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A Surrogate Mother’s Story

Posted on April 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

I want to share a story about a remarkable woman, who single-handedly re-calibrated my definition of generosity. It’s a story about my girlfriend and her journey through surrogate pregnancy. It’s about how our experience opened my eyes to some unrealized heroes in our society, who literally put their lives on the line.

A few years ago, Hailey decided to become a surrogate mother after looking into the possibility of carrying a baby for a close relative. That particular need didn’t come to fruition, however, the idea led to curiosity. That curiosity led to the love of my life scouring the Internet for facts and touching stories until the early hours of the morning.

The more research she did, the more she learned about countless women who were desperate to fulfill their destinies as mothers, but couldn’t due to circumstances beyond their control. It touched her on an emotional level that I, as a man, couldn’t even begin to fathom. Her sincerity and sympathy made my heart warm, and I felt myself fall in love with her a little more.

She decided she wanted to find a couple that couldn’t have a child naturally, and deliver one for them. This was one of those times where we agreed to disagree, at least in the beginning. She was adamant in her desire, while I felt leery about the whole idea. I didn’t want her taking on the burdens and responsibilities of pregnancy… for complete strangers.

I was also concerned about disrupting our lives on that level, injecting unnecessary stress into our relationship, and exposing our young children to such a confusing situation. I carefully expressed my thoughts, and told her I honestly did not want her to do it. I also assured her, that I would ultimately stand by any decision she made. I promised to support her and help in any way I could from beginning to end.

Hailey quickly found a couple who needed help, made the commitment, and began setting things in motion almost immediately. I was beyond scared. Everything was happening so fast, but I stayed true to my word, and backed her up every step of the way.

The process was intense, and involved a plethora of screening devices designed to gauge and examine everything from your mental and physical health to your lifestyle and the roots of your family tree. Both of us… poked, prodded, interviewed, and analyzed.

We gave blood and urine to eager nurses, and described what we saw in inkblots to attentive psychologists. We took tests, check-marked boxes, and signed our names hundreds of times. We vowed that we never shared intravenous needles, tortured animals, lit forest fires, or had sex with extraterrestrials.

They were thorough.

The clinic even called one afternoon demanding I explain why I tested positive for opiates. It was a legitimate prescription for Hydrocodone. I’d just had surgery on my leg and really needed them… I had to prove that immediately though, and I rushed out to fax them the papers. Eventually they declared Hailey fit to carry, and I was deemed capable of providing sufficient support.

The arduous series of events dragged on for months, and involved several trips from Providence to Boston. There were awkward meetings with the hopeful couple over “get-to-know-you” lunches and, of course, the mandatory group counseling sessions the four of us had to participate in.

There were painful nightly injections in the stomach and a menu of vitamins and supplements for Hailey to withstand and consume. With great discipline in her prescribed routine, she manipulated her hormones into an environment conducive to pregnancy. I imagined what it would be like to put myself through such things, and I knew two things were true.

One… I would never put myself through anything like this to help someone I barely knew.

Two… my girlfriend is, genuinely, a better person than I am.

Hailey’s resolve never wavered during the whole experience, and I started to feel like I was part of something special. I was fascinated and impressed by her. I was in awe and I was in love, as my eyes and heart opened to an immense and perfect mixture of generosity, courage, and strength. I was still uncomfortable and nervous about what she was doing, but I remained completely supportive.

It did turn out to be difficult… far worse than her three natural pregnancies. For the first few months, she could hardly be on her feet for more than a few minutes. Exhausted, she would sleep twenty hours a day, and always felt sick when she was awake. I did the best I could to make her as comfortable as possible, while she continued to amaze me and reiterate something I’d known for a long time… the love of my life was a very strong and special woman.

There were no complaints emanating from her often-dry lips, as one might rightfully expect. There was no second-guessing her decision to sacrifice her body and lifestyle, for the better part of a year. She shouldered the burden admirably in her effort to enrich the lives of this family. In spite of everything, when she was awake, she usually had a smile on her beautiful face.

Things did get a little better during the second trimester, and Hailey was able to function a little more, but this was a short-lived reprieve. The weakness and lethargy came back even more debilitating than before, and eventually led to doctor prescribed bed-rest for the last several weeks.

The harsh pregnancy, of course, was just a prelude to the excruciating physical pain of actually delivering the baby. The pain, in this unique experience, accompanied by the emotional perplexities of handing over the life you’ve nurtured for nine long months. Somehow, she got through all of that! Somehow, she did it!

A healthy little girl was born.

My aura defined proud in that delivery room… seeing the pure and contagious bliss on the faces of these parents, who had bonded with us through the preceding months and become our friends. I was elated. I thought our long and difficult journey was over… but I was wrong.

The day after they released her from the hospital, Hailey’s heart rate and blood pressure escalated to dangerous levels. She was dizzy and hot, sweating profusely, and her vision became a kaleidoscope of blurry colors. Scared to the edge of complete panic, she called 911… an ambulance rushed her to the emergency room.

They admitted her into the hospital immediately, and when I arrived with our five-year old son, to join her side by yet another hospital bed, it was obvious she was in some real danger. There was a quiet intensity in the air, as doctors and nurses alike kept a close and constant eye on her vital signs… trying to control them. She was genuinely scared, and icy horror started rushing through me. Now, I was feeling dizzy myself, and thinking…

“I’m going to lose my love.”

They diagnosed her with Preeclampsia, and told her she could have died. It was a living nightmare for both of us. Hailey was needle-fed magnesium through a steady, hypnotic drip, and wondering if she was going to live or not. She cried… imagining her own children growing up without their mommy, and her heart broke for them.

Every second that ticked by yanked our emotions in a new direction. I spent every day by her side, consoling her, and telling her that everything was going to be all right, even though sometimes I wasn’t so sure. When it was time to leave every night, I’d linger. I’d rub her hair and give her soft kisses. I’d hold her hand and tell us both, that nothing was going to happen to her. Our fingers would slip slowly apart, as I’d back out of the room, hoping I’d at least make it to my car… before the tears came

After five unbearable days and nights filled with troubling thoughts, her treatments were a success. Hailey regained her health steadily, and returned home to some very relieved children… and me.

We went through this ordeal, because she understands the infinite joys and rewards of motherhood, and she felt an irresistible need to share that. Hailey knows what a special gift it is to be a parent, and raise a child. She sympathizes greatly with those who desperately want that magic in their life, but can’t make it happen on their own. She made the bold decision to help and followed through with the most selfless display of sacrifice, conviction, and bravery I’ve ever witnessed.

I admire her. She’s a wonderful mother, an amazing woman, and an impressive human being. To me she’s a goddess. She followed her heart, and brought a happy, healthy baby into the world. A loving family is complete because of her, and that’s a gift very few people would be capable of giving.

Think about it.

Would you be willing to make such enormous sacrifices for the benefit of others… for people you don’t even know? Would you disrupt your life for the better part of a year, and endure such pain and discomfort for so long? How many of us would really put our own health and lives on the line to such extent for the causes we feel passionate about?

It’s this author’s belief, that surrogate mothers are heroes in our society, and I’m sure the countless families that have benefited from their unique generosity would agree. Women like Hailey, and countless surrogate mothers like her, are pillars of strength, beacons of inspiration, and harbingers of good will.

We’re both proud of what Hailey did, and there has never been any regret, but we have to acknowledge the fact that she could have died for her cause. With that said, we both agree, this was a one-time experience for us. So, if you or your partner ever consider involvement in a surrogate pregnancy, you should both take time to understand the full extent of the beauty… and the risks.

From Drug Addict and Prostitute to Missionary and Servant of Jesus Christ

Posted on March 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

For eighteen years I was on and off of drugs. For almost six years out of that eighteen I was strung out on heroin and crack cocaine, prostituting to support my habit. I hadn’t planned it that way – no one ever does.

Born in 1968 I was raised by my Japanese-American parents in a middle class family with one younger sister. By the age of fifteen I had left high school and joined an Asian gang. By the age of 20 I was shot in a drive by shooting in West Covina with a .38 in which the bullet entered by the upper left arm, shattered the bone, went through my arm and entered my left side where the bullet passed by my heart and then went through my liver, left lung and diaphragm and lodged in my back, ½ an inch from my spine.

The shooting occurred at a Catholic church and a priest was there who gave me my last rites with the holy water – at which I became very angry and cussed him out that I wasn’t going to die. I was taken to the hospital twenty minutes later by ambulance. In the ambulance I attempted praying (I didn’t know how) by saying the ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ over and over in my head. But the whole time while I was in the ambulance there was a figure sitting at my right side, and it gave me peace. I knew it wasn’t my time yet.

After I was released from the hospital I continued to run with my gang friends who had started to use harder drugs, both cocaine and methamphetamine. We had always gotten drunk, smoked pot and dropped LSD, but once we began doing cocaine and meth – getting high became a priority.

I began hanging out in Hollywood with my sister, and soon after decided to leave my husband (we married when I was 17) and because I believe that he truly loved me, he let me go without too much trouble. (Regarding leaving the gang)

After I left my husband I got deeper and deeper into cocaine and smoking crack, and lived with a couple of my old ‘homeboys’ who were always more involved in the drug lifestyle than the gang fights and drive bys. One day, after being up all night, one of my roommates came home – ‘glowing’. I thought he had been taking some great drug and asked what he took. He said “I got ‘saved’! (Oh no) and I told him that I didn’t want to hear it. But I watched him change before my own eyes, and one day I prayed and asked God to forgive me for all the crap I’d done and to set me free from drugs and smoking cigarettes. He did, almost overnight!

I began going to church, got married, went to Beauty College and got a great job. Then I got pregnant and had a wonderful, beautiful son. But things were hard, and everything that went wrong – I blamed on God. Long story short, the pressure of being a new mother and being upset that I had just started my career and it had been interrupted – I began to start smoking and drinking again, and before I knew it – was using cocaine again. I was angry that God didn’t ‘fix’ my life and make it better.

Before long, I was a MESS. I don’t blame my husband at the time. He needed to get away from me before I hurt my son. I had begun bringing him with me to the drug dealer and couldn’t believe what I started to become. (It only got worse) He told me that he was leaving me one night when I came home from work, and I freaked out and left. I had to literally pry my son off of my neck while he cried, “Please don’t leave me, mommy.” I walked out and only came back once while no one was home to get some clothes. From the day I left, I would not allow myself to be sober or I’d literally FREAK OUT. The guilt I felt for leaving my son was so overwhelming that I kept a Vodka bottle near the bed wherever I ended up the night before so that I could drink as soon as I got up and if possible, a line of cocaine or a hit of crack to wake me up.

To come down off of the cocaine – I began smoking heroin, and before I knew it I was strung out and needed it to ‘get well’ and function as a normal human being. I couldn’t work ‘dope sick’ and one day my boss noticed me after I had been out all night and had done all my dope and had to go to work sick. He thought I was high. (Quite the opposite – I NEEDED to get high to get normal!)

After losing my job, I started prostituting to support my habit. I would get so freaked out whenever I got dope sick, I became suicidal. When I had first gotten strung out I didn’t know it – when I didn’t do heroin for 24 hours, I became sick and thought that I had the flu. I called a friend (who soon after became my boyfriend) and he told me that I was strung out and brought me some dope. Once I started smoking it, I felt fine and swore that I would ‘never let myself be sick like that again. I had a saying, “I’d rather be dead than dope sick.” It wasn’t long before I was using the needle.

I attempted suicide numerous times, overdosing and slicing my wrists. I was SO MISERABLE. I hated myself for leaving my son but was powerless to stop using the drugs. Heroin had become my god, I was a slave to it and would do anything for it.

My boyfriend was all I had and he stuck with me through anything and everything – even after all the times I had gone to jail and he’d find out about my prostituting over and over. Yes, we had a seriously codependent dysfunctional relationship at best, but I loved him very much – so when I found out that he cheated on me with my best friend while I was in jail – I was DEVESTATED and became even more suicidal.

My superior court judge, Stephen Marcus (who started ‘Drug Court’ in LA and who I still keep in touch with and who even came to my wedding two years ago) had threatened to send me to prison if I left the 5th rehab he sent me to because I left the all the others he sent me to. Well, I left again and the judge put out a $200,000 warrant for my arrest. I didn’t want to go to prison, so I decided that the best thing would be for me to end my life for certain this time.

My boyfriend and I lived in an 8 (eight) story apartment building where we could climb up to the roof and hang out. I would sit up there every time I was upset and smoke cigarettes, and ‘plan’ on jumping off the roof. I believed that it would be a sure thing.

One day my boyfriend and I went and got 16 klonapins (sp.? Anti-anxiety pills that put you to sleep or at least make you seriously out of it) and decided to ‘kick’ heroin. Apparently, we each took one, my boyfriend fell asleep and then I took the other 15. I took a train to a friend’s house, called my drug connection, got both heroin and cocaine and shot up a bunch of speedballs. I then called another friend who picked me up and took me back to the train station, where I took the train back home and went up to the roof. Whether I jumped or fell is unclear, but either way, I hit a tree on the way down which broke my fall before hitting the ground. I completely shaved off one side CLEAN.

I woke up in the Cedar Sinai hospital four days later after being in a coma and after a craniotomy. I was brain damaged, my motor skills all messed up and I didn’t know how to read or write anymore. I was in the hospital for only almost a month, but about a month after my released I jumped out of a second story window from a Christian women’s home (The Walter Hoving Home in Pasadena, ‘Mom B’ and her husband who started the home still remember me) while kicking heroin and methadone. This time I broke my back. I re-broke it when I was in the county jail and jumped off of the second tier to get sent to the hospital to get drugs. (It worked!) While at the hospital I was told that I had a full blown staph infection from not being ‘sewed up’ properly – the hospital had left a 1 inch by ½ inch hole in the back of my head here the infection entered.

To finally finish this up, I ended up on Skid Row downtown where God spoke to me, “Look around, Laurie – you’re going to die out here anonymously if you don’t turn around and serve Me.” I went home with a ministry from Orange County where I got clean and then went to the LA Dream Center (you may remember them, they helped out some Katrina victims and were on the news and Dr. Phil) where I began reaching out to both prostitute and pimps.

One of the reasons I finally decided to write is because I want to give hope to people who are involved with drugs or prostitution or are suicidal. I have been off of drugs and alcohol for over 5 ½ years now and am reaching out to other people who are living the way I used to when I was on drugs.

I have remarried a wonderful husband who I actually met at a tattoo parlor while ministering to people at tattoo shops on Hollywood boulevard. He gave his life to Jesus, and is now serving God with me. (He also used to use drugs, has been in prison, etc.)

We are starting a non profit ministry to specifically reach out to pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts’ gang members and convicts. I would also like to write a book (but I’m not exactly sure how to go about it) and a friend of mine has been working on an independent film/documentary about some of my experiences and the power of God to change lives.

I am HONORED to share my life with you and with anyone else. You can ask me anything – I am very open about the things I have done, the mistakes I’ve made and the PAIN I went through because of my own foolishness. I feel that if sharing my mistakes will help even just one person, it is all worth it. People, especially young people – who are dabbling with drugs and alcohol, need to see that there are consequences for our actions -not only physical, but spiritual and emotional as well.

People also need to know that there is HOPE. When I was strung out on heroin, I thought that I would never, ever be able to get off of it. Heroin is SO difficult to get off of. I have met numerous heroin addicts, who believe the same thing I used to believe – that I would always be strung out and die a dope fiend, either overdosing or killing myself one day. I want to show people that there is hope! If God could set me free, He can do it for anyone!

God bless you!

Laurie Ishii

213-399-0057 (cell#)

Daryl (husband’s cell#) 213-361-0057

749 East 84th St.

Los Angeles, CA 90001

Balloon Regrets Fleeing Little Girl’s Hand

Posted on March 12, 2019 in Uncategorized

Mason, OH

It was a fun day at the Kings Island Amusement Park for little Marina Collins and her family. She had ridden the Tea Cups, taken a train ride on the K.I. & Miami Railroad, and a fun splash down ride in White Water Canyon. Marina ate hot dogs and cotton candy. And her mommy bought her a pretty blue balloon that she tied around Marina’s wrist. It was turning out to be a day that kids dream about. After a long day at the park, the family walked to their car. Then Marina’s joy turned to tragedy.

Marina, curious about what would happen if she untied the balloon, found out. Within seconds the balloon went sailing into the air. Marina screamed. Her father, an ex-Navy Seal, jumped as high as he could, but it was too late. The balloon was at least 30 feet in the air at that time. “Someone call 911!” shouted another park-goer. Police and an ambulance were on the scene within minutes. “There was nothing we can do at this time. That balloon has enough helium to stay aloft for 3 or 4 days. I feel bad for the little girl. It’s a hard lesson to learn,” said Sergeant Fuller of the Mason Police Department. Marina was inconsolable at the time. She was brought to the ambulance where she was given Valium and a Juice Box.

We asked local balloon psychologist, Dr. Barbara Betters why these instances keep happening. “These balloons really have no kind of life. They get inflated with helium and chained down by a string. The truth is that these balloons will do whatever they can to escape. If they get a chance to make a break for it, they will. They are very narcissistic, very full of themselves, and think they will live forever. They don’t realize the trauma they can cause some of these children.” The deflated balloon landed on a farm 2 days later in the neighboring city of Forest Park, 12 miles away. When the balloon was asked about the incident, it said, “I just had the irresistible urge to take flight. I didn’t mean to upset the little girl. I just wanted the chance to live. But thinking about it now, I wish I could have spent some time getting to know her. Now I feel just empty inside.”


From Pain to Purpose

Posted on February 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

In March 2006 my husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage. This could not have happened without the Lord, my Pastors and my faith. The faith to start over, faith to be open, faith to be willing to allow the Lord to work through me and use me to help encourage and inspire other women.

On April 28, 2004 I thought I would literally lose my mind. Riding in the back of the ambulance the next day, I knew I would not survive. The situation had the best of me. “Just give up” was the desperate thought that entered my mind. “God is not with you,” the little voice lied. “I thought He would give you your hearts desire.” But surely this was not my true desire.

” Why are you crying” were the words the enemy kept throwing at me. How could the one I love taunt me? As I lay in the emergency room he sat across from me laughing in the midst of my pain and heartache, I felt my world being destroyed. Is this a dream? Did my husband really come home 4 days earlier and say he was leaving? I just gave birth to our third child 5 days prior.

“Why are you crying?”

“Could it be that you just told me you were leaving?” This had to be a dream.

“Whatever Nicole.”

“Whatever? Are you crazy? You are a man of God; this is not biblical! You just don’t decide that you don’t want to be married anymore after 8 yrs. You have children, you have responsibilities!”

“Whatever Nicole.” The dream became a nightmare.

This is what began 8 months of warfare, tears, prayer, teaching and most importantly, learning my purpose.

This is one of my stories. My life is a testimony and God knows that I will share it. The bible says that we are overcome by the power of our testimony.

My prayer is that this story will help just one woman be able to “Breathe Again”. If it helps hundreds or even thousands, that is great. But my mission is to reach that one who is suffering, who is going through what I went through. Sharing my story is also healing for myself. So thank you in advance for reading and also helping me “Breathe Again”.

The words to that famous hymn go a little something like this.

“This is my story, this is my song, I am praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song, I am praising my Savior all the day long”

To be in the church and living “somewhat” right is what I thought it took to keep my home, my marriage and our life together. All we needed was “church”. Boy, was I wrong! It takes a lot more than just “church” to keep it together. It takes a relationship. Not just one person having a relationship with the Lord, but both of us.

I ended up in the back of that ambulance due to hemorrhaging. When all the tests were done the diagnosis was “stress”. Yeah, maybe I was a little stressed out. My husband did just tell me the night before that he was leaving. The doctor prescribed Zoloft (an antidepressant), but I refused to start taking something that I would be dependent on. I made this assertion not knowing that shortly after that I would be dependent on another pill.

My husband was in and out of the house after that night. He was still officially there, but not really there until a few months later. Then I put my foot down.

“You will not do whatever you want to do in this house. My kids will not see you coming in and out as you please. You will not sleep here, go to work, then leave and go sleep at another woman’s house. My son is 14 and I do not want him to think this is ok.”

That is what came out of my mouth but I really wanted to say was,

“I will do what you want, just stay”

” I will accept you being with another woman, just stay!”

I wanted to beg and plead.

“Don’t leave me, don’t leave us, just stay”

As desperate as it may sound, that is what I was willing to do for my marriage, for my kids. I grew up without a father in my home. I didn’t want that for my kids. I didn’t want to sleep around, date, or get to know someone else. When I got married it was for life. We were meant to be together, I didn’t want a divorce. I wanted my husband. But he didn’t want me.

After all how many other women know their husbands are cheating and still stay?

One older woman shared her story with me and said, “Baby – sometime you just have to do what you have to do. My husband cheated on me for more than 30 years and the affair didn’t end until the other woman died. My kids used to come in the house and tell me their father’s car was parked at her house around the corner. I just accepted it. I lived with it for the sake of my family.”

But I could not be a statistic. I had more respect for myself than to allow that to go on. As difficult as it was for me, I knew he had to go.

I made a promise to myself that I would not cry in front of him anymore because that gave him power. Each time I would cry he would laugh. (The enemy would laugh) So I arranged a time to be out the house so he could pick up his things. He called me and said he had them and he was taking them to storage. I hung up.

My chest got tight, my stomach turned, my heart began to race. My knees began to buckle. My hands were shaking uncontrollably. I needed air. I had to get air. He actually took his things. He actually was gone!

“There is not another woman, it’s just me.”

“Do you think I am crazy?”

“Whatever Nicole.”

Those words again. That is what our conversations were like. For a man to be so concerned about his family and then not care how we ate, not care how we paid the mortgage, not care about anything at all concerning his wife and kids, much less the Lord; it was too much for me to handle in the beginning. He changed right before my eyes. Didn’t he know this was wrong? I know he was not raised like this. I tried to understand, I tried to just pray that he would come to his senses, but enough was enough.

It was not a good example for my children and it was awful for me. My mind was slipping each day, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. I would have panic attacks, my stomach was upset all the time. At the time I was still on maternity leave from my job so all I had was time.

Too much time if you ask me. Time to examine myself inside and out. Why did he leave, what did I do? What didn’t I do? Did I get too fat? Am I ugly? Did I not give him enough sex? Those were things that ate at me day in and day out. Why did I move to Virginia, away from my family to a state where I had no one but him?

This is when my dependency on PM pills began. I took PM pills every single night after he left. I just wanted to sleep this nonsense away. To sleep next to someone for years and then be left to sleep alone was awful. I hated to be in the house by myself. To tell the truth, I was a little scared. Grass was growing, toilets were breaking, the truck sounded like an 18-wheeler, the air conditioning broke and I had to pump my own gas. Those were just a few things that happened initially after he left. It was terrible. I never had to do deal with these things before. I was totally clueless. My husband had spoiled me, and I had to learn how to do many things on my own.

Watching the reactions of my children broke my heart. My daughter would cry for her daddy every night in the beginning. But then she started to pray. I would hear my 6 yr old daughter in her room praying for her daddy to return.

I remember one particular night she came out of her room and said “Mommy, we need to pray for my Daddy because he is in a bad neighborhood and we just need to pray that the devil gets away from him.”

My son was just angry.

People would come to me and say the wrong things all the time.

“I know how you feel.”

“It will get better.”

Those were just some of the maddening things people said to me.

I have found that if you don’t know how a person feels or don’t know what to say just don’t say anything. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.

Each day was a battle. Most people didn’t know I was going through anything because I went on with my day-to-day functions. I wore a fake face. A mask. I would summon just enough strength each day to do what needed to be done. I couldn’t be like some and sit around and cry all day; I had three children to take care of, and one was an infant.

They depended on me. They needed me and I needed them. They kept me going. We were all we had as far as family. The days got better as I started to dive into things I enjoyed. I kept busy in the church and other activities. I enrolled the kids in sports.

A busy schedule kept our minds on something other than the fact that we had been abandoned.

Many people thought I should hate him but I couldn’t. I loved him. Not the person that he became, but the man I married. The person he became was mean, rude and just a different creature towards the kids and me. He was not himself. Each time I talked to him it felt like I fought 12 rounds against Tyson. It was exhausting just trying to have a normal conversation with him.

The phone rings at 7am.

“Hey Baby.”

“Good Morning.”

“How you doing?”

” I am good and yourself?”

” Just on my way to work”

“Hey, do me a favor and don’t call me when you are on your way to work – especially after you just got out of the bed with another woman. I am your wife.”

“Whatever Nicole.” That phrase again.

“There is no woman.”

At least 3 times a week my phone would ring at 7am until I refused to answer.

Each night I would come home and scream into the pillow. Each night I would think about dying. I knew the Lord; I would go to heaven, right? At work I would go in the restroom to cry, then splash water on my face and resume my daily responsibilities.

Most people never knew.

My husband and I are back together now but the most important thing is that I found me. I found the lost Nicole that was buried. The Lord allowed me time to work on me. I truly am grateful for who I am and what I had to endure to help others. Often I tell people I went through for you. Not me.

That is why I founded Breathe Again Magazine. Women wear these masks really well, but we are hurting, struggling, crying on the inside. Most people never know. In my struggle I needed to touch someone, identify with someone that knew how I felt, someone that could relate. By using this magazine as a forum to share personal stories of triumph and victories, our mission is to help encourage and motivate just one woman with an article of inspiration.

The quarterly events are to help someone get “A Breath of Fresh Air” even if only for an afternoon, evening or night. To get away from our “to do” list and snatch some time for yourself. You deserve it.