2003 - Fell madly in love with a poisonous guy. When I finally got it together and broke up with him, I was left with no friends and no job and more scars (emotional and not) than I care to divulge. The only friend who happened to stick by my side through that relationship also happened to be very deep into drugs and thus, my only friend after the relationship ended, did a lot of drugs with me.
I met Ethan online that fall and, though he tried to help, I ended up having to check into rehab (all 100-ish lbs of me) for a pretty severe meth addiction - just a few weeks ago I celebrated seven years clean!
2004 - No one told me that, when you quit meth, start eating again and gain back some weight, your body might actually remember that you are a woman and, though you were told you'd probably never have kids, that might no longer be true when you are taking care of yourself. And so, a couple weeks before my 21st birthday, and about two months into rehab, Ethan and I were pregnant.
Fortunately for us, we already knew we were going to get married. Sure, we probably would have waiting a year or two (I had always dreamed of a winter wedding) but we bumped up the plans and were married in June (I was nearly 27 weeks pregnant). A week later, I started getting very sick and was put on bedrest. Four weeks after that our daughter died and I nearly lost my own life to pregnancy induced hypertension (aka preeclampsia).
We knew our daughter, Janell Victory Allen, was going to be born premature during her 32nd week but she nevert made it that far and died at 31 weeks 2 days - she was just 3 lbs and more beautiful than anything I've ever seen in my life. We often say that she saved my life: had she been moving that day, I would have never gone to the hospital and I would have had a seizure at home from the high blood pressure.
There are a few things you learn when you go through something traumatic like losing a child:
1. It's a make-it-or-break-it situation and you quickly find out if the relationship you are in is going to last. Loss can bring you closer together or rip you apart. Thankfully, Janell, in life and death, brought Ethan and I together. I can't say it's always been perfect but I can say that I could have never gotten through it without him. You really never know how much you love and need someone unless you have been devastated like this and, oh my, how I love my husband more than I ever thought possible.
2. You find out who your friends are. I think part of the issue is/was maturity level here. Most of my childhood and high school relationships dissolved after our daughter died. People either are uncomfortable talking/hearing about it or don't understand and relationships just fade away. My friends were all in very different places in their lives - we were just 21 years old. I really didn't expect much from them but people change in situations like this and I just am not the same person I was. Maybe some of my fire went out, I know I'll always feel incomplete but, whatever it was, most friends did not stick around. Sure, I still talk to Tyfanie (a new mom herself now)) and Latay came back around and actually brought me the most sincere note once she was pregnant with her daughter (Taya, soon to be 5 yrs) and I was in the hospital with pregnancy number two. And, sure, there's the people who are sort-of friends on Facebook.
My best friends now are friends who understand how life is altered by loss. It's not that all we talk about is death or anything but we can talk to each other without holding back and know that we won't be judged or create awkward moments when we mention the people we are missing. Because Janell is always on my mind, she's my daughter, and I want to be free to talk about her and have others talk about her without it being weird. I don't know, I suppose it has a lot to do with our society/culture but, moving on...
3. Losing a child means you know, without a shred of doubt, how badly you want to be a parent. It's like climbing a mountain and having to stop 500 ft from the summit. We were so, so close and it all just broke away when she died. We knew we wanted more kids, and right away.
So, our first year as a married couple was not the happiest. After our loss we battled with fertility issues. The end of 2004 was cold and sad and lonely.
2005 - We did get pregnant again, in early 2005, but complications were quick to follow. I was put on bedrest at 19 weeks for preterm contractions. We were all hoping that pregnancy complications would be a one-time fluke but we were disappointed to find out that I, or Ethan, or the combination of us, make horribly dysfunctional placentas. So the key to sustaining pregnancy, to growing a healthy child, is something I cannot do. I cannot express how disappointing this is to a woman's psyche.
My last 28 freakin' days of pregnancy was spent at Valley General on strict bedrest where I had to be helped to the bathroom and only permitted to bathe on occasion. It was like jail.
They say that pregnancy, or the pain of labor, is worth it when you see your child - but we had already been through it all and were left empty handed. So this was scary and LONG.
Phoenix was born four weeks early in early Sept. and shown to a stunned silent room of family because he was nearly identical to Janell. Being premature, he gave us more than one scare but he was alive and that's all that mattered.
Phoenix's life will always be a little different than everyone else's. He has his own way of reacting to the world which makes him special and sensitive, compassionate but vulnerable. He is so smart, a full year ahead of kids his age but he will always have challenges in other aspects of life. He amazes me everyday though. I am so thankful for him.
2006 - Phoenix was/is a gift. He gave me back a lot of what I was missing. But he also allowed me to see what could have been. Around the time he started being more mobile, I began having anger about Janell's death - towards the doctors, towards our families and friends, I was even angry at Phoenix that he was able to live and Janell wasn't. So I decided to do something about it. I became highly involved with changing the laws and guidelines for pregnancy and infant loss at the hospital and government level. I even started my own nonprofit and Ethan and I were featured in People Magazine. It was an exciting year for us. We moved into our first house (in Covington) and I (stupidly) cut all my hair off. We watched our son grow and our hearts healed a little.
2007 - Funny thing, despite once being told I might never have kids and then needing fertility medication to get pregnant with Phoenix, I have a knack for getting pregnant before we are really ready and, in early 2007, we were pregnant again. It (she) was a happy surprise. Pregnancy this time was easier to not stress about because we had Phoenix running around and a nonprofit to operate... oh, and that dog we got and later decided would be better in a different home...
Phoenix was diagnosed with autism in 2007 and went to therapy frequently. It really wasn't a big surprise to us and, the way autism is now, it really isn't/wasn't as devastating as you may think. He is extremely highly functioning and, I imagine, could have the diagnosis removed now.
But, as you can guess, history does repeat itself and I was on bedrest again. The scary thing is that, unlike pregnancy with Phoenix, my blood pressure problems were back. This was a bad place to be in: pregnant again, with a girl again, and having blood pressure problems - again. But Scarlett, as she was named, is a ball of fire, perfectly embodying her name. She was not about to go down without a fight and she came into the world, three weeks early, with bright blue eyes, light skin and the faintest of blonde peach-fuzz. Having seen the two before her, this time the family laughed as she couldn't have been more different than her brother and sister.
Scarlett is my girl and, I believe, natures way of giving me back that part of being a mom without giving me back Janell. She is so, so different than her brother and how we imagine Janell to be. She's all attitude.
I often say that Janell taught me how to love, Phoenix gave me hope and Scarlett gave me joy. I really believe that.
I can't have anymore kids. As much as I love being a mom, and if it were up to me I'd have several more, it is far too dangerous for us to have anymore. It sucks because, as a woman, you feel like this is the one thing you were actually made to do and I suck at it. It does get me down sometimes but there is not much that can be done. It wasn't a choice so why waste energy on it?
Just after Scarlett was born (literally... she was four days old at the wedding), Ethan's brother, Travis, got married. It just happens to be that this woman he married, Zoë, had become my best friend over the years so the addition to our family was celebrated on many levels.
2008 - Ethan started programing for the iPhone and did really well. So well that he decided to quit his job and work from home. Our nonprofit was doing really well and the kids were growing and healthy. 2008 was a really good and uneventful year. We took an amazing vacation to Disney World and I got some pretty awesome and massive tattoos (which crossed into 2009 as well), some of which covered said scars mentioned in 2003, and I began writing, seriously. I had always written songs and poetry but decided to start writing a novel. I have yet to finish a novel now tough (I have three halfway complete). I still write, life just seems to get in the way.
2009 - The downward turn of the economy hit us in a big way. Though Ethan was making enough money to support our family, a failed business venture left us with unsurmountable debt so we made the decision to leave our house behind and start over. Also, a hard decision for me personally, was closing our nonprofit. I'd like to think that I'll start it again some day but with fewer and fewer donations and no one having the time to volunteer, it just became too much for one person to handle. (Funny side note and a story for another day but it was really just a single person who eventually screwed me over and left the nonprofit unable to recover.)
Even with financial stress and moving (to a rental in Kent), we did okay. I started running, I finally god my Associates Degree, Ethan had a few genius ideas for apps, Phoenix started at a school in Auburn for highly functioning autistic kids and things were looking up. Surprise, surprise when I injured my hip in late 2009 and our retarded landlord foreclosed on our house.
2010 - After months of bedrest for my hip (bedrest and no pregnancy, ha!), it just wouldn't heal and would get worse and worse with running (really with any movement). I was (well, technically still am) legally handicapped - parking pass and all (though that just went away, I know I could go back and get another any time). We went to doctor after doctor and to all these specialists and it was discovered that I have a rare form of hypermobility disorder (similar to Ehlers-Danlos type III if you want to google it). Basically, my ligaments are super stretchy in my large joints (hips, shoulders, knees) and in my back. There is no cure, the only treatment is loss of body fat and gaining muscle mass (I can never run again though, running is pretty much the worse activity for hypermobility). It pretty much explains a lot in my life - I wanted to be a contortionist when I was younger and actually had to quit gymnastics and switch to ballet because my back was too flexible to tumble (I didn't have enough muscle mass to support the flexibility). Perhaps some of you remember how flexible I was?
So, last May I started taking my health seriously. I pretty much workout (or do physical therapy) every day. If I take a week off, my joints start hurting so time-off really isn't an option. I'm trying to get to about 15% body fat to see if that improves things even more (I think I'm at about 20% or 19% now, the specialist said hypermobile women function best at 12-15%). I still have issues and will my entire life but it's a lot better since I've started taking care of myself. The only down side is having to constantly explain myself. With the loss of body fat, I've gotten a lot smaller, so I get comments from people sometimes - so I have to tell them all this about how it's dr advised and it's for my joints and how I'm nearly pain-free now. and blah-blah-blah.
Early in the year, Phoenix graduated from his autism program with flying colors. They wanted him to come back as a peer model but, as we had to vacate the rental house, he couldn't go to that school anymore.
We moved here to Bellevue in May (I think?). And we love it here. Phoenix was tested by the Bellevue school district and tested very, very (very!) well. He started Kindergarden (a year early) a couple months ago. We got his first report card recently and he's doing wonderful. You'd honestly never know he had a history of anything at all.
Scarlett is going to preschool and she loves it. She's all girl and is three (three is far, far worse than the "terrible two's" by the way) which translates into that she's a handful but hilarious.
Ethan has had success and set back and is now on the up swing again with his business. It's stable but not going to make us millionaires or anything - not yet at least. :)
2010 brought two new additions to our family as well. My brother, David, married the coolest person in the world, Star. I, we... the whole family really, couldn't be more happy because she is wonderful and has quickly become my sister. Our other addition was a little niece, Isla. Remember how my brother-in-law, Travis, married my bestest friend? They just had a wonderful little girl in November. Her arrival was joyous but it brought up a lot of emotions about Janell that I just didn't expect at all. It's all fine now though and we all love her to pieces.
In life there are losses and, though Janell has been the largest loss for my life personally, there have been other losses as well. Ethan and I both lost grandparents while we've been married. His grandpa, Ralph, died in 2006, as did both my grandparents on my dad's side. That was particularly hard for the family because, though they were elderly, they died within two months of each other. I now have no grandparents, and that's sad. :(
In 2005, there was another devastating loss for my family. My cousin Angie, who I speak of often still, died from complications of a brain tumor. It was absolutely awful and she is still very missed, by her widower, her four children and the rest of our extended family. It was one of those senseless deaths to someone who very much deserved to live.
Ethan's side lost someone very special in 2010. Uncle Casey died from cancer early in the year. It sucked but I think we were all comforted to see the amazing family of friends he had who were all at his funeral. I couldn't help but think that they were more family than we were in some ways and it helps to know that he wasn't alone, that he was and is very loved.
I guess I am pretty much the same me that's always been. I believe, Ethan and I put together have gone through just about everything imaginable in our lifetimes (apart and together). I'm still forgiving to a fault though, and open and honest to anyone who cares to listen. I figure, if people are asking questions, it's because they want or need to know for some reason and if I just keep talking about everything I've been through, good and bad, someone, somewhere, can benefit from it. I am a lot more mellow than I was previously though. Ethan says there is almost a visible change in his mind from the me before we had Janell to the me after. In a piece I wrote on her 5th birthday, I said that she is my personal B.C. and A.D. Though I may not be as loud or wild as some might remember, I am still passionate about my beliefs, loves and interests. I am constantly learning and often become an expert on the topics that interest me - apparently I just have too many (I get that rom my dad)!
I hope 2011 is mellow and good. 2010 was a pretty good year in most aspects. Stay tuned for my 2011 goals which will be posted in my personal blog at http://cant-wake-up.livejournal.com/