Has it really been a whole year since I posted on this blog?!?!
[ The cliché question, “Where does the time go?” reverberates. ]
I have done a good bit of writing in the last year but nothing I’ve felt compelled to publicly share. As open and honest as writing makes me I am wise enough to know there are some things best kept private. However, now is the perfect time to “check-in” as June 8, 2018 marks Estelle’s 2nd birthday!
How quickly my baby has grown into a toddler! It literally happened right before my eyes. Some days I witnessed it with the sharpness of 20/20 vision while other days it was all a blur. My reality is no different from any other parent who is doing their best to do all and be all. It’s just what we do.
As I’ve been strolling and stumbling this last year so has Estelle! She began walking two months after her 1st birthday, right about the time we moved out of the first house she called “home” and into the house I hope she will always happily remember as “home.”
In November, she got the thumbs up from the pediatric orthopedic surgeon who had been treating and monitoring her for hip dysplasia since she was a month old. While we will continue to monitor her until she is probably at least 10 years old, the doctor is very confident that the Pavlik harness Estelle had to wear for a mere six weeks as an infant will keep her from ever needing surgery and all but guarantee her a healthy hip for life.
In January she took her second flight to accompany me on a business trip to Dallas. Her gammy and aunt were anxiously awaiting her arrival so they could have her all to themselves while I worked. Those five days were the most Estelle and I had been apart. It was comforting at the end of each day to know she was really only a few miles away from me.
In the last few months she has discovered a love of books, songs and dance. She initiated potty training, can say her ABCs and count to 10 with (in my opinion) amazing accuracy for a 2-year-old. Her comprehension and vocabulary amazes me every day. She proclaims her love to us by saying, “La bu” and “I lub-be.” She gives the best snuggles and cuddles but also marks her boundaries and declares her independence with “Back” and “Top it!” (stop it).
She is a determined, persistent and self-assured little girl. I know these traits will serve her well in life but I also know that they are going to make for a challenging relationship between her and me in the coming years. I find comfort in realizing these traits now. I figure the sooner I understand what I’m up against the better my ability to plot my plan to handle her!
Every day I consider myself beyond blessed to be beside both my children on their journey through life; every night…I thank my lucky stars. My gratitude for each day, each hour, each minute, each second is ever-present as well as the thought that it all almost wasn’t. Of course June 8th can’t come and go without acknowledging that it’s also the second anniversary of my survival.
[Begin the dark side of this post.]
I never really know what to call it – survival, second chance at life, new lease on life, the day I beat the odds and defied death? While all are accurate statements none of them sound like the right statement. They all pierce my ears more today than ever for a reason I just can’t put my finger on.
Last week I attended my seventh funeral in the last two years. Prior to June 8, 2016 I may have attended that many funerals my entire life. While death always arrives too soon, five of the funerals marked the closing of life’s natural circle for people who had lived full and long lives. I cannot say the same for the other two. Their death came far too soon. Their life circle was nowhere near complete in the minds of those who loved them but, for reasons that are hard to understand, it was “their time.”
As hard as it often is for friends and family of the deceased to understand the “whys” of someone’s death I can tell you it is also very hard for a survivor to understand the “whys” of their survival. It’s a question that enters my mind practically every day and always punctuates a funeral I attend. The darkness of what almost was for me, paired with the reflection I see as I stare at the deceased in a coffin or an urn, are both equally blinding.
As one might expect, surviving a traumatic event causes a person to analyze everything about their life. Realizing you only get one life and that tomorrow isn’t promised resonates much more than before. “Live life to the fullest” is no longer a cliché motto, it is an obsessive mission. That mission has led me to course correct a bit in my life. Sometimes those corrections, albeit subtle, feel so far removed from who I was before June 8, 2016 but at the same time they feel so right. They’re scary and exhilarating; like I’m teetering on the edge of glory and the edge of self-destruction at the same time. It’s a very conflicting process that some days leaves me wondering…am I redesigning parts of my life in response to my survival or is this just a mid-life crisis (or as the progressives call it these days, a mid-life transition)? Since I don’t really know I’m just calling it a mid-life fuck it! At this point I figure it doesn’t really need a label other than “life.” This is the journey I’m supposed to take that will ultimately make up my life’s story. That’s it!
When I left the hospital on June 12, 2016 I remember distinctly feeling like a different person than when I entered. I wrote about that thought at the end of this post. I didn’t know what that feeling meant, but I remember it feeling very unsettling and scary.
In the last year I feel like I’ve started to better understand how I am different. I’m getting acquainted with the “new” or perhaps just newly uncovered pieces of me. As I do I’m trying to examine the pieces with caution to ensure they really do fit into my life’s puzzle. I figure that’s about all I can do with my different self…proceed with caution. I can’t fight her. She’s stronger than the old me.
Many days I miss my pre-June 8, 2016 self. I admit I look for her often, and am comforted when I catch glimpses of her. She definitely still influences me and she’ll never be forgotten, but I’m also curious to discover my post-June 8, 2016 self. I’ve already learned that she does everything “more.” She says “Yes” more. She is more carefree and spontaneous. She has more fun, laughs more, relaxes more, appreciates more, forgives more, loves more and throws up her hands and says, “Fuck it!” way more! She more often than ever just lets the cards fall where they may and is finding it quite liberating.
We celebrated Estelle’s birthday last weekend with friends and family. I debated for weeks about when to host the party partially because I just never know when the best time for me will be to celebrate her birthday. Both years now, months before Estelle’s birthday, I feel the anxiety slowly building within me. Last year I remember the day came and went very smoothly with so many thoughts of happiness and gratefulness. Still I feel like I’m a bit of an unpredictable soul this time of year so I opted to celebrate the weekend before her birthday in case I found myself struggling more and more the closer I got to June 8th.
The party marked our first official pool party at our new house. I can’t even describe how much I enjoyed seeing friends and family in the pool, showing off their stunts on the diving board, dancing to the music, chatting, laughing and just having a good time. As I took pictures I knew it was one of the many small moments for which I lived.
The day after the party though I started to feel the walls close in a bit. That afternoon, at the grocery store, I saw the one-and-only nurse who expressed extreme compassion for me during my emergency c-section prep on the day my son was born. While his birth was a bit scary due to the unknowns as a first time mother, his birth is not one I would describe as traumatic. Seeing the nurse though caused me to get lost in thoughts about the stark difference between his birth and my daughter’s right there in the middle of the grocery store.
At the dinner table that night my son mentioned something about the time of day Estelle was born. It was 6:52p. Minutes later I was fighting for my life. My focus shifted and I fought tears at the dinner table. Just like that I am transported back to the trauma. It happens on occasion and I have to fight to bring my mind back to the present.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My mind was calm but I could feel my body was unsettled. Eventually a thought entered my mind about the last two years and a couple of tears escaped my eyes but it was 2am. I needed sleep! There was no need to go “there” at that time of morning. I forced myself to close my eyes because as I’ve always told my son when he is restless at bedtime, “Close your eyes! You can’t fall asleep with your eyes open!” Thankfully it worked.
This week has been difficult. I’ve had the attention span of an ant. I’ve been easily distracted and extremely unfocused. My mind has been fuzzy. At times, out of no where, tears welled in my eyes, a lump emerged in my throat, a knot tighten in my stomach and the feeling that I needed to puke arose. I know it’s anxiety. These physical reactions subsided about as quickly as they came but reminded me that sometimes, no matter how strong, even the mind can’t control the body. It has its own memory; it too doesn’t forget.
I hope, until the time is right to share my birthing experience with Estelle (which will be a very long time), that I can always hide the anxiety that brews inside me in the weeks leading up to her birthday. Or better yet, I hope that anxiety completely disappears in time. I never want her to feel like her birthday is a difficult day for me because it’s not, it’s the time before it that has proven somewhat difficult. On her birthday I truly feel excitement and pride to see her conquer one year and launch into another. In the simplest terms, it’s all any parent really wants for their child and it is undoubtedly an answer to one of my “whys.”
In Loving Memory of One of My Most Devoted Blog Readers
November 25, 1959 – May 20, 2018