I’m lying in a hospital bed pushing tears fiercely back into my eyes with sheer willpower as the orderly pushes my bed gingerly through the hospital. He sees me fighting myself to stay calm, and he squeezes my leg. It’s a simple, reassuring gesture and for a moment I appreciate the simple kindness of a human touch, though in the end it means nothing. I can feel the baby inside me squirming, squiggling and flying around my stomach as if with unbridled glee and the juxtaposition against my own pure misery is heart wrenching. Like a lamb on the way to the abattoir she has no idea we have just heard news of her certain impending doom.
Three and a half years later so much has changed, but I’m reminded through serendipitous circumstance of the intensity of those feelings.
I’m lying in a hospital bed, being pushed by an orderly, only this time there are no tears threatening to flood my face. I feel strangely serene as my baby, (though she tells me she’s no longer a baby), sleeps the doey, peaceful sleep of anaesthetic on my chest. Her usual exuberance is temporarily muted as she snuggles into my neck.
The little things remind me of the days in hospital those years ago. The scent of the soap is distinctive. The sound of distant machines whirring and beeping is unforgettable. The friendly small talk of a nurse and firm handshake of a doctor is imprinted on me. Together, they form a strange marriage of dread and relief, though increasingly the relief overcomes any fear I once felt.
In that moment three years ago I never could have imagined the joy that would follow. I was at the very top of an uncontrolled rollercoaster waiting, terrified, for the inevitable drop. Of course, the thing about roller coasters is that they literally throw you into the unknown. In fact that’s kind of the point. You don’t know until you’ve ridden that particular ride if the ground will fall out from underneath you. If there’ll be a death defying drop at the end. If you’ll pick up speed as you flip upside down or even if you’ll end up going backwards for a while.
I was at the start of a rollercoaster that first day and I had no idea where it was headed. I’ve since had the pleasure, through the privilege of parenting a thrill seeking five year old, of experiencing real life rollercoasters rather than figurative ones. I have learned that rollercoasters fill us with a joy and weightlessness that only comes from truly letting go: from knowing you are on a slow descent up a very large hill and accepting, as you reach the top that what will happen will happen and the course of the ride is beyond your influence. It’s liberating, belly laugh inducing and a gift entirely worth receiving if you are game enough to relinquish control. In the depths of my despair three years ago I could never have imagined the turn this life would take, and that gives me hope.