I sat there, glued to the end of the couch, holding onto my new baby like she was a life vest, the light from the end table next to me bathing us in a soft, yellow hue. There were other people around, although it was late in the evening. My sister in law? My mother? I can’t remember.
My sons, too, were around. Perhaps it was just the big one. The small one, based upon my memory, should have been in bed, although perhaps he was not.
Softly, I rubbed the top of my new girl’s head, breathing in that new baby smell. Each time my hand brushed that bump on the back of her head, that hard, fluid bump, the tears formed, my eyelashes grew heavy and I began to moan. I wept into her, so scared of the future. We’d been discharged from the NICU with very little beyond a scary diagnosis and a follow-up card for a neurologist who didn’t take our insurance.
The diagnosis was new, and I refused to use Dr. Google to make myself feel worse. I knew what a “posterior encephalocele” was. I just didn’t know how dire a diagnosis that was. Until later. Much, much later.
I’d bought myself some books – pre-nightmare – to read during those boring hours I planned to nurse my new baby. Word searches, books, and a potential maid service – all things I’d busied myself thinking about, feeling they were very important, until the doctor had said the words that forever changed me – “Becky, there’s something wrong with your baby’s head.”
Now it all seemed so stupid. Who gives a shit about spot-free mirrors when you’re not sure if your new baby will be celebrating a birthday?
But I could not bring myself to talk, to open up, to any of those around me. I knew it would be in vain – if I opened my mouth, I’d just begin to cry those awful, gut-wracking sobs anyway. Lord knows I didn’t need to cry any more – I could barely see through my shiny, swollen eye sockets.
Instead, I reached down into my thoughtfully packed hospital bag and pulled out a book. I’d bought two – a luxury considering I was about to have two under two – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Revolutionary Road. I had no way of knowing that these were not books that someone with a medically fragile baby should be reading (one is about a mother who delivers two babies, one with Down Syndrome, who is taken by a nurse and raised separately from her brother and the other about an unhappy housewife in the 1950′s who dies after attempting to give herself an abortion).
I had no way of knowing how horrifying my choices of book were, but there I had them. And I read them both.
In the quiet of that cold February night, I read them both.
It was the beginning of what I called The Middling Place. The space between learning how quickly your world can be turned on it’s head and learning how to live sideways. The space between diagnosis and reality.
The place where you wait.
The place where, in those quiet moments, your heart feels heavy in your chest, the demons and monsters threatening your every move. The Fear a permanent resident in the back of your own skull.
The Middling Place is a lonely place – a secret place, a land of tears, inhabited by you and you alone. Other people may drift nearby, stuck in their own Middling Place, but yours is a solitary land. Some moments, they’re filled with the purest of joy. Others with an unending sorrow.
It’s not always a bad place, The Middling Place, but in those quiet moments, the voice in your head reminds you of how fucked up this really is, your skin crawls and your guts threaten to expel themselves any way they can. You’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole, Alice, and why yes, I’d like a cup of tea – two lumps, no milk, if you please.
And you wait.
I sat there, on my freshly cleaned couch (thank you o! gods of steam cleaners), in a group of my very best friends. We were eating the greasiest of greasy pizza, occasionally stopping to fetch a rogue binkie or wipe a dirty face. We laughed, talking about the times we’d shared, where our lives had randomly found us, pausing now and again to wipe tears from our eyes.
These people, my friends – my very best friends – they’d flown in from all over the country to celebrate my daughter’s birthday with me. They didn’t have to. I didn’t have to threaten them with a tube sock full of quarters. They did it because they wanted to be there with me, with us, together.
I’d never felt quite so at home in my living room.
It had been so long since I’d sat in my home, surrounded by people who know me as I am, fucked up bits and all, and laughed so hard that I was afraid I was going to whiz myself.
Seeing packages that my friends, my Pranksters, had sent for my daughter, knowing they’d cared enough to send her something for her third birthday, it reminded me of the connections. How lucky I’ve been to know so many wonderful people.
Because I am.
Lucky, that is.
Back when using the Internet cost approximately nine bucks a minute and I used it to fuck with people in chat rooms (oh, like you didn’t), I’d never really understood that there were people behind those words. Even as a blogger, back in 2003, the very notion that the words I hastily strung together would be read by another person was mind-boggling. I assumed my site was read by porn bots trying to increase my penis size, not living, breathing people (I assume that the un-dead don’t have internet access, but I could be mistaken).
I have never been so happy to be wrong. No, not about the un-dead.
When I get asked about making money blogging, after I stop laughing, I’m always a little bit…stung. Not because I don’t understand the desire to make a little cash on the side, but because to me, it’s not what it’s about.
I’ll take the friends I’ve made, the connections I’ve formed over a stack of cash any day.
A pony on roller skates, tho…well, maybe not so much.
A present from my very best friends who work with me on Band Back Together.
(if you’re a member of the Band and would like to vote for Band Back Together at the Weblog Awards, you may do so here. MWV is nominated too, which OMG, but The Band deserves the award for all of the bravery they’ve poured into our site.)
After obsessing (I’m being kind here) and beating my brain against the wall, trying to allow myself to get over that stupid lump in my throat and just. fucking. do. it, I manged to, this year, talk myself out of talking myself out of planning a birthday for Amelia.
(did you follow that? I barely did)
I had my reasons. They sounded good rolling around in my head. I had my convictions. I held onto them in my grubby ass hands like a bottle of vodka. I didn’t NEED to throw her a party for her – she’d be happy eating Mouse Pizza while I suffered epileptic fits near the pee-smelling ball pit as we all contracted some mysterious Oregon Trail Disease.
That much is true.
She couldn’t care less if we had a zillion people over or if we went and played SkiBall until my arm threatened mutiny. I know my daughter and that’s the truth (truth time – she’d prolly giggle if my arm did, in fact, fall off)(if my severed stump of an arm did fall off, tho, I’d like to hope it would get me 100,000 points on Skiball).
But I had to do it. It wasn’t for her. Or Alex. Or Ben. Or The Guy on my Couch. Or even The Daver.
It was for me.
It was a way to challenge myself to do something that I was entirely certain I couldn’t do. Something I wanted so badly to do. Something that meant well more than eating sugar until we passed out.
It meant that for one day – one single day – I could tell my demons to fuck off, go back to bed, and leave me be. I could drown my anxiety in my little girl’s smile. I could show the world that while I had been knocked down, I wasn’t planning to be knocked out any time soon. That my demons could threaten me all they want, but they weren’t going to stop me from living.
I did it.
It’s a small victory, for sure. A child’s birthday party isn’t exactly the penultimate of challenges, however, it was one. more. thing. I couldn’t properly do. If PTSD hadn’t taken enough away from me, it tried to take that, too.
I call bullshit.
Since throwing the party, it’s as though a minor weight has been taken off my shoulders. Certainly it’s not the first or last challenge I’ll face, of this I am entirely aware. But it is a challenge. And I took that challenge, stared it in the face, and told it that I was, in fact, going to beat it into submission, if I had to go eye of the motherfucking tiger on it to make it scream UNCLE.
I’m one step closer to kicking PTSD in the taco.
And that feels fucking great.
How do you battle YOUR demons, Pranksters?
(Also: Band Back Together (which I know many of you are a part of) as well as my own site were nominated for a Bloggie this year. If you’d like to vote for one of the many deserving nominees (myself not included), you can do so here.)