Hello Thursday! Meet my blog group, comprised of a fantastic group of ladies who will dazzle you with insight on various topics. After reading my post, check out their blogs as well. Just click on:
Froggie (Tracey): One frog’s distinct voice on the world around her.
Merry Land Girl (Melissa): Tales of a suburban mom who likes to talk about pop culture, books, Judaism, family, friendship and anything else that comes to mind.
Darwin Shrugged (Denise): Civilized Observations in an Uncivilized World
For this week, Melissa picked: Who do you consider family that is not related by blood or marriage?
It’s funny how the logistics of my life will usually fall into place, all on its own. I was trying to figure out which direction I wanted to go in with this topic, and who I wanted to write about this week, when my friend Bu posted an article she’d seen regarding C-section mothers onto my Facebook page, along with this personal message to me:
“Sari, this made me think of you being there for me when the twins were born. What was that like?? Could you, would you write about it?? Love you!!! Thank you for always being there for me!”
Bu calls me “Sari”. I think it means “little Sara” in Portuguese. She’s called me that for nearly as long as I’ve known her (14 years), and I’ve called her “Bu” for that long, too. For me to accurately tell this birth story from my perspective, I have to go back a little further in time, before there were babies. Before there was responsibility thrust upon either one of us, before the daunting task of motherhood had changed the course of our lives forever.
I was a little intimidated when I first met Bu. It was my first day as an apartment community leasing agent, and Bu was the one in charge of training me. She was a beautiful woman, not much older than me. We’d later find out we were mere months apart in age. Long, dark brown hair clipped on the sides with delicate purple barrettes; her hair often hung in her face when she’d write notes or bend down to retrieve something. Dark brown eyes that sized me up and had no qualms over letting me know it. Slender features and small bony hands. I felt bumbling and large standing next to her.
When she talked to me, I had a hard time understanding her at first. Bu is Brazilian, and at the time her native tongue was Portuguese. She did a great job catching onto the English language (she told me she thought Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” was actually” Standin’ in Line”) but I wasn’t used to the accent or the lilting way she spoke. Most of the conversation consisted of me asking her to repeat something she’d said, and she’d give me a look of annoyance. I could tell right away Bu had a no-nonsense attitude, and nothing was filtered or off-limits. I knew I had to develop thicker skin with her.
We were instant friends but instant competitors, too. Being the young chicks in the office, I think we both felt we had something to prove. In those early years, I think we would have done anything for each other and anything against one another, a love/hate relationship. Bu equated this to the relationship she had with her sisters back home, in Brazil. Fiercely loyal and protective, but I knew she’d readily kick my ass if the mood called for it.
We were inseparable. She’d invite me over for a lunch of macaroni and cheese mixed with canned corn (sounds nasty but it was oh so good!) while we’d watch Secreto De Amor, one of her favorite Spanish soap operas. The dialogue was lost on me but I rolled with it. We’d hang out with friends, dancing and drinking the night away in downtown Omaha. There were times we’d show up to work the next morning hung over (or still drunk) but we managed to get through it unscathed, for the most part.
There were plenty of good times, and equally challenging times. She was the first to get pregnant, and I was there for her when that ended in tragedy. We saw each other through our divorces, subsequent children, marriages, moves and whatever else was throw our way. It wasn’t a competition anymore for either one of us. We grew up. We’d seen too much, lived through too much and I think we knew way too much about the other to even care or keep score anymore.
Bu has dealt with a lot of bumpy roads in her life, treading the line as best as she can, regardless of what life has thrown at her. I’ve often told her she’s the strongest person I know, because she never gives up. Where most of us would have buried our heads and waited for the end to swallow us whole, Bu never does that and I don’t think she ever will. She’s a fighter.
When she told me she was pregnant with twins, I was ecstatic. This miracle followed another painful pregnancy that ended in tragedy. I think we both agreed that her pregnancy was a blessing from God. It was too coincidental that after she’d lost two babies, she was gifted with two more.
Bu took that pregnancy as well as she could, even when her stomach swelled beyond the point that I wondered if it could get any bigger. I know she was hating life, but she didn’t complain, well, not much. Brazilians are direct and don’t sugar coat a thing. If there was something bothering her, you best believe I and everyone else around her knew about it.
She was admitted into the hospital 10 weeks before the twins were due to arrive. We all knew she wouldn’t carry the babies to full term but had never anticipated that they’d make their appearance so early. Her husband was deployed at the time, overseas no less. I had promised her that if she needed me, I’d be there.
I walked into Labor and Delivery, instantly ushered into a side room where I could don hospital scrubs. I had to wash my hands and was told to wear a mask over my face. While I was preparing myself, a nurse walked in with a tiny screaming baby wrapped in a blanket. One of Bu’s babies. I didn’t have much time to really get a good look, because another nurse directed me out of the side room and into the operating room, where Bu was lying on a table, doctors and nurses all around her.
I tried not to look at the opening into Bu’s stomach, while making my way to the top of the table, where Bu’s head was resting on a pillow. I wasn’t sure what to do at first. Another baby was wrestled out from the confines of Bu’s abdomen, briefly shown and then carried out by a nurse. It was such a blur and everything happened so fast! The newborns were so tiny and fragile, but their lungs were strong and insistent. Bu reached one of her delicate hands out to me, and I clasped onto it, gripping firmly onto her fingers.
A decision was made right off the bat that Bu would need a hysterectomy. Her placenta had grown into various areas within her body that it shouldn’t, and even she couldn’t dispute that with every pregnancy she’d ever had, she’d nearly lost her life. This was no exception. I’d later find out that she lost a substantial amount of blood and needed a blood transfusion. Neither of us knew it in that moment. When she heard the recommendation for a hysterectomy, Bu started to cry, giant tears rolling down her pale cheeks. I know she was pleased with her three girls, yet she’d always envisioned a gigantic family with a lot of kids.
Although she cried, she told me she understood why she couldn’t have more children. She was lucid and knew what was going on, even though her body was shivering and shaking. I remember the cotton swabs that would dab at her body, containing mass amounts of blood in their wake. By this time, I was holding onto both of her hands. I think she even said a prayer at some point, because I remember we closed our eyes and took a moment out of what was happening to protect her, and to protect her children.
I was told that I couldn’t stay in the room anymore. I was worried while I was directed into the side room again, praying that Bu would be all right, that everything would work out okay for her. This time, I got a good look at the tiny miracles swaddled up inside their baby beds, the tiniest little angels I’d ever laid eyes on. They weren’t there long. Since they were born so early, they were headed to the NICU, and it felt as though it was mere seconds that I got to see them squirming a bit inside the hospital blankets, before they were whisked out and down the hall.
Bu was amazing. While her babies were constantly monitored in the NICU, she would tend to her oldest daughter, no more than 3 years of age at the time, taking trips out to the NICU on a daily basis. She’d also pump in order to provide as much breast milk as she could for the babies, delivering it to the hospital when she’d go for her daily visits. I remember moments where it was touch and go, where there was concern for the babies, whether they were out of the woods yet. They were in the hospital for two months, a long time.
And then her husband received his orders.
The babies were well enough to travel, although they were still attached to monitors that kept track of their breathing, making sure they had enough oxygen. They had to travel like that, constantly keeping tabs on the newborns. It was a lot to take on, but as always, Bu was up for the challenge. Her whole family has always been tough and dealt with obstacles head on, no matter what’s thrown at them.
I was extremely upset when Bu moved away. It felt like I was losing one of my best friends. I think it’s even harder when you’ve gone through so much with someone, during those pivotal years where you’re fostering your adulthood and have been a shoulder to cry on or lean on it times of burden and hardships. Losing a friend like that, well, it sucks.
But I haven’t really lost Bu. Although we live miles apart, I know we’re still close and will always remain close. Her family is healthy and thriving. The twins will be 7 this year. I haven’t been able to see them as much as I’d like to, but they know me as Auntie Sara. We might not be blood relatives, but Bu and I are sisters where it counts. Her family… well, they are a part of my family, no matter the distance.