The air conditioner is humming in my ear as I type, blowing cold air on my already chilled arms. But I don’t turn it off or because my 33-weeks pregnant wife is sweating in the room beside me. The TV is on. It’s the movie Shrek. I can’t bring myself to watch anything that requires more thought than that right now. I feel tired, but my mind is buzzing and I want to write something. My fingers are itching to type something, my brain is whirring a bunch of incoherent thoughts that always loop into, “I can’t believe this is my life…”
Stella is sleeping soundly in her bed, blissfully unaware of the chaos that surrounds her. She has a streak of lipstick on her cheek from where Omo kissed her at dinner, flaking green paint under her nails from the painting she did yesterday and dirt on both her knees from an exciting day playing with Aunties Heather, Andge and Juju. She is clutching a cheap fish she got at the Ex yesterday and a massive Smurf she dragged home from somewhere. Her breathing is even and deep. The morphine we gave her before bed makes her sleep hard and fast, but (hopefully) pain free. Hopefully. I am in so much pain all the time, I feel like downing the morphine myself, but I know that it won’t make my heart stop hurting so I drink Pepsi instead.
My “To Do” list is sitting on the table next to me. It reads:
1. Thank-you emails for J, A, A, D, F, B, N, J, T, P, L, E, R
2. Clean out fridge
3. Charge camera
4. Return email from funeral parlour re: font and finalize details (down payment???)
5. Plan playdate/dinner with A, K, S, S & S
6. Rebook meeting at cemetery with Chris re: plot selection
7. Clean out closet
8. Refill Cipralex prescription
9. Buy bread, Pepsi, ice cream and birthday candles
Aimee is chatting on the phone to one of her oldest friends. She is laughing and her eyes still sparkle, just like always. I wonder how she can still sparkle when I feel so dead all the time. She is amazing. Her cute pregnant belly sticks out from her shirt. It’s a shirt we bought together the day after we got married, August 2006. That feels like a lifetime ago. Before we had Stella. Before any of our grandparents had died. Before our daughter got diagnosed with inoperable, fatal brain cancer. Her belly is sticking out slightly, a stark reminder of how precious life is and how we have no choice but to move forward because time doesn’t stop for anyone. Not even a curly-haired imp whose smile makes my throat constrict with a combination of joy and despair.
My stomach is hurting. Probably shouldn’t have eaten the Jos Louis after dinner. I used to eat them in High School during exams. They taste so stale and crumbs always fall in my lap, but they’re strangely comforting to me right now. I keep buying boxes of them. Jumbo boxes. Some days that’s all I eat. Just Jos Louis. My jeans are fitting bit looser than they used to. The wrinkles in my face are a bit deeper. My hair is long and always yanked back in a messy ponytail. The freckles on my arms are dark this year because I’ve spent so much time outside in the sun. Making memories. Making up how I really feel. Making it. Faking it.
There are three plastic bins sitting just behind me waiting to go up to the attic. They are labelled “Work Clothes”. I don’t know when I’ll go back to work, but I know it isn’t right now. It felt weird to pack away my work clothes. The last time I did that I was pregnant with Stella. I remember as I was packing them away in that early spring of 2009, she did a huge somersault in my stomach and I laughed, thinking about how my baby was doing flips at the thought of getting to spend 8 whole months with me. Now the clothes are being packed away because I am the one who wants to spend time with her. A few days ago she was demanding to go back into my stomach, the place she knows she came from and the place she knows her brother lives in Aimee. As she desperately pounded by stomach, yelling she wanted back in I was laughing and crying at the same time. How I yearn for the time when I could keep her safe and sound in my tummy, away from the harshness of the world, away from pain and hurt. Back when I knew she was okay because I could feel her moving inside me, when we shared a lifeline and her warmth was like having hot chocolate in my belly all the time.
I still need to pack for the cottage we’re going to tomorrow. Need to go to the attic and haul down the pack’n’play. Need to figure out what books and toys to bring. Need to pack snacks and bottles. Need to put everything in the car and drive three hours up North for the 11th time this summer. Back and forth we drive, getting Stella to a bunch of cottages where she laughs and plays and gets to love her life. Where we get to be with friends who love us and tell us we will be okay. Where people cook for us, look after us, love us. But it’s tiring to keep packing, unpacking, driving. We get out of the city but we never get to escape our life. It’s like a jail made of sunlight.
I miss my life. I miss the friends that I can’t bring myself to call or talk to anymore because I can’t pretend to have social conversations when all I want to do is scream and cry. I miss school. I miss work. I miss standing in line at Tim Horton’s every morning and being entertained by the characters that hang out at St. Mike’s hospital. I miss looking forward to Hallowe’en and Christmas. I miss juggling play dates with BBQ’s. I miss planning how Stella will take soccer lessons when she’s three, go to camp when she’s six and get into that damn daycare she’s been on the list for since I was 8 weeks pregnant.
I feel lucky, I feel unlucky.
I laugh, I cry.
I am tired, I can’t sleep.
I get, I give, I get.
I feel everything, I feel nothing.
I am me, I don’t know myself.
I need nothing, I need everything.
I am strong, I am weak.
I want to reach out, I want to run away.
I am surrounded by people, I am lonely.
I am overwhelmed.
I am angry.
I am grateful.
I am lost.
I am loved.
I am scared.
Stella lives and breathes and laughs and loves.
I am Stella’s Mama.
I am Stella’s Mama.