Combined, Zuli and I spent one hundred and forty days in the hospital this year. The day before I was admitted in the hospital, I spent most of it vomiting, and feeling nauseated and lightheaded. It was a cold day in January. I was scheduled to speak on a panel at the WeWorks in downtown Austin about social media and branding. I very came close to cancelling it, but I convinced myself I would feel better once I had my headwrap and bright lipstick on. I mustered all the energy I had, got ready, and showed up.
I sat on the stool with my silver boots, giant headwrap and belly poking out. I tried my best to appear as normal and pleasant as possible. Like I was not crouched over the toilet just a few hours ago. Like I wasn't seeing stars and blurry dots every time I scanned the room. Like I didn't have a headache. Or felt shaky and exhausted. Like I couldn't even breathe properly without feeling out of breath. I sat there with a bright smile and talked about my journey, how I don't care for instagram algorithms, how I know my worth and always ask brands for more when I think I deserve it. How my personal projects were more important to me than working with a big international brands. I answered all of the questions to the best of my ability, and I was raw, transparent, and very honest.
My husband was in the back with a giant smile whenever I said anything remotely funny. I would occasionally glance at him to feel at peace and at home. He was there supporting me, as he has always done, from the very first time we met. He's always excited to hear me speak publicly. I like when he's present because he gives me good, constructive criticism when I'm done. He makes me think more about different ways to approach things. I love that he cares so much about my career. I always joke if he quits his job and works for me, we'd be a pretty solid team. But we're both happy with our separate careers and where we're at. And he already thinks I'm too bossy at home.
The day after, I went for my routine check up, and my blood pressure was ridiculously high. The doctor asked me if I had blurry vision. I confirmed. He asked if I had occasional headaches. I nodded. He then asked if I felt lightheaded at all. How did he know all of that was happening? I just kept nodding. And then he said, "I want you to go home and pack your bags. You need to get to the hospital."
It was a Friday, and I thought I'd just be there for the weekend. But I quickly realized that it was not the case. The days were long. And dark and moody. I sat in bed, reading, writing, crying, and trying to figure out what the hell was happening. I had so much work piled up. I had so many big partnerships that were worth so much. I was at a peak in my career. Big brands were reaching out to me for all kinds of fun projects. I was scheduled for a few big speaking engagements. And one by one, they had to be cancelled.
Just the month before, one of my team member's father passed away, and she decided to move out of the country around the same time all of this was happening. All of the big contracts I had were suddenly gone. "They'll come back. You'll have more opportunities." My loved ones would say. And I would sadly agree although I wouldn't be sure. I knew I was good at what I do, but I'm not irreplaceable. There's always a more talented, more colorful, younger, and hungrier person. And what would happen with Fanm Djanm? I was so "hands on" about everything. And so I would cry about that. I would cry about Zuli (before I even knew what her name would be). I would cry about my future because nothing was clear. Would I survive? Would she survive? Why did the doctors always look so worried about me? Everything was a blur. And I had to rely on everyone to do everything. And it sucked. So hard.
It started out with a mild case of pre-eclempsia which would worsen to severe pre-eclempsia, a short cervix, and some big stubborn fibroids that were pretty much taking all of the room in my uterus. Zuli was fighting for room to grow. She survived in the lower right corner of my hip. Everyday, she kicked and kicked. The girl was strong from the very beginning. She somehow was trying to tell me that she wasn't going anywhere. That all was going to be alright.
Right now, things are no where near perfect, but they're so wonderful. She's healthy. And I'm getting back to my groove and hardcore hustling. I'm incredibly inspired. She's giving me a new energy. She has so much personality. And I love keeping her close to my heart. As I type this, she's wrapped up on my chest, snoozing away. I look down at her soft, round cheeks. Her head for of wavy hair. Her little scars. And I stare at awe at the wonderful creature who fought to stay alive through it all to bring me a new life. I kiss her forehead, almost every other second. And every time, it feels so much better than the last time.
I look out my windows. At the scattered, fluffy, white clouds. At the deep blue skies. And I know that sunny days are here. It's important to notice them even if you just went through a hurricane. A hurricane with flood so big you nearly lost everything. And your clothes are still drenched. And you're still shivering from the cold. Here comes the sun. It's here. Shining. So bright. So high.
(To be continued)
Photographer: Hannah Koelher