If someone asked me to describe myself I would say that I was determined and loyal. Yet if I really looked at myself from the outside, my answer would be very different. I would call myself vain and selfish. If there was something I wanted, I stopped at nothing to get it. This approach to my life helped me to get my husband Emmett after all.
I have never worn makeup that much, or done my hair in so many different fashions. Before I met my husband Emmett, I would not have left my home without my hair, makeup and clothing in tip-top shape. Luckily, my sister Alice was more than willing to shop with me to help make sure that I had access to the latest fashions coming off the runway.
I sighed as I brought myself back to the present. I found myself standing in front of the Special Care Nursery in the Central Baptist Hospital, gazing through the window at my newborn daughter, Emma Lee Ann McCarty. My heart broke every time I looked at her.
What on earth had I done to deserve having a child born with a defect as bad as this? I was neither mean nor hateful. Granted I thought highly of myself, but I didn't think that was a bad thing. I loved my husband fiercely and held my family and friends close to my heart. I regularly volunteered at the children's hospital. I even donated to the local food banks.
Once again, I looked at my baby girl. I felt as though my chest was going to explode with the pain that I was experiencing. I burst into tears. As my sobs racked though my body violently, I felt a pair of strong arms wrap around my shoulders. I looked up at Emmett and gave him a pained smile. He led me to my room in my wheelchair and helped me into bed.
I watched Emmett as he sat down next to me. The poor guy looked as though he hadn't slept in a hundred years. There were dark shadows under his eyes and his clothes were wrinkled. Overall, he looked haggard. I had no idea if he had eaten or showered in the last 48 hours since Emma's birth. I felt horrible as I realized that I had been in my own self induced haze of shock. I lifted my left hand and put it on Emmett's, caressing his skin as I looked into his eyes.
"Baby." I sighed. "I feel so lost. I don't know anybody that has had a child born with cleft lip and palate. It's been two days and I have not even had the courage to feed her without a nurse right by my side."
"How anyone can deal with this is beyond me. Everything about Emma's situation is foreign and scary." Emmett looked down as his emotions began to get the better of him. Taking a deep breath, he stood up from his hair and walked over to stand by the window.
Emmett was always the first one to make a joke out of any situation. We have been married for ten years and only now were we able to have a baby. In the last nine months, my husband had changed. While he was still a goofy nut, Emmett had grown up.
Emmett came back over to the bed and put his arms around me. We held onto one another, lost in our own thoughts. I must have fallen asleep as after what seemed liked only a few minutes I was being shaken awake. I looked up to see Alice and her husband, Jasper. My brother Edward and his fiancée Bella had also arrived. I turned to Emmett and shook him slightly to wake him up.
"Baby, we have some visitors." I smiled a bit as Emmett woke up and looked around the room like he didn't know where he was.
"Oh, hi guys. Sorry about sleeping. I think it's the first time I have slept in the last couple of days." Emmett sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"It is okay, Em. I was hoping that you, Jasper and I could go out and get something to eat and talk some. The girls could sit around and do whatever the hell it is they do, or can do here in a hospital," Edward said. We all laughed as Alice thumped Edward on his chest.
"What the hell, Edward? You could have phrased that better. Come on, have a heart my brother," Alice said as she rolled her eyes at Edward and looked at us. "Emmett and Rose, what Edward was trying to say was we're going to bond. The guys are going to go eat and talk guy stuff while we girls will stay here and talk. I even brought us some food made by Mom."
Edward rolled his eyes and Bella smacked him on the arm. I chuckled a bit. My brother and sister could always make me laugh. I definitely needed time with the girls, and Emmett desperately needed male time.
"Emmett, what do you say? I think it would be good for us. You need to get out for a while and I need the girls. Come back in a few hours when the doctors will have more information about Emma." Emmett looked at me as though I had grown a second head and a third eye.
"Rosalie, I don't know that I could do that. What if something happens with the baby?"
"I don't want to be apart from you really, but I think two hours won’t hurt. Go have lunch with the guys. If anything happens with Emma I'll call you on your cell phone. Just don't be gone longer than a couple of hours okay?" I smiled a bit as Emmett hugged me. I kissed him and sent him on his way with Edward and Jasper.
Alice and Bella brought chairs over to the bed and dished out the food. I loved my mother's home cooking and welcomed the chance to eat it. I deeply breathed in the aroma of fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and homemade biscuits. A glass of sweet tea completed the meal.
"Thank you, Alice. I love Emmett, and I want him here with me, but I could tell he was itching at the chance to get out and spend time with the guys."
"It's no problem, Rose."
We ate for the next several minutes, enjoying the food and silence. I glanced at Bella as she finished her food. She looked as though she wanted to say something.
"Rosalie? Can I ask you something?" Bella questioned me nervously.
"Of course you can, Bella. What is it?"
"Well, I just wanted to tell you about this girl I know. I had a roommate in college whose daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, like Emma. If you and Emmett need someone to talk to, I am sure that she would be more than willing to talk to you guys. She is supposed to have surgery in two weeks. Maybe you could talk to her and see what to expect in Emma's future. If you need advice, aside from the doctors, I think that she would be the best person to talk to."
I smiled at her. Bella was too nice to me. After the way that I treated her when Edward first met her, I felt as though I didn't deserve her kindness.
"Thank you, I'll bring it up with Emmett later. I think it would be a good thing actually. Talking to someone that has gone through this might help us. The fear of the unknown is a scary place." Bella blushed as I thanked her and looked down at her lap.
"Rose, do you know when you will be able to bring Emma home? I have some things for her. I want to set it up in the nursery for you all," Alice said. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she spoke. I exchanged a glance with Bella and we both rolled our eyes.
"Alice, you practically bought out the store! I'd hate to see your credit card bill next month and Jasper's reaction to it," Bella said.
"Anyway, like I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by Bella do you know when you and Emmett are allowed to take Emma home?" Alice gave Bella an evil look.
"The doctors said they think by the end of the week. She has to keep her temperature steady and not have any problems with feeding first." I had to focus on keeping myself calm. When I had talked to my mother earlier on the phone, I broke down. Emmett had to take the phone away from me.
"Emma is having problems with her temperature,” I continued. “When Emmett and I hold her, we can do so for only ten minutes at a time. Dr. Sogioka said that once her temperature is regulated, it's only a matter of time before she can be discharged. They gave us a special syringe to help feed her before they repair her palate and lip."
"When will she have her first surgery, and do you all know what it will be?" Bella asked from across the room as she threw away our trash.
"It should be when she is two months old. They are going to repair her palate first. Once that is healed, they will repair her lip. After she has that surgery, the doctors said we can feed her with a bottle." Even though I hated the thought of my daughter having surgery so young, I was excited at the prospect of feeding with a bottle.
"Will Emma be able to handle the surgery being so little?" I chuckled at Alice. It amused me every time that she worried about someone so small, being that she was only four-foot eleven herself.
"Well, she was ten pounds, three ounces when she was born. The fact that she weighed that much at birth will help her."
Our conversation turned into a discussion about Bella and Edward's upcoming wedding. I glanced down at my watch and noticed that it had been two hours since the guys had been gone. I was about to call Emmett when they walked through the door. I locked eyes with him and smiled.
One by one, everybody said their goodbyes and left. It was just Emmett and I alone once again.
"Did you enjoy your time out with the guys, honey?"
"I did actually. We had something to eat and then went to the park to play some basketball. We talked some, but mainly played ball. I think I needed that, even though I didn't want to admit it."
"Why wouldn't you want to tell me that you needed to get away?"
"Rose, I didn't want you to think that I needed something. I mean, here we are with a child that has special needs and you trying to recover from the c-section. I thought my needs should come second."
I smiled at my husband. He was always thinking of someone other than himself.
"Baby, I love you. I love that you try and put others before yourself. It's something that makes you a great man. You have to let me know though when you need a minute alone. While I don't want you to leave my side at all, taking a little bit of time to yourself is okay."
I kissed Emmett and then hit the call button for the nurse. I wanted to go and see Emma, so I needed a wheelchair. The doctor had told me to walk as much as I could handle, however, I knew I would not be able to handle the walk to the Special Care Nursery.
Once the nurse had me settled in, Emmett wheeled me down to the nursery. As we got closer, I began to get nervous. When the windows to the nursery came into view, I put my hand on Emmett's arm to stop him from going further.
"Emmett, before we go in there I want to tell you something." I took a deep breath and looked straight into his eyes.
"I love you. There is no one else in this world that I would want to go through this with. You're my rock. Thank you."
"Rose, baby, I feel the same. I knew from the moment I saw you in that cheerleader uniform back in high school that you were it for me. Here we are 15 years later, still together. We have a family now. There is no way I could walk away from you. I love you." He kissed me gently on the lips and wheeled me to the door of the nursery.
Nurse Jennifer greeted us at the door with a smile. I enjoyed her being on duty as she was a sweetheart. She didn't take crap from anyone though. She dealt with hormonal women everyday so I imagined that was how she had developed her personality.
The first time I interacted with her I was shocked. I had just had Emma and was being especially bitchy. Right away, Nurse Jennifer let me know I was being rude. I apologized and went about my day. I would miss her when I left.
"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. McCarty! I was hoping I would get to see you on my shift today. I just finished bathing your daughter. I was waiting for you to arrive until I dressed her. I figured that you all would want to do that."
"Thank you, Jennifer. Is it time for her to eat yet?" I was hoping that I would have the courage to actually feed my own child.
"Well, not for another hour, but I don't see anything wrong with feeding her now. After I take you to her, I will get everything ready for you. How does that sound?"
She smiled as she wheeled me to the washing station. The three of us quickly and thoroughly cleaned up. I could feel my nerves start up as we got closer to Emma. I grabbed Emmett's hand and squeezed. With a touch of his hand, I felt myself calm down. We reached Emma's bed and I smiled at what I saw.
"I'll be back in a few minutes to help you get started," Jennifer said.
I readied myself to hold Emma. I felt like I was going to explode when she was finally placed in my arms. I looked down and just gazed at her. She still had oxygen tubes in her nose and an IV in her head.
The first time that I saw her, I broke down. I couldn't understand why my newborn daughter had an IV in her head. The doctors and nurses explained that newborns (and most kids up to a few months old) have to have IV's attached to their heads because the veins in their hands are too small to handle a needle in them.
I felt Emmett rubbing my arms and looked over at him in the chair next to me. Carefully, I handed Emma over to him. I grabbed the camera out my bag attached to the side of my wheelchair. I quickly checked the amount of space left on the memory card, noting that Emmett must have changed cards as there were no pictures left.
"I put a new memory card in there, babe. The other one was completely full. Do you realize in the last two days we have taken over 800 pictures? Emma will not be able to say we didn't take pictures of her in the hospital." Emmett just grinned as I snapped away.
A few minutes later, Nurse Jennifer came back with everything needed to feed Emma.
"Alright, Mr. and Mrs. McCarty, I have everything you need here. Instead of feeding her through a tube, we have special bottles designed for cleft lip and palate patients. You can use them just like you would a normal bottle. Just make sure you keep an eye on her when you burp her. Sometimes babies in her situation can end up choking if they spit up. When she's done, let me know and I will take the stuff from you and help you clean her up. Oh, before she eats, would you like to dress her?" I nodded my head and Jennifer helped me dress her after Emmett handed her back to me. He took the camera from me after he placed Emma in my arms and began to take pictures.
I still had the same fears; what mother wouldn't? I had no idea what the future held for my family. I had the instinct of a mother bear to protect my daughter from all the problems that she would encounter. I didn't want her to suffer from children making fun of her for looking different. Unfortunately, I also knew that I could not protect her from all of the problems she would experience. Kids could be cruel and vindictive. I remembered how I used to treat kids in school, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I wished that I could go back in time and treat my fellow schoolmates differently. Maybe this was God's way of showing me that you reap what you sow. I vowed from this moment on to teach my daughter that no matter what you looked like, treat others like you would want to be treated.
I was broken out of my reverie by Emmett tapping me on my shoulder.
"Rose, babe, I think Emma is done with her bottle." I looked down at her and noticed it was empty.
I handed her over to Emmett so that he could burp her. I wanted to do that, but I felt as though my husband could finish the job off. Emmett couldn't hide the grin on his face. In this moment, the love I held for my husband grew in leaps and bounds.
While I didn't want my daughter to have to suffer through anything, I knew that things happened for a reason. I was being taught a lesson, one that I fully intended to learn from in order to change my ways. I knew with Emmett, and the help of the many doctors and nurses, I would be able to help my daughter on her journey through life.
The seasons of my life were about to unfold before my eyes, and I for one could not wait to see what they held for my family.