Posted by: Kate | March 4, 2011


Just look at her a minute:


Isn’t she gorgeous?

Oh, she would never believe you if you told her so, of course. Even now, when she barely holds a trace of resemblance – short, curly hair, 70 pounds lighter, too often forgets how to smile – she struggles to accept compliments about how she used to look, and you can forget about trying to convince her that she looks remotely decent now. She has learned to smile and say thank you, and has learned to stop using the word grotesque when she refers to her body – out loud, at least – but that flat inability to really believe that she holds any level of traditional, objective beauty is a stubborn and persistent thing.

But she glows. She’s in between contractions, just there, so there’s some pain going on, with more ahead. But she thinks this is all leading in a very predictable, sturdy, fantastic sort of direction: an epidural, followed by a little post-birth discomfort, to be rewarded in the bigger picture by a much-wanted and much-loved baby. So she’s happy.

I don’t think she has smiled, even once, in the past year, with any comparable level of openness and confidence. Even on the happiest days, she has struggled with inner demons, and far too many of the days have not been happiest.

So, a question, then: should you tell her? Would it be better for her to know just how hard the upcoming days, weeks, months, years would be, not only in comparison to what she expected but in comparison to what anyone had ever feared, in their worst dreams? Would it be fairer to give her a little heads-up, a few moments to mentally prepare for the onslaught of words like necrotizing fasciitis, sepsis, hysterectomy, VAC, long-term acute care hospital, seroma, MRSA, suicidal tendencies, scars, post-traumatic amnesia, depression, fear?

Or is it better that she stands there and glows, just a little bit longer? Is that moment – and all of the moments from the year leading up to this moment, many of which have faded out into a fog of retrograde amnesia that sometimes lifts just enough for glimpses into that pre-2010 life – better, purer, for the not-knowing?

There’s no answer, of course. There’s no way anyone could have predicted the next 96 hours, or if they could it’s probably just as well they don’t share that now. But a year later, she wonders what that simple self-confidence and joy feels like. And she aches when she looks at these photos.



  1. OK, time for the silly poem I dreamed up this morning, and I hope you receive it in the spirit with which it’s intended:

    My dear,
    it’s been a year
    and you’re still here!
    So let’s give a cheer
    and raise a beer

    You are even more amazing now than you looked in those photos. And how wonderful that you had them taken to document that time. For the record, I wouldn’t have told her what was in the future. Happy Birthday hugs to Isaac!

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