Texas Day Two – Finally!

Well it turns out Max wasn’t ok after all.  Yesterday morning our vet discovered that his pelvis was fractured. How the emergency vet missed a pelvic fracture is beyond me, but long story short, Max will be having surgery on Monday.

In the meantime, I am going to finally tell you the continuing story of my time in Texas.  In my last Texas post, I had left off on Thursday morning, having chronicled Wednesday’s travel adventures.

I began Thursday morning with a long walk down Houston Street (I was in Ft Worth in case you forgot) and returned to the hotel to meet Kelli and Erica from Hand to Hold to head over to the local Ronald McDonald House, where I was scheduled to read to the preemie parents staying at the house.

Before we left the hotel, I went over the excerpts I planned to read with Kelli and Erica.

“I’m going to read the section about seeing Andie for the first time,” I said, “but I’ll leave out the line, ‘I wanted to throw her away and start over.’”

“You have to read that line,” Kelli said.  “That line is so important.”

I explained to Kelli how it’s one thing to write that down, but to actuallysay it out loud?

I wasn’t sure I could.

But I did.

I read that line and many others to the parents and grandparents who had gathered to hear me talk.

It wasn’t until I looked at the sets of scared, confused, uncertain eyes looking back at me and read the section of the book that tells who Andie is today – She wears contact lenses and makes up dances behind her closed bedroom door – that I broke down and had difficulty reading the lines off the page.

After my reading, Kelli and Erica gave everyone copies of my book (Hand to Hold has generously purchased a bulk order of books and is hoping to get it into the hands of as many preemie parents as possible!) and as I signed each one, the parents and grandparents told me a bit of their story.

“My wife won’t come back to see our baby,” the red-headed, twenty-something year old dad told me.  “I think she’s depressed or something and I’m not sure what to do.”  I wanted to wrap him in my arms and never let him go.  Instead, I walked him over to Kelli and had her tell him aboutHand to Hold’s peer-to-peer support network.  How Hand to Hold could match his wife with someone who’d walked that same path.  And that they could match him with a dad who’d been in his shoes.

I signed a book for the young couple who I’d had trouble not overly focusing on during my reading.  Dad kept rubbing mom’s back and whispering in her ear and I felt like I was looking back in time at Lee and me.  After I’d signed their book, dad said that when I read the line about wanting to throw my baby away and start over, he thought about how the doctor had asked if he had wanted to touch his son right after he’d been born, and how he’d said no.  He wiped away his tears as I told him again and again what a normal response that was.

I signed a book for the Grandpa with the thick, dark mustache and cowboy boots, whose daughter was still over at the NICU with his preemie granddaughter.  He hugged me tightly and said, “Today you speak to small group, but I see the help you do, and someday I know you speak to thousands of people who you help.”

And I signed books for many others, including one, that the directors of the house were going to mail to the preemie parents who had just left the day before to take their baby home from the NICU after EIGHT MONTHS.

And I signed books for the directors themselves, who both commented that much of what I read had brought up many of their own emotions and uncertainties around the birth of their full-term babies.

Needless to say, it was an amazingly powerful experience that I am so grateful and humbled to have had.

But the day didn’t end there!

I returned to the hotel to meet Andy and his baby James in the hotel lobby.

“I’m meeting a guy I met on Facebook,” I told my husband over the phone.

And I really was!

Andy (of course his name was Andy!) had read my blog post about Texas through the micro-preemie support network and asked to bring his baby James (my husband’s first name!) to meet me.

And what a treat that was!

Screen-Shot-2012-05-09-at-12.36.28-PM

Sweet Baby James!

And there we were swapping stories, when a gorgeous blond came running across the lobby hollering in a thick Texas accent, “That’s my baby!  That’s my baby, James!”  Turns out it was not his mama, but Chrysty, his therapist from the NICU!  As she smothered James in kisses, I learned that Chrysty was also one of the co-chairs of the conference!  I’m telling ‘ya!

The conference officially began that night with the welcome gathering.  As I stood in the middle of the hotel ballroom with 260 others, I could feel the amazing, healing energy of the group swirling in the air!

And finally I met the woman responsible for my being at the conference in the first place, Sue Ludwig, the president of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists!

Sue-Ludwig

Later that night, as the waiter cleared our dinner plates, Kelli leaned over and asked if I was ok.

And I thought a moment.

And I realized that I was.

That I was ok.

Better than ok.

Because in that moment, I realized, that for the first time since Andie’s birth eleven years prior, I was finally amongst people who truly understood and related to my experience.

And when Kelli squeezed my hand, I knew that this was just the beginning of so many more connections yet to come.

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