Your third birthday just passed, and with it went a small piece of hope that has long been living within me. It was maybe one year ago that you began to ask mommy and daddy for a baby sister. “I’ll name her ‘pizza’ mommy,” you often say. And if I could be lucky enough to carry her for you, I swear I would allow you to name her whatever your wildly imaginative and brashly irrational little mind would want. But I’m not so sure we are ever going to meet her, Eva. And I’m also not sure that an apology is due, but I feel so deeply and sincerely sorry. For you. For daddy. For me….for Pizza, too.
Living with chronic illness carries within it one particularly beautiful thing that inherently comes with great struggle. That not-so-little thing is called eternal optimism. Your birth came with great complications, including a surgery. And as you turned one, Pizza planted herself in the minds of your mom and dad. But just as you were growing out of your infant shoes, mommy’s health began to fail. Blockages, surgeries, and more than fifteen hospitalizations impeded realities, but never robbed us of hope. “Later,” your father would say to me. “It’s just not now, that doesn’t mean never,” I would remind him. If you can believe it, Pizza found a permanent home in my head. With each NG tube, her niche in my mind grew just a little more sturdy. Every time the anesthesia would pass through my veins, I would drift off to sleep and dream of you and her, together, holding hands and pulling each other’s hair.
My health has proven stable as of late, and your father and I decided it’s time. “Let’s meet Little P!” I would joke, excitedly, with a sweet tone of bliss, and more than a little ignorance. Due to vast and complex fertility issues, it wasn’t long before we learned our dreams of completing our little family were not to be fulfilled without a little assistance. “I feel so fortunate that we can afford these treatments,” daddy would remind me, grounding me with the reality that we were the lucky ones. And I walked through our first round of IVF with few complaints, my gratitude at the chance to conceive without having to be the Mother Mary herself was unwavering.
But no one tells you that IVF doesn’t always work. No one tells you how empty you’ll feel when you stare for hours, looking for a faint line that isn’t there. How one little line can strip your soul in three quick minutes, and add so many more beats to your wildly skipping heart. They don’t warn you that your hopes may not be delivered in the form of frozen embryos by the dozen. And an empty wallet feels so much heavier than you could have ever imagined.
The doctor called today. But for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t a doctor that was able to save me. Just minutes after her heartbreaking call, I held your hand and walked through JFK airport. We found a little playground at our terminal and you stripped off your shoes and joined the other young children. “Hi! I’m Eva!” you exclaimed to every ear willing to listen. Your deliciously adorable giggles were contagious and I couldn’t help but smile wide as I watched you wiz through the playground, making more friends in ten minutes than I could make in ten years. “Just sit and relax, mommy!” you exclaimed as I walked over to check on you, to make sure you weren’t feeling lonely amongst the siblings that clung to each other as they navigated the new territory in tandem.
Daddy had reminded me that we were the lucky ones. As I anticipated the news that the doctor would deliver today, I must admit I wasn’t feeling very lucky. But something happened when she called. When I took your hand. When we reached that playground. I felt light. Happy, even. It’s been years that I have wanted to show you the boundless love I have for you by giving you a lifelong friend. A complement. A yellow to your purple. But I hadn’t looked closely enough to see something that had been glaring at me for quite some time. And it was only today that I finally saw it. That I realized your Pizza is already living snuggly within you. Because all this time it hasn’t been you looking for Pizza. it’s been ME hoping, desperately, to find her for you. If I had only looked a little closer I would have seen that you, my darling, already feel quite complete.