the other side of the line

It’s my morning at home.

The sunlight trickling through the curtains greets me with thunderous silence, followed by that unmistakable dull ache in my chest–my body’s cruel reminder that it’s time to feed my baby.

I throw the covers over my head and will myself to go back to sleep. Please, just let me go back to sleep until this is over.

Although I’ve slept an uninterrupted eight hours–something that seems so foreign and unnatural to me now–I don’t feel rested. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Everything hurts. My mind immediately floods with a million worries, questions and of course, the trademark end of the world-laden woe those who know me best have come to love and expect. I thwack my pillow for good measure, just once. It feels a lot better than the wall I physically abused earlier in the week.

Not my finest moment.

But I can’t lay here forever. I’m on a strict schedule.

I have to relieve that dull ache every three hours, at least six times a day. If I have any hope of keeping the small dream alive that one day I’ll be able to naturally feed my son again, I have to keep going. Unfortunately, relieving that ache is an exercise in the unnatural, which makes me feel not unlike a dairy cow. However, its one redeeming quality is that it tells my body to keep making the food that ironically made my son so sick, so that we may have the chance again when he is well. I’m grateful for the technology, but knowing that it may be all for nought makes me want to quit harder than I’ve ever wanted to quit anything in my life.

But I don’t.

Instead, I drag myself out of bed, knowing that the decision to continue to express my poison milk is a commitment that will limit me harshly during my waking hours. It already feels all-consuming, painful and endless, and the very real possibility that in the end it will have been for nothing is never far from my mind. But in doing so, one thing is for certain: I will never look back and say I didn’t do all that I could for my baby.

My very sick baby who currently lying in a hospital bed across town.

A baby that I can’t pick up without hurting because his myriad of wires and tubes yank and pull and pierce into him as I awkwardly try to comfort him in my arms. It rarely works. And so I don’t bother much, anymore. I’m not sure I can express how much that part sucks, but I’ll try.

I’ve felt four very real, very different types of pain during the course of my relatively unremarkable adult life:

  1. The first boy who broke my heart allowed me to truly see what heartbreak was for the very first time, and I’ll always be grateful to him for it.
  2. Ten years later my father died, and I said okay–that’s it. That’s the worst pain I’m ever going to feel. There’s nothing worse than this.
  3. A year after that, I lost a pregnancy. Being excited for an entire future of possibilities and having them almost simultaneously ripped out from under you does not come highly recommended.
  4. That wall I punched last week. I don’t think my wrist will ever be the same.

But becoming a parent gives birth to a brand new kind of pain.

It draws a line in the sand.

On one side of the line sits every type of pain you felt before you had a child. The heartbreak, the loss, the physical pain you endured for having an incurable temper. Don’t get me wrong–that pain was real. It was real and it was raw and sometimes you’d wake up in the morning wondering how you’d get through the day. You eventually could. You always did.

But that pain on the other side of the line–that pain that creeps up on you suddenly without warning, that pain you truly can’t believe you’re living until you’re living it–you’d give your life to feel that pain on the other side of the line again.

Because before him, it was just me.

It was my heart I had to preserve.

It was my grief I had to work through.

It was my swollen wrist I had to put on ice.

But now he’s here, and he’s the one in pain. I’m supposed to protect him and I can’t. I’m supposed to be the one to make it better and I can’t do that, either. I can’t stop his pain and I can’t make him better, and that hurts so much that I’d lose a thousand more pregnancies and break a thousand more wrists if it meant that I could.

I don’t know when it will get better, or if it ever will. All I know is that I finally understand what parents have been telling me for all these years.

I hate when they end up being right.

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