I knew when I got up this morning that today was going to be a rough day. And it was. But it was not all bad. Some of it was actually good! Walking in the door to my office building made me nervous and anxious but Gary walked me to my desk and before I knew it, the day had started. People stopped by on their way in to say hello and welcome back and there was nothing forced or strange about any of it. It felt nice to be so loved and so missed (or so they said!).
I spent the better part of the morning with my head buried in my computer and cleaning out old emails and files. I was not given much work to do and I did not ask for it as I wanted to get used to being back first. Lunch could not come fast enough!
After lunch, I started to do some work. I was rusty at first, but in no time at all, it came back to me. It felt good to dust off my brain and start using it again. I found myself easily distracted, but that is not that unusual in my situation. After all, I was out for 6 weeks and the last time I was there, I was 37 weeks pregnant and getting more and more excited by the minute for the arrival of our little girl.
On my way to the ladies room, midway though the afternoon, I ran into a woman that I have passed in the halls for years but never really talked to all that much. She stopped me to say that she knew what I was going through as 15 years ago, she was in a very similar situation. She wanted me to know that people will say they know how I feel, but luckily, most of them don’t. But she can. She had a daughter who was born premature and was rushed to CHOP and never really had a chance of survival. Tests showed many abnormalities so in a way, she said, it was a good thing as her daughter would have had no quality of life and would have only lived on a ventilator and with dialysis and probably never outside of a hospital. I think she said her baby lived for less than 24 hours.
She said her daughter’s birthday still brings her to tears all these years later. And when she thinks of all her daughter has missed out on, that makes her sad, too.
She was so gracious to share her story with me. She said it does not get any easier, per say, but it does get better and the pain gets less and less. I wonder if I will be able to picture Allie crawling and then walking and then talking and not want to burst into tears. I wonder if I will be able to picture her first Halloween or her first Hanukkah with my side of the family and her first Christmas with Gary’s side of the family and not feel like someone is sitting on my chest. I know these milestones will be difficult, but I hope the passage of time, the counseling, the love and support of all of those around us, will make each milestone more bearable than the last.
As Gary and I were walking into work this morning, I abruptly stopped and my eyes started to fill with tears and fear. He looked right at me and said, “You can do this. She would want you to.” I am angry that Allie never got a chance to want for things, but I do hope that she would want the ones that made her, that created her, to be happy and to live their lives to their fullest. So that is what we are going to try to do. And we will share her story, just like the woman in my office shared her daughter's story with me today. No one needs to suffer in silence or alone. Not if I have anything to say about it.
And so my alarm will go off again tomorrow and I will get up as I did today and "do this". Because there really is no other alternative.