Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Just In Case - A Story About September 11th

Today brings up a lot of emotions for me. Of course, September 11th 2001 brings up a lot of emotions and sad memories for our entire country. On September 11th in 2012, a different kind of fear set in for my husband and I. Our first-born, Michaela, decided it was a good time to make her grand exit from my body.

I was 31 weeks pregnant. Large. In charge. Very uncomfortable. Ready to get that baby out of my belly, but not ready-ready. My back bothered me quite a bit that day, but I figured I had probably just had too much ice cream the night before. As it turns out, I was in pre-term labor and had no idea. After picking up lunch on a very hot day, I went back to the office, but not before calling my mom. I told her my back was bugging me and she encouraged me to call my doctor. Because "Just in case".

Within a few hours, my husband and I found ourselves at the hospital. Our OBGYN had discovered that Michaela's head was very low. I was 80% effaced and finger tip dilated.  I was a mess. I kept crying and telling them "I can't have my baby on September 11th!". And they assured me they'd do everything they can to keep her inside and safe. Safe. Something I had never really felt on previous September 11ths. Ever since that terrible day in 2001, I've been holding my breath on that day. If you suffer at all from anxiety like I do, you will understand. For those of you that don't, I acknowledge that its irrational to constantly be in fear or to always refuse to fly on that day, but anxiety is a funny thing.

In 2001, I was only a freshman in college that day. From what I recall we been there a fast and very exciting few weeks. My parents had sent me to a small University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania called DeSales University.  I was unsure of this place because it seemed boring at first, but made a lot of quick connections within my theatre major and felt very comfortable at my new home already.

I felt safe.

The night before my roommate and I partied quite a bit, like you do in college, and we had decided to sleep in and skip class for the first time. The phone rang over and over and over that morning. I wondered what in the world our moms or friends or anyone could POSSIBLY need to bug us for at that hour. We were both annoyed into answering it.  As it turns out, it was my roommate's boyfriend calling to tell us to turn on the TV. He said confusing things like "The world trade centers were hit by an explosion or plane", he was unsure like everyone else, and then as soon as we turned on the TV, the second plane hit. I remember thinking "what did I just see?". It was terrifying to watch live. I stood in front of our bunk beds looking up at the television, shocked.

And then all the thoughts started rushing in...about my dear friends and family who were in closer proximity to the disaster area. Some friends who, just like me, were only at college for a few short weeks before their world's were rocked. A few of them living in the freshman dorm at Wagner College. I toured that dorm. One major stop on the tour of their dorms is an observation lobby that had a beautiful view of the Twin Towers. How awful that must have been for them to watch.

Oddly, though, our school did not shut down that day. They kept classes going. Business as usual. It was probably the weirdest part of the day. How was I supposed to go to class, while my other friends a few hours away were terrified for their safety? Told to stay inside their dorms. Some cut off from communication. Panicked. Told not to use their phones. Told not to breathe the air. Stuck in the tunnels. Being turned around in traffic and sent back to where they came from to get away.

I recall refusing to go to class and instead went through my dorm's hallways offering hugs to those huddled in corners sobbing because they couldn't reach their parents by phone. So many of them worried about their loved ones. There was no Facebook safety check in. There was no wifi. No texting unless you were some sort of fancy a-hole with a newer and nicer phone. But because there was no social media to bury our heads in, we made connections. Deeper ones. We showed love and kindness and support to one another. Through all this fear, we found a little bit of peace.

Eventually the sadness of the day and the horror of what had happened was put behind us. Even though our first month of college was what some people may consider moving back home over, I stayed.

Flash forward again to me in a hospital bed in 2012. Same day. Different year. Praying. In Fear. Really nervous about the unknown and what was going to happen. It felt strangely familiar and sad.

Eventually, though, the pre-term labor had stopped.

My doctor came in and told me I had to stay in the hospital at least another day. She also told me that I would have to be on strict bed rest at home for the rest of the pregnancy.  I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes and asked "what are we going to do?"  We hadn't gotten the nursery ready. There were walls to paint. Gifts to open. Thank you notes to write. Even a concert to attend the next day.

I remember having a dream that night that involved a lot of my friends from college and they were giving me hugs. It felt amazing. They helped to give me hope. For a while we couldn't think of a middle name for Michaela. We went back and forth a few times and then it occurred to us. Her middle name should be Hope. Just in case she came early. Just in case she needed to feel extra safe. It was all tucked away in her name. Thanks to my mom who took care of me and a small army of friends, our little angel ended up being born just two days before her due date. Safe and sound. My little ball of joy, named Michaela Hope.

So I know a lot of us are still feeling very sad today and maybe still in disbelief of what happened seventeen years ago. I hope my story in some way helps to uplift you today. Of course we will never forget what happened. But the best thing about fear is that hope is not far behind.