It started with a call from my mom stating that she had found the perfect match for me. As a semi-skeptical, oh-so-mature 19-year-old, I listened and wondered. Can she be right? Can he be the one? Would we ever get married and live happily with a bunch of kids and a few dogs?
If only I could have known how right she was. That my mother’s intuition would lead me to the only person who could help me survive the unthinkable – that we would have the kind of love and intimacy that flourishes from the deepest pains of life.
My mother explained that she had met her mother at a Weight Watchers meeting where they realized how much they had in common. They had raised their families just miles apart in Los Angeles, ran in similar circles, and had mutual friends, but had never crossed paths.
These two proud Jewish mothers were also shocked to hear that they each had children at Sonoma State University. And that these children lived in the same apartment complex. And that their front doors faced each other – about 100 feet apart.
I listened in silence, rolling only slightly with my eyes at the other end of the phone, something she seemed to be able to feel despite our distance. However, my cynicism did not match her infectious excitement as she washed over the perfect for me 21-year-old (whom she had never met) who could certainly persuade her overly independent daughter to move home after college.
When I was the mostly good, nice Jewish girl, I reluctantly accepted to meet him.
On a cool rainy day in Northern California, there was knocking. I opened the front door and locked my eyes with the most beautiful guy I had ever seen up close – my Daniel.
I could feel his eyes turn towards me: big and round, golden brown like roasted honey – almost hazel. Those were the eyes I would consider in disbelief years later when the doctors gave us the devastating prognosis of eight months pregnant with our first child.
The day we met, in the small hallway of my dorm apartment, I noticed his tall, athletic build. I did not know it then, but he would fold that body into a too small couch so he could spend every night by my hospital bed. And the muscular arms with solid hands would hold me tight as I cried when we found out our daughter would not come home.
Even though I was only 19, I could see he was special. As soon as he left my apartment, I called a friend and said to her, “I’m going to marry this guy.”
We were two young, naive children who fell in love at first sight.
We got married in 2017 on what was to be a hot spring day in Southern California, and were instead a day of heavy rain – a day that everyone claimed would bring us good luck and “lots of kids.” We got married on a vineyard in Temecula when the rain only stopped briefly enough for a rainbow to shine through.
We had been trying to get pregnant for about a year when I needed emergency surgery. Test after test told me I was not pregnant, so doctors continued with x-rays, medication for the pain, heavy antibiotics, and anesthesia for surgery for a blocked kidney stone. But not long after, I found out I was pregnant. And while my intuition told me something was very wrong, my worries were dismissed as an anxious first-time mother.
So we started planning. We had a baby shower. We decorated a nursery.
We stuck to the popular 12-week rule — that once a pregnancy reached that milestone, all would be well.
We had not yet learned that not all parents are allowed to leave the hospital with their babies.
In March 2020, days before the world began to fall apart due to COVID-19 and almost 11 years after we met in that dorm apartment, our personal world shattered. What was formerly referred to as a routine, imperceptible pregnancy ended in a stillbirth in the third trimester with the birth of our baby girl, Addison. It was a birth that also stole my fertility and almost claimed my life next to hers.
Immediately after the grueling 48-hour labor and birth, I suffered a massive postpartum hemorrhage. Before the medical team could rush me into the first of two emergency surgeries – which I would both be fully aware of – they offered Daniel and me a fleeting moment together. He put a kiss on my forehead and said shakily, “I love you” before I was rolled away.
After 16 blood transfusions and a week in the hospital, I was finally discharged. When we were home, we lay side by side on our queen bed, staring into each other’s eyes, mine rarely giving tears, his golden brown like roasted honey – almost hazel. He shared what those eyes had seen, his fear that he would lose not only his child, but his wife.
Over the past 19 months, our personal lives have continued to falter with countless disruptions, losses, and downturns. We discovered that the surgeries that saved my life have left me with infertility problems. There has been an abortion, a failed IVF round, several surgeries and so many tears – tears for the child we lost and tears for a future that seems uncertain at best. Another IVF round is underway.
And on the days that are super hard – the days when I wonder if we’ll ever get a rainbow like we did on our wedding day – I stick to what I have. A curious but supportive family. A shift in my work as a therapist that I find healing and restorative: I now support others who are experiencing pregnancy or infant loss, trauma, and infertility.
And I have my Daniel.
Things look different than they did when we met. Ours is no longer a meeting love story. Instead, it has grown into the story of a love that no one ever dreams of needing.
But one thing has remained as true as the rainy day in Northern California: our love for our daughter, Addison, and for each other — the 19-year-old and 21-year-old whose overbearing mothers somehow knew they had need each other.
The author is a psychotherapist and perinatal mental health expert in San Diego. Her website is tgntherapy.com and she is on Instagram @TGNtherapy. She is working on a memory.
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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.