We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can't send?
Why not send it to The Band?
Fine, I'll be here for when you need some quick sex or someone to yell at. Don't worry about my fucking sanity, all that matters is yours. You have put me through so much yet hardly want to own up to it.
I have told you things about me that no one knows. When I opened up to you last night about some things that my ex said, I thought that I would receive the same compassion and comfort that I give to you when all you want to do is die. But I was wrong. You had zero compassion, or love, or understanding for what he put me through. I don't care about him, I reallly don't. But it still hurts that someone I had given everything to told me that I don't meet his standards. Can you understand that?
Do you know how much that hurt me? You don't seem to care what I'm feeling as long as you get laid and have someone to comfort you. What the hell am I supposed to do if I get hurt? If you can't say a few comforting words when I'm reliving a bad memory, what happens if I really get hurt? Why am I so willing to put myself through the wringer for someone who doesn't seem to care?
I know you don’t remember me, but I remember you. We met during an incredibly stressful time, under the bright glare and nervous energy of an operating room in a near panic. I was in surgical scrubs, cap, mask and gloves. You were newly born and struggling to live.
It was a long time ago, and yet I’ve never forgotten that day. I wonder if you’ve heard the story of your birth? People usually hear of their birth from their mothers and fathers, but because your birth mother didn’t raise you and your birth father wasn’t around, I doubt they’ve ever been able to tell you. But I can.
And your family, your adoptive family, they weren’t there that day. I’m sure they’ve told you what they could about your birth and the first months of your life, but they didn’t even know about you yet on the day you were born.
But I was there. I was your nurse, a newborn intensive care nurse, and my assignment that day was to rush to the emergency delivery happening in the OR. The room was pulsing with people, there to help both you and your birth mother. Both of you were in danger, both of you needed serious medical attention.
Amidst the beeps and chatter of the OR, the doctors quickly delivered you by c-section, lifting your fragile, tiny body out into the world, placing you tenderly into my hands. I carried you ever so gently over to the warming bed, wrapped you in cling wrap to keep you warm. I told you happy birthday, and told you what a handsome boy you were. You didn’t make a sound or open your eyes, of course, but I smiled at you from behind that blue mask.
(You were actually much, much smaller than this.)
You see, the trouble was that you were born very, very early. Seventeen weeks too early, actually. Babies born earlier than that often don’t survive. You were just big enough that we knew we had to try and help you live. So our job was to do everything we could to help you.
Joey, you sweet little thing, you did not make that easy.
Have you seen pictures of yourself in those first few days? Have you ever seen a baby so small? Very few people ever have, but I got to hold you in the palm of my hand. You were so very tiny – have you seen your footprints from that day? Not a whole lot bigger than a postage stamp. Impossibly small.
The first and most important job you had was to breathe, and that’s where we almost lost you. You needed help, of course, all 23 week babies do. But you had an extremely narrow throat, making it challenging to get a tube in to deliver life-saving oxygen to you. Because it was so hard, the doctor had to try again and again. And in the meantime, your little heart started beating slower and slower, stressed without the oxygen it needed to keep you going. I used my two fingers to press down on your wee little chest, willing your heart to keep beating.
I kept talking to you the whole time, telling you
“You can do it, little guy” and
“Let us help you, sweetie.”
And I wasn’t saying it aloud, but I was feeling it in my heart,
“You are loved.”
I thought you needed to know that. With nobody else in the room to say so, I needed you to know you were loved and there was a wonderful life ahead of you.
The circumstances behind why your mother, so young and alone, would not be keeping you were complicated. Truthfully I never did know the whole story. But I did know, at that moment of welcoming you into the world, that nobody in that room was going to be raising you, watching you grow, loving you. Nobody in that room was going to be your forever family – they hadn’t even been found yet, because your arrival was so sudden and unexpected.
So I welcomed you into the world all the more joyfully. In addition to helping you live, I made sure you came into the world feeling loved, and celebrated, and wonderful.
Finally, after maybe 4 minutes? Maybe 8 minutes? After what felt like an eternity of checking for heartbeats and trying to intubate and giving chest compressions and worrying about your fate, the doctor got the tube in, allowing us to deliver tiny, life-saving breaths to your lungs. Just in the nick of time!
Once your heart got the oxygen it needed, we got you stable enough to transfer. We very carefully moved you to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which became your home for the next several months. You needed a ventilator to breathe, IV fluids to stay hydrated and nourished, and medications to keep you alive. You weighed just a little over a pound, with delicate translucent skin and eyes that weren’t open yet. You were very small and very fragile, but through it all you had incredible strength.
Your birth mother did visit you, once, the day after your birth. She looked at you for such a long time. She didn’t say a word or ask a single question. As tears streamed down her cheeks, I brought her tissues, and she just looked and looked, as if she was memorizing your every feature, every detail. I encouraged her to touch you, and for just a moment she reached in and laid her fingertip across the tiny palm of your hand. Maybe she knew it would be the only time she saw you. She carried you for 23 weeks, she visited you just one time, and then she was gone. As long as you remained with us in the NICU, she never returned.
But you were never alone, Joey, and you were SO loved. By all of us, your team of caregivers – nurses, doctors, therapists, volunteers. In the beginning, we showed our love by keeping your incubator dark, warm and quiet. We found the most beautiful blanket to cover your isolette. We all wanted to be your nurse, to shower you with extra attention and tenderness. When someone was talking too loudly near your bed, we shushed them. Whenever you fussed, we rushed to comfort you.
As you grew, we showed our love by picking you up & cuddling you. We fed you ever so carefully when you were learning that challenging task. Some of us sang to you, some of us rocked you to sleep, some of us read books to you. We shared our hopes and dreams for you. We were the only family you had, but you had us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there were so many of us to love you.
You surprised us all with your strength. Difficulties that many preemies faced were not all that hard for you. You didn’t need oxygen as long as many preemies, you needed very few medications. You learned to take a bottle quickly, which is not an easy thing for babies born so early. And you grew into such a cuddly, snuggly baby – you seemed content and you rarely cried. Sometimes babies born that early have a hard time cuddling and calming, but not you. We were so proud.
For much of the time you were with us in the NICU, you had no family to visit you. Other babies came and went, with their moms and their dads and their families to visit them. None of them probably ever realized that you had no family to visit you.
But then, of course, the day arrived when your adoptive family was going to meet you. Can you imagine how protective of you we felt? You had been ours and ours alone for months. We had grown very attached to you, and we all wanted to be sure your new family was going to be good for you. Luckily, your new family was fantastic. They respected us as your first family, while at the same time being single-mindedly determined to know you and love you. They asked us all about you, they had millions of questions. They learned your likes & dislikes, and stayed by your bed for hours, just watching you grow. They, too, read to you, sang to you, rocked you to sleep. They were patient, but so eager to have you home and become a family.
Our collective hearts sang with joy, knowing you were going to a wonderful home, while at the same time sighing with sadness, knowing you would have to leave us someday soon. And that day did come. When you were strong enough to leave us, after so many weeks, your family packed all of your things (many of the nurses and therapists had brought you gifts over the months), we shared many hugs and happy tears, and you were gone. Off to live your life with your family, far away from us.
Your leaving us left an emptiness. Babies come and go everyday in the NICU, but you were different. You were extra special to us. We talked about you often, wondered how you were doing. Mostly, we missed you dearly.
Joey, it has been so many years since I held your incredibly delicate body in my hands and willed your heart to keep beating and to feel loved. I don’t know how those years have been for you, although I think of you often. I hope the years have been good to you. I know you faced many hardships right from the very first breath, and I’m sure you have faced many more. Health issues, perhaps? Or family struggles? I hope you have been able to face all of those difficulties with the same tenacity and vigor that you always did.
And I hope that my love, our collective love for you, stays with you always and gives you strength.
I want you to know the story of your birth, and the story of how loved you were, at a time when you can’t otherwise remember. And I want to thank you for letting us be your first family, for letting us love you. I hope we gave you a gift you’ll always have, by loving you and treating you as our own family.
You gave us a gift by allowing us the opportunity to remember how it feels to truly love the babies we care for. I loved you then, and I still do.
I remember that night as if it was a dream or a distant memory, taking too long to fade away. The television was still on and I awoke to his fingers molesting my sides. His fingers were big, I grabbed them to make him stop. I looked up and saw his door was closed; he knew this was what he was waiting for - for our family to be asleep and unaware.
I looked into his eyes, he pulled me closer - too close. I tried to push him away, off of me but he wouldn't let me escape his arms. He grabbed my hand and put it down his pants, urging me to grab it; hold onto it.
I looked down and back up at him, scared, but he didn't care. He pulled down his pants and urged me to pull down mine to my knees. When he saw I wasn't going to do, it he grabbed my pants and pulled them down with one hand while pinning down my hands with the other.
I was laying on the bed on my side, half naked and cold, using my hands, trying to cover in between my thighs, I looked at him with serious eyes, shaking my head "no." He reached down to my face, his hand gently stroking my cheek, using his thumb to touch my bottom lip. I looked away about to pull up my pants back up. He grabbed me and turned me over.
I tried to scream but he covered my mouth with his hand and shoved it in. Hard. I cried and tried to push him away but it was too late. I knew that.
He humped me twice, pulled out, and came on his hand.
As I curled up in a ball crying, he got up and cleaned himself off while looking at me. He got back on the bed. I tried to scream but he covered my mouth and held me. I tried to pull away but he pulled me closer. As I laid there weeping, he said he loved me, made me promise I wouldn't tell my mom.
I promised I wouldn't because I didn't want him to hurt me anymore.
I was up that night, all night, waiting for a chance to leave but he fell asleep on me and I didn't want him to wake up. I fell asleep at some point, I don't even remember when. I woke up and the room was blue, filled with the sun rising, I looked at him and he looked down at me smiling. It was almost morning and he kissed me, telling me to go back to sleep, manipulating me, whispering that he loved me to keep quiet.
I slept long after that. Then I got up, got dressed and was dropped off at another family's house to get ready for a New Years party the following night. That night, he played with my head even more. He was hugging me and trying to keep me to himself. I was done.
I looked sad through most the party because I was pissed about what he did to me. I could see right through him. He distanced himself for the rest of the night so the family wouldn't suspect anything.
Next morning I saw him the last time, and hopefully it'll stay the last time. He walked over to me and continued walking past me, smiling a fake smile, eyes following me, his body language said, "keep your fucking mouth shut."
I looked away. Then, I asked to call my best friend at home; I was homesick. My trip to Mexico was not what I'd wanted. Later, his family was leaving and he walked up to me the last time. He gave me a stuffed animal tiger for the family's favorite soccer team. I took it and he kissed my cheek. I stared ahead blankly; his family was right watching us. He quickly left and I was stuck absorbing what had happened: I still didn't want to believe it was real.
On the plane home, I cried because I knew he thought he could actually get away with it.
That made my feel sick and numb inside.
Hey The Band!
I know we all hate Mondays, they just suck, I know. But let's try and change it up a little bit and do a happy post!
I have a few things to be happy/grateful for:
1. My son is talking up a STORM! All of his speech therapy is definitely helping. Now he never stops talking!!! It is still hard to understand most of it but he is talking nonetheless.
2. My therapist asked me to write myself a congratulatory letter of all of my accomplishments, put it in an envelope with a stamp, and give it to someone to have them mail it to me at a random time. Doing this made me see that I actually have accomplished a lot and have many things to celebrate. Small things, big things, all things I never saw before she pointed them out. Like, being able to go outside with my son for 15-30 minutes at a time. I wouldn't have been able to do that a few months ago due to my agoraphobia, but I am working on it and slowly but surely, I am able to do what may seem like small things to some that are actually quite huge to me. Yay!
3. I recently went on a five hour drive to New York for a family vacation and I didn't freak out and die! Yay again!
4. I am alive and well, that is always something to be happy about!
Let's try and make Mondays less sucky, what's your dose of happy??