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Zen Mama Wannabe » Blog Archive » Flashback to December 2000
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Flashback to December 2000

Ever hear a song and get an instant flashback – to a place or time in your past?  I heard a beautiful version of River the other day sung by Sarah McLachlan and whoosh – instantly it was this time 8 years ago.  We were experiencing life in the Big Apple…living in a huge loft apartment in Brooklyn Heights and expecting our first child.  There were the decorated Macy’s windows at Harold Square, snow flurries to make you believe it could be a White Christmas after all, and Christmas trees being sold on every other street corner.  It was the joyous season of Christmas and I had never been more blue.  

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

River by Joni Mitchell

You walk a lot in NY, especially when you have a big dog to take out, which gave me a lot of time to take in the sights and the smells.  Street carts with roasted chestnuts, fragrant pine from the Christmas trees and wreaths, even the crisp chill in the air had a scent.  Outwardly I calmly took it all in.  Inwardly I was drowning in sadness; oh how I wanted that river to skate away on.

It was probably my bluest Christmas….well, except for the year right before that one.  The year prior when 2 days after Thanksgiving we rushed my dad to the hospital only to have the doctors startle us by saying he only had 2 weeks to live.  I vowed to stay and help until the end, but somehow 2 weeks passed, then 3, then 4.   My dad defied the doctors’ diagnosis and continued to live.  Our very own Christmas miracle!  Could I be granted another miracle so close to the last?

Some routine blood tests for genetic testing early in my pregnancy uncovered shocking results.  My husband and I were both carriers for Cystic Fibrous.  There was a chance (25%) that our unborn baby would have the disease.  An unwelcome 1 in 4 shot at playing the odds.  All of a sudden, things didn’t feel so rosy.  

Life expectancy for a baby with Cystic Fibrous used to be in early childhood, but with medical interventions children were continuing to live longer and longer – many through their teens and some even beyond that.  Unfortunately blood tests showed we each had the most severe gene mutation for this disease – so no getting off easy on hoping that if the baby did have the disease it wouldn’t be that bad.  

We were playing a waiting game – waiting to be far enough along to have the amino, then waiting the 4 long weeks after that for the cells to be cultured and the results to be known.  4 long exhausting weeks.  Too much time to wait.  Too much time to play the what if game.  Too much time to pretend we weren’t teetering on the brink of a giant cliff. 

It took all my energy to focus healthy thoughts on my expanding tummy.  Who could be excited about Christmas?  I no longer noticed the trees or the decorations, but all the babies in strollers instead.  The only gift my husband and I wanted for Christmas was the one no one could give us.  

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

I wish I could say my husband and I were pillars of strength for each other.  Of course we were to some degree.  But his way of dealing with a situation we had absolutely no control over was to immerse himself in his work.  I took the other path and got 2 books on CF – one scientific, the other written by a father who lost his 7-year-old little girl to the disease.  My husband was furious.  How could I even go there?  How could I bring that possibility into our house?!   But I’m a information gal – I like to know all I can – and I couldn’t just pretend this wasn’t happening.  (Funny 'cuz he is an Info guy too – I guess in hindsight this was just one road he couldn’t go down– not right then anyway).  

We all process things in our own ways.  We all handle crisis differently too.  I heard Robert Downey Jr. sing River on the Ally McBeal show (distractions are good – and that show was often a cute distraction) and his soulful rendition spoke to my deepest core.  Guess you could call it my theme song.

We had hoped for the results BEFORE December 25th – but that didn’t happen.  It was a bittersweet holiday for us with my husband’s family; our hearts were filled constantly with a heavy ache.  The tension between us was now gone.  It was as though we were two survivors clinging together on a small life raft, thankful for the other’s arms that held us up, as we waited to see what our fate would be. 

Driving back to the city two nights later, I had a hunch we should check our machine.  Sure enough, there was a message from our genetic counselor.  I held my breath as I listened; my hand shaking so much I nearly dropped the phone.  Then I punched in the replay code so my husband could hear it too.  The message said, “I’ve got your test results.  And I think you are going to be very very happy!” 

Now when I hear that song, I think of that time 8 years ago and my eyes still fill with tears. The memories flood in and this Zen Mama Wannabe lets them – because I believe it is important to remember now and again how blessed we truly are. 

Why do you like that song if it always makes you cry?” my son asks me.  I just smile and answer, “Because it makes me remember a time when I needed a miracle.”  “Did you get one?” he wants to know.  “Oh yes, sweetie," I tell him, "I got it big time!

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