five years ago tonight i’d been in the same hospital room without leaving for more than two weeks. friends brought Lebanese food for supper, we laughed and ate. one commented lovingly on my little belly, which was finally blossoming past the pudge stage to a belatedly discernable bump. i talked to Dave on the phone: he was staying at my father’s, ready to rise and shine early and go get the keys to our new house, our first home.

i watched a Law & Order-style show of some indistinguishable flavour on the tiny hospital tv. i was restless. i spread earphones over my middle, played a little EmmyLou Harris for Runt. Red Dirt Girl.  the baby i thought was my daughter kicked, and i patted back in time with the music. i still believed the first ultrasound was right, that he was a she. i still believed it mattered, just a bit.

i still believed a lot of things. i believed, with all my cynical heart, that everything would be okay. we were 26 weeks. 75% of babies born at 26 weeks survive without significant complications, i’d read just that morning. there were no signs of labour, no signs of infection. i was adjusting to the institutionalization of bedrest, had recently had the quarantine imposed by my just-out-of-Korea status lifted, and was as prepared as i could be to sit on my enlarging ass right through April and May and well into Gemini and straight on til morning.

i went to sleep earlyish that night. i wish i hadn’t.

five years seems incomprehensible, as if now-me must be some time traveller from the future. it can’t be five years. it’s like yesterday. i’m no different.

that’s a lie. i’ve been different ever since. the girl-woman who fell asleep that night has been gone ever since, as gone as Runt, who became Finn, who made me a mother and changed me once and then twice with his own metamorphosis.

i am wary of wishes. from the day Oscar was born healthy and breathing, and his sister after him, i made myself stop wishing. playing Sophie’s Choice with the living and the dead scares me. from the day Oscar was born, i did not dare wish for Finn.

but tonight, here on my couch, i sit baffled at the affront of time. five years is too long. too strange, that it can be true.

and i wish, just for a moment, that i could time travel; that i could lift the veil between me and that creaky hospital bed i’m so sure i see clearly. the stark spring light, sun late in setting. the navy velour hoodie that stretched over my belly. how connected i felt to those little kicks.

i would not erase this life i live now, this half-decade that has passed since that last night before i became a mother. my wish is not to change the outcome. that seems too big, beyond the scope of my altered capacity for belief. just a night, just a few minutes of an ordinary Thursday night in April.

i’d change only one thing: i’d stay awake.

i’d sit vigil with my son on the eve of his birth, because i’d know that instead of a beginning, we were at an end of sorts. i’d know that we were parting, and i’d sing, rub the belly gently, drink some juice just to wake him up. he liked cupcakes: i’d scrounge some, somehow. cupcakes are small change compared to rips in the space-time continuum. i’d finish the little story i started for him in my hospital notebook, the one that still sits upstairs in the drawer, by the memory box. i’d tell it aloud, so he could hear my voice.

he would know i loved him. and just his presence would comfort me.

it was the last time that he was with me, not hurt and broken. neither of us hurt and broken.

i sit vigil anyway, here on this other side of five years, remembering. the veil flutters. i squint, close my eyes, try to feel the memory of that first-time belly under my hands. i fail, mostly. but not entirely.

happy birthday, littlest.