Monday, May 24, 2010

fresh paint

we are flying down a familiar road again, speeding toward the hope of an answer, although this time the question lacks any hint of optimism. the sun beats down defiantly on our tired faces. the sheep in the fields keep their babies close, taunting me with their good fortune. this isn't fair.

it is new year's eve day, though the holiday barely registers. the date is almost too trivial to comprehend. there are no dates, and there is certainly nothing to celebrate.

there is tension in the car as we navigate through turning lanes and stop signs into the cement box of the parking garage. somehow, we gather ourselves and set foot on the ground again. one step at a time.

the smell of fresh paint and new carpet are overwhelming as push through the doors of a new hospital building. we seem strangely out of place among the brightly colored walls and modern artwork, among parents wrangling running children and caressing swollen bellies. what a sight we must be, tear-streaked and ashen-faced, wandering the halls of a place we never wanted to know. and somehow, we step into an elevator and ascend to the correct floor. a small miracle, as i am outside myself. my body goes through the motions, but i am not here. not really.

there is a wait. there is always a wait, as we will quickly learn. we sit among pregnant bellies, bellies larger than mine will ever get, and i stare at the circles on the wall, at the pattern of the carpet, anything but the round protrusions that remind me of what i am already losing, although i haven't lost her yet.

we are ushered into a small office with a round table. framed pictures and certificates of a genetic counselor litter the perimeter, not yet hung. i slide into the farthest chair, with him at one side and the window on the other. the counselor places a box of tissue in my vicinity of the table: a permission of sorts, a silent message that says, this will be hard. it is okay to cry.

her eyes are sad and her voice is thick with sympathy, quiet with the weight of her words. she offers another ultrasound but i refuse. i cannot bear the thought. she opens a folder, heavy with papers that sum up everything we have learned thus far. and then she pulls out a long string of shiny paper printed with fuzzy images in shades of gray, pointing out lemons and lateral ventricles and a spine that splits nearly in the middle and curves to the left. this is what we know, but there is so much that we don't. there is talk of necessary surgeries, of shunts and metal rods and braces, even to sit. potential brain damage, advanced hydrocephalus.

somehow, we reach the subject of the other side, of that other option that is tugging at us because we love her so much that we cannot imagine putting her through this. she looks at us knowingly and says, it sounds like you are leaning towards ending the pregnancy. and the pit of my stomach falls out and the tears spring to my eyes like a thousand pins as she pushes the box of tissue closer. and there, there is the increasingly familiar pull and tug of how can we, how can we not? she assures us it can be done peacefully, with respect, extinguishing the fear instilled in me by my own ninth grade persuasive speech with a pro-life angle. how ironic.

the office is too small for this conversation, this choice that feels like anything but. she gives us her cell phone number and we file out, sinking back down the elevator without a word. i am numb. dizzy with grief and fear and uncertainty, and yet i feel very little.

in the breezeway, a mother pushes her son in a wheelchair, his gaze absent as he stares out the window. our pace simultaneously quickens as we pass, pushing our way through the heavy metal doors into the damp darkness of the parking garage once again. we do not stop until we reach the car, the doors falling shut on either side as we collapse into our little portable bubble. the silence settles in, thick and ridden with unspoken questions.

and there are the tears again, although this time, they are his. suddenly, this is all very real to him, too. suddenly, we are tiny, helpless, powerless to fix this. there is a ripple of injustice as reality continues to set in. why us. why her. this isn't fair.

we lean into each other and cry, tears sliding off our noses and mingling together on the upholstery. he is the first to muster words:

i think we have to let her go.

i know it is the truth, and yet it is sickening, sitting in the pit of my stomach like a rock or something equally indigestible. there are no good options.

we cry a little longer, and i am thankful for the dialog that has finally been opened between us. because suddenly it is real, and it isn't fair, but we are in it together.

slowly we settle back into the hum of the rest of the world, where our bodies already know what to do and our minds just follow along.

i start the car and we keep moving.

we have no choice.


Abigail W. said...

That day never stops being that fresh, I guess. <3

You paint such a vivid picture with your words. I am in tears reading it, there with you, there again the day we went through. I am seeing your not decision and your shared anguish, seeing the look of stunned heartbreak in C's eyes.

Glad I get to see you soon so I can give you a great big hug <3 Thinking of you, and our angels playing together there, and our boys playing together here someday.

biojen said...

I keep coming back and reading this. I can't think of anything to say. Your description is so much like the worst day of my life. I just keeping coming back to that line - we had no choice.

I even wrote that the other day, not remembering you already said it. It's so hard, living with this. Thank you for sharing, it is comforting to know I am not alone. I wish you had your Layla with you.