To say that I was not prepared for Polly’s diagnosis is putting it lightly.
The first few days after we knew the test results were positive, I was dehydrated and shattered and shocked. It was not really a shock but more like continual zaps.
Each day was like a labor contraction. I fell asleep thinking that I absolutely could not bear the next day. But the next day came, like all labor contractions do. Many moms have said, and I agree, that the anticipation of a contraction during labor is almost worse than the actual contraction. That is why the rests in between are unbearable.
The only thing I could say over and over after Polly’s diagnosis was, “I don’t want this.” I could not say that I did not want her. Well, not out loud anyway. I was a missionary for heavens sake. But I didn’t want her. I had horrible thoughts. Thoughts that a mother assumes she is unable to have. “Maybe she won’t wake up today. Maybe I will get my life back.” I’m a Christian. I am not supposed to believe in luck. I felt like the most unlucky woman in the world.
A time in life that is supposed to be a hallmark of great happiness, lay deflated in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t paralyzed with grief, I was deadened. I was living in a different, fuzzy world. I tried to put on a brave face like a layer of make-up every time I left my room.
It was difficult to sit in the nursery with Polina, unable to hold her, unable to care for her physical needs, not wanting to care for her emotionally. Sometimes I was able to get outside of myself and then I was ashamed of what I saw. As believers we are told to be good testimonies to others. The hope is that others will get to know Jesus by watching us. What a horrible knock-off. I tried to muster up the strength to pretend that I was handling it all well. Mostly I rolled with the disconnect I felt towards my child and towards my life and towards my faith. I would sit quietly by my daughter in the nursery for a while and then race back to my room and cry until I fell asleep.
Remember when we were little, how sometimes an elementary school day felt like it lasted a lifetime? You would find yourself looking at the clock, thinking, ‘surely it’s time to go home now,’ only to find that it wasn’t even lunch time yet? I imagined that my life would now be a really long day in school.
Sergei came to the hospital early every morning, a black thin-lined Bible tucked underneath his arm. He took turns sitting with me and the baby all day long. We cried, we prayed, we talked about the “what ifs” of our future. We wondered about how to live now. Most days ended in a good place having successfully broken through the chaos of our emotions, grabbing on to whatever comfort we found in God and in one another. Then he would leave my little hospital room around nine at night, unto his next duty of taking care of the kids and my mom at home and I would sit on my bed, underneath the large fluorescent wall light, on top of the crisp white sheets, completely lost again.
My middle daughter cannot sleep without her favorite pillow. I could not breathe that week without my husband. The next day he would find me lumpy and sad, and we would start again our attempts at healing for the day.