The Best Present I Ever Gave Myself

For Owen’s first birthday, I gave myself a present.  This blog, Ain’t No Roller Coaster.  At that point, for a year, my life entirely revolved around what Owen and, to a lesser degree, Kellen needed from me.  There was no thinking about how I did it, or really even what I was doing.  I just did it.

In many ways, my biggest outlet was writing CaringBridge (CB) updates.  CB was my connection to the outside world and writing the posts helped me process the medical complexity that was surrounding me. However, I felt like I still had so much to say.  I was literally bursting with the need to write.  Not just write about the latest medical updates, I needed to also process the emotional complexity that I had been doing my best to ignore for the previous year.

Keep in mind, in person, I’m one of the most emotionally guarded people you will meet.  I’ve always been really good at telling people what I think, but I’ve never been good at showing people how I feel.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel things.  I did.  However, over the years, I built Guantanamo Bay level security walls around me.  I never let people know when I was hurting and I let very few people close enough to hurt me.  Fortunately, I have two parents, two brothers, several amazing friends and a husband who have always seen through me.  I also always had my journal.  What I was afraid to show people, I wrote.  I’ve done it since I could write.  My mom still has notes that I left her when I was in elementary school.  Writing has always been my outlet.  However, when Kyle and I moved in together, I burned all of my journals.  I didn’t really need them anymore.  With Kyle I’ve always been secure enough to show my feelings (and still tell him what I think, too :-)) and so I didn’t burst with the need to write anymore.

That is, until Owen was born.

In truth, we were barely holding ourselves together well enough to give our kids and his job the bare minimum.  I couldn’t take his burden too.  And, I would never have asked him to take mine.  We walked next to each other, we helped each other over hurdles, but individually we carried our own burdens.  I still don’t know if that was “the right” approach or not, but we were in triage mode.  It’s the best we knew how to do right then.

And, I knew, I always had my old friend the pen.

However, this time, writing it for myself was no longer enough.  I started meeting other preemie moms in person and online and I heard so many similar themes about how we were feeling.  They were they same themes that I was writing privately.   Also, I saw the hurt that 36 (now 38) years later that my mom still felt.

I needed to share, I needed to feel like I tried to let others understand that this prematurity stuff is a big deal.  I could only share my story and my feelings, but I had seen enough from others, that I knew I wasn’t alone.  And maybe, if I had the courage to admit the deepest, darkest thoughts about this journey…not just in my personal journal, but out in the most public forum possible…maybe it would help me heal and maybe it’d give others the courage to do the same and maybe when Owen is older if people think, “he’s nothing like the rest of you” (like they so often say about my preemie brother who has behavioral disabilities) maybe people would attempt to understand instead of judge.

Maybe…?  What’s there to lose?  My pride by sharing my emotions?

Today is the one year anniversary of ANRC.  My personal Guantanamo Bay may have been downgraded to Fort Knox…it’s a start.  Thank you for giving me the courage to keep going.

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

21 thoughts on “The Best Present I Ever Gave Myself

  1. Happy 1 year anniversary of ANRC! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I always appreciate reading another preemie mom’s take, especially, since you usually write exactly what I am thinking/feeling. I really enjoy your blog and often share it on FB. Thank you!

  2. I love your blog. As the parent of twin former micro-preemies, one with CP and a lot of issues, I love reading the blogs of those in similar paths. I sometimes feel (with one or two exceptions) that when I explain what is going on with my girls, people act like I am being dramatic, that it isnt that bad. But they haven’t walked through 8 brain surgeries in 10 months, or pneumonia or CLD etc. But others have, and get it is hart wrenching and exhausting and we all still have to get up tomorrow and work and not lose the house to the back….I love your blog. Thanks for writing it. I read every update.

  3. Happy Anniversary sweetie! I love reading your writings and even though it is hard to always talk in person I feel your emotions and spirit so strongly through your writings about your boys. Love you and miss you sweetie. xoxo.

  4. Happy anniversary to your blog and your way of leaving Guantanamo Bay slowly but steadily! xoxo
    I know how good it feels to let it out and share with others and learn that I am not alone in all of this.
    So glad that I met you online because although my son is not a preemie there are many things that we share nevertheless.

  5. Happy anniversary! I am so glad that the blog has helped you. I can say on good authority that it’s helped others, myself included. It really has been a lifeline. Here’s to many more years!

  6. I love your blog Tatum, thank you for writing and being an inspiration. I find it has been healing for myself to read other preemie parents’ blogs and facebook sites. It is nice to read about an experience I am either going through or may be coming up to and then I feel I am able to handle it better.

  7. Happy Anniversary…totally worthy of celebration! Like so many have said, you write exactly what so many of us are feeling and fear saying aloud. Thank you for that! You have definitely given me the courage to start sharing my feelings by blogging and sometimes in real life (imagine that!!). I, too, am much better at revealing my feelings through laptop than face-to-face (I get too overwhelmed, emotionally). My husband and I…responded as you and yours did…by walking beside each other…yet still carrying our own burdens. My burdens are/were so great…there is no way I could have taken on his. I was broken enough as it was. I can’t say it enough…Thank You…for sharing, for educating, for making the rest of us feel less alone.

  8. Tatum, I felt the need to comment. I read your blog all of the time – I find it very educational and insightful. Thank you! I have found myself remembering what you’ve written in many different situations. Your willingness to share helps inform about prematurity and build a community and also, honestly — it is all applicable even beyond that! So, Happy Anniversary and a belated Happy Birthday to Owen. Take care!

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. I know that your blog has helped many people, and it will continue to make a difference in the world.

  10. Tatum – This was a gift to us, not just you. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to every update and continue to fall in love and care about the cuties you’re raising. Even if I’ve never met any of you.

  11. Happy Anniversary Tatum and ANRC!! Your posts always affect me… sometimes they make me think and other times they make me smile and others they make me giggle and still others they make me well up with tears. Thanks for putting your heart out there, sharing your thoughts, and giving me a way to know you better. Love and miss you!

  12. Happy Anniversary! Your words, your thoughts, and your blog are beautiful. While my son is not a preemie, he has issues. Issues that I never thought I’d be dealing with when I imagined my life with him, pre-him. Beautiful. Thank you.

  13. I started crying reading this post- it is like you are inside my head. I am the same way. I am a preemie mom also, my son is a 26 weeker and he is now 12 months actual. I recently wrote out our story when I was invited to talk at our NICU’s parent support group and it was so healing. I felt like part of this big open wound that I hide from everyone was finally covered over with ointment instead of sandpaper. I am seriously considering starting a blog also, for my own therapeutic reasons. Thank you for inspiring me.

    • It’s amazing what just getting it out can do for the soul, isn’t it, Mandy? When you start that blog, please let me know!

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