Dear Mr. Sparks,
Today is a personal letter from me.
I've been separated from my second husband for six months. Today, we settled the divorce. It was contentious, it was a horrid marriage... I hate to speak ill of others so that is all that I will say.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because after it was all done, after the celebratory drinks with my attorney, after all the dust settled and I sit with time to think and look at my life now... at all my life the past 25 years and where I am right now... CDH not only took my son, but it completely changed my life.
Because of CDH, I missed out on med school.
Because of CDH, I lost my only child.
Because of CDH, I was robbed of being a mom.
Because of CDH, I was robbed of being a grandmother.
Because of CDH, my first marriage disintegrated.
Because of CDH, I lost my home through the divorce.
Because of CDH, stress is normal for me.
Because of CDH, I will grieve for the rest of my life.
Because of CDH, I never had a "normal life", especially in my 20's.
Because of CDH, I spent many years angry at the unfairness of the world.
Because of CDH, I wanted a new family to replace the one I lost and dated the wrong men because I wanted a family so badly again.
Because of CDH, I desperately wanted to be a mom again and have a family life again and married a man wearing rose colored sun glasses. Actually, more like blinders in a dark room.
Because of CDH, I stayed in that marriage to keep that family years longer than I should have and lived through things no one should have to endure.
Because of CDH, I gave up a "normal life" and career to run the charity; sacrificing many things like insurance, retirement, decent pay, etc.
Because of CDH, my decision making process is different than many people. My priorities are different. I've seen the worst the world has to offer and the best.
Because of CDH, I saw death first hand at 19 years old and every year since.
Because of CDH, I know how to plan the funeral of a child.
Because of CDH, I will have to battle Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for the rest of my life, though I rarely admit that because I hate to be a victim of anything.
Because of CDH, I have to force myself to be hopeful every single day. Because I know that happy endings do not always happen.
Because of CDH, I worry about taking care of a cemetery. I worry about who will take care of it after I die.
Because of CDH, I worry about who will take care of me when I am old.
Because of CDH, I have to think about what I say and do and write all day, every day and how it will reflect on the charity. I live under a microscope.
Because of CDH, I have to overcome the anxiety that it gave me to do my job to battle it.
Because of CDH, I have seen, heard, held hands through, listened to, dealt with... some pretty truly horrific things personally or through other CDH families... that would shock.
Because of CDH, I don't sleep. I have too much work to do.
Because of CDH, I have to be careful who I date.
Because of CDH, I constantly tell a sad story... and that scares many people away as dates or friends or business associates.
Because of CDH, I have to learned to deal with constant rejection because of my sad story.
Because of CDH, I know that my face, my name, my reputation will forever be entwined with grief, sickness, death.
Because of CDH, my body has changed. I have stretchmarks and other changes from being pregnant but no child to hold now.
Because of CDH, I will never know "normal". I will never what it was like to be up all night with a baby who wouldn't sleep, to breastfeed, to teach a child how to ride a bike, to bandage skinned knees, to give advice, to sit in the front row at a wedding crying.
Because of CDH, I accept things that I shouldn't, I settle for less, I allow concessions in my personal life because I've never had "normal" to compare to.
Because of CDH, I will never look at a child as just a beautiful child because I will be scanning for scars, medical equipment, rashes, coughs, etc... because the mom in me will never turn off.
Because of CDH, I became a worrier. And I never stop.
Because of CDH, I lost my innocence. I know bad things happen. I know the worst happens. I can never un-know that.
Because of CDH, I will always second guess every single doctor and diagnosis for the rest of my life.
Because of CDH, I am broken. I am patched up, glued back together and there is beauty in my scars. But I will never be the person I was before CDH ever again.
Now, I've had many blessings and opportunities because of my charity work and that is because of CDH and I'm not discounting that. But I would have traded it all in a heartbeat to have my son still. To have never heard of CDH. That wasn't God's plans for us though.
I'm not alone. Every parent who has dealt with CDH has their own list. And this shouldn't be. I don't want anyone else in my shoes.
I could say that CDH destroyed my life but that's not true. It changed
it. And I would not trade my son for the world. And my life is not
destroyed. I am not destroyed. I am happy. I am fulfilled. I have a
long life in front of me. I have rebuilt. Again and again.
But if I had never known about CDH, my life would be incredibly different. I'd still be married to my high school sweetheart, with a family, picket fence and a dog. Shane would be 22 years old and have graduated college by now maybe. I'd be looking forward to being a grandmother someday.
Because of CDH, this is where I am right now. And I am ok with that. This is my life and though it is different, it is good. I am still blessed. But I will always wonder... always want....
Dawn M. Torrence