Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Friend Mel

Today is Mother's Day and today I want to tell you about my friend Mel.

First though I want to tell you that I am lucky to have so many amazing and brilliant friends. All of whom I pretty much consider better people than me and getting to say I know them and that they like me is one of my best qualities. I could absolutely write a post about each and every one of them detailing their greatness as a human being but since it is Mother's Day I am going to talk about Mel. And if you stick with me while I write what-- knowing me-- will probably be a long winded tale, I think you will find your time well spent.

Mel is one of those girls that you want to hate. She is beautiful, smart, gifted and athletic. But most of all she is genuine and kind and that is what makes it so impossible to dislike her.

I met Mel when I was a junior in high school. Mel was a freshman and new on the gymnastic team. I was actually friends with her brother Chris and he specifically asked me to look out for his little sister. I did better than that-- we became great friends. Such great friends that Chris later bemoaned to me how all his friends become his sister's friend and no longer hang out with him.

Mel was a far superior gymnast than me and amazing to watch. Unfortunately one day at practice she broke her back doing a full back layout. She didn't have the catastrophic break that paralyzed her but it certainly ended her gymnastic career or any chance at a scholarship. I don't know that she was so devasted about that but I am pretty certain that having your back permanently broken (to repair the break would be risky) is probably painful. I have never heard her complain.

Mel and I lost touch in college. Me off to UGA and Kennesaw and her off to Alabama and Auburn. After graduate school I found myself working at financial planning company as a marketing/executive assistant. Looking on the list of employees that first day on the job I was happy and shocked to see Mel's name. I knew she had gotten a law degree but I didn't know she had moved back or in a million years had thought she would be working at a financial planning company. I dialed her office and within 1 minute she was around the corner hugging me.

I only worked at the company for a year but a lot changed for both Mel and I in the time we were both there. I got pregnant and she got engaged. Her now husband, Bob, is an orthopedic surgeon (how lucky is that for me to know personally an orthopedic surgeon?). Right after they got engaged Bob got his residency assignment in Charleston and Mel went with him. We stayed loosely in touch--Mel busy with her new life, and I busy with mine as a mom. I did make it down for her wedding. And when she was in town we would try to meet. She was busy. I was busy.

Mel and Bob got pregnant not long after they were married. Tragically they lost their son at 22 weeks due to preterm labor brought on by an incompetent cervix. Understandably, this absolutely devastated Mel. I'll never forget how she said she came home from the hospital, empty handed, to find the nursery bedding she had ordered from Pottery Barn on her front porch. It was a position I have been blessed to never find myself in and my heart breaks that I have had a friend who has experienced such devastation.

Mel and Bob got pregnant again almost immediately and understandably were quite cautious. She was on bed rest from 13 weeks on until 36 weeks when they removed the cerclage. She made it to full term and lucky for me I happened to be in Charleston on vacation when she gave birth to a healthy boy they named Christian. I was so happy I got see her and hold him.

Less than two years later, Mel and Bob then had another son Luke-- for whose pregnancy she was also on complete bed rest. Anyone who has had a one year old and been pregnant can attest to difficulty of just dealing with the toddler and the pregnancy but imagine having to do it on complete bed rest too. But Mel, she did it.

I don't know about you but Mel's pregnancies have really helped me put my relatively easy and healthy pregnancies into perspective. And yeah, I was on bed rest with pre-eclampsia with Carmella but that was only for a week. By comparison, a walk in the park.

This past year Mel was pregnant again. Another boy and another pregnancy on complete bed rest but this time she had 2 toddlers to care for instead of one. Unfortunately this pregnancy has been riddled with complications. Mel was in and out of the hospital with various pregnancy related issues. And then, around 30 weeks her oldest accidentally headbutted her and broke her nose. She had to have surgery to have it repaired. The surgery sent her into labor but they were able to stop it and Mel was sent home to finish out her pregnancy.

She made it to 37-38 weeks and baby Will was born healthy. But almost immediately after his birth he began having serious breathing issues and downward spiraled and was put on oxygen and a feeding tube. Mel not only couldn't nursed him, she couldn't hold him either. Mel had given birth at the hospital in Cartersville where her and Bob now live but Will had to be transported to the Grady NICU.

For nearly the past 3 weeks Mel has been making the trip back and forth between Atlanta and Cartersville dividing herself between her boys. Baby Will's condition has been quite grave and in one of her several emails Mel noted that with every step forward he takes two back-- yet is making tiny progress. It wasn't until this week that Mel was finally able to nurse him and Wednesday he was removed completely from breathing assistance and was also being weaned off his feeding tube.

On Friday, when Mel arrived at the hospital to be with Will, she received the surprising news that Will was doing so well he could go home. That day. And Mel later that day sent out this email saying that she received "this year, the most wonderful Mother's day gift from God - our entire family will be home together!!!! Once again, we cannot thank you all enough for your continued thoughts and prayers. They worked!!!!! Amen!!!"

So this Mother's Day as you think of your mom or appreciate your wife keep my friend Mel and her family in your thoughts and prayers. She is one hell of person that I am lucky to know.

And Happy Mother's Day to all the great Moms I know.


  1. What a marvelous Mother's Day gift. I'll bet they were saving it for her surprise. : ) Happy Mother's Day Mel and Nat.

  2. Makes me tear up to read it. She has really been quite a remarkable example of the strength, hope, and love you need to be a mother. So happy baby Will is home!!!

    Happy Mother's Day to you too Nat! Another great example for me!

  3. Yes -- Happy Mother's Day!
    Great story too.

    Unfortunately, my wife and I learned today that a friend of ours broke his back last night. They say he's probably going to be paralyzed.

    Today I'm constantly repeating two things in my head:
    --"It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."
    --"You can lose it all so quickly, literally in the blink of an eye."