It goes by quickly; it goes by slowly. Minutes can feel like hours, but days can disappear completely. We constantly, earnestly ask the question, “what day is it?” and have no idea of the answer. Of course, we only ask each other, as revealing our secret to our social workers, nurses, and doctors might make them wonder about our sanity.
This has as many humorous as frightening side effects. We tried to take New York Avenue into the city one afternoon and were perplexed to find such huge traffic backups on a Thursday afternoon. “This looks more like Friday traffic!,” we joked, and of course it was. The Fourth of July caught us by complete surprise—we knew it was the beginning of July, but had absolutely no idea that the holiday was upon us. After all, it was only yesterday that we were thanking the nurses who were working Memorial Day. On a more regular basis, we’re pulling on doors that are only open during the week, or nearly missing appointments. When ‘Monday’ unexpectedly coincides with ‘tomorrow’, we usually need to do a bit of scrambling.
When I signed Will in to HSC on June 28, I had to stop to catch my breath. In some part of my brain, it was still early May. While I definitely had a sense of the seven weeks that our kids had been alive, it was shocking to realize that the rest of the world had moved their calendar forward at the same time. Even now, when I step outside, I’m surprised that the air is palpable. Walking out of our suspended-May, climate-controlled life, it is a hard dose to realize that it is in fact mid-July, with all of the heat and humidity that goes with it.
And we take an even bigger hit when we shift our schedules. For a time, The Mighty MIL and I were trading overnights at the hospital. So one of us would pack an extra set of clothes and head out one morning, not to return until late the next evening. Taking time in larger bites like this created even more confusion, as a week would be gobbled up unevenly, and in short order. And staying in this windowless room at HSC with an utterly regular schedule has been a kind of hibernation with intermittent exposure to sunlight in the hallways. In here, it always seems to be 2am, and we chase the clock with feeds at 12, 3, 6, 9, 12, 3, 6, 9, 12, 3, 6, and 9 ad infinitum. Fortunately, the med sheets for each day have dates on them, so we can track our time with little embarrassment. At the same time, days here seem to pass more slowly, since we’ve removed ‘getting ready’ and ‘traveling’ from our daily itinerary.
I know that, in some sense, this is the way our lives will be. Every parent I know talks of disappearing days, and of time moving forward in irregular ways. Still, I want to believe that things will settle out to some degree, and time will become more of a friendly companion and less of an elusive opponent.