I did not have an easy pregnancy with my daughter. I became pregnant on the heels of a miscarriage at 14 weeks, and the pregnancy was high-risk from the start. I bled every day for the entire first trimester. I threw up so much that I went to the hospital. I was diagnosed with a gene mutation that made me much more likely to have a late-term loss. I injected blood thinner into my stomach twice a day. My thyroid got out of whack. My daughter had markers for Down syndrome. She was breech. I had pre-term labor.
“Let’s just take this one day at a time,” said my perinatologist.
So every day, I expected to lose the pregnancy, and when they finally put my daughter in my arms, safe and sound, I just sort of thought, “Huh. I made that. In my body. How about that?”
I was strangely detached for quite a while. I fed her, changed her, bathed her: I wasn’t neglectful or depressed … just, as I said, detached.
And then one day, I picked Ruby up, and I thought, suddenly and with a sense of deep panic, “Oh, my God, I almost lost you.”
I buried my face in her hair, breathing in the smell of baby shampoo and Dreft and sour milk that was crusting in her neck folds. “I almost lost you,” I said, struggling to breathe. “I almost lost you. Oh, my God, I almost lost you.”
It sounds overwrought and maudlin, it sounds like so much romantic bullshit, but the truth is that this same scenario played out for me pretty frequently when I first moved back to New Orleans.
I’d be sitting on the patio at Russell’s in the slightly chilly air of spring, feeling the air off the lake, drinking a Big Al’s Bloody Mary and eating the hash browns I dreamed about in Missouri when suddenly I’d feel so damn grateful for where I was that I literally got weak in the knees. “We almost lost you,” I’d think, as my eyes filled up and my breath came quickly. I wanted to just hug New Orleans tight, fill my lungs with the thick air, the smell of deep-fried food and sweet olive and the river. “We almost lost you. Oh, my God, we almost lost you.”
Those moments come less often for me now, both with Ruby and the city, but sometimes, they coincide, and that still gets me, just a little bit.
Taking Ruby to Angelo Brocato’s, the same shop where I went for treats after school as a child, the same shop where I had my first date as a teenager, is great. That kind of continuity, her going where I used to go as a child, would make me happy no matter what. But noting that every time we come back she’s a little bit taller, a little bit closer to the plaque on the door depicting the waterline from Katrina –– that never fails to make me a bit misty-eyed. There’s the beloved child I almost lost, Zuppa Inglese gelato smeared in a sticky yellow glaze on her perfect little face, standing in the beloved ice cream shop I almost lost, clapping her hands and demanding more amaretti cookies.
Just then, damn the crime and the mosquitoes and the heat and potholes, it’s hard not to feel blessed, amazed, thankful that things are the way they are.
What makes you thankful you live in New Orleans? What moments still take your breath away? What are you glad you didn’t lose?