The other night your brother had a Charley Horse. He barged into our room at two am, hopping and crying and holding his leg. Your father and I were barely awake and it was hard to discern what was happening at first, until I could process.
"Charlie Brown! I have a bad Charlie Brown!"
For a moment I kind of rolled into your father, onto his pillow with my face down to hide my laughter. I noticed that your father was doing the same, and then I sprung into action. There were snuggles. We set up a bed on the couch, a heating pad and some soft calf massages. There were cartoons and soon he was asleep, but I wasn't.
I guess that's the difference between the old me and this one. The old me would have gone back to sleep when he did. The new me lay in bed until 3:30, googling until her eyes gave in. Leg cramps. Growing Pains. Osteosarcoma. Soon she would be twenty sites deep, crying, because a four year old named Leah went to the doctor for a leg cramp and died two years later.
The old me knows that bone cancer is rare, although heartbreakingly not rare enough. She knows that, most likely, her son needs some water or a banana and to take it easy tomorrow. But the new me knows so much more. She knows that hearts can stop, how it feels to marvel at the growth of a tree instead of a daughter. She knows what it's like to be the one in a room of 160. She knows many, many people who were unable to protect their children from horrible acronyms like SIDS and PPROM and HELLP and IUGR. She knows that they are not statistics, but people. People with names and futures and mannerisms and father's noses. Adam and William and Lydia. Eliza. Matthew. Logan. Lily. Kate.
There is this fence that never existed, save for in my mind. There was me standing inside of some invisible perimeter, and when you died it was forever penetrated. Obliterated. Something got through and got you, and now anything could. In my mind everything can and probably will and I am their mother. I am your mother and I feel so helpless.
This last pregnancy did a number on me. Mentally. Physically. Mentally. I could have been standing in a lion's den somewhere and I would not have felt so vulnerable as those nine months. Foolish, I said every day. I am foolish to think this will work. Foolish to WILLINGLY put myself in this position again. His kicks underneath my stretchy tunic, foolish to enjoy them. Foolish to hope.
Every doctor's appointment was a test, both in the literal sense and in my mind. Can I love this baby yet? Did I have permission? Is it safe? Only it was never safe. It still isn't safe. The risk is always there. Over their heads as they sleep and at high school graduation. A big, fat question mark.
One of my students asked me if I believed in love at first sight. We were talking about mitochondrial structure and someone raised his hand and that was his question, obviously. The old me would have opposed, but the new me very clearly saw two lines.
Yes, I told him. I do.
Because try as I might to prepare, I could not. I would roll my eyes at them, the blissfully unaware. The pink and blue cupcakes at the gender reveal and the white cotton onesie with the baby ducks in a row. I would begin sentences with "If" and "Hopefully" and I did my very best to disconnect, to distance. This purposeful boycotting of all things baby and I was only fooling myself, because he could have died at any moment. As I stood before them or as I slept he could have left me, and it would have saved me nothing because I still loved him. I still loved him all along.
It's alarming, how swift the exit when his eyes met mine. The fear that was all consuming. The fear that nearly killed me, but when they placed him in my arms how instantly I thought, yes. I could do this again.
Foolish, their skin on mine.
Foolish, the euphoria. The college fund. The hope.
Foolish. Foolish. Foolish.
And after everything that's happened I am lost and untrusting. In many ways, I am rubble. But still, still...
Buoyant and expectant and hopeful. Still.
Stumbling through the days with my eyes closed.
I'm still just a fool in love.