We’ve had a terrible summer. The weather never seemed to realise we were waiting in our shorts and singlets, and it held out on us for months. We had days, not weeks, of sunshine, and then suddenly, it was March, and Autumn was upon us.
Eva was born at the turn of the season. We were a month into Autumn and in the days leading up to her birth, I walked around the grounds of the hospital, wishing the induction along quicker, while the sun beat down on me. I walked through the rose gardens by the hospital slow steps as I balanced my large stomach. I hobbled up curbs, doing a lopsided saunter, as I tried to encourage this baby to be born.
I don’t know when the sun stopped shining, but my next memory of the weather at that time, I was sitting in Wellington hospital, in a family room that had been emptied for me to cry in. Screens had been placed up around me in case someone walked in, and I could see outside to the howling wind and sleeting rain. I had just been told Eva was blind and had brain abnormalities. At this point I don’t think I even knew she was deaf.
I looked out the window and wished myself into another life. I felt the clouds and rain and wind clawing at me, growing closer and suffocating me.
Each night I left the hospital and the world was grey. I left at dusk each night, and with the clouds and the sun going down, the world took on a hue that Instagram might call, “depression in technicolour”.
The light seemed to encapsulate my feelings. That sort of darkness that never seems to lift, even when you know the sun must be high in the sky. What I might have called dreary before Eva’s birth, seemed menacing after. I drove home to my sister’s house, which was close to the hospital, with the wind shield wipers frantically trying to obey my orders. I watched the abortion protesters as I waited at the lights, and smiled to myself at the thought of running them down in my car. I took my chance in the car to break. To crumble. To wail. I’d cried non-stop in the hospital, but this kind of crying was different. Animal. Guttural. Full body sobs. I would scream at the steering wheel, knowing that outside the car, the rain and wind would drown out my pain.
I stood in the elevator on the way to my sister’s apartment and clutched at the walls for support. Three floors to lose it and then I had to try and pull it together. It was a slow elevator, clicking at every level. I counted them down. Stopping the sobs as the light reached level 3. Not entirely, but enough.
I had to refill at a petrol station one day and as I waited to pay for my petrol I looked around me at the other customers and felt like shouting, “can you not see what’s happening?” The grey clouds and rain didn’t bother them.
Today, three years later, I live in that same apartment that housed me when Eva was born, and I listen to that Autumn wind howling around the apartment. I hear the rain pelt the windows as if it wants nothing more than to get inside. I walk home from work in that same grey light, and if I close my eyes I can almost feel the depths of the pain and sadness I felt two years ago. That light, that particular shade of technicolour depression can almost take me back there.
But now it’s different. Because now I have Eva in full colour in my memory too. I can feel those tendrils of desperation from that time, but I also know that woman who felt those things, she didn’t know what was coming. She didn’t know who Eva was and how much she would love her. She didn’t know that Eva’s life would be so colourful and bright that no shade of grey would survive her. She didn’t know that even after she was gone, Eva would light up her mother’s world in ways she couldn’t imagine.
Even still, when these dark nights start to return, I think about that woman in her car, screaming at the rain. I think about all the mothers in the NICU and their drives home from spending the day with their babies. I think about all the elevator rides where we try and hold it together. I think about all the people whose lives are going on behind those walls, and how if I saw one of them in line at a petrol station, I wouldn’t know either. They could be screaming inside, “can you not see what’s happening?” and I’d never know.