So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me we'll be alright
~ Ghosts that we Knew, Mumford & Sons
This week was Meet the Teacher night at the girls' school. Since they're going to school at the other end of the city by our soon-to-be-house, it didn't make sense to go all the way back home between, so we headed over to the closest library to hang out.
In the kids section of the library, my kids moved in like they were at home. Chairs were moved so Kingsley could get up to the table with the toys, Rachel sat down to see what computer games they had, Cordelia broke out the puzzles. There was another family there. A woman, her two daughters that were also playing with toys, and her two sons that were in and out of the shelves of books. They saw the wheels. I heard them asking their mom, pointing to him, sneaking peeks at me out of the corner of their eyes to see if I had heard them asking. I heard her answering, saying the usual things, telling them it was okay. I saw her hesitate for a second, then come over.
She asked me if he belonged to me. Nodded when I said he was. She said something about him, then rubbed her belly as only a pregnant woman can and told me that the baby she was carrying only has half of a heart. I wish I could describe her face as she said it. She was trying to be casual, just making conversation with a total stranger, but we both knew there was nothing casual about it. I could see the fear in her eyes. The pain she was feeling, but trying not to feel. I could see the tears that were always just almost there. I could see the intense bravery, the sheer will to be stronger than she actually felt.
I could feel the sigh leave me. In that moment, right there, I was back to that place where I sat three years ago. Back with the eyes that never smiled, the thoughts that were always somewhere else, the heart that was just a little bit broken.
We sat there and talked while our kids came and went, my three and her four. She told me about the surgeries her baby girl would be facing when she was born, all of the appointments she had, her worries about the other kids, her concern that she wouldn't be able to breastfeed, and the unthinkable fear that her little girl might not make it.
Her journey isn't the same as ours. They're facing longer hospital stays than us, separations that we didn't have to endure, long term issues that are different. But what we had in common was that last joyless pregnancy that we will never get back, the ache that feels like it will never go away, the dread of the unknown, and the simultaneous wish to just stay pregnant forever so that we don't have to face what comes next.
As we rounded up our kids and headed on to the evenings next events, she apologized for unloading all of it on me, said she was just glad to finally talk to someone who had been there and gotten to the other side. She looked at me, at Kingsley, at my girls and her face was full of that desperate hope that maybe, just maybe, this wouldn't be as bad as she secretly believed it was going to be. I had so many things I wanted to tell her. I wished so badly to sit there and take some of the burden off of her. I can take it. I have the benefit of hindsight to know that where she's at now is not where she's going to stay.
If I could've, I would've repeated to her the slogan of the SB world: pregnancy is the hardest part. I would've made her remember the joy she felt when her other four babies were born and promised her that this birth would be just as joyful, that she really would love this child that much, even if right now she doesn't feel like it'll be the same. I would promise her that she will bond with this baby girl, even if she can't be with her as much as she wants to be. I also would have told her that although the dark cloud of pregnancy goes away, the hard part won't be over and for that reason, she has to learn to be selfish. Get through. She has to get through the hospital phase and she has to get through in one piece, and to do that she'll need to put herself ahead of everyone else. She'll have to demand help, demand sleep, demand support, raise that white flag and call in the troops because there is no possible way that she'll get through that part on her own. There will be epic highs and epic lows, not only because life will literally be hanging in the balance, but also because she'll be a hormonal disaster, let's just be honest about that.
I would also tell her that when she gets through the next year, she'll look back in amazement. She will feel humbled by all that she has seen and done and she will never see life the same way again. She will go through times where she feels like the worst mother in the world, where she wonders how her other children managed to survive with a mother who is so incompetent. She'll also go through times where she'll look at her children and secretly gloat that her friends wouldn't stand a chance against her in a Mom of the Year competition. She'll have times where she pleads for just one day without extras and other days where the extras are so routine that they don't seem like extras at all. She'll see the beauty in a normal day, where nothing happens and no one does anything exceptional. She'll begin to celebrate the most mundane of milestones and finally see them for the incredible gift that they are.
And before she knows it, she'll find herself sitting somewhere while her awesome kids are just being awesome kids and she'll come face to face with her old, scared, terrified, brave, wonderful self from three years ago and she'll realize that thing that someone told her three years ago is true: she's okay. She will still be watching awesome reality TV every other night, still be a slave to her laptop, still be staying up later than she should be, still lusting after boots, and still eating too much candy. She won't have lost who she is and her life will have kept on going. Her broken heart will be repaired, just like her baby girl's.