Despite how it may appear, I haven’t forgotten about this space. It’s always in the back of my mind – as I’m driving to Iowa City, as I’m grading papers, as I’m nodding off to the mind numbing swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of a breast pump. You should write, I tell myself, but then I make breakfast instead and brush two sets of teeth and bedeck Molly’s fingers in fluorescent Band-Aids so that maybe today will be the day she quits sucking them and of course someone always needs something – a paper signed, a cup refilled, a dog let out – and there’s still the NICU to visit before they run out of milk … or work to get to before the bell rings and twenty-five teenagers are left to teach themselves how to support a claim with credible evidence. And then it’s 10 PM and I have nothing left. No time, no energy, no words.
But I haven’t forgotten.
I’m tired, you guys. Of being afraid, of being frustrated, of being strong. I’m okay, but I’m tired. I know there are so many people who have it worse than us. We are not oblivious to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey or the heartbreak of the mono-mono support group announcements that another set of twins has passed away. We have a neighbor whose husband just had a stroke and students who are struggling with mental health issues. Our hardship is nothing more than one rocky path intersecting through thousands more, all difficult in their own way. It’s heavy though, as such journeys are, and after this week’s news we’re beginning to feel the weight.
Piper has a heart defect called pulmonary valve stenosis. We’ve known this for a while now but were reassured that in most cases nothing needs to be done and that she would go on to live a normal, healthy life. Basically one of the valves in her heart is more narrow than it should be, causing restricted blood flow and strain on one of the chambers. We were told if you have to have a heart defect this is the one to have but unfortunately, in a twist we were neither expecting nor hoping for, hers is getting worse. In an effort to expand the valve she will undergo a balloon catheter procedure called a valvuloplasty, which is scheduled for next Tuesday. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it sucks knowing that your six-pound baby will have to be put under so that a team of doctors can operate on her heart. Thinking about it makes me physically ill and there hasn’t been a day without tears since getting the news – in the car, in the shower, in the teacher’s stall on my prep hour.
Sometimes I think the universe overestimates me.
I’m not sharing this for sympathy. If I’m being honest, my motives are more selfish. I’m sharing because I feel lighter when I do, like maybe it’ll spare me from having to retell it more times than my mama heart can handle. There’s also the fact that I’m ridiculously proud of these munchkins and want the whole world to see their strength as I do – not just through the polished lens of social media, but for the raw miracle it is.
We are aching to get these little ones home. The knots in our chests are growing bigger with each passing day, wondering when we will finally be able to tuck all four of our girls into bed at night. Piper’s surgery is a crushing setback that we’d very much hoped to avoid, but from the moment we found out we’d be delivering and raising preemies Geoff and I made a conscious commitment to always surrender to their timelines.
For the rest of their lives, we will not let expectation or comparison stand in the way of celebrating what is and appreciating what will be.
Still, it’s hard.
Still, we keep swimming.