This I Believe
There was no getting used to the downward tilt of my hospital bed. The unexpected pressure of two fetuses against my lungs, instead of my cervix, made it hard to breathe. This was a last-ditch measure, to prevent a slide into preterm labor. “You’re on the precipice,” my obstetrician warned. “Prepare yourself to deliver within seven days or so. You may lose one or both of the twins. Twenty-four weeks is the outer edge of viability.”
His words were a torrent of anguish, delivered in cold, clinical style. The predictions were grim, impossible to bear. A conversation with the neonatologist only amplified the gravity of the situation. When they left the room, my husband put his head on my belly and sobbed. My mother’s face was awash in tears. I couldn’t take it. “Enough,” I said, finally. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’re not going to cry our way through it.”
Twelve hours later, my words came back to me. In the darkness, fear seized me. Tears drenched my pillow. I had never felt so lost, or so alone. The babies were restless, too, kicking and turning against my ribs. I had come to know them through these strange and wonderful sensations. Already they were unique and thrilling individuals who deserved everything I could give them. I wasn’t going to let them slip out into the hostile world without a fight.
Where was I going to find the strength? The words of a writing instructor came back to me. Her voice was so clear, it was like she was standing right next to me. “The mind and the body are intimately connected. Speak to the universe, it will listen. Visualize the reality you want, then step into it.” I realized I couldn’t afford to listen to the doctors. To absorb their proclamations would be to submit to them. Instead, I would look within myself.
From that day, I devoted myself to actively imagining my own ending. I visualized my cervix closing and my boys arriving safely. I took joy in the small things: Starbucks coffees brought by friends, the view of Manhattan from my window, The New York Times delivered on Sundays. I kept the faith. I also complied with my doctors’ orders. Bedrest was strict. No showers, one bathroom visit per day, otherwise only a bedpan. I tolerated the shots and the indignities and the plain old annoyances (like a roommate with a penchant for loud midnight phone calls to Spain). Eight weeks went by. My cervix closed. I was discharged, still pregnant.
Three weeks later, Patrick and Julian were born healthy and well via emergency C-section. We had almost made it to thirty-six weeks, considered full-term for twins. It was practically a miracle. I credit the medical expertise of the doctors who cared for me, but I also credit myself.
I believe in the power of sheer will over science, the triumph of determination over fear. I believe in the mysterious synergy between the mind and the body. I believe in making choices, and keeping the faith in hard times.
I will never forget what I believe; it shines forth in the wondrous eyes of my children.
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