I have a clear memory of changing the sheets while I listened to a short story about a couple who had adopted a baby. When the story ended, I collapsed sobbing on to the bed. I wanted a baby so badly that I physically ached for one. And yet, when I found myself pregnant, a year and a half after my husband and I had started trying, the first emotion I felt was fear. What had I done?
My pregnancy was not easy. I threw up constantly - once thirteen times in three hours. I was put on a “milkshake diet” by my OBGYN because I had lost an alarming amount of weight. I went to bed at 7 pm and woke up still exhausted 12 hours later. I did not glow.
And then, at 33 weeks and 5 days, my water broke unexpectedly and unexplainably. My questioning mantra of the last few months remained, but, suddenly, the inflection changed. What had I done?
I spent two days in the hospital on supervised bed rest - attempting to keep my baby in for as long as possible. On the third day, 34 weeks exactly, I was induced. Ten hours later, I met my girl. And, then, they took her away. We had previously decided that my husband would go with her and I watched him follow her incubator to the NICU. Suddenly I was alone with my thoughts for the first time in 72 hours. And, again, I asked the question that had become my constant companion.
My daughter was a NICU superstar. She was off her CPAP in 12 hours, off her feeding tube in 3 days, out of her incubator in 5 days, and home in 7 days. She had moxie and gumption in spades. She came home on oxygen and even that didn’t stop her from thriving. She amazed everyone she met. And yet I still couldn’t shake my guilt.
There is no medical answer for why my water broke when it did. One minute, my daughter was safe and the next minute she wasn’t. My body, for whatever reason, decided that it was time for her to make her arrival. I had failed her. After a particularly rough day, I called my mom and I finally asked out loud the question I couldn’t stop asking in my brain, “What had I done?”
I cried a lot that day. To my mom, to my friends, to my husband, and to my daughter while I rocked her to sleep. The next week, I started therapy. I continued to cry a lot. I got diagnosed with PTSD. But I started talking out loud and I have kept talking out loud. My internal mantra of doubt become conversations of trust.
I love my daughter. I love her big, blue eyes. I love her laugh. I love the way that her whole body shakes with excitement. I love how her favorite thing to do is kiss herself in the mirror. I love that when she is crying the sure fix is throw her up in the air. I love her ten fingers. I love her ten toes. I love that when I was pregnant with her I was terrified I had made a mistake. I love that when she was born I was afraid that I had already ruined her. I love that she wasn’t a mistake. I love that she isn’t ruined.
I love that now when I ask myself what I have done, she is and will forever be my answer. She is what I have done.