When I was 33 weeks pregnant my water broke and I was sent to the hospital.
There I met two other women going through the same, and we became close friends.
Now our babies are growing up together, and I'm grateful for them being in my life.
It sounds like the beginning of an inappropriate joke — three pregnant women: a blond-haired, blue-eyed video game player engineer, a brown-eyed, half-Mexican, big-haired Texan, and a hilarious German Midwestern Jew walk into a hospital.
It seemed like a dirty little trick when a team of nurses lured three pregnant women from the dark caves of their hospital rooms with the promise of cupcakes. But it worked.
EJ, Beth, and I were not only unintentionally hospital roommates, but we'd eventually become neonatal-intensive-care-unit moms together for several more weeks before finally getting to bring our babies home.
And now, I can happily report that we are all appropriately sleep-deprived parents raising our three happy, healthy 6-month-olds together as each other's first-baby best friends.
I was admitted to the hospital when my water broke preterm
I had been admitted to the hospital after a terrifying experience where my water broke seven weeks early while my husband was 10,000 feet in the air headed to a golf tournament in Cabo, Mexico.
My official diagnosis was preterm premature rupture of membrane — in layman's terms, my water broke early, but I didn't go into labor. What this meant for me was I'd be living in the hospital for an undisclosed amount of time, hoping I could bake my bun a few weeks longer.
I was told that one patient with my condition living in the hospital was rare given it affected less than 3% of pregnancies. So two women admitted at the same time was unheard of. Now we were three, which was like seeing a yeti in the wild.
Yet there we were, three big-bellied gals now, fingers deep in sugary delight, meeting for the first time. We were all living in the hospital and playing a daily game of avoiding going into labor. What felt like an unimaginably challenging and scary experience suddenly felt bearable because I now had two sisters — EJ and Beth — two doors down who reminded me of a simple yet profound truth: I was not alone.
Life is hard, long, beautiful, painful, exciting, surprising, agonizing, relentless, wondrous, fleeting, lonely, and absurd, and none of it is meant to be done alone. In fact, I dare say, all of it is meant to be shared.
Our sadness, grief, loss, and heartbreak may very well be the GPS coordinates someone else needs to climb out of their own darkness. And our joy, faith, love, and acceptance may be the road map to someone else seeking sunshine.
Here's what I learned from an experience I'd never have chosen.
Connection is the cure for loneliness
While you can feel connected by using screens and social media, it's a counterfeit for the real thing. We need eyeballs, warm hugs, and tangible smiles to actually be connected. Whether we are falling and face-planting in the trenches of life, or we are dipping and diving, flying through the sky with the wind at our backs, we need each other.
Control what you can
In circumstances that are less than ideal, it's easy to waste energy on people and things we have no control over. My water breaking early, my being checked into the hospital, much less a NICU — none of that we would have chosen for ourselves. But EJ, Beth, and I chose an attitude of radical optimism, intentionally hunting for and focusing on the tiny, perfect moments that existed every single day, even if we felt like we were in hospital jail. No matter what the circumstances, we have control over our attitude, so choose a pair of glasses with a hint of rosy-colored lenses because it makes all the difference.
Humor is medicine for our soul
Nothing has carried me through the darkness of my most challenging times better than maintaining a sense of humor, especially during my extended stay in the hospital. Sometimes, the panacea to serious circumstances that may have grave consequences is a playful lightheartedness. Humor doesn't necessarily eliminate the darkness, but it certainly provides a warm fire while we wait out the storm. So sprinkle in humor anywhere and everywhere you can.
Vulnerability strengthens connection
It's one thing to seek connection intentionally; it's another thing to show up. EJ, Beth, and I didn't pretend to be perfect and have it together. We wore our messy emotions on our sleeves. Every day was different — highs, lows, and everything in between. We created a safe place where we had the freedom to express ourselves in whatever form we were in that day, a human sanctuary of sorts.
As I wrote about in my memoir, sometimes things have to go terribly wrong in life so they can eventually go terribly right. Whether we are experiencing sorrow or joy, failure or success, fear or love, highs or lows, may we be brave enough to share them with each other because our lives are meant to be shared.
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