I remember lying in the OR, moments after she’d been extracted via c-section, and hearing my baby draw a breath and howl for the first time. I remember being flooded with relief that she was okay, and that, more importantly, she was alive. Joy mingled with relief as tears streamed down my face.
I remember feeling conflicting joy and jealousy as my husband and daughter played and laughed in the other room while I tended to my fussy newborn second daughter.
I remember driving like a bat out of hell towards daycare when they called to tell me the little one was having an asthma attack and was having trouble breathing.
I remember moments of great exasperation, great joy, great exhaustion.
I remember many of the little moments that make up motherhood, that make up wifehood, that, really, make up life. And for each of those remembered moments I know that I’ve forgotten 20 more.
I sat in my bed this weekend reading What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty, my bookclub’s pick for the month, and I tried to wrap my head around the thought of forgetting 10 years worth of memories.
In the story, Alice, the protagonist, is happily biking away at spin class when she loses her balance, falls off the bike, and bashes her head in. She wakes up convinced it’s 10 years earlier and that she’s still pregnant with her first child and head over heels in love with her husband.
She quickly learns that she and her husband are on the outs and she actually has 3 children. Three children she doesn’t remember.
I wept at that point.
Imagine waking up and not only not remembering your children, but having been robbed of all those little memories that make up our lives, the memories that are the fabric of our relationships.
A first look, a first shared laugh, a first kiss, a first argument, a first shared secret.
I mourn my next child daily. I all too often think about how I’ll never carry him in my womb, will never nurse him for the first time, will never see his first smile, his first walk, his first day of school.
It’s something I struggle with even while having experienced and treasured all those moments with the two children I do have. Imagine waking up one day, being told you have three children, and having absolutely no memory of any of those moments.
As the story unfolds poor Alice not only has to deal with the fact that she doesn’t know her children, she also has to process the fact that somehow, over the course of 10 years, the husband who was as devoted to her as she is to him now loathes her and their break-up was at her instigation.
I wept at that point too.
If I look back on my life I can point out a number of relationships that I would have sworn would stand the test of time, but that instead have petered out, faded away, or spontaneously combusted leaving behind devastating bits of shrapnel that still smart today.
Today my husband and I have an amazingly loving and mutually supportive relationship. despite having lived through quite a few unexpected challenges along the way. But, what if, much like Alice, I just don’t yet see the hurdles that might eventually cause our downfall.
I think we’re smarter, better prepared, more mature than she was, but, as life has a tendency to enjoy demonstrating, we really have no idea what the future holds.
That scares me and makes me want to hold M and the girls tight.
I finished the book at 1am on the day of the bookclub discussion and I spent all day, after tossing and turning my way through an all too short night, in a book hangover state pondering the fleeting and intangible nature of memories all while mentally patting myself on the back for having journaled and blogged my way through my children’s early years. Even if I were to suffer a severe knock on the head, I have pages and pages of archives available to help me re-experience my life.
But reading about my life wouldn’t be the same as remembering it.
Some books are great for escaping the day to day grind of life. This book reminded me to stop rushing around, to really soak in the little moments, and to keep my eyes wide open for the big and little things that could trip us up and steal our joy away.
I can’t control and stop the really big hurdles that life throws our way, but I can keep working hard to make sure the important stuff doesn’t get buried and forgotten in the fallout. And I can keep writing down all the little things in between, so I can make sure to never forget any of it.