Close To My Heart

April 26, 2019

By Sanda Rathamone

"Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary." - Brene Brown

My mind is teeming with questions: "Is she pregnant?" "Is that a belly peaking through her dress?" "When was the last time I saw her? Oh, yeah. January. I think it was January." "I swear, she didn't look pregnant in January." 

I am in class, sitting on the floor in this huge human circle among classmates and two mentors. My mind is fixated on one of my mentors (we'll call her "Patricia"), who looks pregnant-ish? While my other mentor is blabbering away about our MFT evaluation, I can't help staring at Patricia's belly. It looks small, but noticeable. I mean, her usual slender frame definitely looks... different... 

Maybe it's her clothing? She is wearing this vibrant green dress with medium-sized white polka dots all over and a loose beige cardigan that she keeps pulling close to her body. Either she's really cold or she's trying to hide something. Something like a belly...? Something's definitely going on. 

For four straight hours, I am obsessed with (silently) trying to figure out if Patricia is pregnant. At the end of class, I make my way to the women's restroom and sit there. Take a deep breath. Everything's gonna be okay. I hear people coming in and out, the door opening and closing. I have been sitting on the toilet for, at least, more than five minutes. I get ready to leave my stall. I hear two sinks sputtering out water. And then, I hear one of my classmates: 

"Oh my God, congratulations!" 

I am frozen with shock, standing in my stall. Please tell me it's not her. But my heart already knows. 

"I didn't know you were expecting!"

I peek through the cracks of my stall, and in the mirror, see Patricia's face turned towards my classmate, smiling. I cannot hear what Patricia says because I am panicking with fear, heartache, and... I don't know, surprise?? I hear my classmate leaving the restroom and wait for Patricia to leave as well. 

I can't do this. I can't face her. But I knew it! I was right! 

As I am leaving campus, I am thinking about and calculating how far along she might be. I could tell that she is at least in the beginning of her second trimester, somewhere around four months. I know that I should be happy for her; I'm sure she'll make a great mom. Yet, I cannot deny the agony of my fear and jealousy. I am fearful of seeing her around campus as her pregnancy progresses. She is now another trigger that I will have to face and endure until I am done with school, which should be in a couple of months. The jealousy is going to make going to school much harder...

However, this situation has happened more than once while I have been in school. There were three other pregnant women on campus and it was extremely difficult to get through the day, especially if I ran into them in the hallway or the restroom. I would cry at the end of class because my heart just couldn't bear it or skip school, because hoping to avoid them or trying not to have a melt-down in their presence was exhausting.

I left school today with silent, invisible tears. No one knows. 

I also woke up with tears, Just let this be over. Life is harder than death. If I would just sleep on  forever, the pain will float away and I will finally be free. Thoughts like these come and go, and it always makes me cry. How could I think like this? It is wrong! I often wonder how I have made it this far, and then the anxiety kicks in and thoughts of continuing this journey, this life sentence is daunting. I can't do this... Breathe... Cry... I'll be okay... Stop your crying... Everything will be okay... I can do this... 

Instead of going home, I went for a walk. Walking in a crowd of people in a shopping neighborhood made me feel somewhat "normal." And then, just steps ahead of me, I spotted a rack of clothing with a sign that read, "$1." When I finally got to it, I realized that it was a rack stuffed with baby clothing from newborn size to 24+ months. The newborn clothes got to me. There were also bibs on the bottom of the rack inside of a clear bin. The one that said, "My 1st Halloween" reminded me of Elijah; his due date was on October 30th.

Three Halloweens have painfully passed...

Stupid me walked away and twenty minutes later walked back. I looked through the rack again, like actually looked. I began to notice that the clothing were gently used and many of the white onesies had hand-drawn pictures (probably with a Sharpie) on them. There were plenty of the same plain white newborn shirts, assuming that they were part of a pack. And that's what I grabbed - a plain white newborn shirt. For something so simple, so tiny, it made my heart soften, so soft, that I decided to buy it. 

The rack belonged to a used-clothing store for children, a store I had never noticed before. It was so colorful inside, but I was confident and more than happy with my Plain Jane of a shirt.

Me: Smiling, walking into the store, "Hello."
Cashier: "Hello."
Me: "I just want this."
Cashier: "Oh, it's sooooo tiny!"
Me: "Yeah, I know!"
Cashier: "One-O-Nine please."
Me: "A dollar nine?" Ugh, tax.
Cashier: "Yes."
Me: "Here's a dollar, and wait, let me get nine cents."
Cashier: "Do you want a bag for ten cents?" She folds the shirt into a tiny square.
Me: "Oh no, that's okay. I don't need a bag."
Cashier: "Okay. Have a great day!"
Me: "You, too!"

I handed over my dollar and nine cents with this huge smile on my face. And then, I walked with my new purchase - still folded into a square - around the lake, pressed onto my chest and both of my hands on top of it. I didn't care what anyone thought of me. Some looked at me strangely, others curiously, while the majority didn't even notice me at all. I was happy. I felt pure joy, something I hadn't felt in a long time.

Holding this shirt and pressing it onto my hurting heart felt good. It felt like I wasn't alone, like someone cared about me. It felt comforting, it felt healing. It felt like love. I even tried to see if it made a difference if I walked with it in my hand, instead of it being pressed against me, and it did! Every time I felt myself plunge into pain, placing the shirt back onto my heart made me feel whole; it brought hope back into heart, like oxygen to my lungs.

The newborn shirt didn't "feel" like the way Elijah's clothes made me feel; it feels different, lighter, happier. It has this feeling like a hug from someone who deeply loves you. It made me feel warm, calm, safe, at peace, at ease... cleansed. I felt like myself again, but better, much better.

I thanked this shirt, I thanked the baby who once wore it. I said, "Thank you. Thank you for sharing your love. Thank you for comforting me. Thank you for healing me. Thank you for everything." And I thanked the baby who will wear this again, some day. 

For now, it will be close to my heart, where God is helping to restore my faith.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Romans 12:12

With love,
Must Read:
Read Elijah's Story, "From Gender Reveal to a Spontaneous Delivery"

Photo: hellolittlebirdy

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