Have you ever noticed that really emotional memories have the ability to thin out the veil of time?
I pulled into a parking structure yesterday that’s connected to the building where Colette’s cardiologist’s office is. We were headed to a check-up that would more than likely be a quick exam and a sign-off for another year. I had no nerves threatening to make me sick, I felt no fear, my mind was mostly just reflecting my toddler’s behavior – all over the place.
I was living very much in the moment as toddlers typically cause us to do, not mindfully but more absently responding to her needs while trying to make it to our appointment on time. But the moment I pulled Colette out of the car and began walking through the parking structure I was struck by overwhelmingly distinct memories of the place. The gap of two years was squished and I was whipped into a clear memory of my former self. I could almost see an opaque ghost of myself two years ago, 7 months pregnant with black-out level fear making my arms feel numb, as I waddled towards the office with Trever. You would have looked at my pregnant self that day and noticed nothing except my puffy eyes, but I was in pieces on the inside. I had so much fear that I could hardly let myself acknowledge it, and this appointment would confirm what all those fears were screaming at me, that Colette’s life would be short at best.
2 years ago we were headed to a doctor to check on Colette’s heart. They couldn’t see her heart clearly at the high-risk doctors office, so they recommended a cardiologist take a look. When we arrived I laid down on the ultrasound table and stared up at the ceiling tiles while he started the echo-cardiogram. Then after forty-five minutes of silence saturated in fear, he looked me in the eyes with compassion and said, “well, your baby has significant congenital heart disease.” What he was telling me was that she wouldn’t survive, that our blessed Colette was just too sick and broken to make it, that our kindest option was termination.
There is nothing like a conversation like that to stop time. He kept saying words but my ears heard nothing. I caught Trever’s eyes in the swirling chaos of blunt grief and somehow my feet moved and I found myself propped up against him hearing my own sobs, as if all the fear and grief inside me was an animal trying to escape me. I held a giant printed diagram of a heart with the doctor’s scribbles all over it illustrating all her misplaced tubes, miss-directed blood flows, and some large x’s showing completely missing veins. This was the end of the hope of her life, this was our greatest fear finally realized.
I lay on the same table yesterday, I stare at the same ceiling tiles, I glance at the counter where Trever stood two years ago holding me up while I fell apart, I see myself there in opaque version as a pregnant mom who thought she would never get to mother. I have so much empathy for her, it was so much harder than she even had capacity to take in at the moment. I want to hug her, I want to tell her that yes, it’s that bad and that it’s ok to fall apart without the need to be cheered up. I want to tell her to let go of the reigns, to stop working so hard to regulate her emotions, I want to tell her to be kind to herself and stop trying to be ok. I want to cry with her, to comfort her, but I’m snapped back into reality, “B.I.N.G.O. and bingo was his name O.” I’m laying next to Colette during her echo-cardiogram, she likes the video they put on for her. They hand her a slinky and without prompting she says, “thank you,” which sounds like, “day doo.” The doctor says, “looks good, see you in a year.” From the same room but on two sides of the veil of time, my former self weeps with a grief she has never known, but in the present I lean against the warmth of my daughter, turn towards the ceiling tiles that hold an aching memory and feel a silent tear slide down my face.
As I walk back to my car I see this parallel version of myself walking too. Everything looks different to her now, like a layer of hot tar the whole world is coated in her grief. She’ll go home and sleep all day and likely most of the next day. She’ll sob in bed so completely that she’ll have to nurse a headache for days after. She’ll find her new normal and smile at work in a few days time. She has so much ahead of her, but by the grace of God and a misdiagnosis she’ll get through it. We all will.
“Car! Car! Car! Carrrrrr!!!!!” Colette points out every. single. car. I give her a big smooch on the nose and give her a near-fatal squish of a hug and strap her into her carseat.
“You want Mac-N-Cheese for lunch?”