This baby and her mother were there waiting for their ultrasound. I knew her mother, who was a neonatologist at that same hospital and we made brief and awkward small talk. This particular neonatologist is really the only one I clearly remember from our harried, desperate days in the NICU. I had met her before I delivered. She was the one who came to my room in the hospital where I spent 80 days to give me a consultation on the risks that 28-weekers face, even though I was already at 30. And she was the one who first uttered the phrase "myocardial thickening" in reference to my daughter, the one I had, until then, believed to be healthy. She was the one who, failing to notice that I hung from sanity's cliff side with only my fingertips, stepped on my hands -- carelessly, not meaning to hurt, but doing so nonetheless. She rattled through our life's circumstances like she was confirming a takeout order. She ticked off all our exotic ingredients like they were common condiments or ho-hum pizza toppings. Our heart defects were mundane, our rare flukes pedestrian.
Okay...Let's see ... that'll be two monochorionic monoamniotic twins, one with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the other with myocardial thickening. Maybe a couple of VSDs on the side. Do you want to order open heart surgery with that? How about some breathing assistance? Yeah? Would you like that through CPAP or a ventilator?
Okay, I know ... That was really crass and self-indulgent and morbid. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes, just sometimes, your life, your very existence and that of your family feels reduced to a set of labels and discrete transactions. And when that happens, the sum of the parts does not equal the whole. Ironically, I think it was only Eva who managed to transcend the transactional orientation of our hospital experience. They pulled out all the stops for her and she died anyway. I can't help but wonder if anyone comes out without diminishment. This healing place, does it heal without scaring?
So... encountering the doctor brings me back to that desperation. When I see her now (which is a mercifully an infrequent occurrence), it feels as though I am still gripping a cliff side and she still doesn't see where she's walking.