Last week I took Daphne into the city for a clinic appointment (everything is fine, uneventful). We got stuck in traffic and our usual 30-minute drive to the hospital took almost two hours, which meant the parking lot was packed. We drove all the way up to the roof and ended up parking at the same spot where my mom and I had parked almost five years ago, the morning I was admitted for observation with the twins. I cannot swear it was the very same spot, but it was close. Something about the frigid morning, blustery winds, and that walk to the elevator with my chin tucked into my scarf took me right back. My memories of that day are as sharp and jagged as the city’s skyline against the winter blue sky. The wilted asparagus on my hospital tray. The blood on my gown from the steroid shot. Mostly, I remember how I felt, relieved to have the two babies on monitors, finally.
This is where my mind likes to take a little journey. This is how it goes: it goes back to that morning and the hope that I would be in the hospital for a month, and deliver the twins safely. The next stop is: this outcome is not what I wanted. This is wrong. Then, the mind takes a sharp turn and races in the opposite direction: another possible outcome would have been to lose both children, and we have Daphne. We came so close to the horrible outcome, so many times. Next stop: horrible guilt, immediately followed by an urge to grab Daphne and squeeze her tight, protect her from all the horrible things life can throw at her. This process takes maybe 10 seconds, and I know it is a natural result of the trauma we experienced. I don’t even try to stop it anymore. I just acknowledge it and move on.
This particular morning last week, Daphne happened to be standing right next to me as my mind took its little journey. I gripped her little rainbow-mitten hand, kissed the top of her Hello Kitty hat. She was blissfully unaware of the storm inside my head, and gave me grief about shutting off the car engine while a song she really liked was playing on the radio.
Daphne will be five in a month, and being her mom has been my life-defining experience. Losing Leah, keeping Daphne, fighting like mad to keep her healthy, make her strong. The duality of this experience colors everything in my life, like the darkest pigment. You can mix it, you can water it down, but it’s always there.
I know that awful things can happen, I expect them to happen. I also know that life goes on no matter what gets dumped on your head, and wonderful things keep happening too.