As I sit here in Evelyn’s room, I find myself having trouble starting this entry. Not because of a lack of things to say, but rather, the opposite. I’m afraid that I will not be able to properly honor just how much my own mother did for me throughout this entire experience, and I’m afraid I won’t get the words quite right. I need to accept that I probably will never feel like I’ve said quite enough no matter how long I sit with it, but I feel like prefacing this with these sentiments will at least let you know that what my mother did for me and how much she felt for all of us will never be able to be captured adequately by words. Her love and devotion are things that cannot be measured because they feel infinite. They will never run dry and they will never lose strength. She is truly one of a kind, my best friend, and my own personal hero.
Her love and devotion are things that cannot be measured because they feel infinite.
My first memory of her and Evelyn was on the day I went to her house last August, tempering my potential excitement about an incredibly faint second pink line I thought I may have seen. She immediately drove me to the store to get more tests, and convinced me to try one as soon as we got home. The line, again, was barely visible, but I think she knew already. Her absolute adoration of this new life growing inside of her own daughter started immediately, and she never held back. I almost envy her immediate connection to Evelyn, as I was honest with her that sometimes I felt that I was holding back or wasn’t connecting enough. Her love knows no bounds, and she encouraged me every day to love, snuggle, talk to and cherish this sweet baby inside of me. I have a lot of regrets about not cherishing my pregnancy enough, but I can honestly say my mother will never have to feel those feelings. She was in, all in, right from the start, and I will always be grateful for that because that was our longest chapter with our sweet Evelyn.
It was something truly special to watch my mother support her daughter fighting for her own daughter. It felt like some unspeakable, unique bond between us three, like some interconnected web of love and unity. Her strength felt like my strength, and I know my pain felt like her pain. Like most of her life, when I began experiencing issues, she became her most selfless self. I will never forget sitting in the MFM clinic with a doctor explaining that I could either go home and closely monitor my BP, or that it may be a better idea if I went straight to the hospital for monitoring. That entire visit, I couldn’t get myself together. I was absolutely full of panic and the tears would not stop flowing. I remember her taking control and asking, “If it were your daughter, would you take her to the hospital to be safe?”, and taking my hand as we made our way to Overlake.
A not so small detail that is just another testament to this woman’s empathy is that throughout this whole day, she was also busy trying to close on a house for Colin, Evelyn, and me to begin our new life as a family. She never took breaks or pauses as she worked on so many fronts to try to make sure we had everything we needed, from a roof over our heads to a team of doctors watching over us.
Those days in the hospital, I felt like she never left my side. She asked the doctors questions when my mind couldn’t form them fast enough, she brought things that made the room feel a little more like home, she held my hand as I received news, she read her book next to me while I slept, she made sure we had every meal, she smiled proudly at every ultrasound, she handled all the updates to our family, and she spent more time in that hospital than she did at home. Throughout it all, that all in, absolute adoration for Evelyn never stopped, and as us three remained entwined, I got to feel all of that on top of the infinite love my mom has for me. I’ve never felt so powerfully cared for, and amidst all of the terror this experience brought, I honestly don’t think I have ever felt more powerful love than in those times.
Once Evelyn was born, although it doesn’t seem possible, my mother somehow managed to step up even more. When I picture the NICU, she is by my side in every imagined scenario. She is so deeply rooted in my experiences and perception of those times, and I can honestly say that some days, she was the one thing keeping me going. Until you’ve experienced it firsthand, I don’t think you can ever truly imagine the trauma that is being in the NICU. You imagine a proud mother and father looking over their baby fondly, watching them grow stronger by each day. What you don’t imagine are all the small details that made every day a test of strength. Approaching the doors, preparing yourself for the news that your baby did great while you were gone, or on too many days, that they are having a rough time. Walking through the doors and washing your cracked and dry hands for what feels like the millionth time.
Passing the desk of nurses, hoping for smiling faces rather than looks of pity.
Walking up to your child’s door, preparing yourself for a full rundown of what is going on with your child, trying desperately to understand all the ins and outs of the medical terms and what they are monitoring for. Sitting in that room, wanting to touch your baby, talk to your baby; hold your baby, but not being able to do any of those things, because she needs the least amount of stimulation as possible. Never being able to tune out the sound of the oscillator and the machines beeping with every change of her oxygen levels, or temperature, or heart rate, or the countless other things they have to constantly monitor. Trying to take their advice not to sit and stare at the screen showing her stats, but never being able to keep your eyes off of it. Sitting there feeling completely helpless and terrified, because, at any minute, things could change.
Very few people truly understand this experience, but my mother knows it all too well.
Every feeling I felt in there, every anxious moment my heart skipped a beat, every desperate attempt to comprehend the complexities of what was going on, every fleeting instance of sheer joy with Evelyn, she shared. I’d give anything to go back to those days spent with these two women in my life that are as much a part of me as I am myself, because in that room on those days, the one thing more powerful than the fear was the love of a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, and a granddaughter. Different relationships that somehow all felt like one. Connected, entwined.
Looking back, I feel a little sting in my heart, because as I remember those days my mother spent taking care of us, I don’t recall ever asking her how she was doing. I was so focused on trying to handle my situation at hand, I don’t think I had the capacity to worry about anyone else. So, while she was acting in a completely selfless manner, I look back and feel a bit selfish. I think it wasn’t until the night that Evelyn left us that I truly understood and realized that the love and pain that my mom felt was not just that of a grandmother, but as a mother as well, and in that way, her pain was almost unimaginable to me. I knew that it had shattered my heart, but I hadn’t considered how hers had shattered twice over.
The moments in which we had to let Evelyn go, my mother crumbled. Her entire body reacted to the pain in a way that I think only a few people have experienced, and in a way that I myself experienced the following morning having to hand Evelyn over for the last time. It is amazing what emotions can do to you physically, and in that moment, her body took the pain she felt in her heart and manifested it into crippling physical pain. She had to be admitted herself for monitoring, as her entire body began to take out the devastation she was feeling however it could. She has expressed to me that she feels guilt over this moment as if she somehow failed me in the moment I needed her the most, but I see it in a completely other light.
When I think of this moment, I don’t think of a mother who abandoned me in my hour of need. I think of a mother who devoted herself so completely and selflessly during my hundreds of hours of need, that held an unimaginable capacity for love in her heart for us, that cared so deeply and powerfully, that when our world came to end, hers did too. Her body’s response is truly a testament to all that she did for me, and how much she put her heart on the line. She never held back. She was all in right from the start.
It’s been just over 6 months since Evelyn was born, and my mother’s love, Evelyn’s grandmother’s love, has continued to be all in. She mourns and misses Evelyn just as I do, every day and in so many ways. She feels the longing I feel, the anger I feel, the heaviness I feel, and she feels the love that I feel. She feels it all with me, all the complicated messiness that grief is. She honors Evelyn, she speaks of her, and she keeps her place in our family beautifully solidified.