Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage and self-harm that may be triggering to some.
“I am walking on a path drenched in sunlight, a small child chattering away on my back as tears roll down my face. He wraps his perfect arms around my neck and we are laughing and this is literally what I did today, though it may sound as if I am describing a dream or fantasy. My chest is aching from emotion and I feel this incredible sense of freedom as we explore the trail my neighbor told me about. Tomorrow the rain will wash away hope for adventure but it will not stop us from living and loving and going to play in the park. Julian can wear his yellow rain suit and all I’ll need is a hood to cover my hair and we will be surrounded by lush Pacific Northwest trees and the bright green grass as water falls on us and bathes us in all the glory of an imperfect world.
My husband is home and the room is permeated by the soil of disconnect, our word forcibly cheery, smiles plastered on for an invisible paparazzi. I have an early morning psych appointment at which I will ask to switch to a new medication because Geoff cannot handle picking up the slack I hand him when I am so drowsy I am collapsing into bed both at night and after putting Julian down for a nap. I feel so joyful, yet I wake each morning with the terrible burden of dread, fears of maternal inadequacy, and jitters so severe I cannot even enjoy my morning cup of coffee. All the bad feelings had gone away and now they’re back, I am still fighting for a life of passion. The day is done. I am in my bedroom examining the barely perceptible scars on my wrists and wondering how many years have passed. I remember the stigma of the gnarled scar tissue that escaped no one’s attention and drew a firm line between me and them. It’s schizophrenia, they told me, and bipolar.
I remember days of paranoia, hiding in forests hoping never to be found but they always found me, dragged me back to be ‘treated’ and the years lost to mind-numbing drugs and handfuls of pills that left me near immobile in bed for years, for years. I’m not sure what happened but I left that behind me. I had a smattering of friends, some normal, some crazy like me but the normal ones with jobs and kids seemed to me more neurotic than the friends I met in treatment. I woke up one day in bed, a thin man next to me smiling, and that was Geoff. He went to work every day while I stayed in and wrote, occasionally visiting shops or walking. It was a quiet life and I was very lonely though I didn’t know it.
And one day, in December of 2014, I woke up pregnant. The test confirmed it and it was a shock, despite a year of careful planning, of changing medications so as to make my body hospitable, of dreams, of planning a move to a safer neighborhood. It was my path to rejoining humanity, a path towards healing the young sad crazy girl’s soul and making her a woman of the world. Geoff and I embraced our good fortune all goofy smiles and belly laughs. My God, were we innocent, our hands entwined unbreakably, sloppy kisses, a roughed-up working man’s hand on my belly. And as things do crash, all of it crashed. We lost our daughter, Molly, at 18 weeks gestation. It wasn’t a surprise. They had warned us, telling us her lungs would never develop from a birth defect caused by Down syndrome.
But nothing had prepared me for such a tragic ending. I continued life as normal and went about my errands, except there were frothy tears in my eyes, ripping rivulets through the soft skin of my face. I cried for months, inconsolable, desolate. I looked at my face every morning in the mirror, carefully observing my plump young cheeks turn sunken, the ashy tone creeping into my once colorful expressions. I recall intense loneliness but then… people. Other women reached out to me, women that never knew me as the beauty queen wearing soiled rags I had been in my youth. Women that had suffered similarly while trying to start families. I met none of them in person, it was all online because really, I was in no state to leave my home. There was an infinite period of hopelessness as Geoff and I tried to start over. 14 long months of infertility. Until one day, I got pregnant again.
We lost that baby too. And the next. ‘It’s the chromosomes,’ the doctors kept telling me as my babies tested positive for various trisomies. Six dead babies, a smattering of fertility drugs. ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat,’ they kept telling us. I felt ancient, my bones dusty and barely able to support the weight of my mourning. My medications were amped up again and again and although I was feeble, there was steel in my heart. Anger. For I’d been completely forsaken. And it was so easy for everyone else, even my new infertile friends. I was raw and bloody, I wrote only of being pushed to the fringes of society. And one day, after 4 years of losing fertility battles and babies, I woke up pregnant for the seventh time. I woke Geoff; it was 1 a.m. ‘Okay,’ he said calmly. We both went to sleep.
So I did my thing, my seventh pregnancy, and at first, I bled so hard there were clots and my doctors kept saying at my advanced age and with my history, I would miscarry. I knew they were wrong. All the results from all the testing came back positive and in addition, my belly was swelling and huge by 13 weeks. That had never happened in any of my doomed pregnancies and then they were saying this time, the chromosomes were normal and they told me I was carrying a boy and without much discussion, we named him Julian, with my maiden name Perry as his middle. I secretly sneaky hid for months as Julian grew because we didn’t want to get our hopes up and have to go back later and tell everyone that it had happened again.
We didn’t tell our parents and families until I hit viability at 24 weeks. I was walking on air and I knew I couldn’t breastfeed because of all the pills but I wasn’t about to sacrifice bonding, so I bought bright carriers to tote our baby around and keep him close. And oh yeah, I had gestational diabetes but no big deal, and I was monitored and he always failed and we were almost living in L&D Emergency because I never felt him moving and then my doctor said I’d deliver at 37 weeks, just to be safe. So we finally told the whole world and the people we thought had abandoned us while we suffered in our mutual hell were so happy and delivery was a dream. Such a whirlwind, but all I can say is I didn’t feel my contractions, no pain, I was pushing and one second of discomfort like I had put a tampon in wrong, and in the next second, tiny baby Julian was resting on my bare chest at 9:40 p.m. on the tenth of December of 2018.
Like any normal parent, I stared at him with disbelief, 5 pounds, 11 ounces of baby and he cried and I had no idea what I was doing and I held my son, and by this time, I was an unlikely 40 years old. I let Geoff hold our baby and never had a heart been patched together so quickly and with so much sloppy care. We brought our son home and we loved him like crazy.
I wore Julian a lot, developed a taste for well-crafted baby carriers and beautiful textiles and he was always close to me. We could read each other’s minds, we were that close. I loved feeling him, belly to belly, and nothing brought me more joy than taking him on walks, rain or shine. In fact, he is now 2 years old and I still carry him daily. The story should have ended here but it was a great misfortune after Julian’s birth, everything seemed so easy. We tried again and I had six consecutive early losses. I was collecting ghosts out of habit and soon, my mental health was again deteriorating and they kept feeding me pills as I struggled with severe anxiety. 12 pregnancy losses, 12 lost possibilities and opportunities, my old friend depression was crushing me like she had in my twenties.
One day my husband came home and was laying into me about some dumb domestic thing and all of a sudden, I disappeared. From a place of disconnect I quietly observed myself argue with him about taxes and from then on when he came home, I whispered ‘bye bye’ and left my body. The only moments in which I felt truly alive and present were when I was alone with Julian. Together, we were as one as celestial light bathed us in safety and the love we shared was so pure it suddenly crystallized in my mind. In order to honor that love for Julian, I had to let my lost babies go.
A tremendous wave of sadness washed over and over me like a tide coming in and out, ‘goodbye my sweet babies, I loved each and every one of you.’ I felt them clamor for bits of my heart, ghosts wrapped around my skeletal frame and suffocating pressure, you’re a terrible mother. And the tears came as I felt tiny hands release me from obligation and to this day, I am crying but panic shoots along my neural pathways and all this mama thinks is, ‘I have to get back to Julian.’
Julian, I’m so sorry. May you be protected from the burden of being my savior. You are my heart. I am putting my world back together as this pandemic rages, and I know I am here right in this and each moment because I am your mother.
And now it is raining and I’m running with you, hand in hand down the big hill to the playground and suddenly, I realize I’m crying and laughing and in a mere moment, something inside me clicks into place and I know finally after so much suffering, my children and I are all so free we can fly. And all I can see is a grinning 2-year-old reaching to his mother to be picked up and my heart softens to my husband’s mere human flaws and I know I am okay, safe with the family I have created and my God, Julian, I am so happy to have you home.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kathleen Perry Goodson from Olympia, WA. You can follow their journey on their Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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