I try not to talk about it. I try not to think about it.
Maneuvering my Buick—the huge, clunky stroller with two infant seats attached—a diaper bag slung over one arm and the cross-body strap of my purse (that I’m certain leads to Narnia) falling off my shoulder, into a narrow doorway with a ninety degree turn leading to another door. The handicap button is broken so I shift my butt out one way to hold one door and kick my leg out to catch the second door. Meanwhile, I’m attracting an audience. We are attracting an audience. No help, just stares, gasps, as I straighten up my back and suck in a breath because I know the comments are coming.
“Oh my gosh!”
“I’ve always wanted twins!”
“You are so lucky!”
“You have your hands full!”
There aren’t enough ocular muscles for the eye roll I want to give. Instead I smile. More like, flash a toothy grin, as my two curly heads pop up to inspect the forming crowd. Or address them: I think they are used to it at this point.
They are beautiful. Miraculous. Strong. Busy…insert any adjective, really, and I’ve probably felt it at some point.
I dreamed of being a mother. I dreamed of the wonderful life that me and the love of my life would build in the suburbs someday. And then I became a single mom.
The morning I told him I was pregnant, it was early. I was up around 6am getting ready for work. I emerged from the steam of the post-shower bathroom and he was awake. Usually he slept while I got ready, but this particular morning, he was picking up from the night before and making my bed, “You’re still on the pill, right?”
I knew this conversation would have to happen at some point, but I wasn’t prepared, not like this. I’m not sure what my face did, but I stopped dead on my way to the closet and it was as if he read my mind. “You’re not…you can’t be…pregnant?” Yeah, I felt the same way when they told me. That same level of shock when a nurse ran in seconds before the technician started the x-ray, to stop it because I was…pregnant?
What followed next hurt. It hurt deeper than any pain I’d ever felt. I had to “get rid of it” because:
He had a daughter due next month
I’d ruin his life
He wanted to tell me
But didn’t know how.
How’s that for a tragic ending to a ten year on-and-off-but-we’re-certain-we’ll-work-it-out-because-we-love-each-other? We love each other? We? Love? Loved? My heart broke into a thousand pieces, but I wasn’t hysterical. I’m not even sure I cried right then.
I didn’t cry when I found out there was not one, but two heartbeats.
I didn’t cry when I had to move out of my apartment and in with family “until I get on my feet”. I didn’t cry at ultrasounds alone.
I didn’t cry when there was complication after complication, that meant week-long hospital stays. Also, alone.
I didn’t cry when I stood up the morning I was exactly 32 weeks pregnant, and my water broke.
I didn’t cry when they cut them out and were whisked away promptly by a team covered in all white.
I didn’t cry when I was discharged and they weren’t.
I didn’t cry when my fever spiked dangerously high and I was in so much pain I couldn’t move.
I didn’t cry when I was readmitted.
I didn’t cry when days turned into a week, then weeks.
I didn’t cry surgery after surgery, to drain the growing abscesses from the infection.
I didn’t cry when I needed a blood transfusion.
I didn’t cry when I got sicker and was quarantined, unable to see my babies.
I didn’t cry when I didn’t recognize the emaciated figure in the mirror.
I didn’t even cry when it was clear that I was dying.
I simply prepared. At 28, I prepared for my children to be raised by someone else, because no one was certain that I’d be here.
I imagined motherhood to be this beautiful experience. I imagined caring for my children and loving them the way that only a mother could. I imagined a family. My family. The reality was, it was just me, and maybe not even for very much longer.
That was less than a year ago, that I lay in a hospital room alone and dying. Today, I’m just trying to get us and all of these bags through the most poorly planned entrance, while a crowd of onlookers stares and makes their lovely comments; not one offering to hold the damn door.
Yes, I’m lucky. Yes, I have my hands full, and they are…everything.
About Deja: Deja started reading at the tender age of three. In first grade, she set the personal goal to read every book in her school’s library. She finished sometime around third grade, so what’s a girl to do when she runs out of books? Start writing, of course! Deja’s favorite writing style is stream of consciousness, modeled after one of her favorite writers, James Joyce. Deja graduated from Indiana University in 2013. Since, she has edited the works of writers, written for Shoppe Black, and designed book covers. When she’s not writing, you can find her wrangling her identical “wild things” or winning Jeopardy from her couch.