A few days ago, while waiting to meet someone, I wandered into a high-end boutique. Then I saw the dress. $200. And I fell in love. I tried to justify buying it, but knew there was no justification.
See, I am a new mom. And any mom can tell you that they could drop $200 in record time with a few clicks of the mouse on www.diapers.com. But, oh, how I wanted that dress!
The cute 20-something sales girl could see that I was conflicted. She tried her best to convince me that it was an investment.
"You could always use a cocktail dress," she said.
A cocktail dress?
The only cocktail that I am familiar with these days is an elixir of baby cereal and sweet potatoes.
I walked away. I was strong. But I went back the next day. This time I had my 8-month-old baby boy with me.
"Oh, you came back for the dress," said the 20-something. "And you have a baby! Well, if you had a baby, you deserve the dress."
And there it was. A revelatory moment if ever there was one. Just like that it all started flashing back in my mind. I was speechless and lost in thought.
I looked up at her, paused, and said: "You have no idea."
My pregnancy was pretty standard for the first seven months. I had the usual symptoms: nausea, daily milkshake cravings, frequent bathroom visits. But my "pregnant brain" suddenly reached a dangerous level. I could barely see or remember anything.
It was time to stop consulting the pregnancy blogs and see my doctor. She sent me to an eye doctor, who sent me to a neurologist, who sent me to get an MRI. As we were leaving the office, a nurse chased us down.
"A neurosurgeon has read the MRI. You need to be admitted to the hospital — now," the nurse said.
So with no clothes, no toiletries, no notice — and no real explanation — I was admitted.
A few minutes later a neurosurgeon came to see me: "You have a brain tumor. It is impressive. We need to talk about your options."
Impressive? A tumor? Was I supposed to be flattered? I kind of was for a minute before I became scared to death.
As it turned out, I had a very rare tumor that started out as a normal cell, but it wandered and got lost. The wayfaring cell settled down in my brain cavity and started to divide. The tumor had been growing my whole life. The good news: It was benign. The bad news: It was making me blind and delirious. I had to get this thing out, but I had to get my baby out first.
So started my journey to giving birth to both a baby boy and an avocado-sized brain tumor.
After numerous consultations with surgeons and anxiety attacks, it seemed that the only option for removing the tumor was to have a craniotomy. (Read: Cut my head open, drill a hole in my skull and physically pick the tumor out of the pituitary and brain stem area for roughly seven hours). That settled it. Once the decision was made, we could get on with it.
By this time I had gotten pretty close to completely losing my mind, and I asked the same questions every few minutes. Then I'd forget the answers. Then I'd start to obsess.
"When am I having the baby? Did I have the baby yet? When do I have brain surgery? I have a tumor? What? Where's my phone?" then back to "When am I having the baby?"
It was driving people nuts, so my husband, Jon, came home one day with a white board.
It read: "You are having a baby in eight days. You are having brain surgery in 16 days. Your phone is in your bag."
I referred to it constantly. It worked like a charm.
The day finally came (according to my white board) to deliver the baby via C-section. In retrospect, I remember all of it. On Aug. 27, at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, I delivered Curran Jon Mitchell at 35 weeks. He was so tiny and perfect. They handed him to me, and I was overcome with joy that he was out safely and healthy.
The name Curran means "hero" in Gaelic. There could not be a more appropriate name, considering the situation. To me, he is a true hero. He saved my life.
Curran still had some developing to do, so he spent the next few days in the neo-natal intensive care unit. There, I was taught how to breast feed. The nurses were patient with me because every time I went in, they had to teach me all over again because I didn't remember how. One particular day, two of my girlfriends came to meet him, and I took them to the wrong incubator.
"Isn't he cute?! Oh wait ... this isn't Curran. Where is he?"
The nurses were getting used to me. They'd see me coming and guide me to my baby.
The next challenge, brain surgery, came a week later. I was scared but couldn't really remember why. On Sept. 8, I went under the knife (and drill) for brain surgery at USC University Hospital. The last thing I remember was being wheeled down to the operating room, asking the residents the same questions over and over:
"When am I going to get the anesthesia? Is it going to hurt? How long will it take for me to fall asleep? When am I going to get the anesthesia? Did I have a baby? Are you on 'Scrubs'? Where's my phone?"
Next thing I knew, it was over. I woke up in the intensive care unit with a throbbing headache. The pain was intense, but I was ecstatic. I could remember things and I could see! It was not easy to be away from my brand new baby, but I knew I had to heal in order to be able to go home and be a good mother. After four days, I was finally reunited with my baby.
The day I got home, I would not, could not put him down. It was all so surreal. I would hold him in the rocking chair and just sob. I was totally overcome with emotion. I felt so incredibly lucky, relieved, in love, blessed, exhausted, ecstatic, nervous, appreciative, and the list goes on.
Recovery took a while, I have to be honest. It was not like I came home that day and was skipping to the park, tugging Curran in a little red wagon. I had to take each day at a time and slowly get my strength back and wait for the headaches to subside. Little by little, day by day, the headaches disappeared and life finally resumed to normal. We have a beautiful healthy baby boy, and I have a sparkling new brain.
I know now that the power of love can truly get you through anything.
So now I am about to celebrate my first Mother's Day as a mom. I have so much to celebrate.
It is such a special occasion. I think I need a new dress.
For Mother's Day letters from readers, turn to A8 and A9.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun