He came to the hospital every chance he couldsometimes several times a dayeven when I didnt have the energy to speak or open my eyes. My appetite was nonexistent but I violently craved root beer; N would bring me multiple bottles and different brands to try each day.
My mom came from Illinois and stayed for three weeks to care for me. Since I lived at the hospital, she and N were essentially roommatessharing meals and working out schedules to walk our dogs, get groceries, and do laundry.
Under normal circumstances, my mother and boyfriend living together would be terrifying, but these were anything but normal. It was actually comforting to know they had each other.
After months of navigating the
maddening hospital system, a doctor at Columbia agreed to give me a fecal transplant (FMT)a lifesaving procedure that cures C diff 98 percent of the time. (I had a FMT in 2013 after five months of recurrent C diffit eradicated the infection in 48 hours. I wrote about that in depth here.)
With my life on the line, I needed a stool donor
pronto. To cure C diff, doctors take the stool of a healthy personfull of good bacteriaand transplant it mixed with saline, via colonoscopy, into the gut of the sick person.
good bacteria repopulate the gut, overtaking the deadly bacteria. Its a simple idea, really, one that dates back centuries.
N volunteered without hesitation, going through the rigorous testing process to get approved. He collected and boxed up his own shit not one but
three times, once for testing and twice for the transplants.
When I was well enough to come home in June, he helped me bathe, dress, eat, and take medicine. He combed my hair because I was too weak, did the household chores, took me to doctors appointments and Remicade infusions, and ran all of my errands. Did I mention N has two jobs on top of being a musician?
There is no way I can adequately describe the resolve he showed in our darkest hour. And theres something romantic about sharing microbiota, no?
Step Three: Get engaged.
This is the easy part. After you realize youre going to live, youll probably start thinking about your future and a lot of other heavy stuff.
If you love someone, you might realize you dont ever want to be away from him or her. Buy a ring if thats what youre into, say some nice stuff about each other, and change your Facebook status to Engaged.
Maybe post to Instagram, too. Rake in those likes. You wont get this many until you get a puppy or have a baby, so soak it in.
If you dont want or cant afford a ring, dont let the Wedding Industrial Complex make you believe its necessary. A ring is fun to show off, but it wont change how you feel about your partner.
Step Four: Dont lose your mind.
After youre officially engaged, youll start exploring the hellish underground that is the Wedding Internet. The Wedding Internet likes to focus on THE DRESS, and youll be overwhelmed by what bridal blogs call the most important thing youll EVER. WEAR. IN. YOUR. FEMALE. LIFE!!!!!!!
Its not. The tank top I bought for $9 and wore to a Neil Young concert where my dad cried is more important. The high school volleyball sweatshirt I had on when my niece was born is more memorable. The flannel shirt I repeatedly steal from my fianc makes me feel more at home.
Dont lose your mind over what is, at the end of the day, just a dress.
Step Five: Start a Pinterest.
Its a hotbed for Mormon mommy bloggers who name their kids Heavyn, but its also really convenient for saving photos of dresses, finding silhouettes or details you might like, getting familiar with designers, and wrapping your head around a budget.
Screenshotting pictures on your phone or saving links in an email draft (my original plan) will only make your head explode, so save yourself the trouble and starting pinning. Ugh, I said pinning.
Step Six: Set a budget.
Set a realistic attire budget (8-10 percent of your overall wedding budget is reasonable), and most importantly, stick to it. You will see dresses you love that are twice what you can afford.
Do not try them on, even for fun. With help from the Internet, you can usually find a stores base price. Do not even go to a store with a base price above your budgetit will only disappoint you and make you sad, which is what they want. Resist!
Seek out sample sales, trunk shows, or stores that are going out of business. I tried on a stunning hand-beaded
Naeem Khan gown, for example, that was 50 percent off because the boutique was closing.
Look online for second-hand dresses or, even better, never-before-worn gowns from brides who changed their minds (or their partners), or from stores directly.
Sometimes they list out-of-season or discounted dresses on websites like
Tradesy. Etsy is also a goldmine for affordable new and vintage gowns.
If you decide to order a dress online, be sure to
take your bodys measurements so that you dont buy something unwearable, and factor in the height of your shoes when you measure for length.
Most importantly, find a professional tailor. They can work magic. (Count tailoring into your budget as it can get expensive!)
Step Seven: Make appointments at several stores and decide who youll bring with you.
I watched a lot of
while in the hospital high on opiates, so I blame the hydromorphone for making me think I Say Yes to the Dress just had to go to Kleinfeld Bridal even though department stores give me hives.
With my sister at my side, I arrived there for a 4:30 appointment. There were hysterical brides, mothers of brides, and bridesmaids everywhere. I was instantly itchy.
Our consultant appeared at 4:45, looking frazzled, and rushed us into a poorly lit dressing room. She asked me three or four questions before disappearing into the stock room (at Kleinfeld, you arent allowed to choose the dresses you try on; even browsing the racks is discouraged).
I hated everything my consultant chose except a
Temperley with a beaded, short-sleeved top and draped bottom, which she was trying to sell me hard. We were out of there in an hour.
Ah, the sweet heaven that is Bergdorf Goodman.
The lighting is low, shoes and clothes are displayed in individual rooms like museum objects, and theres a bar. A bar!
The bridal salon is small and quiet and the perfect palette of cream, blush, and gold. My consultant handed us champagne immediately and asked a bunch of questions while taking copious notes.
She helped me browse the racks, explaining the designers, the fabrics, even the production process. This woman was clearly a pro.
I picked a handful of gowns to try on: a long-sleeved
Oscar de la Renta ball gown that weighed at least 20 pounds, a layered tulle Monique Lhuillier with subtle beading, a matte satin Austin Scarlett with a trumpet skirt, an Ines Di Santo with oatmeal-colored details and a high neckline, and a strapless Reem Acra with layers of vintage lace and intricate Art Deco details. (I wont say which one I chose because N might read this and Im suddenly superstitious. Sorry!)
My consultant was hilariously honest, which some people might not appreciate but I loved.
We laughed hysterically at a dress that made me look like a Pilgrim showgirl, and another that she nicknamed the Idaho potato. It felt like I was trying on dresses with a kooky aunt.
I knew immediately which one was THE DRESS, but I didnt cry. My sister did, and my consultant couldnt stop raving about it. It was one of the least expensive dresses I tried
and she gave me a discount and a free veil, so Im confident she wasnt in it for the commission.
Even my mom, who says she isnt the mother of the bride type, teared up when I sent her photos. That was sign enough for me.
So, I didnt cry. But I laughed. I twirled. I felt beautiful, comfortable, and most importantly, like myself.
Step Eight: I repeat: Dont lose your mind.
The wedding industry makes billions$86 billion, according to the Library of Congresson perfection. You will, at some point, feel like you need to buy hair extensions, get Botox, and lose 20 pounds to look decent in a wedding dress.
The underlying message of that, of course, is that you arent worthy of love or marriage without completely changing yourself. Grooms, on the other hand, are required to show up.
Even after you find THE DRESS, you might second-guess how you look in it. Its beautiful, but imagine how it would look with (fill in the blank: narrower hips, larger breasts, unmarked skin)! Dont play this game. Youll always lose.
Step Nine: Stop looking.
Even after youve found and paid for (
gulp) your dream dress, youll be tempted to keep looking around.
Youll probably see a gown or two that will make you second-guess the one you chose. As hard as it is to put on blinders, try your best. Unfollow designers or boutiques on Instagram. Throw away your bridal magazines. Burn your mood board. Focus on how you felt in
And for gods sake, stop pinning.
Step Ten: Let it go.
As much as you fight it, your emotions will get tangled up in those swaths of crinoline and chiffon. Youll find yourself thinking about your dead dad and how he cant walk you down the aisle, when you should be considering bustles.
You might get misty-eyed remembering a photograph of your teenage grandmother on her wedding day, and youll have to pretend youre crying for your own happiness.
A glimpse of yourself in a gown might make you wonder if someday, you and your partner will hate each other, too.
Breathe. Commitment is a mysterious, hard thing, one that we jump into without really knowing what were doing. You cant face an impending marriage without thinking, at least a little bit, about your family history and the relationships youre succeeding.
But at the end of the day, dont forget: its just a dress.
Floral design: Maidenkind Hair/Makeup: Angela Bosworth Dress: Maggie Soterro