Sometimes I daydream about the mother I would have been if things had gone differently. If I would have had a full-term, healthy pregnancy. Hell, if I would have had a healthy, full-term singleton instead of twins. (Obviously I love my boys but just that a singleton pregnancy would have been less risky.)
I wonder if I would be different than I am now. Not necessarily a better mother, but different. And yes, I wonder if I would be better.
I wonder if not having the trauma of almost 5 months in the NICU would have made me different. If I would have just had my twins, or one baby, and they would have followed me to my hospital room, never to be apart unless I wanted to. If those first few days would have been filled with joy as I learned how to feed them, dress them and cuddle them. I’m sure it would have been hard too (all babies are!), but there would not be a stormy cloud of health problems lurking overhead everything.
We would have gone home in 2 days, maybe 3 or 4, and figured out how to be new parents. We would maybe have some of those textbook rom-com scenes, like running out of diapers and my husband going out to the store at 11pm to pick some up, getting a surprise for me on the way, like my favourite chocolate bar. And me sitting there, eating my chocolate bar on the floor crying, from hormones and bursting with love. How very Bridget Jones of me.
It wouldn’t be the rosy picture I paint in my mind, I know that for sure. I would be stressed, anxious, scared, lack confidence and all the other emotions I still feel now in my present situation. But they would be a lot lighter, and in my mind, more unreasonable. My fears and anxieties now are rational, explainable and based in fact. My boys are not “healthy.” So, there are risks. There is darkness ahead and new diagnoses. It’s not an overreaction for me to be anxious all the time because our situation is literally anxiety-inducing.
Would there be scary diagnoses ahead for my fictional, full-term, healthy babies? Maybe. But it would be far less likely. So much so that worrying about it would be irrational. It would be easy to put out of my mind, instead of now where I feel like I’m losing my mind from worry about the future most days.
Sometimes if I close my eyes and think hard enough, I almost convince myself our current situation is a bad dream, in my weakest moments. I can almost convince myself I’m still pregnant with the boys, that everything is okay, and will turn out okay. Not because I don’t love the boys as they are – of course I do – but because I don’t want such a scary future for them. I close my eyes and think back to when I was still pregnant, and these slim statistics of neurodevelopmental damage with repeat amnioreductions and unpredictable advancement of Quintero stages in TTTS. Those negative outcomes were just very unlikely scenarios on a page back then.
But my (amazing, life-saving, smart, calming) doctor told me something I’ll never forget. She told me, “The statistics never matter until they happen to you.”
And here we are, big ol’ statistics. Multiple statistics. There are so many conditions the boys had/have that are unrelated (other than affecting preemies) and rarely progress past a certain point. And here we are, in the depths. So far progressed we’re in the deep end of the statistics pool. Treading water.
They certainly don’t matter until they happen to you, and when it does, it becomes your whole life.
I wonder if the mother I would have been would also lie awake at night, wondering how she’ll ever save enough money for the boys to be cared for after she dies, should they be disabled enough to require 24/7 care as adults. What would the facility they were sent to be like? Would it be nice? Would they be treated well? Would they be happy there? I can’t think about it without crying, even though it’s not a definite possibility and may never happen.
But it’s a statistic. And now I’m afraid of statistics. Just different ones than I was afraid of before.