Not long before I found out I was pregnant with Charlie, a good friend of mine announced her own pregnancy. Our due dates ended up being just one month apart.
My friend delivered a healthy baby boy at thirty-seven weeks. In her hospital pictures she was still in full makeup as she held her new bundle of joy in her arms.
Charlie was born a month later via emergency c-section. Half-dead on arrival, I never held him in my arms and spent the rest of the morning alone and crying.
The differences in our experiences didn’t end there. My friend nursed her son until his first birthday. At three months he went into daycare and she went back to work. I wouldn’t dare say things were easy, but they did seem uneventful. Meanwhile, I scuttled back and forth to the hospital for endless appointments and was nursed by a yellow machine named Madela.
In most areas, I have accepted this unusual life that I have been handed. I know how lucky we are. My child is alive, he crawls, he eats, he laughs, he sits. We have so much.
When it comes to my friend’s child, Stephen, I’m not quite so Zen. For whatever reason, he gets to me. I mean, I love my friend and her darling son, but sometimes it’s hard for me—harder than it is around other kids.
Stephen goes to daycare, so he’s not the product of some hyperactive mother hell-bent on perfection. My friend is an extremely laid-back type who lets her child be who he is. Her son is what you get with the regular amount of effort: He walks, he talks, he drinks from a straw. It’s not like he’s solving quadratic equations or anything. And yet, I cannot look at a picture of him without wondering what my Charlie would be doing without the pile of medical garbage he deals with, without wondering what he would look like if he could stand on his own. Or wonder what his voice would sound like.
I can deal with a lot—I deal with insurance companies and appointments. I deal with questioning eyes and worry. I deal with state agencies and impossible decisions.