that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain."
— Pablo Neruda
Maybe it's something you just don't forget.
It was the night after we came back from the children's hospital. The bags were unpacked and put away, the house was still, and the stars were out. Sky had already left for work, and both Millie and Walter were sound asleep. It should have been so peaceful, sitting there and letting the night blanket me. But my heart was racing.
Then there was Walter's follow up appointment last week. Millie helped me push the stroller down winding hallways and into a cramped office. There was no bad news at the appointment. The surgeon smiled, winked at Millie. He examined the small bandages on Walter's stomach, shook my hand, and was gone again after a few minutes. I walked out of that room feeling all the air leave my lungs. I clenched my jaw the whole way home, trying to stay composed.
All I saw was the surgeon's face, remembering the I first time I saw it when he came in to meet us, and asked why I was crying before even introducing himself (it was because Walter's IV needed to be redone 7 times- don't ask). My vision blurred by tears, I saw his face a few times after that. He met us after the ultrasound, and we all walked briskly towards the pre-op wing, racing towards something I wanted to fight against with all I had. Dressed in blue scrubs and a white coat, he assured us about the low risk of complications and described the incisions that would be made. And when it was all over, he met with the two of us in a tiny room and told us that our son was all right. He shook another family's hands as he walked down the hallway, signaling that our time with him was over and everything was supposed to be finished.
I thought I had already felt it completely, sitting beside the large, metal crib, trying to soothe him as they started to poke and prod. I stopped wearing makeup or contacts until I was sure I wouldn't be crying all the time. But it's as if there are bruises there that keep getting bumped, over and over.
I can't stop replaying it. The feel of his hard and swollen cheek against my lips. The way I hadn't heard his cries reach that kind of wild pitch until that night. The incredibly sick feeling in my heart as I had poured the milk I had pumped down the bathroom drain while he screamed outside the door, starving after hours of fasting. Being led into the recovery unit and seeing the nurse, swaying and holding a bundle, ready to hand over my sleeping, worn out boy. The hoarseness of his voice when he woke up. The burning anger I felt towards those who didn't treat him well. The inexpressible gratefulness I felt for those who did. That long night before the surgery, trying to comfort him while I ached for something to comfort me, too. That horrible room, with its bright colors and stars and moons on the ceiling, meant to be cheerful and seeming all the more somber instead.
It's not postpartum depression. It's not that kind of haze that settles around every part of life, because I've been there before. It's more like happiness with sudden shocks of hurt. It is the smallest drop in the bucket compared to things some parents experience, I know. Walter will have no lingering effects and won't know it even happened but for our stories. Yet I'm scared- scared of things that aren't there, things that didn't happen and aren't real. I'm defeated over a battle that is already won. I'm just now going through some sort of process that should be long over by now.
There are ghosts here. I don't know how to chase them away.