Muscle memory leads my absentminded, fatigued body away from the PICU to the elevators, through hallways and out to the parking ramp. I leave the hospital, drive downtown, enter another parking ramp, another elevator, another hallway, and walk into the waiting room for my own appointment. It’s totally surreal—to be the patient. Two weeks ago, or was it another lifetime, I had surgery. They cut me open and pulled a baby boy out of my body, and when I heard him cry my whole being came alive with love for my son. My soul recognized him, lunged desperately for him, yearned to hold him to my chest where he belongs.

I sit in the waiting room, where I sat every month, then every week while Miles was growing inside of me. Just a handful of days ago, when my stomach was too big to cross my legs, life was so simple, but I didn’t know it. I marvel at the ease of it all then—one healthy child, carrying another around inside my body, living at home, un-fragmented, unafraid. Now, there is a new person in the world, and he’s sick. A few days later, I am another person, a veteran PICU mom: tough, focused, walking around with my chest wide open, exposed to the elements, accepting offers from friends and family to shovel and deliver groceries so I can focus on my boys, gathering up prayers like bread, marking time by blood gas tests. I sit in the waiting room among pregnant moms, swollen with anticipation and potential, waiting to meet their babies. I feel like a different species altogether.

A brand new baby in the waiting room lets out a newborn cry- timid, raw, muffled, precious and fresh. My uterus contracts, my scar burns, my breasts tingle, and one tear runs down my left cheek. I want to hear my baby cry again. I want to hold him to my chest. We belong together.

When I return to him in his hospital bed, his little eyes are open for the first time in several days. His pupils track my voice. “My sweet baby love. Momma’s here. Momma’s here.”