It is Trudy’s first birthday today. This, of course, is such an amazing celebration and happiness for our family. She’s such a delight, so sweet, and so full of opinions, even if she can’t yet speak them (I mean, how could she help it? She’s got us for parents! And Arden for a brother!). Plus, she’s cute. I mean:
This past year has been the craziest on record for the H-W family. To honor that, Jess threw me the biggest and best party ever on Saturday, the anniversary of my diagnosis. It seriously was one of the best nights of my life–Jess planned every detail, down to the color of the ribbons that she wrapped the napkins in. We invited our amazing Kalamazoo community to celebrate with us, and it was just fun to relax and eat delicious food, have some adult beverages, play silly party games (oh, yes. Jess created the best Tenure Game ever–she should really copyright and sell it. And, then, there was the Butt Hole–we call the bean bag toss Corn Hole in the Midwest, so, naturally, anyone who has had a colonoscopy can see the fit.), take fun pictures in the photobooth, and retake the day. It was truly spectacular. (A friend asked me last night when I knew that I had married Martha Stewart. I told him that he should have seen our wedding. Jess could do this for money. I’m so not kidding.)
Clearly, Jessica put an amazing effort (and was aided by the always fabulous Genanne) and love into this gift for me, and I feel so loved and cherished by it.
It totally speaks to the kinds of support I was lucky enough to have the whole time I was undergoing chemotherapy, and that our family received the weeks and months after my surgery and Trudy’s birth. What it doesn’t speak to is Jessica’s experience as the wife to someone with cancer, or to her experience as a 1 million months pregnant woman with a 5 year old child and a partner having major surgery, or to her experience of facing the, I’d say from my own experience, very frightening prospect of giving birth without your key person there to provide all of the support that you counted on (and, frankly, that you gave that person when it was THEIR turn to push a baby out. I know that is not the reality for many people, but she knew what she gave me during Arden’s birth. She knew how hard my labor and delivery were with him, and how I counted on her. And, now? She’d have to do that alone. Yes, our friends, our wonderful friends, and our wonderful midwife were there, but that is not the same as leaning on the person you are supposed to lean on. The person you planned, even before the child’s conception, to lean on.).
When you have cancer, or are having chemotherapy, people tell you all the time (or, at least, they told me) how strong you are. You say, “thank you,” but in your mind, you know that you aren’t really. You know that they are just seeing the outside surface. That you are only doing what you HAVE to do to, you know, live. That you can either put on a face and go through it, or you can be a pain in the ass and let everyone know what shit it is. In your head, you know that the strong one is the one who listens to and takes your crap because they are the safe one. The one who knows that the grin and take it attitude is your only way through, and is dropped once inside the front door. The strong one is the one who picks up the slack at home, who does an unequal amount of parenting, who, on a regular basis, goes to work after no sleep because of both a new baby and a sick wife, and still manages to give the big boy the love he needs. The strong one is the one who, after laboring for long hours, and pushing for almost 3 more, brought your beautiful daughter into the world, and then spent the night in her hospital room alone with that baby while her partner was across the hospital campus in her own room. The public face of this family over the past year has been me. Behind the scenes, the one who has made our life possible is not me. The one whose experience of this day a year ago is so complicated and so hard to imagine and so amazing is not the one whose experience is cherished in the way that mine has been. We both feel so spectacularly lucky to have the kinds of communities of support that we do. For, without them, we would be limping limping limping along. But, there are really no words to express how much Jessica has taken on or given or internalized for me and for our family.
She is a rock. (a beautiful, stylish, caring, sensitive, thoughtful rock who gives me advice that I try to live by, commiserates with me, listens to me, and puts up with me. This is harder than you can imagine. I promise.)