It all started with a call from my mom proclaiming that she had found the perfect fit for me. As a semi-skeptical and so mature 19 year old, I listened and wondered. Would she be right? Could it be that one? Were we going to get married and live happily ever after with a bunch of kids and a few dogs?
If only I had known how right she was. That my mother’s intuition would lead me to the one person who could help me survive the unthinkable – that we would have the kind of love and intimacy that springs from the deepest pain in life.
My mom explained that she met her mom at a Weight Watchers reunion, where they realized how much they had in common. They had raised their families a few miles from each other in Los Angeles, ran in similar circles, and had mutual friends, but had never crossed paths.
These two proud Jewish mothers were also shocked to learn that they each had children attending Sonoma State University. And that these children lived in the same apartment complex. And that their front doors were facing each other – about 100 feet apart.
I listened in silence, rolling my eyes only slightly on the other end of the phone, something she seemed to feel despite our distance. My cynicism didn’t live up to her contagious excitement, however, as she pounced on the perfect 21-year-old for me (whom she had never met), who surely could persuade her daughter too independent to return home after University.
Being the nicest and nicest Jewish girl I was, I reluctantly agreed to meet him.
On a cool rainy day in Northern California, there was a knock. I opened the front door and fixed my eyes on the most handsome guy I had ever seen up close – my Daniel.
I could feel his eyes focus on me: large and round, golden brown like toasted honey – almost nutty. These are the eyes I would look in disbelief in years later, when, eight months pregnant with our first child, doctors gave us the devastating prognosis.
The day we met, in the small hallway of my university apartment, I noticed his tall athletic build. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was folding this body into a couch too small to be able to spend every night at my hospital bedside. And those muscular arms with strong hands squeezed me tight as I cried when we heard our daughter wasn’t coming home.
Even though I was only 19, I could tell he was special. As soon as he left my apartment, I called a friend and said, “I’m going to marry this guy.
We were two naïve young children who fell in love at first sight.
We got married in 2017 on what was supposed to be a hot spring day in Southern California and was instead a day of torrential downpours – a day that everyone believed would bring us good luck and “a lot of luck.” ‘children’. We got married in a vineyard in Temecula, as the rain stopped briefly enough for a rainbow to shine.
We had been trying to get pregnant for about a year when I needed emergency surgery. Test after test, I found out that I was not pregnant, so the doctors did x-rays, pain medication, heavy antibiotics, and anesthesia for surgery for a blocked kidney stone. But soon after, I found out I was pregnant. And while my intuition told me that something was seriously wrong, my worries were dismissed as those of an anxious mother for the first time.
So we started planning. We had a baby shower. We have set up a nursery.
We stuck to the popular 12 week rule – that once a pregnancy hits that milestone, you would be fine.
We had not yet learned that not all parents can leave the hospital with their babies.
In March 2020, days before the world began to fall apart from COVID-19, and almost 11 years after we met in this college apartment, our personal world was shattered. What used to be called an ordinary, run-of-the-mill pregnancy ended in a thirdquarter stillbirth with the delivery of our baby girl, Addison. It was a childbirth that also stole my fertility and almost cost me my life alongside hers.
Immediately after the grueling 48 hour labor and delivery, I experienced massive postpartum hemorrhage. Before the medical team could rush me into the first of two emergency surgeries – which I would remain fully aware of during both of them – they gave Daniel and I a fleeting moment together. He placed a kiss on my forehead and said, trembling, “I love you” before I was pushed away.
After 16 blood transfusions and a week in the hospital, I was finally discharged. Once home, we lay side by side on our queen-size bed, looking into each other’s eyes, mine rarely without tears, its golden brown like toasted honey – almost nutty. He shared what those eyes had seen, his fears of losing not only his child but his wife.
Over the past 19 months, our personal lives have continued to falter with countless upheavals, losses and disappointments. We found that the surgeries that saved my life left me with infertility issues. There has been a miscarriage, a failed IVF cycle, no more surgery and so many tears – tears for the child we have lost and tears for a future that seems uncertain at best. Another round of IVF is in progress.
And the days that are super tough – the days that I wonder if we’ll ever have a rainbow like we did on our wedding day – I hold on to what I have. A curious but united family. A change in my work as a therapist, which I find healing and restorative: I now support others who are going through pregnancy or infant loss, trauma and infertility.
And I have my Daniel.
Things are different from what they were when we first met. Ours is no longer a cute love story. Instead, it became the story of a love that no one ever dreams of needing.
But one thing has remained as true as it was that rainy day in Northern California: our love, for our daughter, Addison, and for each other – this 19 and 21 year old girl whose mothers bossy somehow knew they needed each other.
The author is a psychotherapist and perinatal mental health expert in San Diego. Her website is tgntherapy.com, and she is on Instagram @TGNtherapy. She’s working on a dissertation.
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