First and Last

Two very contradictory and visceral memories have been hovering close this past month. They are so fused onto my soul that I’m not just reliving them; I feel transported back.

The first recollection begins right after Madeline was born.
Her birth was a cesarean booked following a routine checkup. This involved a last minute scramble to get our kids taken care of and Colin arriving at the hospital only moments before the operation. Both of my boys had been rushed off to the NICU after their births; but this time when the surgeon finished with me, I was wheeled into recovery, and my daughter was brought to lay on my chest. I gave an audible sigh as I soaked in this moment I had been yearning for. And as my lungs released that long kept breath simultaneously the part of the heart that expands every time you birth a child was replete. As though this internal cavity had been created and filled at the exact same moment. Not a crevice available. Its full capacity realized. This juxtaposition of uncontainable joy yet sufficient peace. Parts pure love, waves of fierce protection, and a plenitude I wonder if only a mother can know.
From his vantage point above, Colin had snapped a photo that seemed to capture the voyeuristic feelings that moment brought.

The second flashback comes less then a year later.
I am again laying in a hospital bed; but this time I can hear my youngest son somewhere down the hallway screaming, my eldest has been charged to strangers his whereabouts unknown to me, and my husband is absent from my bedside. A man walks into the room holding a phone and asks everyone else to leave. The doctor on the other end, almost two hours away, informs me that my daughter is not going to make it. Before I can utter a sound the crowded part of my heart from only months before collapses. Not soundless or swift as it had filled, but rather agonizingly reluctant. The contents clawing desperately to stop the exit leaving behind deep grooves both raw and exposed.
There was no one to capture the moment on film yet I can recall it from above. Every sense in my body numbed except for this awareness of emptiness. Curled up on my side, my body convulsing as my heart poured out, weak sobs escaping as I tried to hide.

Two individual moments on my life’s timeline that are now inseparable. And as much as I would wish to erase that last memory I know I could not if the cost was to also lose the first.