It’s Time to Let Go

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

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| This is the 322nd story of Our Life Logs |

The middle of three daughters, I was born in the late 1960s and raised a true Southern belle in the beautiful historic Camden, South Carolina. I was a cotillion debutante at age 16 and educated in a preparatory school.

Our town was the very picture of gentility, but I left its simplicity and headed off to college in the capital city, Columbia. Four years later, along with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications with honors from the University of South Carolina, I also gained a fiancé, Phil. He was funny and kind of crazy in a way I liked. We fell in love and married in 1986. 

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As we built our life together, I was excited to learn that I was pregnant in July of 1990. Dreams of whether I’d be buying blue or pink baby clothes dominated my thoughts. Then, our ultrasound confirmed it was a boy—no, two, to be exact. Phil and I were both overjoyed and honestly, a bit overwhelmed too!

As my little angels grew, I was told that it would be a high-risk pregnancy and was put on strict bed rest. I was in and out of the hospital in the months leading up to their birth until I was eventually diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, which meant my liver was failing, my low platelet counts were causing blood clots, and my kidneys were trying to shut down. I was hospitalized for three weeks, received 45 pints of blood and blood products, and had four surgeries to combat the syndrome that had an estimated 30 percent mortality rate.

The good part was, along the way, I developed a very close bond with my babies before they were even born, as the three of us were battling together—with all of our lives on the line—to achieve a successful outcome.

Tensions were high during the delivery, but through careful timing, our baby boys, Michael and David, made it out to the world. They were born eight weeks premature and had to remain in the hospital for a month before we could bring them home. Even then, they had to stay on heart monitors because they were both at high risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We had to keep a watchful eye on them.

Me and my little preemie, Michael.
Me and my little preemie, Michael.
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The first six months were the hardest, and while we had some close calls, my babies made it—and so did I, although I was an emotional wreck.

Phil was usually there to help me, but there was one time when he was out of town for work and I was alone with the twins. The alarm from Michael’s heart monitor had sounded, and I started with the basics: saying his name, touching him, checking the leads, but he was not responding at all. The leads monitoring his heart and breathing were all affixed correctly, but when I checked his airway, breathing, and chest, I couldn’t hear anything. I was terrified but tried to remain calm. There were drastic measures I’d been told to take if I wasn’t getting a response, so, fortunately, I was able to “get him back.”

Later I was told by our home health nurse that Michael’s heart had stopped completely that day. That was my first real scare with him. After that day, I never wanted to be in a position where I couldn’t protect my boys.

Michael and David singing “Side by Side” in their kindergarten talent show.
Michael and David singing “Side by Side” in their kindergarten talent show.
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Scares like that, along with my entire pregnancy experience, affected me and Phil greatly. Phil was never quite the same person afterward, suffering from a nervous breakdown and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Gradually, he became less present.

I struggled to raise my boys as a “single” mother for the many years that followed. Phil was still in their lives, but I was their primary caregiver. He never developed a strong relationship with them, likely because he had become a hardcore alcoholic and verbally abused us. It came to the point that the boys didn’t want to be around their father often, or even at all. I was forced to put them in therapy to deal with it. After my stress levels reached unhealthy heights and Phil’s mania drew a wedge between us, our marriage started to dissolve in 2006. By 2008, we were divorced.

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Phil’s behavior drove my boys closer to me. Sure, it was sad to do it alone, but I loved every moment of my time spent with my boys. I saw their first steps, heard their first words, watched them go off to their first days of school, and helped with their school projects…I was there for it all.  

Now, don’t get me wrong, parenting two boys through their adolescence and teenage years required enormous amounts of patience. I helped them learn to drive, watched them begin to go on dates, and noticed that they wanted to spend more time out of the house with their friends. I had a hard time letting them have those little bursts of freedom after years of fearing for their safety. It probably took years off my life with the worry I expended, that’s for sure!

Before I knew it, my boys had grown up to be handsome, responsible, forward-thinking young men. They became increasingly self-sufficient, holding down jobs and paying their own college tuitions. Doing this took them longer than the standard four years to graduate, but they were determined to finish and start stable careers. Once they graduated, they began to venture into the world with their own dreams. Michael, in particular, wanted to teach English overseas in South Korea and began the year-long process to get approved for it. Of course, I wanted to be supportive, so I hid my tears of worry and fear of the unknown. I knew the pain of separation was going to be the hardest I’d ever faced.

Letting go is something that challenges most parents of adult children, but letting a child go halfway around the world is a hard pill to swallow, especially since my boys were all I had for years. Still, I knew this was what Michael wanted.

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