The first time Winnie saw baby Isabella was about two days later. She could barely move enough to get into a wheelchair and all she could do was put her gloved hand in and touch Bella’s hand. She was so tiny. Winnie didn’t think anything that small could live.
After just a moment, Winnie thought she was going to pass out and Joel lifted her from her wheelchair and cradled her in his arms to take her back to her room. The nurses weren’t happy about that, but Winnie didn’t care. Snuggling into the arms of Football Player Number Two was a much better way to get from point A to point B than to ride in a wheelchair, attempting to hold her head up and keep from getting dizzy.
The next time she saw her baby, she was a little more steady and not so light headed. She was still in pain but didn’t need her husband to carry her back to bed.
On her third visit to the NICU, Winnie was able to connect with her baby and when they told her it was time to get back to bed, Winnie begged for just a little more time. They gave her an extra few minutes and Winnie was hooked. This little life was her new reason for staying on this earth. This little life was her new motivation to get healthy.
Nothing else mattered. Of course, she still wanted to lead a normal and independent life, and of course she wanted to dance again someday, but this baby, and the man who had created this baby, were the most important things in the world.
Days turned to weeks and eventually Winnie got healthy enough to move upstairs to the psych ward at the hospital. A few days there and she was transported back to the inpatient eating disorder clinic. A few months later and Winnie moved home to the Anderson’s house in Santa Barbara and continued treatment as an outpatient.
Just over a year after Isabella was born, her little family moved to Michigan where they lived with Winnie’s parents for several months so Joel could return to medical school. Eventually Winnie was healthy enough that they got their own apartment close to her parents so she and Joel could have some privacy to readjust to life as a married couple.
Bella thought it was a grand adventure to have her very own bedroom at Mommy and Daddy’s house but still go to Gamma and Gampa’s house a few times a week when Winnie had doctor’s appointments and dance classes.
Gradually, amidst all the chaos of her life in and out of treatment, Winnie danced whenever she could. At first, she just stretched in the yoga room at the center, and then on day passes to the local ballet studio in Santa Barbara, and several times a week after she moved into the Anderson’s home.
Once in Michigan, Winnie began working to find a dance company in Detroit where she could grow and perform without having to move back to New York City. The Fox Theatre was just as prestigious as Lincoln Center and close to home.
Home for now. Until Joel finished medical school and then home would be wherever life took them next…