Elise Cedrone, May 2021

Elise Cedrone's Story Behind Beauty

I’m standing at the top of a mountain. I’ve got branches and sticks in my hair. My arms and legs are covered in bruises and bloody scrapes from clamoring my way and at some points just crawling along the path. I’m sweating. My lungs are tight and fighting for air from the exertion. My leg muscles are on fire from making the impossible journey to the top. I’m beat up. But I made it. I can see the view from up here. I can look back down the path and see the treacherous trail I took to get here. “Holy shit” I whisper to myself through short breaths. I can’t believe I survived. It’s finally peaceful up here... my current view is so beautiful and I feel so lucky to have made it through the journey that I start to forget how exhausted and beat up my body feels. “I can’t believe I did it” I say to myself. I conquered an insurmountable mountain. My arms raise up in triumph and I scream like a lion into the abyss of the canyon I’m overlooking. *fade to black, dramatic music*

 Pretty good, right? That’s how I imagine the opening scene in the movie of my life would go. I wonder if Meryl Streep is taking projects ... That's a metaphor of course for how LIFE has been and how somehow I have made it through- (not unscathed and without some scars) the challenges of the past 4 years.

I’ve heard a lot of bad news since turning 30, but it’s been bookended by good news. So I fall into this pattern of “why me” versus “lucky me” over and over. I try to hang out in the “lucky me” part and only visit the “why me” for short durations. It’s not healthy to stay there for long.

Black and white picture of memories of Baby Gabriel such as a knit cap, his footprints on paper and a photo of his tiny feet

In memory of sweet Gabriel

Let me take you to the beginning of the path up that mountain. I’m 30, I’m pregnant with my first son Harrison. I am followed closely by a high risk pregnancy team because I have a history of a brain aneurysm and I have a stent in my brain that helps bridge the blood flow where my aneurysm was. I deliver and have a chunky baby boy. LUCKY ME.

I got pregnant again just shy of Harry's first birthday. Another boy. I felt off and went in for a sonogram when I was 6 months pregnant. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re in labor”. I will spare the details because honestly, it’s too painful to delve into it, but my son comes too early. He does not live. We name him Gabriel after the angel. Here is my first “why me?”.

A year or so later, I got pregnant again. Twin boys. Lucky me. I could not but think this was a total heavenly gift from the loss of Gabriel and that the universe was making up for the heartache I could not shake. How beautiful.

At my 3 month sonogram ”I’m sorry to tell you this'', is what they started to say. Then I blacked out. The room started spinning. You know when people in the movies have those carnival voices and their faces distort and look like a funhouse mirror? That’s what was happening. “There are no longer heartbeats.” You guessed it! “why me?” So I hang out in the “why me” for a while. It’s shitty there. It’s dark. Everything hurts. The weather is awful. Don’t get me started on the sad music...

Elise is looking pensive as she stands next to the ocean, wind blowing through her brown hair
Elise on the hiking trail holding her toddler's hand while carrying her baby on her back
Black and white image of a pregnant Elise laying on the couch. The picture was taken by her son, Harrison

Harrison took this picture, such skills!

I gotta try again. I seek out the best doctors in Boston to check me over head to toe. WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BODY I demand answers. I undergo procedures as exams and testing. Nothing is found. They say try again. It will be ok they say. You’ll have to do something to help keep another pregnancy, but you can try. I am healthy. There is nothing they can find wrong with me. “Lucky me”.

 I got pregnant again. This is it, I think to myself. I went to the specialist. I get the blood work. I get the call “I’m sorry to tell you this” the voice says on the phone. I remember feeling that feeling again. The voice distorted on the end of the phone “I know you’ve been through this before but your hormone levels are so low. It’s indicating miscarriage. Come back in a week to confirm or go to the ER if you start bleeding. Have a good day” ...Now at this point in my life movie I am falling down a mountain side, I have a broken leg- probably covered in mud and being chased by a mountain lion. I probably won’t survive the journey. WHY ME.

 I go back to the doctor. My levels miraculously go up and they take miscarriage off the table. I can’t help but think I willed that baby to stay put or begged the heavens or universe or everything mystical, magical, religious and in between. I talked to Gabriel every night. “Please send me this baby. Please.” I had to have a procedure and endure hormone therapy shots to prevent another preterm labor. Whatever it took. It was risky. I held my breath through every single ultrasound. But I never heard another “sorry to tell you” again. I had my son Theo. Early, but only early enough he was mostly healthy after a brief stint in the NICU . He made it. I made it. I said to him when I saw him, “We’ve been waiting for you.” I finally exhaled. “Lucky me”.

 Life is so crazy. And difficult. And painful. And so beautiful. We are capable of overcoming the unthinkable. Some people probably make it to the top of the mountain easily, sure.  But I wonder how much they really appreciate the view. It’s the people that crawl to the top by the strength of their perseverance and determination.  By the skin of their teeth, bodies broken or scarred that really see the beauty in the journey. Sometimes I double back down the mountain and take a quick stop to the “why me” off the path... but I always try my best to come back up to see the forest for the trees and say to myself, “LUCKY ME”.

All this to say, that maybe you've been assigned this particular mountain to show others that it can be moved.

Elise pregnant on the beach wearing a red floral dress while hugging her older son
Elise is smiling excitedly as she holds open her arms for her son running towards her. She is wearing a white floral dress, with her long brown hair down.

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