if that didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have minded being a veterinarian. My dream since childhood. For now though, I was trying to grasp the fact that I was about to be a mother. Not only that, a mother of two. The doctor had confirmed early on that I was having twins. The more than likely cause of me going into labor this early and then into shock. Sitting there in that cold room, having been probed and poked, prodded and violated in every medical way imaginable, I wondered how I could have let this happen. I wondered how it was even possible because I’d had my period the last six months. And according to the well of general medical knowledge in my head, that was impossible. Right? So how could I be pregnant. Six months pregnant? How could that be possible? I was devastated. My whole world had begun to crash around me and all I could hear was the roar of my own thoughts, like the sounds of tsunami waves crashing against the shore. “How could you let this happen?! You’re sixteen, not invincible! How could you be so naive?! You’ve struggled enough in life and now you want to struggle forever?! You can’t afford a child?! You’re just a child yourself?! A stupid, insignificant child! No one’s going to forgive you for this. They’re all going to hate you!”
I don’t remember much between the time I was on that table and when I was through delivering. Just fleeting moments here and there. Flashes of lights rolling by as I laid in a hospital bed being wheeled around. Nurses and doctors talking around me. Sticking and stabbing, peeling and pressing things onto me. One specific moment I remember is laying in the hospital bed waiting to go to an operating room, hooked to all sorts of machines, an oxygen mask on, drugged to near unconsciousness and my aunts talking to each other at my bedside. Or maybe it was my aunt and my mother. It’s hard to be sure. But I was vividly sure of what was said. They believed that I knew, that I was more than likely lying and had known the entire time that I was pregnant. They had no idea that I wasn’t asleep, and that I had heard every single word. Hearing that from my own family was heart-wrenching. I’d had a prior experience at a younger age with my mom not believing me when it mattered. But I didn’t think that the rest of my family was capable of it. But there it was. The way, it seemed, most of my family had truly felt about the situation. No one was on my side. I was sixteen so what could I possibly know besides how to lie, right? It’s what sixteen year-old pregnant teens do.
Amidst all of this chaos I also remember a nurse talking to me. Saying that she could give my babies a wonderful home with her sister. Her sister and her sister’s husband had been trying to have children for years to no avail, and all I had to do was fill a few sheets of paper out and they would have a wonderful home with a loving couple who was more than eager to have children. I had considered it. It was a logical choice being sixteen and a child myself. But that was a double-edged sword. How could a child make such a decision? So I sought out advice from the only person that I could, my mother. I informed her about the nurse and her offer, and if you ask her, she’ll deny what she said in response to this day. Something that she often does. My mother likes to hide behind the my-daughter’s-an-’A'-student-so-I-must-be-a-great-parent complex.
“I’m not gonna have any of my grandchildren raised by strangers.”
There was no second thought and that was that. I had no say in what I wanted my life to be after this, because I was raised to respect my mother no matter what, and she had made the decision for me. There was no changing it.
Another hurried flash of light and then I’m in a much larger room. There’s machine’s beeping, the sterile smell of hospitals and plastic fills the air, which I can faintly smell in the cold oxygen being pumped through my nasal canula. They put a sheet between me and my midsection and then I feel a sweep across my belly. Just like someone took their finger, swiped it across my belly, but with rather Herculean pressure. Then I remember feeling a shoving and pulling motion. I started to panic when I realized I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for breath, imagining how they were just tossing around my guts, trying to save two little babies inside of me. My mother wasn’t there. Not that I can remember. So the nurse at my side told me to relax. That she had put a medication in my IV to calm me down. Then there was sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.
But there were no dreams, just a lot of darkness. As if my mind was too exhausted to even dream.It was as if my body had taken over, to let my mind get itself together, and keep itself from melding into a nervous breakdown.
It felt like I had slept for days, but it was just hours. I was woken up to be taken to see my sons. I had given birth to two sons. But when I was wheeled in to see them in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), I immediately broke down. They were so frail.
Contained inside of these huge machines, were these two little angels without wings. They appeared so skeletal, hooked up to every machine imaginable. Oscillators shook their little bodies violently because they weren’t able to breathe on their own yet. Their eyes were covered with little masks because any sort of exposure would have stressed them and have done more damage than good. They had tubes through their noses to provide them with food. They were so small that the smallest diapers in the hospital wouldn’t even fit them. So they had small gauze pads as make-shift diapers until the specially ordered ones arrived. I fell completely apart. Upset at myself that I had done this to two innocent souls. That two human beings were suffering because I had no clue that they were growing inside of me. I was distraught at the thought that somehow I could have prevented this. I was warned by the physicians that they may not survive. That they perhaps would not live past the next 24 hours, and at the most three days. But to pray, because they had such amazingly strong hearts. They told me they would do everything they could, and that was all they could promise.
I don’t remember leaving.
But I must have left, because I awoke to a woman handing me documents to sign while dozed in and out of consciousness. Sign here, sign there. Fill this out, and that. All the while my heart was in pieces because I had single-handedly ruined my life, and the lives of two innocent children. I remember trying to choose their names. I had so much trouble. Maybe I just wasn’t good at naming things. Or maybe my mind couldn’t function knowing that I was now responsible for two lives. But I had finally settled on Mark David and Sage Logan.
I remember asking my mother how everyone was. Then being informed about how disappointed, and upset my three brothers were with me. She retold me the details of my brothers weeping over the phone at how their little sister had given birth. I was hoping my mom would’ve sugar-coated it for me. But what did I expect, I had brought shame upon my entire family. I had brought to fruition the very nightmare that parents have about their teenage daughters. I felt unwanted. Everyone’s life had ground to a halt because of me. Now everyone had to figure out how to function again with me plus two more.
ALL OF THIS, WAS MY FAULT.
That was the only thought in my head between the unconsciousness, sleep, and emotionally tortuous visits to the NICU.
When I was released from the hospital, decisions were made that I was no part of. I had done enough already apparently, and had displayed just how responsible I couldn’t be, so everyone ignored my opinions. It was decided that I would move to Brownsville for the duration of Sage and Mark’s stay in the Driscoll Children’s Hospital NICU in Corpus Christi. They had been recently transferred there because the facilities in Brownsville were unable to do more for them, and were more than excited to send them somewhere where they could be saved. It wasn’t as near, but were I to move back to Waco, it would be further away than the three hours Brownsville was. I was to move in with my aunt, change schools and GRADUATE. And once doctors saw fit that Mark and Sage could be released, I would return home.
I spent nearly six months there. I attended Los Fresnos High School. It was like my old high school. I was nobody, and I didn’t matter except to the small group of people who knew me. Teachers, my cousin and the secretaries in the front office. I wasn’t happy, but I was ok enough to function. During those months I spent most of my time on the phone with doctors, consenting to procedures over the phone. Blood transfusions, laser eye surgery, PDA ligation. I knew the nurses well, they knew my voice, and my face from the visits I would take every few weeks, thanks to my aunt and my mom when she was able to visit. Each visit I was taught the basics of child care with the extras of preemie care. Baby CPR, how to hook up apnea monitors, how to feed through a feeding tube, all the names and purposes of nearly twenty medications and much more. At seventeen, the boys were born the month before my birthday, I was undertaking tasks that some adults would not have been able to withstand and yet still have kept their sanity. I don’t know how I did it.
But I believe Mark and Sage had a lot to do with it. I drew strength from them on the days I didn’t think I could continue. On the days that I felt alienated from everyone, people in school, my aunt and her family. On the days I sat alone in that huge house while everyone continued on with their lives and their plans. The days I had to walk home from school for three hours, in a town that was a stranger to me, because my, sometimes overzealous, cousin would leave me at school. Even on the days when doctors would tell me there was a large chance Mark or Sage couldn’t survive the simplest of procedures, I drew strength from them. They were familiar faces to me in a sea of new people, new things, new places.
I returned home when I was released for Christmas break. Sadly neither Mark nor Sage were ready for release from the hospital at that time. But soon afterwards, Mark was able to go home and a few months later Sage followed. It was difficult with them both home. There were struggles, but I had immense help from my family, Julie’s family and Interim Healthcare, the nurses that were dispatched daily to my house to help with Sage. The past six years has not been without its struggles. Hospitalizations for pneumonia, the even deadlier RSV, for another round of laser eye surgery and the like. Visits with specialists from here to Fort Worth. Constant check-ups and follow-ups. It was tasking, exhausting and even frustrating at times, but I honestly would not change a single thing.
I’m glad to say that Sage and Mark are nearly 7 years-old. Sage no longer has a prescription list of medicines that would make a pharmacy jealous. He was released from his last specialist nearly a year ago, has physical, speech and occupational therapy three times a week and only occasionally gets pneumonia. He is considered mentally disabled, but for what he lacks in the average 6 year-olds scholastic education he makes up for in cleverness. As for Mark, after his release, he was pretty much as healthy as a horse. Glasses are about the only disability he has. Unless you consider not listening to his mother a disability. They’re rambunctious, energetic, rebellious at times, and just fascinating to interact with and watch. They keep me and everyone involved in their lives on their toes. I look forward to asking them what theme they want for their birthday party this year. Something only Mark has decided because Sage was unable to speak coherently for several years. Now though, with the help of therapy, Mark and Sage can argue about it, like two brothers are supposed to. I know there will never be a dull moment with them, because there has yet to have been one since they were born and I, and everyone else, look forward to each and every single one.