Monday, March 24, 2014

A New Perspective from a Wastebasket Full of Tissues

Today is SUCH a big day for me. I dreaded the week before Monday, March 24 like no other. My son's birthday is today. I knew it would be fun and happy. I'd feel the glow from my pride of his mere existence, and joy I've felt since the day I realized my husband and I had made brothers. We MADE brothers. Not just siblings, but brothers. Both of us had seen, firsthand, what making sisters can end up like for a couple. There isn't always a close bond. It's not always pretty. We would have been just as just happy with girls, but brothers. How awesome is that?! And it has been amazing. So beautiful to watch them grow up, not just close, but as best friends. Better than we had imagined.

But to get to this happy day I had to personally make it through two others. The day before my son's birthday, which was the 2nd anniversary of my husband's heart attack, and two days before that, which was my unborn child's due date. I have been dreading them.

We were floored when my husband had his heart attack the day before my son's birthday. I looked at the imaginary calendar in my head and would get so furious and heartbroken when we didn't know if he was going to survive the day. I didn't want all my son's birthdays ruined if his daddy died the day before his birthday. It was unreal that it was all happening the day before that special day. It would have been a devastating day for our family any day of the year. But why that day?! When surgery successfully saved his life, I wanted to fast forward to my son's next birthday and see his father there with us celebrating. I just needed that time behind us so that I could see for myself that he was going to live, and that the heart attack was the end of a problem, not the beginning of problems, as his heart surgeon had tried to assure me.

When we found out we were pregnant in July and due two days before my husband's 2nd anniversary of the heart attack, and the same weekend as my son's birthday, I thought it was a sign intended to let me know that my threatened pregnancy would be a success. There's no way around it. I thought it would be okay.

I believe in signs. Or I did up until that point. My faith wavers with every smack in the face. I just float around now taking one day at a time and being grateful for everything that I do have. But this last week, the one I was really dreading, was full of signs.

My husband's health took a drastic turn as my dreaded week approached. He and his doctors and I were focused on keeping him from having another heart attack. Even with his medications, his blood pressure was extremely high. I had really grown complacent, thinking that he would always be okay, though I have kept my habit of checking his breathing any time I wake in the night, and when I wake up in the morning. We had a little scare in the fall, but extensive tests showed that his heart was just fine. With this latest scare, it took six days away from his stressful job to get his blood pressure to level out. A few times,when it fluctuated from high to very low in a short period of time, I was ready to pack him up and take him to the E.R.

Needless to say, though I don't think a baby is ever a bad idea, and would have given anything to give birth to a beautiful newborn last week, I couldn't help imagining as it was happening how awful my last week of pregnancy would have been with my husband's life at risk again, with my poor son's birthday coming up again.

The clincher came when one of our dear tailgate market sellers died suddenly at the end of the week. This precious couple, only in their 60s, I held as my image of the ideal retired couple. They set up beside us all summer to sell their homemade, natural soaps and made each Saturday morning delightful. She told me on the last day that they set up that they would spend the winter in her soap making studio next to the wood stove sipping tea. Perfection. I wanted go grow old with my love, living peaceful days together like the ones they shared.

Missing that baby who barely existed and will never be, will always put a hitch in my step, but on my due date I felt an amazing sense of relief and actual peace for the first time since August. My husband's latest round of tests showed no disaster on the horizon if we can just keep that blood pressure down. He has an amazing new cardiologist at the VA hospital who is looking into every possible reason for his ongoing problems, and has even insisted that he start practicing yoga. I am so excited to have him for my yoga partner and really hope that he can feel the changes in his body and stress level once he begins.

I was heartbroken for my fellow market vendor, who was so suddenly widowed. It was difficult to imagine her without her wonderful husband by her side, because I had never seen them apart. But ultimately I was so thankful that, though her husband had died of a massive heart attack in the same department, at the same hospital, possibly under the hands of the same staff that saved mine a couple of years ago, my sweet husband was still standing next to me at the funeral home when we went to pay our respects the day after "due day".

I realize now that we can't have another baby. We quit trying in December because it was just too heartbreaking to keep on. But knowing that things can so quickly change helps me find peace with that. Birthdays and wonderful, ordinary, every day kind of days with both of my perfect children make it all okay, too.

And as I stood in the viewing room at the funeral home after holding that sweet lady in the hallway who looked so very alone, and saw a tissue box on a side table with a full wastebasket of used tissues below it, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I directed my husband's attention to it and whispered that I wished it were appropriate to take my phone out and snap a photo at a viewing because the scene was one of the most poignant I had ever witnessed. It was an amazing, humbling view of a slice of life, National Geographic style. Love and loss in a little white bucket. I know I've filled a bucket of my own this past year, but found myself being thankful for all of the distractions that made me appreciate my life during the week I was most dreading, rather than leaving room for focusing on what I've been denied.

And now it's lunch time. That means pizza and cake. It's my baby's birthday! The one who no longer looks anything like a baby, but more like the man that he is becoming. Definitely worth celebrating!