Last Saturday my first grandson was born three weeks early. Our unexpected joy would become worry within 24 hours though.
Baby Oliver Glenn was having oxygen saturation issues within 24 hours of birth as well as low blood sugar and was subsequently moved to NICU.
Of course my son and his wife were devastated to learn Ollie had breathing and blood sugar issues but, my son and his wife were anxious regarding moving Oliver to NICU and away from Stephanie’s hospital room.
Cindy and I jumped right in to voice all of the reasons why NICU was the best place for Ollie.
How do we know so much about NICU? Cindy’s twin granddaughters Maryssa and Makenna spent months in NICU.
Cindy and my niece Leigh Ann also took turns sleeping in their cars in the parking garage. They both literally “lived at Cook’s NICU.”
For months during that window, I delivered food and clean clothing to Leigh Ann and Cindy before and after going to work everyday.
Having a child or twins in NICU is stressful to parents and guardians. You walk around in a daze. You are sleep deprived. You are worried. You feel helpless.
My daughter in law Stephanie was discharged from Baylor Monday night.
Leaving Ollie behind at Baylor was beyond heartbreaking.
My son felt helpless to calm his wife or fix his son. Robbie was caught in the middle.
Stephanie had decided they would sleep in their cars too. I was concerned about this idea. She had just had a baby. Leaving a hospital bed to sleep in your car isn’t a healthy option. I was strongly opposed to this idea.
To solve the issue of being near NICU, I located the same hotel that Ella a reporter who interviewed and traveled with Cindy and I had stayed near my home in August. I then booked a room for my son and his wife within 9 minutes from the NICU.
I was awake and returning calls at 6AM Tuesday. Driving 5.5 hours to Beeville to meet my bride on Tuesday morning, I had assumed that everything “back home” had calmed down. Why? Robbie and Steph would have a place to sleep far more comfortable than her Jeep and still be close enough to run to NICU every three hours to breastfeed. Cindy and the twins were doing well and had finished painting Maryssa’s room. Cindy is always remodeling. ALWAYS. Leigh Ann and Maddy were looking forward to flying to Texas in two weeks and my only worry was baby Ollie becoming strong enough to breathe and eat at the same time. But… I had more to worry about coming my way. Things I couldn’t foresee. Things no one saw coming.
Arriving at the Beeville Clerks Office I waited for my bride and the grooms mom to arrive. As they rolled into the parking area beside me, I got off a call with a client flying in from Washington. My phone never stops ringing.
Viewing the courthouse area, I had a few areas that I wanted to use for bridal photos and we had at least 30 minutes before we were due on site at Garza East.
I began unloading furs, an umbrella, tiaras and several bouquets before finding the right areas and lighting for photos.
I always bring at least 8 bouquets, 4 furs, numerous signs and 10 tiaras as well as fascinators and fun items for photo shoots.
Leaving the courthouse, my bride and the grooms mother follow me to the Unit while I quickly check in with my son and his wife as well as Cindy.
The Garza East wedding is at 4:30PM. I will be driving home in the rain and the dark 5.5 hours.
It was a long day but beautiful wedding with a cute couple thrilled to finally be marrying.
The grooms mother cried when she saw my bride and I walking out of the Unit after the wedding towards the razor wire decorated gates by the guard shack.
The grooms mother was happy looking through the Unit wedding photos that I had bought. So happy that she cried and hugged her new daughter in law.
I always buy 3 Unit photos if they are offered as a courtesy to my clients.
Driving back to Fort Worth and knowing I had another long day Wednesday, my back is stiff from the drive in pouring rain. I’m relieved to get home by 11PM. Matthew has waited up for me and I’m immediately ready for bed. No dinner. No snacks just sleep. I’ve had so little sleep this week running to and from the hospital when not driving, meeting clients, helping Cindy remodel and filing licenses that I’m literally on auto pilot.
Wednesday morning while in my bathroom throwing on my makeup and preparing to head to meet my first client in Wichita Falls, my phone rang. It was Maryssa. She was hysterical. Her twin sister had taken a handful of Xanax that she had I found in Cindy’s purse “because she can’t keep up with her AP classes and if she can’t make 100’s she doesn’t deserve to live.”
Horrified and knowing I couldn’t be there to support my twin sister or my twin grandnieces, I have Maryssa call 911 and get an ambulance.
My sister nearly needed an ambulance herself. Cindy has heart problems. She had heart surgery just a few months ago. The shock, the anger and the fear another attempted suicide with Makenna brought to her home yesterday quite nearly caused another heart attack for my sister.
I was sick about Makenna and her inability to tell us to change her classes. I was saddened that once again my beautiful niece had become so upset about school that she believed her only way out was to swallow pills.
I’m fearful. Agitated. Confused. Angry. I don’t know why anything like this could happen in our family twice in the past year. Why? Why? Why?
Makenna is under medical supervision at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. Baby Oliver is five minutes away.
My families hospital Merry Go Round continues in Fort Worth.
Meanwhile I’m loading up to head to meet two brides at two Units two hours apart. I have a tight day. Two hours to Allred then two hours to Roach. Four hours from home and my family members.
I’m crying driving from 30 to 35 headed to Wichita Falls. I’m crying because we haven’t fixed Makenna with counseling or medication.
I’m crying because I feel helpless. I’m crying because my twin sister and her weak heart are breaking.
I’m crying because for the second time in 8.5 months, Makenna has attempted suicide and twice Maryssa has found her twin sister incoherent and called 911 and literally saved her life.
I’m crying because I am driving away from everyone who needs me to keep them calm being left on their own.
I have no choice. I have responsibilities that require me to be elsewhere.
Arriving in Wichita Falls, I call my bride. She is still at her hotel. Her shower wasn’t working properly. I meet her there and attempt to curl her hair. I’m all business now watching the clock.
I know exactly what time I’m due at Allred and what time I must leave. My bride is running late. We were due at Allred at 11:30 to check in. It’s going to be 12. I know it and yet there’s nothing I can do to change it. It’s her wedding day. I want her to feel beautiful. I want her happy.
I call the Chaplain and advise him of our delay. At 11:36AM, my bride and her family load up to follow me to Allred.
My usual spot for photos is taken by a man selling yard art. I make a left rather than turn right towards the Unit and pull into a gas station.
My bride and her family follow me. I see a wall that will work as a backdrop and begin quickly unloading inventory for the photo shoot.
A quick ten minute photo shoot behind a gas station and I’m loading up to drive to the Unit with my new friends behind me.
Cindy’s sending a text “they pumped her stomach she should be okay. What can we do? I don’t want to go through this again. We need a new psychiatrist. He just changed her prescriptions last week. I think those medications are causing suicidal thoughts.” Cindy is horrified. Terrified. Guilt ridden of being unaware that Makenna was so unhappy that she was searching for a way to end her life AGAIN.
My voice text reply as I roll onto the lot at Allred was “ask them to ask her if these suicidal ideation thoughts started after changing her medication last week. It’s critical we find out how and why this has happened twice. Make a list. Ask questions I can’t be there to ask for you ask for me.”
I’m crying again. I take a minute to compose myself. I’m due at Roach Unit at 2PM 106 miles from Allred. My client and I are 30 minutes later than I had planned.
Getting out of my suv in the Allred parking lot, I take a deep breath and “I’m on.”
My husband calls this my showgirl face. Business. All business. Leaving my many “cares behind,” I walk towards my bride and we enter together.
Screening in, I advise the duty guard that Chaplain Redwine is expecting us for a wedding.
We wait as we redress. I put my belt and shoes back on. I check my watch. 12:06PM.
I worry about Cindy, Ollie, Makenna, Maryssa, my son and his wife. No one sees my fear, my worry, my anxiety about my family.
I am a great actress. I hide my pain, my fear and my anxiety from others. My clients count on me to be organized and articulate and I am.
I also compartmentalize what I cannot deal with when I cannot deal with it and I’m really good at it. Throughout my entire life, I’ve had to turn my back to the choir and focus on the congregation. From family to business I wear many hats.
Years ago, a psychiatrist who studied me asked me how I was able to “put away” things I couldn’t deal with. The truth is that I learned this technique at a very young age. Cindy and I as well as our sister were victims of sexual assault for years. The predator was a family member. I learned to act normal because I had to. I was 6 years old. I also stopped speaking for many years. Cindy spoke for me. I developed a stutter after that first assault that would haunt me many years.
For the people who “don’t believe inmates should have the right to marry” that consistently contact me to voice their opinions, I want to point out that the person who hurt me and my sisters as well as others was never prosecuted. That’s right I said never. So while you have opinions regarding my clients understand this… there are people walking around who should be in prison that aren’t. There are also people in prison who shouldn’t be that are. I never ask why anyone I’m marrying is in prison. It’s none of my business or yours either.
It will be very late before I’m back in Fort Worth from TDCJ Roach Unit. I have another long day and a head full of concerns about baby Oliver and fears regarding Makenna. We cannot allow her to have a car right now. We can’t trust her not to try this again. We must know why this is happening. We must fight to find the truth. Makenna is quiet unlike her twin. She isn’t a “talker.” She internalizes. She keeps to herself.
At 12:14PM Chaplain Redwine walks in to escort us. The walk through the garden area to the next building is always a moment where I breathe in deeply and realize that giving my best ceremony regardless of what’s going on in my life is incredibly important to my clients.
My clients have waited months for this moment. I need their moment to be as magical and memorable as humanly possible. I need to be “on.” Attentive. I always am.
The visitation area has a number of trainees inside. This is a problem. We will need to wait for them to clear the room and a guard to escort the inmate into the visitation room.
At 12:19PM, we are ready to begin. I’ve counted quarters for three Unit photos. I’ve got my script prepared and I’ve set out the marriage license. I take off my watch and put it back on upside down to keep from looking at it. I do this when time is something I can’t control. My watch faces out from under my wrist rather than on top of it.
Going over what’s allowed and what isn’t with my clients, I ask if the inmate has brought vows. He hasn’t. We begin.
The ceremony hits laughs as well as precious and meaningful moments. I’m articulate. I want the importance of commitment with the joy of love and the journey of a life together covered.
I sign the license as my couple pose for the photos I’ve purchased. I advise my bride that I must be running to Roach.
It’s 12:39PM. I’m at least one hour and 45 minutes from Roach Unit. The Chaplain escorts me to the entry gate. We discuss the number of people listing my name but not hiring me at Allred and come to a solution. The Unit will verify my clients through my office.
I run by my clients truck and let them know she will be out shortly. I put Roach Unit in my navigation and drive 80-85MPH to Childress.
I answer texts by talking to Cindy and take calls from clients and Units. My husband checks in on me. My doctor calls in a refill on my Lorazapam. My life swirls around me as I focus on getting to my next Unit and client.
At 1:57PM, my bride sends a text that she’s on site. I describe my filthy Jeep that I haven’t had time to wash since I bought it three weeks ago and we walk in together at exactly 2:07 after finding each other in the parking lot.
The crows nest guard hollers down “Wendy Wortham?” I answer “yes sir.” Everyone in my life is sir or ma’am. I don’t care who you are or what you do or where you work. Sir and ma’am are the most frequent words out of my mouth.
Ms Shoffner walks out to escort us into the visitation area. We wait on the inmate to arrive. It’s a bilingual ceremony and the librarian has volunteered to interpret. We go through the ceremony and because rings are not allowed to be exchanged with inmates due to Section K of the Administrative Directive, my bride hands her rings to the inmate to place on her fingers. I count coins for the weddings photos. I borrow a pen to sign the license. I go over what to do when the license is returned to my client. Ms Shoffner walks us out together. I’ve got a 4 hour drive back to Cook’s Childrens Hospital and Baylor NICU and I have a worried husband wondering how I’m handling a day I had expected to be filled with love and joy that was dampened by the unexpected incident at Cindys house with Makenna and the possibility of jaundice as well as oxygen saturation for Oliver. I worry how I’m going to teach my grandniece her self worth and to set limitations with school classes. Her overwhelming schedule is driving her to feel like a failure. I plan, I worry and I realize my clients are following me to the bridal shoot and hit my brakes near a lake.
Unloading items my bride and her sister find a few fun items.
I’m now driving back to Fort Worth. The rain doesn’t hit until beyond Wichita Falls. I’m fielding calls and talk texting replies. I’m wondering what I’m walking into at Cook’s first with Makenna, Maryssa and Cindy before heading to NICU to see my son and his wife with Oliver. I’m mentally preparing myself. I’ve just left two joyous celebrations. I’ve just driven over 8 hours the day after driving 12. I’m mentally tired. I’m scared. I’m worried. My family will see none of this. I am the Matriarch. I am the leader. I fix problems. I correct chaos. In last nights situations, I soothed the fear of my family. We will bound together. We will circle the wagons. We will recover and by God’s Grace my niece will learn to communicate her fears and concerns. She will learn to come to us and she will learn that she can. There isn’t anything anyone in my family can say or do that will rattle me at two hospitals. I will remain calm. I’m the calm one.
At Cook’s, Cindy is crumpled on an uncomfortable sofa. I suggest coming home with me and getting some rest. I visit with Makenna. I was right about the new meds. We discuss her curriculum. I discuss changing it. I discuss why and how attempted suicide effect the entire family. I discuss a new psychologist. I make a list of what she needs from home. I explain why I wasn’t there all day and why Cindy couldn’t ride in the ambulance as she was being screened by a second ambulance for a heart attack. I’m calm. I’ve already called Mesa Springs for outpatient when she’s medically cleared. I leave to visit my son and his wife. It’s 9:00PM.
At Baylor with Maryssa who wasn’t allowed to spend the night with Makenna, I find my son crying in the hall. We sit in uncomfortable chairs. I ask him to stay calm. Premie babies aren’t ready yet. I explain that I stayed up late researching the oxygen saturation issues being present predominantly with premature babies. We discuss the possibility of Ollie staying in NICU until his due date March 7th. My son admits he’s feeling helpless and would like to leave with the baby. I remind him the baby is safer at NICU. He asks about Makenna. Maryssa and he sit together as I walk back to find my daughter in law trying to bundle Oliver. I pick him up. He doesn’t cry. He never cries when I hold him. He’s tiny. I ask about jaundice after detecting yellow around his cheeks. Stephanie tells me “they are watching that. We just want him healthy. Robbie is upset we can’t bring him home.” I again reiterate why keeping him in the hospital is in his best interest. It’s not an easy conversation.
My daughter in law “doesn’t want to leave the hospital.” She’s exhausted. My son is exhausted. They’ve been in NICU every 2-3 hours for days and they are walking zombies. I remind her to please go to the hotel and sleep a few hours. I worry about the baby sending their fear. I remind them to sing or read and remain positive in NICU or when around Oliver. They leave with Maryssa and I headed to the hotel I’ve rented. They are so tired that I call to make sure they made it safely.
This morning at 6:45AM Cindy knocked on my door. “I can’t sleep there the chair is terrible the sofa is worse. My whole body hurts. I’m so scared why does she keep doing this? Is Maryssa up? We have to get her to school. What do you have today? I have to file three licenses and print edited photos, go to the post office, swing by Parker County Jail, email my credentials to Johnson County Jail, go to the cleaners, go to the school and change Makennas class’s, answer over 100 emails, call 17 Units for March scheduling and visit Makenna then go see Robbie and Steph.”
We made it through the day and brought Makenna clothing while telling her she was out of the genius classes that were stressing her. We give her books and stencils and snacks. We give her love and show her hope. We are masking the fear that gnaws on is hiding in dark corners. The worry of leaving her home alone and the panic of her having a car and being out of our sight. Learning to trust Makenna to talk to us will take time.
Back over at Baylor, my daughter in law is crying “I just want to go home. Why can’t he get better?” The long talk of doing what’s best for Oliver begins again. Stephanie’s hormonal. She’s just had a baby and is trying to adjust to breastfeeding. It’s a difficult time for a first time mother. She wants to stay with the baby but NICU will not allow parents to stay or sleep with the babies. You are effectively booted out every three hours you are allowed back. It’s hard.
Tomorrow I’m at Green Bay, Mercado, North Tower and back at Cook’s and Baylor. Tomorrow I will hide my fear about Makenna believing she had no other options. Tomorrow I will continue to teach my son and his wife the merits of patience. The importance of putting your children first and why NICU is keeping Oliver on the road to recovery.
Talking to my clients is always easier than talking to my family but, by the faith I have in prayer and my own patience, I hope that Makenna’s treatment and changes in her school workload as well as a re evaluation of her medication will prevent another suicidal ideation scenario. I will try to keep my son and his wife aware that Ollie is improving everyday and that when it comes to children that worrying is part of the role…