The birth of my daughter and the rebirth of my mother is less than 12 hours old on February 13 as I awaken in a room with a view and my daughter breathing quietly on my chest. Four children later, I’ve learned to send my husband home to get a real night sleep and wait patiently for him to arrive with the real coffee the morning after I’ve delivered. Today was no exception. What a wild ride it has been and on this morning, I found myself sleeping better than I had in months. For this moment in time my daughter has arrived and is healthy and my mother is conscious and being moved later today to a local nursing home for more recovery time. At this point we have no idea if she will be coming home, but I am so thankful that she will get to meet Abigail. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss her and her cookies and coffee moments after the birth of my precious baby girl, but I am learning to take the good with the bad and accept where we all are in our journeys right now. I am not expecting what is to come next.
With all of my boys, my labors were less than an hour and I was home in less than 24. I expected Ms. Abigail to be the same. Her birth was quick and simple so now I am ready to pack up and get out of dodge – that is, until my pediatrician entered the room looking glum. She started with the pleasantries and then moved in to the real reason she had come in again (apparently she had come in a few times overnight and I had managed to sleep through her visits) and it wasn’t good news. She sat on the edge of my bed and looked at me sullenly – now my brain is beginning to kick in that she must have news, and not likely good news. I prepared myself to hear that mom had passed away overnight. Instead, I heard that Abby had a heart murmur that concerned her and she wanted to run some tests and keep us for another 24 hours in the hospital to make sure everything was okay. Normally, I would have taken this with a grain of salt and been thankful for the caution. Today, it rocked my world. I suddenly couldn’t breath and was thoroughly convinced that my mom’s life had been traded for my daughter’s. I knew this was a selfish thought and I felt like a terrible person, but suddenly I wanted my daughter to be okay more than I wanted mom to be okay. It still pains me to type that sentence, but I did not believe I could have both of them based on the last several months. And then I looked at the calendar. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day. Maybe, just maybe, if I prayed for a miracle….and I promised to never get flowers or chocolate again on this day of hearts and flowers I could have both of them for a few months at least. My brain was not well – and my heart was broken. Thankfully, Abby’s was not.
The morning of February 14, 2001 was a gorgeous winter day. The sky was a stunning blue and it was warmer than average in these parts. I had been awake for hours when they pediatrician walked in just enjoying the peace of the morning and the comfort of having my daughter on my chest. The pediatricians entrance stunned me as I had managed to sneak off into my own mind and believe in miracles for a while so it was a jolt of reality to see her white coat and the stethoscope that would determine where my life was headed. She approached quietly fearful of interrupting my reverie and my daughter’s slumber. As she approached and realized I was awake she handed me a candied heart and a smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said. “But I hear your Valentine’s miracle came early,” referencing both Abby and my mom in her unspoken mannerisms.
“It sure did,” I agreed while handing her my sweet bundle to listen to her heart.
I think I then held my breath for the next few seconds until Abby was handed back to me with a clean bill of health and discharge papers.
“We’ll check again in a month just to make sure,” the doctor said. “But for now, I think she is a healthy, loved little girl.”
Thirty minutes later my husband arrived with balloons, a mother daughter pendant, coffee and kisses and we were off. Our first stop was predetermined. We were going to see my mother in the nursing home. We had gotten permission from both my mom’s doctors and Abby’s and there was no way these two souls weren’t meeting. We entered on stealth feet unaware of what we would find. As we stepped off the elevator with breath held and tears freely streaming, I was met by a lovely young nurse, a bouquet of balloons and several residents dying to have a look at the new young lady. It took us a quarter of an hour to finally navigate our way to mom’s room where she and my dad were deep in conversation. My mom’s bed was adorned with a bouquet of red balloons and the two of them were quietly conversing. Slowly, my mom acknowledged dad’s shift in gaze and turned to meet our eyes. To say we were all happy would be the understatement of this lifetime. She reached out to touch Abby fearful of holding her, but dying to see her. When their eyes met it was like looking in a mirror for both of them. If I was more mystical I would say I saw their souls touch, but because I know the truth, I know they were simply acknowledging the shift in their realities – one with life waning, the other with life just beginning, but first they had some sharing to do and it looked like today was to be the beginning – or perhaps the long sought after continuation – of their souls connection.
To say my mother died so my daughter, and in many ways I, could learn to live would be an understatement. But on this Valentine’s Day in 2001 they were happily curled together on a nursing home bed with heart balloons flying over both of them as their heads bent towards each other in love.