I can’t sleep.
I don’t want to leave my family. I don’t want Kevin to raise our daughters alone. What will my precious babies do without their mother? I have so many things to teach them. I was going to be a strong, confident woman, one who takes no shit but is still kind to those around her. I was going to teach them about rape culture and respecting their bodies and saying fuck you to the patriarchy.
I will never see them grow up.
I will never see their first periods or their weddings or their children.
When I do sleep, I’m woken at 2 a.m. by the baby monitor crackling and crackling and crackling and crackling. Once would have been fine, and I would have gone back to sleep, but it goes on and on. By the time it’s done, I’m awake.
Why the fuck would it do that? It’s never done that before. It sounds like voldemort laughing at me.
Fuck you, voldemort. Can’t you let me get some peace?
Kevin sleeps on the couch a lot lately because I’m snoring, so he’s not in bed. I lay there alone, trying to go back to sleep, but I can’t.
I’m so cold.
I get up. I go downstairs and lay on the loveseat across from Kevin. He’s asleep, snoring gently, and I’m scared and alone and huddle under a tiny blanket that I hate. It’s all scratchy, and I don’t know why we haven’t gotten rid of it before. It used to be in my car for emergency purposes because when there’s an emergency, what you need is a scratchy, too-small blanket.
Here’s my emergency.
Here’s my scratchy, too-small blanket.
I get up and go into Morrigan’s room. I sit on the edge of her bed. It creaks.
She wakes up slightly. She sits up, looks around, lays back down. I don’t think she saw me, so I sit on the edge, waiting for her to relax. I think about putting my arms around her and pulling her against me and snuggling there, but I’m shivering and sometimes convulsing in a weird way that makes no sense and I feel like I’m going to throw up.
Best to leave her.
I go into the babies’ room.
Calliope sleeps with a serious look on her face, like a Senator about to present on the Senate floor. Eyes squashed shut, lips pursed. Her hair hasn’t started to come in yet. There’s some wisps, but it’s mostly just bald, interspersed with where she’s scratched herself up with her fingernails. She has eczema and cradle cap, and I’ve been battling it for two months for her, but she still gets itchy.
Phoenix sleeps sprawled out. Her hair is coming in. I run a hand through its fuzziness, and it feels like the softest down I’ve ever felt. Like love and babies and cuddles. I don’t take her out of her crib because they need to sleep and I need to sleep.
Please, God, let me live.
I go into the walk-in closet and pull down a blanket and then pull down another. I snuggle in bed under the covers and the blankets, but I feel sick to my stomach. Every little twinge feels murderous. Like it’s something. Like there’s going to be too much. If there’s one satellite site, there must be more.
I want to throw up. I want to take a shower. I want to not have voldemort.
Five angels surround me and I speak to them. They say I’m going to live. I’m so scared that nothing exists after this. I’m so scared it’s all a delusion. I’m so scared I’m going to die and leave behind my babies.
They need their Mommom. I don’t want to die.
I wake up another two hours later. I run to the bathroom and heave. I barely ate anything last night, so there’s nothing to come out. It’s the Clindomycin, I decide, that the oral surgeon gave me so the biopsy site doesn’t get infected.
I go downstairs. I read the warnings. Nausea and vomiting is on there. Call your doctor, it says.
I wait until 8 a.m. and then I call Dr. Kaplan’s cell phone and leave a message.
Every minute he doesn’t call feels like an eternity.
Kevin and the kids get up. I think I help them, but I’m not sure. I go back to bed. I huddle under the blankets as another chilly wave hits me. I’m shivering and twitching and crying.
Dr. Kaplan calls and tells me that nausea and vomiting is rare and perhaps it’s due to my Tylenol-3. But I’ve been taking Tylenol-3 previously, I explain to him, and it didn’t do that.
It feels like butterflies in my stomach, like when you’re nervous. Only these are mean butterflies, with meaty legs and thick wings that cut a little when they slap against your internal organs.
“Go down to three pills a day instead of four,” he says.
I decide to wait a day, take nothing today, including no Tylenol-3, and see if it gets better.
It doesn’t get better. That’s when I realize it’s not the medication.
I clutch Kevin and I cry. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.
I keep picturing the house, devoid of me, after the funeral. I see Morrigan poking into corners and saying, “Non pas la!” which is a game in French she and Daddy play when they’re pretending to look for something. “I got to find Mommom! No pas la!”
Kevin tries to get someone to fill in for him at work, but they’re short-staffed. They really do not have their shit together at that place. So he goes in. I am alone with the children.
I will be strong.
I make myself some sticky notes with words of encouragement on them. “You will live to meet your grandchildren.” “Princess Margaret is one of the top 5 cancer hospitals in the worlds.” I plan to hang them on the wall later, to look at when I’m feeling stressed out.
Everything is going all right. I make pot stickers for dinner. I have been forcing myself to eat all day. My body is rejecting food. I put it in my mouth, and I want to spit it back out. I try to focus on the feeling of hunger, but instead, I feel the mean voldemort-infused butterflies chopping up my insides.
My shoulder hurts. I am certain it is another cancer site. My neck hurts. It can be nothing but the cancer. My back, which I sprained a year and a half ago still hurts sometimes. Maybe it was cancer that popped my disc out.
I am riddled with voldemort. How long can I possibly live?
The future is a haze of crinkled blue and green cellophane, vomiting from the chemotherapy, exhaustion worse than with the twin pregnancy, and then I am lying in a hospital bed, emaciated, terrified, giving a kiss to my children for the last time. Saying goodbye.
How can this be my life? It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. It was fucking supposed to HAPPEN LIKE THIS.
Someone posted on my Facebook announcement that she had Stage 2 breast cancer and survived. I look up the stages of cancer. I see the prognosis for Stage 4.
And I was doing so good not googling anything.
I break down. I start crying.
Morrigan has pooped. She needs her Pull-up changed.
I get her changed. I am crying. I pull off her pants, pull off her diaper, wipe her butt, put on her pants. I am still crying. She is perplexed.
I stand up to go dump the poop in the toilet, but she starts squealing. She wants to put her Pull-up in the diaper genie. I say no. It’s got poop in it. Mommom has to do it.
She starts screaming. She tries to rip it out of my hands.
I push her away because I don’t want her fingers in the poop, but she fights me. She’s screaming, and the pitch hits something in my brain. I’ve had a headache all day, which I’m certain is more cancer. I shove her aside. I push the Pull-up into the diaper genie. She lands hard on her butt. She starts crying, frightened, and asks for huggies.
“Mommom, I need huggies! Huggies! Mommom!”
I swoop her into my arms, sobbing, the pain coming from the deepest part of my soul. I pull her against me and collapse onto the floor. The babies are in the other room. They’re wailing. When did they start crying? They’re screaming, both of them, and Morrigan is crying, and I’m yelling, “Why, God, why?” I’m rocking back and forth, crushing her against me, and I can’t stop screaming.
Why, God, why? Why the fuck would you give me my beautiful children only to take them away from me? Why would you give them to me when you could have given them to someone else, some childless mother who wasn’t going to die at 36 from fucking cancer? I don’t want them to be motherless, rudderless, bereft.
I was going to raise them to be strong, confident women. I was going to listen to them and give them advice. Stern but loving. A hard-ass when I needed to be, to make independent, bad-ass women who would go out and make the world a better place.
They would go to Ivy League schools or maybe join a band or perhaps start a business of their own selling stuff on etsy and turn it into a multi-billion-dollar company. Whatever they wanted to do, I would have their backs. I would be their rock, their support system.
I was going to be the perfect mother.
Two of them won’t even know me. One will remember this night where I’m screaming at God and the babies are crying and I am holding desperately onto her like letting go will mean defeat.
Some rational part of my brain tells me I have to do something about the babies. I realize it’s bedtime. I stop myself from cursing out God.
Soon, Morrigan is no longer crying, only sniffling. I take her tiny, silky hand in mine, lead her upstairs, and put on Paw Patrol.
The babies are beside themselves. Wailing, both of them, like I’ve never seen them wailing before. Just seeing their agonized faces makes my tears flow again.
But I must be strong for my babies. I’m here, now, to take care of them.
I pick one up, take her upstairs, put her in Phoenix’s crib. I go downstairs, pick the second one up, take her upstairs, put her in Phoenix’s crib.
I walk away, hoping they’ll calm each other down.
They do not. They’re screaming desperately, wounded and frightened, because their Mommom is wounded and frightened.
I can’t do this. There is no one to call. All my relatives are hours away, and we don’t have friends good enough close by for me to call someone over to help.
I pick up Phoenix and shush her. Calliope is still screaming. Phoenix calms down. I put her down. She starts screaming.
I pick up Calliope. They’re setting each other off. I calm her down. I put her back down.
They’re both back to screaming.
I go into the guest bedroom. I lie on the bed in the fetal position. My babies are screaming, and I’m crying. Paw Patrol is playing from the master bedroom.
I text Kevin.
Can you come home?
Please come home. (7:01 PM)
They won’t stop screaming
I yelled at Morrigan, and I can’t stop crying
They won’t stop crying
I don’t know what to do and I’m all alone (7:13 PM)
I go into the bedroom. I hold the tears in. I pick Calliope up and dress her in her nightclothes. I put her into her crib with her newborn stimulation video on my tablet. I pick Phoenix up. I dress her in her nightclothes. I put her back down.
I got them calmed down. I can’t be alone anymore. (7:46 PM)
I feed them.
Kevin: Okay. It’s going to take me a few minutes to get away. (7:57 PM)
Me: Ok. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. (7:58 PM)
Kevin: Don’t be. (7:58 PM)
I go in to lay down with Morrigan.
The front door opens.
Kevin comes upstairs. He’s still wearing his chef coat and hat. Morrigan takes his hat and puts it on her head. She laughs. He goes and gets her ready for bed.
I lay on our bed thinking about how none of this makes any fucking sense.