The doctor is talking, but I can no longer hear him. He isn't making sense. I look down at my perfect little baby sleeping peacefully in her carrier. How can there be a war raging inside her body? Wouldn't I know? Just five days ago she was inside me, sharing the same oxygen for God's sake. How could I not know my own daughter was sick? It just doesn't make any sense.
I look up at Mike, and he is eye to eye with the doctor, following his every word. I feel small- like a child, one who is lost and needs a parent only now I'm the one who is supposed to be that parent. I beg him with my eyes to meet mine, to tell me it will all be ok, to give me a look and an eye roll that says, “Can you believe this guy?” But, he doesn't see me, never breaking eye contact with the doctor. So, I reach for his hand needing to connect with him, to know we are in this together, whatever this is, but he lets my hand slip through his fingers.
And then it all plays out in my head: I don't even know this man. Married just a year with only good times under our belt. Now, we are up against the world to save our baby from some disorder I didn't even know existed five minutes ago and already he's shutting me out.
I know I should be listening to the doctor but all I can think about is my world crumbling before me and there isn't one thing I can do about it. I cannot handle this. My world is shattered in 5 minutes flat when it was literally perfect six minutes ago. How can this be?
Twelve hours and a lifetime later, we are finally on our way home. I silently vow to never use the phrase “worst day ever” flippantly again. I never truly knew a worst day before today, and I hope to never know one again.
I sit in the backseat watching our baby sleep, too exhausted to process any of what has occurred, as Mike quietly drives through the night, ours the only lights on the road. I try to break the silence a few times, but he only responds with one word answers, if at all. We finally pull into the driveway, and my thoughts are only of sleep.
All day I've longed to be home with my little family, for this all to be a bad dream, to be the happy family we were just this morning. But, now I'll settle for a place to rest my weary body and a pillow to catch my tears, just thankful to have our baby here with us at all.
I unbuckle myself and begin to unlatch the baby carrier, too exhausted to care about much of anything anymore, when I realize Mike hasn't moved, the car still running, his seatbelt on. And then in the rear view mirror, I see him, his eyes searching for mine as the tears slide down his face. He has no words but he doesn't need any. I know because his eyes say it all: he is lost and he is scared and he needs me.
I clamor out of the back seat, jump into the front, and wrap my arms around him as he sobs. He tells me, in between gasps of air, how sorry he is that he did not, can not, protect our baby. I hold him tighter; I cry with him. I'm sorry too, I say. I'm sorry too. I didn't even know our baby was sick and I'm supposed to know, to be able to heal with a kiss, to be strong.
I realize now why he wouldn't look at me these past twelve hours. All the doctors, the nurses, the blood draws, the ER filled with sick children including our own would have destroyed him if he hadn't steeled himself against it. But, one look at me would have knocked down that stoic wall he worked so hard to build, protecting him from the reality: our baby is sick, very sick, and we can't fix it. And so he saved it for the safety of our driveway, the darkness of the night, my arms. How could I have doubted this man? This man who would go to the ends of the earth for those he loves and will prove it in the first few weeks of fatherhood and continues to prove it six years later.
I loved him so much more in that moment than I ever had before. That moment taught me all I needed to know about my husband: I need him; he needs me; she needs us, and together we've got this.