Chapter 9: Life Story
*The following was stapled on to the back page of my mother's journal. She must have written it years later. I'm guessing the majority of this journal was written in the immediate months following her recovery from the coma.
I learned later that I had tripped and fallen in the park that night, hitting my head on a rock. Some jogger heard the commotion and rushed over, calling nine-one-one. I received treatment, but the fall had knocked me out pretty good; I was in a coma for months.
Fortunately, school let me take summer classes to make up my work, but it wasn’t quite enough to let me graduate. I ended up having to take a whole other year, which was completely fine with me. I made some new friends anyway. I graduated that following year and ended up going to the same university as some of my new friends. It felt nice to rely on people for support.
Even through university, through my graduation, through my first real job, through meeting my future partner, through my wedding, through it all, I never forgot about the Dream I had in that coma. After my coma, I told Dad what had happened. He believed me with surprising ease. I think he wanted to believe it was true even more than I did. The doctors on the other hand, wanted me to do a psych evaluation. After many sessions, eventually I came to the rational conclusion that it was really just some fever dream half- induced by the medicine the doctors were giving me to keep me stable and half caused by my panicked brain fighting to stay alive. Though, there was always some part of me that thought there had to be more to it than that. Either way, it didn’t matter, like Mom had said. Seeing her was a gift, regardless of whether it was real or not, and I treasured it.
I never forgot any of what she said, what we had talked about. She had been right. I hadn’t fully realized it, but my anger and guilt about her death had crept into every aspect of my life. It kept me down, it made me bitter. Kept me from making friends, kept me from living life as a normal person. She helped me become better, move on from that. I think about her a lot, and still wonder what my life would have been like if she had actually been in it. But I’m grateful that I was able to spend at least a little time with her.
As for the letter, I never told Dad I had read it. He gave it to me shortly after I got out of the coma, said I deserved to know exactly what happened to her and that he was sorry he didn’t give it sooner. It took a lot of courage for him to give it to me, to tell me the truth himself and I respected that. That letter had shown a side of Dad I had never really seen before, a true vulnerability. And it also showed how much he cared for me, even though at the time all I could think about was how much damage I had done to our family. I couldn’t see that the whole point of that letter, was for him to let me know that he loved me, in spite of it all. And I loved him.
I am about Mom’s age now, about the age she was when she had me. Looking down at my pregnant belly, I felt my nerves quiver. Was I really ready to be responsible for someone else’s life? I didn’t know how to take care of someone else, I wasn’t sure what to do. What if something happened to me? What if my child had to grow up without a mother too? If something were to happen to me, would they blame themselves? Was I ready to condemn a child to suffering like that?
My husband put down his newspaper and got up. “I’m heading out, okay?” I was sitting at the table, poking at my breakfast. It was Dad’s old dining table. Soon we would finally have a use for that third chair.
I smiled meekly up at him, unable to contain my worried thoughts. He picked up on it without hesitation. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Nothing will go wrong.” He took my hand. “I’ll be right there with you when it happens.” He gave me a kiss on the head and walked out the door.
His words felt reassuring, but my thoughts couldn’t be completely calmed.
I barely touched any of my breakfast, before washing it down the sink. Total waste, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of it. I was too worried. Almost as if in response, I felt a reassuring kick from my abdomen. “Thanks.” I said, half-sincere. This child was feisty, that’s for sure.
Work had put me on maternity leave, so I was mostly stuck milling around the house until the baby came. I liked to keep my hands busy, especially when I was nervous. I was clearing out dishes from breakfast when I felt it. My water had broke. The baby was coming now. I was not ready for this.
Thinking fast, I called my husband and told him what happened. “Stay there,” he said.
“I’m about fifteen minutes away, I can come back and get you.” That seemed like too much time. “No, I need to go now. I’ll have Dad take me, you meet us at the hospital, okay?” Dad was only five minutes away and lived in our neighborhood.
“Okay.” He said.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I hung up and called Dad to come get me. He said he would get here as fast as he could. The pain in my abdomen was rising in intensity, and I began hyperventilating to counteract it. Sitting down in our lounge chair, I tried to clear my mind and focus on my breathing, trying not to let my mental anxiety worsen the physical pain I was in. The more I tried, the worse it became.
After what felt like an eternity of five minutes, I heard a knock on the door. “Come in!” I said, having left it unlocked. The door opened, and Dad ran into the living room, surprisingly fast for someone his age. “Can you walk?” He said. I tried to get up, but it was too painful. “I don’t think so, Dad.” I said back. “Can you grab the wheelchair in the garage?” He went and got it, which we had specifically purchased just in case something like this were to happen. After helping me into the chair, he wheeled me outside and helped me into the backseat of his car, folding it up and putting it in the trunk. Quickly, he turned the car on and started driving to the hospital, about a fifteen-minute drive from our neighborhood. I could hold on just another fifteen minutes.
The car ride was agony, worse than I thought. Every bump in the road caused a searing pain to shoot up my body. After definitely more than fifteen minutes, we finally arrived, and nurses were outside to help me out. Dad had called ahead to let them know what had happened.
Before I knew it, I had been wheeled into an operating room, undressed and given scrubs to wear. The contractions were much stronger now. I was barely registering what was happening around me. The nurses helped me onto the table. All I could focus on was the pain.
“I’m her husband! Let me in.” I heard from the hallway. He appeared in the doorway, hair messed up and sweating. He must have really rushed back to get here. As soon as he saw me, he rushed over to take my hand. “I told you I’d be here.” He said. “It’s going to be alright, you can do this.” I looked up at him, with Dad standing next to him. Dad looked worried, but I could tell he was trying to hide it from me. He’d been here before, he knew what could go wrong. We made eye contact, and wordlessly acknowledged each other’s fears. He came and gave me a kiss on the forehead and whispered in my ear, “It will be alright.” I nodded back at him.
“Ok, I’m going to need you to push.” A doctor said in front of me. I tried pushing, but every time I tried to work my muscles the pain seemed to increase tenfold. This wasn’t going to be easy. My husband gave my hand a slight squeeze of reassurance. I was going to do this. It was going to be alright.
I pushed again, harder than before, doing my best to ignore the pain. “Keep going! You’re doing great!” The doctor said. My vision was blurring, and my body was starting to black out. I kept going, past what I thought I could handle, and pushed as hard as I could, feeling jolts of pain cutting deep into my body.
And then, it was done. The pain started to subside, and I was breathing heavily. I could feel tears at the corners of my eyes, and I felt like I had just run a marathon in triple digit weather, while carrying tires on my back.
“A healthy baby boy.” The doctor said, as he handed him to me. He was so beautiful, and also crying up a storm. I was so happy to just hold him, to be able to care for him. Nobody was going to take him away from me, and nobody was going to take me away from him. I finally understood what Mom had meant, all those years ago. He was my responsibility, my creation. I had to protect him, at all costs. I finally knew what it felt like to be a parent.
I looked up at my Dad and my husband, both smiling and crying tears of joy. I had done it. I had made it through. I had a family now. I knew Mom would be proud of me.