Our Little Miracle
For the Fandom for Preemies fundraiser
Betas: Katmom & Minnakoda
A little background…
This particular O/S will be included (in some form) in a third installment in the Branded/Road Maps story when I get around to getting it written. For those who have read the other two stories, you will likely be happy to see Nathan is narrating this piece. For those who have not read Branded or Road Maps, you won't need to know much; I think this story can pretty much stand on its own as Nathan does a pretty good job of explaining things.
My name is Nathan Charlie Cullen and you probably don't know me and are wondering who the hell I am and why I'm bothering you. Or, maybe you're thinking that my name sounds familiar—you probably know my folks, Edward and Bella Cullen. Seems like most people I meet know who they are.
So yeah, I'm Nathan, a.k.a Peanut, or PeaNate as my cousin and best friend Lily "Bean" Swan calls me. You might know her folks, Emmett Swan and Rosalie Hale? They own the import auto dealership in town.
I'm fourteen years old and no I'm not lying. I know I don't look my age, but I am honestly fourteen. I can even show you my ID if you need to see it. I was a preemie and I'm still waiting for my growth spurt to hit, which my dad assures me will happen eventually. He said that sometimes preemies are a little slower to grow and I'll just have to be patient. Of course Lily grew. She was an early bird too, but she obviously got the worm, where I didn't. She sprouted boobs last year and grew about four inches while I still look like a ten year-old. Mom said that girls quite often develop faster than boys do and that I shouldn't let it get to me. Pfft…easy for her to say.
I wish delayed puberty was the worst of my worries…we've been going through something a lot more frightening than that. My mom went into pre-term labour with my baby sister and we've had a really rough time lately. To say I wasn't scared shitless would be an understatement.
Please don't tell Mom I said that, though. She wouldn't be impressed that I was swearing.
Have you got a few minutes while I'm waiting for my folks? I'll tell you a story.
Mom announced in June, much to everyone's shock and joy, that she was pregnant. I was, well, a rough pregnancy and she nearly died when I was born. Okay, I lied, but only because I feel bad about it. Mom actually DID die when I was born, but they were able to bring her back.
I was pretty healthy when I was born, even though I was born at around 35 weeks. I was small and a little slower to do some things. I walked a little later, talked a little later, and I have to work hard to maintain my good grades—maybe a little harder than everyone else does. Turns out that I have ADHD, but they don't think it's related.
So yeah, Mom gets pregnant at 38 years of age and managed to carry Bump until she hit 31 weeks, and then she started hemorrhaging. I was scared shitless because it was just the two of us at home when it happened, and although I have learned a lot of medical stuff over the years because my dad is a doctor, it's different when it's your mom curled up on the floor bleeding and screaming.
"Nathan! Oh God, Nathan, HELP!"
I jumped up from the piano and ran toward the sound of her voice. I found her in the bathroom and skidded to a halt when I saw her.
Her pale face turned up to look at me. "Call your father, please."
"Nathan, please, call your father. I think…I think I'm losing the baby."
I ran back to grab my phone and called Dad.
"Nathan? I hope this is…"
"Dad…Mom…bleeding…" I puffed out as I ran back to the bathroom.
"Wait, son, slow down. What's going on?"
Mom howled in pain and I nearly dropped the phone. "Is that your father?"
I nodded and passed the phone to her with a shaky hand.
"Edward, something's wrong," she panted into the phone. "Yes, cramping, bleeding, oooh God! Hurry!"
Mom dropped the phone as she curled into herself, holding onto Bump. I had given her that name when we first found out that she was pregnant. I grabbed the phone, not really caring that it was now covered in her blood to see what I should do.
"Dad, what do I do?"
"Can you try to stay cool? Your Mom needs to be as calm as possible. Do you remember the breathing technique we learned in yoga class?"
"Yeah, why?" I had never really understood the importance of all the breathing in the family yoga class my folks signed us up for. Dad had read somewhere that it was good for people with ADHD and helped them channel their energy in different ways and calm their brains down. Maybe this was a good example of just how important it was.
"Can you get down on the floor with her and guide her through it? It'll keep her from hyperventilating and will hopefully reduce her heart rate a little. We don't need her to panic."
"Yeah, I can do that."
"How bad is it?" he asked, and I could hear the fear in his voice even though he was trying to be brave for all of us.
"I've got an ambulance on the way. I'll meet you here at the hospital, okay? Now go, breathe with your mother, and tell her that I love her."
"Okay." My voice was shaking and I felt bad about it. Poor Dad was likely really freaking out.
"You can do this, son."
I set the phone down and got on the floor so I could take Mom's hands in mine and look her in the eye. "Okay, Mom, Dad suggested that we do some breathing. He said it would help. Remember yoga class? In through the nose," I paused and pulled a ragged breath through my nose, "then out through the nose, remembering to push your belly button toward your spine. Can you do that, Mom? Please? Breathe with me?"
She nodded weakly, inhaling through her nose until she flinched, then exhaled the same way.
"Slow, Mom, you don't want to pass out or hyperventilate. Dad's got an ambulance on the way to take you to the hospital and he'll meet us there. He also wanted me to tell you that he loves you."
Mom squeezed my hand tightly, then loosened her hold/grip as she began to shiver.
"Are you cold?"
"Y…yes. There's a big towel on the warming rack. Can you…oh God…" she cried out again.
"Look at me, Mom, focus on me, your handsome Peanut. Breathe through it. I'm going to grab a towel."
I got up on my knees, grabbing at the warm bath sheet hanging by the tub. I wrapped it around her then moved so I was spooning her. Dad had mentioned before that body heat was better than a blanket in most emergencies, and I knew that Mom was scared, so she'd likely want to reassurance of someone holding her.
"Breathe, Mom. You're going to be okay. We'll meet Dad at the hospital and…"
"Peanut, I'm sorry," she said softly. "I don't want to leave you. I love you, my sweet miracle boy."
What was she talking about? "You're not going anywhere but the hospital where Dr. Demetri is going to fix this because that's what he does."
"In case I don't…"
It hit me then that Mom was trying to say goodbye. I moved so I was lying in front of her so I could see her face. "Mom, you're not saying goodbye. You aren't leaving me and Dad. I won't let that happen. Stay with me. I love you too much to let you go. Breathe with me, Mom. I love you. Stay with me."
I hoped my shaking voice wouldn't betray the fact that I was totally freaking out on the inside. As hard as I tried to stay positive, there's nothing even remotely good about lying in a puddle of your mother's blood on the bathroom floor.
After what felt like an eternity, the ambulance arrived. The paramedics loaded mom onto a gurney and they whisked us to the hospital. Dad was freaking out when he saw us, but he very quickly went into doctor mode as they wheeled her away, leaving me alone in the waiting room in my blood-soaked clothes unsure if I'd ever see my mom alive again.
Hmm? Why was Aunt Ro waking me up? I opened my eyes before jerking up in my seat. I wasn't home; I was at the hospital, curled up in a chair in the waiting room.
"Oh, sweetie, you're covered in blood. Come with me, your dad asked me to grab some clothes for you."
I was confused, disoriented and half-asleep. "Where's my Mom? When were you talking to Dad?" I mumbled as she led me toward Dad's office.
"Get cleaned up and I'll explain everything, okay?"
"Mm…yeah," I replied, yawning.
I washed up in the small bathroom in Dad's office while my brain woke up and began running at a million miles per hour. Aunt Ro was waiting for me, my favourite hoodie in hand. I pulled it on, looking expectantly at her.
Aunt Ro pulled me into a hug, leading me to the nearby sofa. "Your mother is in surgery right now. Your father was sketchy on the details—"
"Of course," I cut in, wrapping my arms around myself. Dad should have been crowned king of the cryptic. He thought he was sparing me by not giving me the full story, but really, he was making things infinitely worse.
"They checked on the viability of the baby and although her lungs are underdeveloped, they safely delivered her. She weighs 3 lbs, and she's being cared for in the NICU."
"She? I have a sister?"
A tear ran down Aunt Ro's cheek. "Yes, sweetie; congratulations, big brother."
"What's her name?"
She shook her head. "There was no time to name her. Much like when you were born, your mother…well, she's not doing very well, Peanut."
I stood up. "NO! She can't die. I promised I wouldn't let her go. I need to see her."
Aunt Ro caught me before I could run out of the room and held me as I cried. "She can't die, Aunt Ro. I can't lose my Mom. I have to do something."
"Let's pray, buddy. That's about all we can do for the both of them. They're fighters and I know they'll do everything they can to survive this."
"Wh…where's my dad?"
"He's pacing the corridors of the OR. I told him I'd bring you down to him as soon as you were ready. He's feeling pretty bad about leaving you in the waiting room by yourself."
"What are we waiting for? Let's go!" I all but shouted.
I dragged poor Aunt Ro down the endless corridors until I saw a familiar head of disheveled bronze hair identical to my own. "DAD!" I cried out as I ran to him.
"God, Nathan!" he whispered as he hugged me. "I'm so sorry, buddy. I shouldn't have left you alone in that waiting room…I just…I freaked out when I saw her and the blood and…"
Dad's knees gave out and we fell to the floor, clinging to one another. He sobbed into my shoulder as I rubbed his back and hummed Mom's lullaby to him. He finally spoke when his sobs slowed. "You should see your baby sister. She's just as feisty and stubborn as you were."
"Are they going to be okay, Dad? What's going to happen?"
Dad looked over at a tearful Aunt Ro before turning back to me. "Why don't we go sit in a quiet room with Rosalie and talk? I'll tell you what I know."
"Don't gloss it over, okay?"
"I won't, I promise."
We got up and walked over to Aunt Ro, who hugged Dad before we started moving toward the quiet room. As soon as we were seated, he took a deep breath. "Son, the placenta detached from the uterine wall, causing your sister's premature birth and your mother's…well, she's…she's hemorrhaging, son. Right now, they are trying to slow the bleeding and get more blood into her before they will do a hysterectomy. They will only be removing the uterus, leaving her ovaries so she doesn't go into early menopause."
My heart was racing faster with every word he spoke. It was all a jumbled mess. All I could hear was the negative words; hemorrhaging, bleeding, surgery… "Is Mom going to die, Dad? I promised her that she wouldn't."
I held my breath as he ran his fingers through his hair—not a good sign. "I don't know, Nathan, I just…I just don't know."
"What about the baby?"
Dad shrugged helplessly. "I don't know that either. She was very strong considering her abrupt entrance into the world, but that's not to say there won't be long term issues."
He leaned on me and cried again. "We did everything right. I don't understand…"
A quiet knock came at the door. "Uncle E? Can…OH NO!" Lily shrieked as her mouth opened, and her red-tinged eyes grew even more fearful. "Is…did…I…what?"
Aunt Ro got up and brought her over to sit beside me. I instantly turned and threw my arms around her, knowing I'd find comfort in the arms of my best friend.
Dad got up and excused himself, saying that he wanted to talk to Uncle Emmett alone, and then he would get a status report for us. I cried on Lily's shoulder as Aunt Ro explained the situation quietly to her daughter. Lily tightened her grip on me as she began to sob as well.
I woke up a couple of hours later, asleep on the couch, my head in Lily's lap as she ran her fingers through my matted hair.
"Mom?" I croaked. My throat was hella-dry.
Aunt Ro passed me a bottle of water as I sat up, rubbing my eyes and stretching. "She's out of surgery, sweetie."
"She's going to be okay?" I asked, hopeful.
"They don't know, kiddo. I'm sorry. She's in the surgical ICU and she's being monitored very closely in case the bleeding starts again. She's been transfused several times and her…her heart stopped, sweetheart. Twice. It's not good. They don't know if there's been any long term damage done to her heart because of this…"
"NO! She's not going to die! I promised her that I wouldn't let her go, and I'm not going to. I want to see her. I NEED to see her." I got up and ran toward the door. Dad was standing there when I opened it, so I threw myself at him. "Dad? How is she?"
He ran his fingers through my hair in an attempt to soothe me. "Well, buddy, she's far from out of the woods, but it seems the bleeding has finally stopped. Her body has been through a terrible shock, so they have her sedated and intubated to give her body a chance to rest and heal. They're giving her one more transfusion, hoping it will be the last."
"She's going to die, isn't she?" I asked quietly.
"Not on my watch, kiddo. She has a newborn baby girl and a teenager to raise. Speaking of your sister, would you like to go meet her before we go see Mom?"
I nodded against his chest.
"Okay, kiddo, why don't you go splash some water on your face and wash the sleep out of your eyes."
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I looked like shit but couldn't find it in me to care. Not while my mom was fighting for her life. Not while my nameless baby sister struggled with her own battle to survive.
As Dad and I walked toward the NICU, he tried to explain what I would be seeing and telling me not to be freaked out by the tubes, lines, and machines. We washed our hands thoroughly before donning gowns and shoe coverings in a room outside the unit. The door leading in to where my baby sister was opened with an almost Star Trek-like whoosh as we walked in.
Don't judge—Dad and I have regular Trek marathons. Original series only.
Dad spoke quietly to one of the nurses, who turned and smiled at me. "Hi, Nathan, I'm Louise. Would you like to meet your sister?"
She smiled again. "You're a charmer, just like your dad, aren't you? Come on now, she's been waiting to meet her big brother."
We stopped by an incubator-type thing which was covered by a blanket. "So, underneath this quilt is your baby sister. We keep her isolette covered to keep in the heat and to block out the bright light. Her eyelids are still quite translucent and no one likes to be under bright lights all the time, do they?"
Louise lifted the quilt and I gasped at the tiny little baby under the glass. "She's so tiny," I whispered, mesmerized by the creature before me. Her eyes were closed and Louise was right, her tiny eyelids were paper thin, as was most of her skin. There was a tiny mask strapped to her nose, tubes coming out of her mouth, sensors on her chest and lines coming out of her tiny twig-like arms, yet her free hand moved like she was trying to fight it.
"She's unable to get enough oxygen on her own, so we're helping her with the CPAP machine—sometimes the wee ones forget to breathe."
"What's that underneath her?"
"It's kind of like a heating pad; it's used to keep her warm. Preemies don't have enough body fat to keep them warm, so again, we're just helping her until she can do it on her own."
I felt tears on my cheeks again and leaned against Dad because this was an awful lot to take in. "Is she going to be okay? Really? Don't lie to me, Louise; it'll just make it harder."
Louise smiled warmly at me. "Sweetie, we don't tend to gloss things over here because time with these little ones is often fleeting and it shouldn't be wasted on false hope. I'll say this much; I've seen much sicker babies survive. That's not a guarantee that she'll make it out of here unscathed, though; because she is very premature, there's a chance she could have long term problems as a result of her prematurity. The good thing is that preemies nowadays have a higher survival rate than they did even ten years ago and we have the equipment and technology to help them as best we can. The rest is up to the babies and God."
"I was a preemie," I said, "but not this early."
"See, sunshine! You're living proof that preemies are tough little cookies. Talk to her if you want. I need to go check on another baby. I'll be right back."
Dad rubbed my back as I approached my sister. "Hi…er…Bump. We really need to get you a name, don't we, or else you'll end up being called Bump like they call me Peanut.
"Anyway, thanks for not dying and for being so tough. You scared us all, but you're here, you seem to be doing okay, and well, I hope you can stick around. I know I'm a lot older than you, but that might work out okay so I can scare away all the boys who'll be coming after you, because if you look anything like Mom, you're going to be a regular heartbreaker.
"So please, grow, be healthy, and come home soon. I know I don't know you yet, but I love you, and I'd miss you if you had to leave."
Dad was sobbing on my shoulder at this point and I figured that it wouldn't be very good for her to be around a lot of loud crying, so I nudged him and encouraged him to move toward the door. "Only positive energy, Dad. Let's go see Mom."
Louise came over and stopped us. "Would you like a photo?"
"Sure, come on over."
When we finally left the NICU we were each carrying Polaroids that Louise had taken of us with her. Aunt Ro would be so excited to see her new niece.
"How're you feeling, kiddo?" Dad asked hoarsely. He sounded utterly exhausted.
I took a deep breath before answering. "I feel better about Bump. It was freaky at first and she's kind of weird looking, but she's cute, and she's tough. I just wish I could see Mom."
"Let's go check and see if we can't get you in there now."
Dad yawned and stumbled a little. "Hey, when was the last time you slept?"
He mumbled something but I didn't catch it. Hopefully he'd go crash in his office soon, or else I'll be visiting my entire family in this damn hospital.
The walk to the surgical ICU felt endless, but when we finally made it, he left me in a small lounge while he went to speak with the nurses. He returned a few minutes later, an exhausted smile on his face. "Come on, kiddo, let's go see your mom."
"How is she?"
"Better. The bleeding has stopped, her fluid levels are better, her heart is pumping steadily, and her oxygen levels are improving. They might try to take out the breathing tube in a couple of days.
"That being said," he stopped me, put his hand on my shoulder and stared at me, his face serious. "She's well-wired, kiddo, so don't be too freaked out. You're allowed to touch her, and I think she'd love to hear your voice. I'll get you settled and I'll go see Rose, Em, and Lily to tell them what's going on, show them the baby pictures, and give you some alone time with Mom."
He wasn't lying when he said she was well-wired. There were tubes and machines everywhere. She was almost a mirror image of poor little Bump. I'll admit that I was freaked out, I mean, no one wants to see their mom like this but I wasn't as scared anymore. Mom looked much better than she had on the bathroom floor and I knew now that she would be okay—or at least I kept telling myself that over and over, hoping it would be true.
Dad brought over a chair so I could sit beside Mom. I just sat and stared at first, then as I grew braver, I took her hand in mine and started to speak. "Hi, Mom. Dad and I just went to see Bump and she's doing okay. She's so tiny and cute, but she looks different. She's a tough little cookie, waving her hand around and stuff, and even the NICU nurse Louise said she was tough. I think you'll fall in love with her as soon as you see her, if the wires and stuff don't freak you out. Crap, I'm rambling."
"Didn't take your meds today, did you, Peanut?" Dad asked.
"No, I haven't had time to go home. I'm okay, though. I'll just talk Mom's ear off, that's all."
He began laughing but it trailed into a deep yawn. "Do you mind staying with your mom while I go sleep for a couple of hours? I'll get Aunt Ro to go pick up your pills, some clothes, and a book for you."
"I'm cool, Dad. Please go sleep. You look like you could fall over."
"I will. I need to call your grandparents and Alice and Jasper and…"
"Sleep, Dad. Go." I waved my arms at him, mimicking that I was pushing him out of the room. He laughed and ruffled my hair before leaning down to kiss Mom. He whispered in her ear before he turned to leave.
"I'll be back. Have a nurse page me if you need me, okay?"
"Yes, Dad. Now go!"
He left me with Mom and the constant stream of doctors and nurses coming to check on her. In between visits, I sang our favourite songs quietly into her ear. Praying that she could hear me, and take solace in my voice, I talked to her and told stories about our times at the cottage in Nova Scotia, our crazy family, our newest addition, and about how much I loved her and needed her to come back to me.
Over the next 48 hours, Mom improved quickly and so did my as-yet-unnamed baby sister. I couldn't wait for Mom to wake up so we could pick out a name for her because I felt bad calling her Bump since she was so much more than that. She was a fragile but strong little girl who deserved a real name.
They removed Mom's breathing tube after she showed signs of waking up. It was kind of gross, but it was worth being there when she took her first unassisted breath. Dad and I were both crying when she coughed and sucked in some air. The respiratory therapist put a mask over her mouth and nose to give her more concentrated oxygen to help her along, but he said she wouldn't need it for long, that her lungs sounded good and her O2 levels were actually almost normal.
A couple of hours later she opened her eyes and blinked at us, looking confused at first, but then let out a horrible sob. Dad moved closer to her and held her face in his hands.
"What is it, love? Are you okay? You need to calm down."
"Where…? Did I…? The baby…?" She looked over at me. "Peanut, what…?"
Her voice was raspy, raw, and wrought with pain. I moved away from the bed, took a cup of water from the nearby table and held a straw to her dry lips. She smiled a little before taking a couple of small sips.
"Mom, she's alive."
I watched as her eyes grew huge. "She?"
"Yup, she, as in, my baby sister."
Mom looked back and forth between us. "She survived? Oh, Edward, please tell me this isn't all part of some bizarre dream."
Dad smoothed her hair back and placed a kiss on her forehead. "No, love, she's really here. You need to rest so you so you can see her, okay? Your body has been through a lot. You…" his voice cracked, "you left me again, Bella. You have to stop doing that." He leaned down, resting his forehead against hers. "Why do you keep…" he began to cry, large tears running down his cheeks, "…leaving me. You keep dying and it's killing me. Please…please stay. I need you. WE need you."
Her voice was weak, but I heard what she said. "I'm still here, Edward, I'm not going anywhere."
They stayed like that until Mom fell asleep. Dad got up and moved over to where I was standing and hugged me. "I'm going to go make some calls. Can you…?"
"I'm not leaving her side."
And I didn't. I missed A LOT of school, but Bean brought all my assignments to the hospital so I wouldn't fall behind. It was early enough in the school year that we weren't doing anything too involved, and I really wasn't worried about missing out. I had bigger things to worry about.
Frankly, I was surprised that Dad let me skip school. I had a lot of time to consider the reasons why and in a moment of weakness, I surmised that things were more serious than I had initially thought and I feared that something might happen and that Dad wanted me to have as much time with Mom and my baby sister as possible.
Oh, and she has a name—Faith. Mom said it was a tribute to me and Dad because we never gave up on either one of them and it was our faith and love that got them through it all.
Mom was in the hospital for three weeks, and finally released in mid-October. She was tired and weak, requiring assistance a lot of the time, which Aunt Ro gladly provided when I returned to school and Dad went back to work. Even though she was exhausted, she spent as much time as possible at the NICU with Faith. We all did. I went to the hospital every day after school to meet her there.
I hated to be away from them both, and I really hated that I was missing out on a lot of Faith's milestones; the first time Mom got to hold her, the first time Mom was able to feed her, and the first time she cried out loud.
I was there, though, to see her first smile, and although they all said it was gas, I knew better. I remember the first time she squeezed my finger in her tiny hand. I vividly remember changing a diaper for the first time too. It was all kinds of gross, but it didn't smell bad like I thought it would. Louise explained that baby poop only really starts to stink when they start eating food.
Louise quickly became a close friend of ours and really, I don't know how we would have managed without her. Faith's time in the NICU was far from easy—there were complications and moments when I thought she might not make it—and yet she did. Louise kept saying that she was strong and would fight until she was able to go home or until the Lord called her home to be with him.
I wasn't so ready to accept her reasoning.
I'm not a religious person—not like Gram Me or Pop C, my dad's parents—but I quickly learned that praying is not such a bad thing. Pop C explained it one night in the chapel at the hospital after Faith had had a particularly bad day. He said that praying isn't just asking God for help, but it's a way to help ourselves calm our souls and bodies down to a place where we can think clearer, even out our breathing, and focus on putting out positive energy. So, although I wasn't sure to whom or what I was praying, I found myself feeling a lot better after spending time in prayer. Lily said it was like a visualization exercise or meditation. It all had the same effect.
Regardless, whether it was the prayers, the positive energy, or just good genes, Faith is doing much better and today is a big day—we get to take her home! It's been a long few months—she's been here, in the hospital, for three and a half to be precise, and although she's not exactly 100% healthy, we still get to take her away from here. Her nursery at the house resembles a smaller and less invasive version of the NICU, but that's fine. We agreed that we would all do whatever it takes to bring her home.
She weighs eight pounds now and looks more like a real baby than she did when she was born. I know eight pounds doesn't sound much for a baby her age, but remember she was born almost ten weeks early.
The CPAP machine is set up for her because she's still going to need it when she sleeps. She still sometimes forgets to breathe, although not nearly as often. She has special formula and a naso-gastric tube because she has stomach issues that the doctors say will likely work themselves out over time. They also said that she may have motor skill problems that may only manifest later.
That's fine. You know why? Because she's my baby sister and she's perfect just the way she is. If she can't walk, we'll carry her. If she can't hold things, I'll do it for her. If she struggles to talk, we'll find a voice for her somehow. Faith will always know that she is loved regardless of what the future holds, and she will always be surrounded by a family that loves her no matter what happens. She was our little premature gift, and if she shares the same strong genes that I do, she'll be just fine.
I stood up. "Hi Mom, Dad. Are you ready to go?"
They nodded as they held up her car seat.
"Can I see her for a sec?" I asked.
"Be careful with her, son. I'll go pull the car around." Dad handed my little sister over to me and kissed Mom before he walked away.
I smiled down at her, rubbing her little cheek until I got a giggle out of her. "I'd like to present to you Faith Esme Cullen, my baby sister and our little miracle."
I know a lot of you are jonesing for some more of this story, and I hope to one day deliver something more. RL is kicking my ass and I need a break. When Around the Bend is over, I'm going to take some time off...well, I will likely post the odd O/S every now and then, but I need to decompress.
Thank you for loving this story so much that you want to read more. It means so very much to me.