Everything's going to be okay
Today I happened to be in the neighborhood -- no, really -- and stopped by my old clinic to drop off some flyers for RESOLVE of New England. (Their annual conference is coming up in a few weeks, and if you're within driving distance and at all interested, it sounds really good. The keynote speaker is none other than Stirrup Queens' Mel, "one of the founders of an infertility blogger revolution," and she has personally guaranteed me that as befits her standing as a founding mother, she'll be speaking in full Colonial regalia. "Undergarments were not changed daily," I am warned by a site describing period dress; "standards of cleanliness were very different from today, and bathing was typically done once a week at most and even less often in the winter." So approach her at your own risk, but know that she gives excellent, if aromatic, hugs.)
Anyway, although I'd had many occasions to be in the same building since, I hadn't actually crossed the threshold in three years, when I went there for monitoring during the IVF cycle that resulted in Ben. Although my maternal/fetal medicine doctors are in the same building and on the same floor, I always gave the office a wide berth. I don't know exactly what I was afraid of -- probably the pounding heart, sweaty palms, and rising gorge I'd experienced pretty much every other time -- but I am pleased to report that I boldly stepped in, deposited my literature, and left without incident. I did not turn to stone. I did not burst into flame. And despite how very, very tempting it was, I didn't totally fucking waste $8,000, not even a little.
I've heard it said that people who've had children after infertility just can't get it anymore. I think there's some justification to that criticism. (For criticism is generally the form it takes -- understandably, since it's often in regard to an infertile-turned-belly-rubber-turned-take-my-child-please-r who nevertheless insists that she knows how you're feeling. Ohhh, I think you don't.)
I mean, I can stand there at the desk and tell the receptionist who I am, just like I did this morning, and I can, without thinking, check the place where I used to sit to see if it's already occupied, and I can know that this is a place where I do not get good news. And I expect a rush of fight-or-flight, all of this like it was years ago, but this morning it. Never. Came. Even standing there on the threshold, I am just not there anymore.
And this is a good thing, right? It's where we all want to be. I haven't exactly forgotten, nor have I stopped caring. It's just that I've stopped hurting for myself. It was the strangest damn thing to leave that office happy, lighter than I was when I came.
I was in the neighborhood, as I said, because I was visiting the Children's Specialty Center, which is around the corner from the clinic, right across from maternal/fetal medicine. (I highly recommend keeping all your trauma neatly contained in one building. Saves a great deal of time. You can schedule your freakouts in clusters.) As part of some volunteer work I'm doing, I was meeting a young woman and her baby there for their post-NICU followup appointment.
The baby was born prematurely and is now three weeks adjusted. He reminds me so much of Charlie at that age -- the skinny body, the fuzzy round head, the angry old man expressions, the tiny foot sticking out from the blankets, covered and recovered but always re-emerging. You can tell just by looking that he needs. But like any baby born so early, it's impossible to tell at this age how he'll eventually do.
A lot of that depends on his mother. I don't want to say much, because it's not my story to tell. I'll simply say that in the face of significant challenges, she is on top of things. She can list his medications without hesitation. She handles him with confidence and affection. She speaks to his doctors without even a particle of diffidence. She loves her boy and is already a fantastic advocate for him. Impossible to tell just yet, of course, but I think he will be all right.
Of course I can't watch a baby of Charlie's gestation be tended by Charlie's doctors without feeling mildly reflective. "You look familiar," said the nurse, cocking her head. "Aren't you Charlie's mom?" said the doctor. (I choose to believe we were memorable for our excellent parenting, and not for my obvious crazy.) They asked me how he's doing.
And he is doing just fine.
A touch of asthma, I told them. Maybe low muscle tone. But fine.
I was thinking of all your comments about Charlie's kindergarten situation. Although I appreciated them all, even those that made me say, "No, no, no, wait, maybe I didn't explain it right," the ones that had the greatest impact were the ones that basically said, "Everything's going to be okay."
That's not to say there's no work to do, or that we aren't going to take the problem seriously. But I'm coming to the belief that we need not take it too seriously. Sitting in that office today, spending time with a mother and baby who are just at the very beginning of all this with so much still unknown, talking to the doctors about, my God, my gorgeous boy, what it all boiled down to was, "Shut up for one fucking second, take a look around you, know how lucky you are, and have the grace to act accordingly."