It was April 23, 2009.
There we were, my husband and I, waiting in the hospital room of the mother and baby unit, not even a full day after Tatiana's birth. I remember feeling angry that I had to be surrounded by all these mothers with their crying babies. It was torture. It was a constant reminder that things weren’t as they should be – at least that’s what I felt back then.
We had to sit and wait.
I’ll admit, I can be a little impatient and neurotic at times, and I can let my imagination run wild with a list of situations gone wrong. I think it has something to do with watching way too many hospital dramas and reading far too many tragedies. It might also have a bit to do with my personality: even though I always hope for the best, I tend to prepare for the worst. I can’t help it. I like being prepared. These quirks combined with the level of frustration, helplessness, and impatience I was feeling could have probably driven me insane. I tried to keep my mind preoccupied so that I wouldn’t drive myself crazy with all the what-ifs of this situation. I still wonder how it is that I found the strength to hold it together.
So, there we were, my husband and I. Waiting.
We talked about how and when we were going to share all of this with the world – and by the world, I mean our extended family and close friends. Up until that point, the only people that knew of Tatiana’s birth and her complications were our immediate family members, and even then, not all of our siblings had been completely informed. I guess we relied on our parents to share the news. It never occurred to me that they were experiencing some of the same pain and confusion that we were feeling. We wanted to give ourselves the time to absorb and process everything. We knew people would have questions, but we didn’t have answers. We were still trying to understand everything, and more importantly, we didn’t have the energy to relive the much too recent trauma of the experience. We needed the time to be “alone” with everything.
The phone rang. It was the family pediatrician, the same kind and caring pediatrician our family has been entrusting with our care since I was ten years old. Here we were, nearly two decades later. I don’t know if she realized how important her call was to me. Her concern helped me come to terms with the idea that Tatiana was in good hands –not only because she had an excellent surgeon, but because she had people involved in her care who cared enough to provide that personal touch.
I don’t remember her exact words, but they were something like, “Tatiana has an excellent surgeon. People fly their kids in to have him work on them, and if I had to have my kids on the table, he would be my first choice.” I’m pretty sure she also mentioned that he had been featured on Oprah and the Discovery Channel. Her confidence in his abilities provided some relief and the fun facts made me laugh as I thought, Wow. This little girl is going to be special. She came into this world screaming, demanding to be noticed, rebelling against the ‘natural’ way of doing things, and now, she’s got a claim on a world-class surgeon. Pretty hefty bragging rights when you add all of that to the broader context of the conditions she was born with.
Her words made the time more bearable somehow.
I don’t remember how many hours later it was that the phone rang again. “The procedure went well. We’re just waiting for Tatiana to recover for a bit. We’ll call you as soon as you can see her.”
I remember the pain in that moment, but I also remember the hope, and I realized that even though I had been telling myself to breathe, it wasn’t until then that I truly exhaled.