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I’ve got the what ifs tonight, the night after Hank turned 16. And Jack didn’t. I don’t often let myself go down the rabbit hole of these questions. They are circular and end up in a spiral—a vortex—that goes nowhere and just leaves me exhausted and mad and sad and somehow even glad, then mad and sad again. Like a seasonal disorder, the what ifs flare up during the first week of June every year, and I am suddenly back in the hospital on bedrest. I squash them and ignore them until we have celebrated Hank’s birthday with joy and thanksgiving. Then I let the what ifs out of their box to swirl around for the four days between the boys’ birthday and Jack’s death. Then, because there are not any answers, I close them away again. They get four days, and no more. So here they are again….the what ifs:

  • What if that nurse had been paying closer attention and not talking so much, and I wouldn’t have to wonder if that’s when the infection started?
  • What if the high risk doctor had woken me up when she made her rounds, and found a problem earlier?
  • What if the bad doctor had listened to me when I said I felt hot and short of breath?
  • What if I had insisted he examine me instead of just phoning in his instructions that night?
  • What if?

But also….

  • What if that other nurse hadn’t noticed Jack’s heartrate problem and flagged down the good doctor who just happened to be in the hallway!
  • What if they hadn’t acted so quickly and I had lost both of them?
  • What if Hank had developed any of the many problems preemies his size could have had?
  • What if?

But mainly….

  • What if there was something I could have noticed or should have noticed or could have done or should have done differently?

And this….

  • What if I could just get through the birthday week without getting the what ifs?