When I hear the question “what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?” my brain can’t settle between two things: life on the one hand, and death on the other.
Bringing Jackson into this world was hard in ways I can’t adequately explain. It was physical, it was mental, it was emotional. My father-in-law had passed away unexpectedly the day before I went into labor, so besides the obviously intense emotions, there was some stress (and some guilt on my part) about the fact that N.C. couldn’t go to be with his mom at the memorial. I was miserably pregnant, and scheduled for induction, so I was nervous about all that that would mean–I had plenty of pitocin horror stories floating in my head. And then, I went into labor on my own the night before my induction was scheduled. My labor ramped up incredibly fast, and prior to the sweet, sweet bliss of my epidural, I had about 6 hours of 2-3 minute long contractions that came every minute or two. I don’t know that I have ever felt that kind of pain, or been that exhausted. I’m actually missing time from that night, but I have a very clear recollection of crying to my husband and my mom that there was no way I could keep doing this, I wasn’t strong enough.
Then, after all those hours of labor, I ended up with a c-section. There was a lot of mental and emotional distress that went with that, including a fair amount of self-flaggelation. Minus throwing up after the surgery (I was terrified I would pull a stitch or staple), my c-section itself was the easiest part of the whole thing. But the mental and emotional crap that came rushing in with all those hormones? Yeah, that was…not easy. (Side note: most of those emotions and guilt are long gone.)
So, yes, the actual act of having a baby was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I almost don’t know how to write about the other. It’s a moment I’ll always remember, one I definitely wasn’t prepared for, one I’m fairly certain I did the wrong way (though I don’t know if there is a right way).
It was Christmas day, and we had finished opening all the gifts. We were making phone calls to other family and friends, but we were also on edge, waiting for news of a dear, dear family friend who had gotten very ill recently. This woman was someone who had been my mom’s friend for decades, someone I had grown up with, almost like the “cool” aunt. She was family, even if she didn’t share a bloodline. We had had word earlier in the morning that she wasn’t doing well, and we were waiting for updates.
I was on the phone with my dad & stepmom, wishing them a Merry Christmas, when the call waiting dinged. I think I knew that it would be about our friend, but when I clicked over to the other line, I wasn’t prepared—I’m still not prepared—for the wail that greeted me on the other line. I heard one sentence, and my heart dropped.
My mom was on another phone in another room. And the other hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, was to walk into that room, and tell my mom that her friend was gone. I don’t remember saying much. In my memory, I just looked at my mom with a face that probably gave it all away, sort of holding the phone out, saying “mom…”, but this was many years ago & I may have that exact moment somewhat obscured by what came after it. All I know is that I will never, ever forget seeing what utter devastation and loss looked like in the moment of knowing for the first time.
It seems fitting that the two hardest things I think of are bookends–death & life. But one of them I would gladly relive to have my son all over again, and one of them I would give anything to not had to have done.
Prompt from Bring Back the Words, Week 18